Final extras…

A big thank you….

To the people of South East Asia for being helpful, lovely and smiling
To the delicious food especially on the streets (but not the crickets…).
To the breweries for their great beer, much needed at times
To the Tuk Tuk’s and scooters for missing me

To H for the shoes and unwavering support….. And to all of you for putting up with this incessant drivel….. you never know I may be gone for sometime again soon…..

Final chapters…

Having arrived back in Bangkok with three days before my flight to Dubai and onwards to Blighty I decided I did not want to use the time only in the ‘big city’ so have moved on to the most Eastern part of Thailand – Kong Chiam, which nicely complements where I started as Kanchanaburi (river Kwai fame for those who have forgotten already) is the most westerly part of Thailand…… Khong Chiam is a rural town in Ubon Ratchathani province, part of what is known locally as Isaan. Khong Chiam is well known in Thailand as the place where the mighty Maekong river meets one of Thailand’s other largest rivers, the Mun and at the point of confluence of the two major water sources there is often a torrent of brown (Mekong) water meeting the deep blue of the Mun, hence it is known as the point of Bi- coloured waters. Additionally it is also the point where eastern Thailand meets Laos, the two being separated only by the river. I had hoped to be able to cross into Laos (just to say I’d been there) but the quick boat crossing was no longer an option so I made do with seeing it across 100m of water. Being the most eastern part of the country it is also the point of Thailand’s earliest sunset…

Where the Maekong meets the Mun, due to the very low water levels at this time of year the ‘torrent’ did not happen and therefore colours were more or less the same…

Historically the area has a lot going for it with National parks, waterfalls and cliff paintings from 3,000 yrs ago! Strange rock formations, huge lakes (formed with the help of two large dams) and, of course, several impressive temples.. I spent some time early morning trekking through the Pha Taem National Park, or rather a small portion of it… Some strange mushroom shaped rock formations led onto a cliff edge viewpoint and a forest path and 5km walk alongside large sandstone escarpments dotted with ancient paintings. All the time with the Maekong/Mun for company alongside. The visitor centre and constant information signs provided useful info along the way. A few national tourists around but no bus loads of follow me types thank god!

The temples of Wat Tham Kuha Saman and Wat Sirindhorm Wararam perfectly rounded of the trip, both very different but both extremely impressive. In the former I also received a monks blessing and given the traditional good luck wrist band. Great trip, long remembered, lovely people!

Markets like no others…

Busy day outside of Bangkok visiting the Railway market of Maeklong and the floating market at Amphawa situated about 80km east of Bangkok on the road to Kanchanaburi.

Maeklong Railway market

The Maeklong Railway Market has been around since 1905. It is found in the province of Samut Songkhram, located on the Gulf of Thailand. Fishing was (and still is) one of the main livelihoods of the people who lived here, and the market was another way in which to sell their goods. Officials decided to build a railway in order to better deliver these goods to provinces around Thailand, including the capital. The market remained, however, despite the new tracks that cut through it. Also known as the ‘umbrella pull down market’ which will make sense when you see the video…

The stalls and produce literally lie over the rail tracks and are shaded by homemade flexible awnings. When a train arrives they, very coolly, slide most produce back on small rails and pull down the ‘umbrella’ awnings although some trays of goods are left right under the train…..

Amphawa floating market

There are many floating markets in and around Bangkok, this one is close to the Maeklong railway. Amphawa is certainly not the biggest nor is it wholly a floating market as much of the goods are sold from stalls on the rivers edge with a few boats selling goods and cooking food from the river itself. Nevertheless it is a charming, enjoyable spot and offers boat rides through the market and around a circuitous route past riverside mansions, restaurants and temples. Well worth the trip.

On the way back into Bangkok I took a slight detour to visit a significant temple in Nakhon Pathom a city on the edge of Bangkok. The Phra Pathom Chedi or Stupa (mound like hemispherical structure often containing relics and used as a place of meditation) is a huge magnificent edifice surrounded by a walled courtyard / pathway which seemed perfectly circular; very impressive. The Chedi is recognised as the Worlds tallest standing at 127m from its base to the tip of its orange roof; it is significant as it is marks the site where Buddhism was first introduced to Thailand more than two thousand years ago. It was originally built in the 3rd century BC but restored to current condition in the mid 1850’s. Inside is a large golden reclining Buddha. There are several Buddha poses – reclining, sitting, standing etc. The position relates to the day of the week and if you were born on say a Tuesday then your Buddha is a reclining one. Strangely although there is one Buddha pose for most days of the week, Wednesday has a different one for the am and pm…


Early start as only one full day to explore. Rented a bike and set off for the Angkor complex. All going smoothly, arrived at a checkpoint after about 10km cycling where I thought I would just buy a ticket and push on….best laid plans and all that… Turned out that I should have purchased my ticket from the central Angkor ticket office which was (you’ve guessed it) 8km back where I cam from. Reluctantly I was about to turn round when the guy said we may have a plan for you…a cunning plan… then we proceeded to barter with a police guy and for 6 USD he took me on the back of his scooter to the ticket office and back to the checkpoint! Job done and on my bike once more!

