Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang – it always makes me want to say, “Size of an elephant!” (from the Arabian Knights cartoon shown as part of the Banana Splits Show).

We’re in Laos now, and it’s great!

Last few days at Siem Reap:
We bought a book about the Khmer Rouge from Top Vanna and had a nice meal at The Red Piano
On Friday we visited the Cambodia Landmine Museum which was a suitably moving and interesting experience. They have a huge collection of old de-activated mines and explanations of how they worked and the work involved in clearing them. They also have a mock-up of a minefield demonstrating how the mines were deployed. Several children who have been injured by mines live atthe museum where they are taught English by volunteers and go to the local school. The Museum has planning permission for a new site closer to the airport which will make it more accessible. It’s currently at the end of a very rough, rutted road. They’ve also just opened a gallery in the centre of Siem Reap by the Old Market which will continue the work started at the museum.

At lunchtime we went to one of the Artisans d’Angkor sites (website not working at time of writing). After a tour round the workshops where they carve wood, and stone and laquer various carvings, we entered the treasure room that is their shop. Filled with absolutely beautiful objects, and at prices much lower than we had expected. We were severely tempted, and gave in to some temptations, purchasing some stone sculptures and silverwork which we then had to find room for in our baggage.

Another evening meal at The Red Piano (we ate at the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant on our first night in Siem Reap, very good Indian food), and a couple of Tiger Beers. The local Cambodian beer is Angkor Beer, brewed at Shinoukville, and that isn’t bad either.

Saturday saw us getting an early start to get to the airport. Flight to Bangkok, dash around getting some more cash in the departure area there, andthen a flight on to Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang is really nice. Quiet, gentle and beautiful. The streets are a mixture of old French colonial buildings and Buddhist temples, with few of the ugly modern building that you encounter in many places in South East Asia.

There are loads of places to get excellent food (the French influence) and there’s a great night market with loads of local crafts for sale.

We’re staying at Bounthieng Guesthouse, by the side of the Mekong River. Nice location but the rooms are looking a bit “tired” and could do with a lick of paint and a good scrub. Very friendly place though.\

My MP3 player is now considered an antique and possibly collectable!


After a few days in Krabi Town we flew to Siem Reap in Cambodia on Monday 18th April.

We’re staying at the Two Dragons Guesthouse in the town, an air-con double room with bathroom (and hot water!) costs $12/night.

On Tuesday we set off at 9am with our driver, Mr Han, on his tuk-tuk (actually a trailer attached to a moped) to see the temples of Angkor.

We bought a 3-day pass for $40 each and headed first for Angkor Thom, a ruined city and temple complex. Words can’t really describe the sites, at least not in the time I’ve got fight the nasty keyboard in this internet cafe. A few hours there, a rest at the guesthouse and then on to the famed Angkor Wat with time to look around before sunset.

Sadly, sunset wasn’t visible due to cloud cover but we had a good look round the complex. Didn’t get many photos at that point as the camera battery went flat.

Next morning we set out at the unfeasibly early time of 5am, in order to catch sunrise. This time the sunrise was visible and we had a fully charged camera.
Great pictures and the site was relatively quiet. By 7:30am we had seen most of what we wanted there and went for breakfast at a nearby cafe.

For the rest of the day we toured a number of other temple complex, including the overgrown Ta Phrom which we both liked.

For sunset we headed up a hill close to Angkor Wat to a temple complex where we joined crowds of tourists watching the sun go down.

Today we had a later start, out by 7am for an hours drive out to another temple (we have an excellent guide book with all the names etc but I don’t have it on me) which had amazing detailed stone carvings but much of the site was sadly roped off due to renovation work. Driving along we got a chance to glimpse the rural life of Cambodia, the local houses etc which was fascinating (and a break for temple-tramping!).

Heading back to Siem Reap we visited another three temples, all very different, before finally getting back to the guesthouse just after noon.

The temples are amazing, Angkor Wat is a huge complex and the amount of human effort put into the construction and decoration of all the sites is staggering. Definitely worth the $40 entrance fee.

