Tuesday, 30 March 2010

DO eat something rank (part 2)

Barbecued pigs intestines.

Tried some of these off Merc's plate at a Cambodian market and they are actually surprisingly tasty. Though it is just slightly offputting when the woman pulls out the entire metre long wiggly string from the chopping board and slices it into bite-sized chunks for you.

DON'T eat a Durian

Who would have thought a fruit exists that smells like bin juice and tastes like mangoes and feet? For some unknown reason they go absolutely mad for them over here but I can smell them a mile away and they always make me gag.

It's even worse in dessert form. Steer well clear of Durian sticky rice unless you have a terrible urge to eat a solid fart.

DON'T hike to Bokor

Ever. Ever ever ever. In a million years.

If you happen to pass through Kampot on the Cambodian coast at any time please resist the urge to do a trek up to Bokor Hill Station unless you have a death wish. You used to be able to get a moto or a truck all the way up there which I imagine would have been pleasant, but now Chinese developers have closed the access road so the only way up is an absolutely hellish two-and-a-half-hour vertical climb through dirt roads and jungle.

You are literally scrambling up rocks and dirt paths in 40 degree heat covered from head to toe in sweat for what seems like an eternity. Seeing as the trip starts at 8am I made the fatal error of not having breakfast either and consequently almost fainted at one point. We lost one guy about half an hour in because he thought he was actually going to die.

After you finally, breathlessly make it to the top you are obviously expecting something fantasmical to await you..... but no. Being as it's dry season all the waterfalls are dried up so all we did was spend an hour walking around half a dozen disused buildings. Cue another two-and-a-half-hours on the way down sliding all over the place on your arse desperately trying to avoid toppling over a cliff edge.

Don't. Just Don't.

DO hire a fishing boat

Probably one of the coolest things I've done out here and ridiculously cheap to boot. We stayed on Bamboo Island off the coast of Sihanoukville for a few nights, and the little Khmer restaurant at the end does fishing trips for $5 each.

It's so quiet that it ended up being just us and the two Khmer guys setting out on this little wooden fishing boat. They take you right out to sea and you fish with hooks on fishing twine wrapped round empty water bottles and old spindles or whatever else they happen to have found to use. We stayed out for at least three hours, watching the sun go down, and when you get back to shore they barbecue whatever you've caught for you for free.

A fun trip followed by the freshest seafood you've ever eaten all for 3 quid- you can't go wrong :)

Monday, 15 March 2010

DO wear trunks that fit

And avoid being like the rank old man we saw on the beach yesterday who came straight out of the sea and into a restaurant with both of his balls hanging out of one leg. Maybe that's the look he was going for, I don't know. Either way, us and about seven other people who caught sight of it found it gross and hilarious in equal measure.

Do not be that guy.

Friday, 12 March 2010

DON'T stay near the lakeside in Phnom Penh if you are squeamish

We had an absolutely enormous spider in our bathroom the other day. Then a rat came and ate the spider. Not cool.

*little update*

I will soon be enriching your blog reading experience with the addition of some lovely photos and videos. I only realised you could actually do this the other day and as most of you know I am technologically retarded so give me sometime between a week and a year to actually get my head around it. I promise it will be worth it!

Love xx

DO pack some serious supplies if you want to tackle Angkor

Temple gazing is no easy business, kids. Consider the following a basic starter pack:

- Bicycle gloves: For scaling vertical steps with nothing to grab on to but boiling hot rock. Cambodian health and safety regulations don't exactly... well, exist.

- A fistful of dollars bills: For the nuns that will pop out of nowhere round every corner wanting to bless you for a donation. The only alternative is creeping away feeling like a disrespectful tightass.

- Running shoes: To make a speedy exit from the hoardes of men, women and children selling everything from coconuts to bangles that will swarm you at the entrance to every temple. For a more efficient experience substitute the above for a pogo stick. Or a foldaway scooter.

- As much water as you can physically consume: To replace the gallons of sweat you will be attractively sporting after just half an hour. This is never, I repeat NEVER, to be considered a suitable place for a date.

DO hold on to your hats- this is Cambodia

Oh, Cambodia. An absolute assault on your senses in both good ways and bad.

We bumbled into Poipet having already got scammed out of at least 15 quid for our visas and then followed around for the next hour by a guy with the creepiest fingernails you've ever seen claiming to be our 'tour guide'. Word of warning- if you stop ANYWHERE that doesn't have queues upon queues of anxious looking people and police wandering around in droves, you aint at the border. This being Asia, you don't even have to get your visas until you are actually inside Cambodia, which makes it a hell of a lot cheaper and avoids the possibility of you being stalked by a tout for the remainder of your day.

THEN we got onto the roads. A spare set of underwear is essential for any trip in a Cambodian vehicle. The road markers are a mere suggestion, blind overtaking is the norm and there is a strict swerve-or-get-hit policy in force. I was on a moto the other day and not wanting to wait he just mounted the pavement instead. Does the job I guess.

Aside from being totally mad though, it can also break your heart being here. You can really see that this is a country of people trying to rebuild their lives after the horrors of the Khmer rouge and every day is full of stark contradictions. Take the kids for example. On the road to our guesthouse lived the most wonderful, happy group of children we'd ever met- they'd run up to us every night shouting "hello, hello!" wanting to hug us and play with us. I took a picture one night and they spent the next ten minutes staring into the flash, pressing it right in their eyes then jumping away in fits of giggles. You move literally twenty metres down the road though and come face to face with the polar opposite- street begging kids, trained by their parents at just five years old to cling to foreigners, punch them, swear at them and try and steal whatever they have to hand.

Come prepared, come with an open mind, and come to see everything the country has to offer- positive or otherwise.

Monday, 8 March 2010

DO dance the Macarena in a country that will never understand it

This lovely suggestion was courtesy of Dave Pedder, and I managed to do it to full effect at a Thai school full of bemused 11 year olds.

While we were at the Elephant Park we spent a day visiting the local school, which was a fantastic experience but basically involved them plonking us in a classroom and walking off. Having thoroughly exhausted the limits of their English (through about 20 games of hangman) we were frantically scrabbling around for ideas when I decided to bestow upon them the cultural treasure that is the Macarena.

I have never seen anything funnier in my life than 30 Thai kids standing on their chairs wiggling about and shouting "eyyyyyy macarena" at the top of their lungs. Some of the boys didn't quite get the hang of the moves so decided just to spend the next half hour shouting the words over and over again, which I'm sure was a delight for their teachers next lesson.

Absolutely wonderful kids though, so kind, polite and friendly (even though I did catch a cold off the snotty kindergarteners)

Monday, 1 March 2010

DON'T feed elephants in the street

Or ride them, or any of that crap. Chances are there's a guy with a hook beating the life out of them when they're not in front of you.

Having just spent a fantastic two weeks in an elephant sanctuary (there is nothing in the world cuter than elephant babies), I've seen what happens to elephants in the tourist injury. Almost all of them at the park had been through the pajaan ceremony, where they chain them up for weeks and beat them into submission. Some even had broken hips from forced breeding programs or had been blinded by their owners for disobedience.

If you do come to Asia, just try and be smart about it. You don't get wild animals to perform circus tricks for nothing.

DON'T get a rock thrown at your face and have to have part of your head shaved in a Thai hospital

Nuff said.