Another new best mate.

Historical stuff

Temples of Angkor: Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer empire which flourished from the 9th to the 15th centuries. The whole site covers 400sq km. The Angkor complex was actually a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the world’s population during the 11th century. I had read about the size of the complex and the individual temple sites but nothing prepares you for the reality; it is immense and impossible to see in a week let alone a day. Two large temple complexes are the most famous Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom which occupy one small corner of the overall site and yet there is over 4km between the two. You have to walk around the individual temple complexes but you can cycle / tuk tuk between them thank goodness! The paths between them are tree lined avenues dotted with lakes and shrines.

Angkor Wat

Perhaps the most famous and well known, Angkor Wat was built in the 12th Century from massive sandstone ‘bricks’; originally to honour the Hindu god Vishnu but converted to a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. It is an immense complex covering more than 400 acres and was designed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods. The whole complex is surrounded by a moat – somewhat bigger than a typical castle version – 200m wide and 5.5km around!

Bayon Temple within Angkor Thom; at the heart of this complex is the 12th century Bayon temple. It was the state temple of Jayavarman VII Cambodia’s most celebrated King. It has 54 gothic towers each decorated with 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, a renowned Buddhist teacher and decorated with 1.2km of bas relief carvings featuring more than 11,000 figures and animals depicting life and war within the Khmer empire.

Ta Prohn Temple complex: this is undoubtedly the most atmospheric of all the temple complexes as unlike the other sites it has been swallowed by the jungle and must look just like all the sites were when first discovered in the 1860’s. It is also known as the “Tomb Raider Temple” after the Lara Croft movie.

Monkey business : As the complex lies in what was jungle ( and still is in some areas) there is a lot of wildlife in the area some of which seems to have become very used to the hoards of people trampling on their land… the third of these short videos is a hoot!

Extras 3, Siem Reap

Just had to add a third Extras…..Been out looking for somewhere to eat (and drink) after long road trip. These caught my eye….

My kind of 14hr happy hour……

Seems if you drink wine you need chips too…

Which should I order? Leaning towards the Feta and Tarantula samosa’s….

Then in my room they have options to buy some of the usual stuff like towels etc but also some strange one’s….maybe I’ll go for the tv or the do not disturb sign! This place is a real hoot!

Oops there go the shoes again…thanks H!

Phnom Penh

After the mind-blowingly tragic images of the last post, depicting the depths of depravity that mankind can inflict on itself, I moved on to the capitals centre and lighter subject matter….

Phnom Penh is a surprising city in many ways. It is significantly more cosmopolitan than most other places visited so far with a plethora of boutique style hotels, food options ranging from local Khmer street to up market fine dining. It does not seem to matter which country or city you visit you always witness the dichotomy of life with the mix of poor and affluent areas and people; together with the multitude of bicycle rickshaws and Tuk tuks etc I have just seen what must be the 20th Range Rover…. Many attractions are located centrally so easy to walk to as long as you are happy to dodge the inevitable traffic. Markets appear everywhere, mostly food but some where you can buy virtually anything.

Wat Phnom Is set on top of a 27m-high tree-covered knoll, and is on the only ‘hill’ in town. According to legend, the first pagoda on this site was erected in 1373 to house four statues of Buddha deposited here by the waters of the Mekong River and discovered by Lady Penh. Hence the city name Phnom Penh or ‘hill of Penh’.”

The Royal Palace: With its classic Khmer roofs and ornate gilding, the Royal Palace dominates the diminutive skyline of Phnom Penh. It’s a striking structure near the riverfront, bearing a remarkable likeness to its counterpart in Bangkok. Being the official residence of King Sihamoni, parts of the massive palace compound are closed to the public. It is totally surrounded by high stone walls and features the Silver Pagoda, so called because it’s floor is covered with 500 tonnes of gleaming silver.

Am writing this now whilst 200km into a 320km bus ride between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. A six hour journey across Cambodian countryside and various small towns. I was planning to take a boat rather than bus but sometimes during the dry season the route by boat is no longer possible due to low water levels. However the bus is pleasant enough and unbelievably has had WiFi more or less all the way hence I should be able to post this soon… how is it that in many areas of so called 1st World England this sort of reliable coverage can only be dreamt of???

All mod cons..

Given the weather in the UK and around the World recently perhaps we should have similar building practices to Cambodia…the houses in the following photos are typical of many built any where near water…these must be miles away from the nearest river but due to the flatness of the topography they are still routinely built on stilts…

Approaching Siem Reap soon and the next chapter….Angkor which promises to be an amazing sight…not sure how I am going to fit it into a day but will certainly try…. For a better insight into this UNESCO World heritage centre, an enormous Hindu temple collection, visit