A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: dawsonandred

Siem Reap

So... Is this going to work?

We arrived in Siem Reap after a fairly easy (in comparison to some of our trips) bus and tuk tuk journey.

Now one thing that I LOVE about Siem Reap is the awesome Tuk Tuks that whizz round the city with some fricking hilarious designs on them (one of our favourites was "have a break, have a tuk tuk" which was not even moving. It was stationary with two guys playing a pretty chilled out game of chess

We settled into our hostel and then decided to have a wander round the small city. Siem Reap is a really cool place, it's pretty small and fairly easy to walk around, if you don't get lost as we did. Everyone seems chilled out and even at "rush hour" there's not a great deal of rushing going on.

So we wandered, and wandered, for hours. Just generally mooching, stopping at cool places and having a drink or just taking it in. After what seemed like forever, it had gotten dark and with achy feet we decided to go back to the hostel for some cheap beers... But which way was the hostel? We'd walked through a windy market and down some back streets and were back by the river we'd started at, but maybe on the wrong side, or a different part or something.... And then I heard a gasp

Whizzing past us was by far the best tuk tuk we'd seen yet.... A transformers deceptacon tuk tuk. Or a tranformtuk as we decided to call it. With all the excitement, Mike just stood still with a gaping mouth, my camera was not in reach and by the time Mike had come out of his coma and reached for his phone, the transformtuk had whizzed out of sight. Alas, no evidence of this wondrous thing had been gathered and we will only have the memory.

After this episode we decided the excitement was too much and our feet hurt so we got into a tuk tuk to go back to the hostel, unfortunately it was a non descript tuk tuk but it suited our needs until we realised our massive school boy error....

We didn't know where our hostel was, they had collected us from the bus station so we didn't even know the road it was on and through all our meandering we had obviously forgotten the way back. I dug desperately in my bag and retrieved a terrible photocopy of a map that I got from reception and showed it to the tuk tuk driver, he looked unsure but nodded and drove us into the darkness..... Ten minutes later after lots of dark and suspicious alleyways where I suspect ladies of the night frequent, the tuk tuk driver admitted defeat and pulled over to ask someone where it was. We realised they knew another hotel on the map but not ours but my memory clicked into action and I remembered seeing the other hotels name when we searched for wifi so I figured it couldn't be too far...

Another dark alleyway loomed in front of us and tuk tuk driver announces we have arrived... UMMM NO this is an alley way, he points down it and tells us it's ok and reluctantly we get out the tuk tuk, and walk down the alley way, it's dark and scary but alas there is light at the end and we triumphantly arrive on our road.

Sitting at the hostel bar later having a couple of beers we get chatting and someone asks if there's an ATM nearby, I say I saw one just down the road to the right, I'm quickly corrected by another traveller saying there is one in the market just across the road. We look up, Mike is having a cigarette and wanders over to largish alleyway with a massage place and scarf shop. Yep. That's the market, the market we took a twenty minute tuk tuk ride from to get home. Luckily the tuk tuk driver had thought it was all his fault for getting lost and we only paid about $4

Oh well, time for another beer?

We buy a very cheap pitcher and are joined by other people from the hostel, we d already decided to go to Ankor Wat the next morning for sunrise, thinking we d get a tuk tuk for the day (and praying for the tranformtuk) but after speaking to some people, the idea of renting bicycles and cycling round the temples seemed very appealing. We'd met another girl travelling alone who was keen to bike for sunrise but reluctant to ride there alone in the dark. So it was decided, we'd all go together, meeting in the reception at 4am to collect our bikes and cycle for sunrise.

It had seemed like such a great idea after a pitcher of beer.... 5 hours later when we were pulling ourselves from our beds, it was not so great.

Posted by dawsonandred 01:23 Comments (0)

.... So apparently I also seem to post half a blog

.....Bet you were all in tender hooks about the legendary Freebird bar?! Just as I intended (or not, but whatever)

But anyway, if you've been living in China for nearly two years like me, and even he 5 months Mike was there, Freebird Bar is heaven! They had Dr Pepper, something that I had completely forgotten existed and I'd never seen baked beans so readily available in Asia, I swear on every single breakfast item there was a side order of bean.

But alas breakfast time was long gone, and with our tough morning of doing nothing, we decided we earnt a drink or two and especially as they were BOGOF for ladies cocktails and Mike had to pay a whole dollar for his beer. Suffice to say we abused this for many hours had some food and stumbled out around 11:30pm thinking we had a whopping bill to pay.... $25 is not too whopping though.

We spent a few days in Phnom Penh and experienced it as a tourist and an expat, thanks to Gareth and his lovely family and friends! Had some great food and drinks with a warm and welcoming bunch of people! Thanks guys, you really are tempting us back there!