We have loads of photos, as you’d imagine, but haven’t found anywhere suitable to upload them from yet. They may have to wait until we’re in Bangkok again in a couple of weeks time.

Tomorrow we have a day in Siem Reap, and on Saturday we fly to Luang Prabang in Laos, via Bangkok again.

Koh Lanta

We arrived here on Tuesday, staying at “Somewhere Else” bungalows, paying 300 Baht (about 4 pounds fifty).

Beach at Long Beach, Koh Lanta

Haven’t done much, other than getting appallingly drunk on Tuesday night. The beach here is nice and the water is clean. Not many signs left of the tsunami though Song, one of the guys at The Zone Bar, has a really nasty scar where he was hit by a boat.

Because we’re here at the end of the season, there are no ferries to Krabi, so we had to get a mini-van (and two short ferry rides).

The weather has been great here, but it rained lots when we were in Krabi; the sudden tropical downpours you sort of expect out here.

More Near Misses

We left Koh Phangan on 28th March and returned for a few days on Samui.

We stayed at the very nice Moonhut Bungalows in Mae Nam, on the north side of the island. Very clean bungalow with fan and 24hr electricity.

At about 00:30 the morning after we got there we were woken by our phones rining. It was Vic’s parents ringing to tell us that there had been another quake in the Indian Ocean and that there was a tsunami warning. As we were on the East coast of Thailand we decided not to worry (though we were very close to the beach), and as things turned out, there was nothing to worry about in Thailand.

On Friday 1st April we caught a flight from Samui to Krabi, where we are at the moment. We’re staying in the fab Chan Cha Lay Guesthouse in Krabi City, which must be one of the best decorated rooms we’ve had (and it’s quite reasonably priced!).

We kew our 30 day visa-free tourist stamp was due to expire soon,so we checked and found it was due to run out on Sunday 3rd, so asked at the guesthouse about doing a “visa-run”. They said we would need to get an A/C mini-van to Hat Yai (4 hours), and then get another van to Sadao (another hour), and go across the border in to Malaysia there. 250 Baht each one-way to Hat Yai, another 50 Baht each way to Sadao.

The bus left on Saturday morning at 6:30am and filled up as we picked up passengers around Krabi, before settling in for the long haul to Hat Yai.

We got to Hat Yai pretty much on schedule and then found the mini-vans going to Sadao (just round the corner from where we were dropped). A few minutes after we set off, the van ran into the back of a songthaew, smashing the headlights and quite a bit of the rest of the front of the van. Luckily no one was injured, and after a 20 minute wait another van turned up so that we could complete the rest of the trip to Sadao without incident.

Once dropped off in Sadao, we had to walk upto the Thai side of the border to get our exit stamps on our passports, and then walked a kilometre or so to the Malaysian side where immigration forms had to be completed and the passports stamped again.

Crossing the road we then went through the departure side of the Malaysian immigration, getting exit stamps. Back along the road to the Thai border with a brief stop off to look round the Duty Free shop in no-mans-land (not very interesting), fill in Thai immigration forms (from the Immigration Office on the left), another stamp on the passport (this time a Thai entry stamp) and back to the road where we were dropped off.

Quite straightforward, if a little bewildering in execution, all taking about 30 minutes. Bus back to Hat Yai for 3:30pm. The bus back from Hat Yai to Krabi wasn’t due to leave until 5pm so we went and got a drink and found an internet cafe (possibly the noisiest I’ve been in, full of 10 yr old Thai’s playing Counterstrike).

The journey back was uneventful, I kept busy with my recently purchased Gameboy Advance SP. Back to Krabi by 9:30pm making it a long day and we were fit to collapse.

On Sunday we saw some news reports on TV of bombs in Hat Yai where we had been the previous day. I’m not saying we’re jinxed or anything but over the past year we’ve had quite a few near misses with disasters etc.

Still, we’re safe and happy. Next couple of weeks will be spent around the Andaman coast of Thailand, probably Koh Lanta, and maybe Koh Phi Phi and Koh Jum. On the 18th April, we fly back to Bangkok, and then on to Siem Reap in Cambodia.