We visited a nature park for rescued animals, that had elephants and moon bears rescued from hideous places where they were trained to dance and among other things there were tons and tons of monkeys, everywhere! Something I reasoned was not uncommon in the whole of Cambodia.

Then we came to a large rectangular enclosure with a lot of people gathered round, as we approached I felt Mikes grip on my hand tighten and we saw the sign stating the occupant of the enclosure "Python"

Another side not here, for those who don't know, to say Mike doesn't like snakes is a huge understatement

I decided to go ahead and check it out first. I walk up to the enclosure and see two of the biggest snakes I've ever seen in my life. One curled up in the corner, and the other stretched out, pretty much the length of the enclosure with a body so wide, I'm fairly certain it couldn't eaten me. Now this big daddy of a snake was asleep but I knew Mike wouldn't appreciate it.

I went back to him and simply shook my ahead and said "Nah, don't go over there" Mike, full of testosterone, or a Monet of insanity or something decides to be a big brave dog and check it out, taking my hand saying "I can do this, I want to, I can do it"

We walk up to the enclosure and the big daddy o snake wakes up and I feel the bones in my hand being crushed as the snake looks over in our direction, a few seconds later I'm being pulled away quickly to the sound of Mike claiming the snake KNEW he was scared and convinced the snake would be calling up all of his snake friends to tell them he was in Cambodia... A story I'm STILL hearing every time we are in a place where there may be snakes.

While we were in Phnom Penh, we also visiting the war museum and the Killing Fields after I declared, probably in not the most appropriate wording "I love a good massacre site"

I meant to say, I'm very interested in history and find places like that, although appalling, a great way to see into the mind set of the people of a country that has been affected by this kind of war

The museum itself is in an old school turned prison, after Pol Pott and the Khmer Rouge outlawed education, favouring a farming community. Now I didn't know much at all about the Cambodian war before this trip, but I must say its extremely interesting and the museums as humbling and chilling.

I won't go into too much detail, but to give you some idea, the school/ prison is pretty much preserved as it was during its use, you can see instruments of torture and the tiny makeshift wooden cells that had been constructed within the old classrooms and I could not even stand in the room for more than a minute or two without getting chills... It's was horrible

We then headed to The Killing Fields, deciding we'd do all the depressing stuff in one day. This was one of the most beautifully kept monuments I've ever seen. An audio guide told stories about the different areas and gave victims first hand experience in the time. The area is peaceful yet harrowing, educational and upsetting, but everything is very tactfully and beautifully handled. Apart from the construction that had been out up as a memorial, containing skulls of the victims of the Khmer Rouge on display, It was a interesting monument, but goes against the Khmer belief of cremation in order to pass to the next world. However we later learnt, the preservation of the site and the memorial had been funded by the Japenese, and clearly not taking into account the beliefs of the people the war effected.

After, our educational but depressing day, suffice to say we needed a cocktail.... Or 6 each! And that's exactly what we did! Another night of great food, drink and company and after feeling a little fuzzy in the head, we went back to the hotel to rest up, because the next day, we were to start the next part of our trip!

Siem Reap baby!!!

Posted by dawsonandred 09:19 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Can, Cannot, Cambodia

P.S Apparently I'm really bad at writing regularly

We arrived in Phnom Penh around midnight, luckily for us, the wonderful Gareth had arranged us a taxi from the airport, leaving us only the cryptic clue saying "the driver will hold a name card, but it won't have your name on it.... But you ll just know"

A little bit wary, we grabbed our luggage and walked towards the drivers holding name cards, and sure enough there it was.

The words Tony Stark typed onto a piece of paper, we both had a chuckle and walked towards the driver "Ah Tony Stark?" He said "Welcome to Phnom Penh".... Welcome indeed, thanks Gareth!

[Just as a side note for anyone who doesn't know, Mike and I have a slight obsession with Iron Man and generally geeky comic books stuff, although I might add that Mikes enthusiasm is a bit stronger than mine. But when we had a kitten for a week we named him Tony Stark.

The first thing we noticed when we left the airport was the sheer lack of noise! Barely any cars and most of the buildings had their lights out.... Very different from the fluorescent glow that surrounds Wuxi all night long. And with that we found our hotel and slept.

The next morning we awoke to a very different scene..... We were still walking down the stairs of the hotel, not even on the 2nd floor and about 20 tuk tuk drivers saw us coming and immediately launched their attack! "Where you from my friend?" "You want tuktuk?" "What's your name?" "Where you want to go? Killing Fields? Rifle Shooting I can take you anywhere"

Now, I'm quite a calm person I these situations and just politely say no Thankyou and walk away, somehow Mike ends up in conversation and we then have to apologise for wasting their time and explain we just want to walk around and explore

So, that's what we did, mooched and walked, had a look round the immediate vicinity and then found the legendary Freebird bar that Gareth and Nuala had been raving about....

Posted by dawsonandred 06:18 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Time to say goodbye

So, this is going to be an emotional one.

After three weeks of INTENSE partying and general fun times it was time to leave Wuxi.

I cannot count the number of leaving parties we all had, as there where quite a few Wuxi birds fleeing the nest we had all called home for a short amount of time, but suffice to say our 2 week packing plan went straight out the window and we ended up trying up pack up our apartment in about 4 hours on our last morning and thus throwing away so much stuff (to the old Chinese man rummaging through our rubbish... I bet you look great in my dresses!)

Saying goodbye to our students was a complete nightmare, and I genuinely wondered if we could collect up our favourites and sneak them away, but thought it prob wasn't the best idea!

Our Wuxifamily was even worse, even after hours and hours of partying we couldn't pull ourselves away from each other until the night got way to late and goodbyes had to be said.

As we boarded the plane and on the phone Kirley made me cry (you bitch xx) we started to wonder if we'd made thd right decision....

Yes, China is a crazy, challenging place to live, where you have to travel 20 mins in a taxi just to get to the supermarket with the good cheese. Where people stare at you for being white (or black) and try to touch your hair and skin to see if its real. A place where you can order a meal and not really be sure whether because you asked for chicken, you were going to be served the WHOLE chicken, head, feet and everything. A place where crossing the road was a daily dice with death.

But....
It's also a place where we were welcomed opened armed not into the foreign community but some aspects of the Chinese too.
A place where we could happily sit in Red Lion for hours without getting turfed out when it got stupidly late
A place where we could eat Noodle Dude, pretty much any time of the day - on a side not we worked out we spent around £80 on noodles in 5 months (at 70p a bowl)
Wuxi is the home of Mr Strongs epic Cocktails and taking off your pants to have a party.

Sitting on the plane, waiting for take off, doubt crossed out minds and we were thinking if we should get of the plane

And then.....

A Chinese dude behind us hocked up the loudest, biggest ball of spit known to man and spat it into the paper sick bag without any consideration for the witnesses of this vile act

YES we made the right decision!

We love our Wuxi life but its time to move on!

Goodbye China

Hello Cambodia!!!

PS To everyone who made China so amazing for us, Thankyou and we love you!

Posted by dawsonandred 02:35 Comments (0)

Wuxi 我们爱你 (we love you)

What's it's like to be a Wuxiren, the good the bad and the damn right fucked up!

So after some time (18 months for me, 5 months for Mike) we decided it was time to spread our wings past China and move on.

Wuxi was a freaking awesome place to live, filled with madness and magic and we will always remember those people who made it so special and those Chinese people who just shocked and appalled us.

No 1 Crazy Ass China Thing
Puppy in a bag.

Mike had been in China just over a week, and I decided to take him to our local pet market. Now if you can look past the terrible conditions in which the animals are kept. It's an awesome place to go and look at and tear yourself away from nearly buying the cutest animals on earth.

It housed boxes of rabbits, tubs of hamsters, row upon row of tanks of goldfish and turtles including one humongous mofo who was about 3.5ft and in a 4ft tank.

Upon walking past this menagerie of buffet style selection box of animals (we weren't sure if we were supposed to pet them or eat them) we came across the "puppy prison".

Now, our first instinct was to open up every cage and ask each beautiful puppy to scamper to freedom, but e next situation that presented itself shocked us so much we were left in shock.

A man, a youngish 30 year old man is looking at some cute beagles, presumably to entertain his child until the next version of the iPad comes out. he looks at the puppy's carefully and selects one beauty to take home. He puts the puppy back in its cage so he can take out his wallet, when the shopkeeper promptly picks the puppy up by the scruff of the neck and places him inside a Tescos plastic carrier bag... Hands the puppy to the customer who then scoops up his bag of groceries from the floor and walks out puppy in a bag in hand, next to his bean sprouts and Qingcai!

No 2 Crazy Ass China Thing
WORST TEACHERS EVER

Ok, so we've all had those days when we head into work with a hangover and can't be arsed to work properly,but the teachers at Bowen English take it to the next level.

1. Class starts at 9am... After a particularly crazy night out, getting up on a Sunday for class proved to be too hard for me. I am awoken at 9:27am by my Chinese teacher Sandy calling my phone "Kirsty, will you come to class today?" ...."uh, yeah sandy, what's the time?" ...... "It's nearly 9:30....?"
Suffice to say the words to follow we're not ones that my mum would approve of.

2. After a similarly epic night.... Mike decides to teach his class of 6-7 year olds the word HANGOVER.... Now the little ones can spell it and say it with the ultimate Essex accent! (It's on mikes Facebook if anyone wants to take a look)

3. Magic Mike seemed to start a trend... A few weeks later, our friend sent us a video of him teaching the word lazy..the sentence pattern of the day was "Today, TK is a lazy teacher"

And 4. Finally, the legend that is Ojan -mikes Iranian replacement takes it upon himself to educate the SAME 6-7 year olds in terrorism... We are sitting at Shanghai airport waiting for our flight to Cambodia and received a picture.....
Kids staring at the white board..... The word bomb and a picture of the USA and Ojan doing what only can be described as "bomb actions" .......
We are now officially scared for our ex students

No 3 Crazy Ass China Thing
Walking backwards down the street.

There's no explanation needed here.
Chinese people walk backwards down the street
They think its good for their health
It's not if they get run over....
It's just weird and STUPID

No 4 Crazy Ass China Thing
Pissing......

A. On the street......On a beautiful Chinese summers day, mike is walking to work in a great mood, what happens next, boggles and shocks him to his very core....
Walking past, what he thought was a normal bus stop, he bore witness to an atrocity.

A six year old girl with 3 adults, wearing a black and white striped top and a black provocative tutu (mikes words not mine!!!) bending over, projectile urinating ONTO passing traffic. The parents in pure jubilation have the audacity to stop and stare at mike as he walks past his face plastered in shock and horror. (Note to china: if there is a bush 2 metres away, please direct child's urine towards bush not traffic)

B. On a statue......Mike and I visit the beautiful mountain resort of Wuyishan which is scenic, beautiful and full of things like statues and temples. We have just climbed a mountain, rafted down a river and enjoyed the beautiful gardens and are near the exit of the gardens. We stop. Horrified.....
There is a small child, trousers round ankles, little Chinese peepee in hand, making a little Chinese peepee... IN PUBLIC GARDENS.....ON A STATUE!!!!

Oh no, that's not even the worst part. His dad... Applauding him, gets his camera out and starts clicking away! We are MORTIFIED

Conclusion: The Chinese like to piss....EVERYWHERE

No 5 Crazy Ass China Thing
Beer Olympics and a golden bird

I don't even know how to start after reading back that title, which sounds like the next instalment of the Harry potter series....

Ok so maybe you've heard of the Wuxi Beer Olympics which Mike and I's team SMASHED (along with Spider Jon, Cartoonie, Spencer and the legend that is Burger Flipping Jøññy (TEQUILLA)

It started with a DJ set created at 2am on Mike phone and our landlord asking us to turn the music down.... After the next day of full teaching, we headed to this Epic event, that was to be the start of the magical party season in Wuxi.

We turned up, mike to be the DJ, me to be the girl holding the "round" card like in a boxing match.... We were then asked to join the amazing red lion team, winning 3 out 5 events including the Mexican Hat Dance (of course girls, am I going to be happy losing a dance competition? TEAM KIRSTY DOESN'T LOSE. and Flip Cup (yes Mich, I learnt from the best) We were victorious in our efforts.

Then came some dancing, some singing, and of course more free beer..... Then there was a bird

A giant bird

A golden bird

After mounting the giant golden bird, Mike and Ian had one mission and all I heard were the words "I want his head"

The next part was kind of a blur, but it involved Ian leaning on the birds neck and subsequently snapping it... It was only when the hotel manager came over that we panicked. As I tried desperately to distract him, mike and Ian attempted to stuff the giant golden ostriches head into Mikes backpack.

Unfortunately the words "run away" were shouted and we left the building, minus the head.

THE NEXT DAY...

Mike receives a phone call from Ian along the lines "this is very very bad" (words that were said at least 100 times that night)

Apparently the hotel manager had been onto the organiser of the beer Olympics and who happens to be our good friend Tim...

HM"thanks for having the beer Olympics here, it was a great event, I hope everyone had a great time"

TIM "yep, it was awesome, we are looking forward to coming back"

HM "but there's one problem....they killed my bird"

Side note: the hotel keeps live birds....Tim is horrified

TIM "what's do you mean they killed your bird?"

HM "They broke its neck and ripped the head off"

Now Tim is panicking

TIM "show me the body and the blood, I will find the people responsible"

HM "it was the big one in the superman T-shirt and the DJ...why would they do this, it was a nice bird...?"

......basically, Tim got to the bottom of it, it was of course Mike and Ian and it was a 7ft plastic golden bird statue NOTa real live bird that they rode and then decapitated

The boys were made to fix the bird..Mike then left Wuxi...GOODLUCK IAN xxxxxx

That's all for today..... some more tales soon

Posted by dawsonandred 02:59 Archived in China Comments (0)

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