Post # 45 Xuan Loc

Day 52 1028 days to go. Distance: today 81km total 2741km. It’s 7.30pm Saturday 21/1/2012 Xuan Loc. I’m so happy happy happy after feeling so crappy crappy crappy 2 hours ago and for the most part of the day. I think today was mentally my hardest riding day. I’ve done more physically demanding days but this one was just tough !!!! In the words of Sesame St today was brought to you by the letter H and the number 6. Six nasty H’s made for 81kms now in the past yay – Ho Chi Minh exit, highway, headwind, hills, horns and heat eeeeeeek. But as we know every cloud has a silver lining. When it was ‘I’m so over this’ o’clock and going up yet another long hill I felt this bump from behind and a lad on a moped was using his foot to push me and Rube up the hill. A moped powered push yayayayayaya. Ive seen the locals do this balancing but effective trick before pushing along broken down mopeds or bicycles carrying or towing loads of all size and sorts. I never thought I’d be on the receiving. I could have given him the biggest kiss settling for the biggest thumbs up. It lasted a few hills worth their weight in gold. Thank you Mr whoever you are. He must have sensed I wanted to be beamed back home at that precise time. Yet another rescued by a
Local event to add to the wonderful list. Love it!!!!! I wasn’t prepared for the long hills then to come over the top to the full on head wind stole the enjoyment of ‘what goes up must come down’ reward. On top it was crazy hot. I refilled my water bottle half dozen times and I’m still dehydrated tonight after drinking 2 more litres since finishing crazy stuff. The horns and highway have been the theme for the last days as you know but it was a bit compounded with the other H’s. Ho Chi Minh was nuts exiting from nuts nuts. Two hours of morning traffic and no idea and dodgy help with people seemingly very preoccupied with their last minute Chinese New Year ‘have tos’ Saigon eventually spat me out and I spitooed it back at the time. On the road out I had a stoppy at a market buying some bread and bananas for breaky. After calorie and coffee’ing up I felt much better but it didn’t last long. All character building stuff I can say now it’s in the past 🙂 I had a break at one of the roadside cafes that have hammocks next to each table and chairs where motorists stop literally for a drink, snack and kip. It was very tempting but far to dangerous so I was content with my kids chair. Most street stalls have kid sized tables and chairs that are really comfy. But that comes from someone who is happy to squat or sit on the floor and is short. Comparatively I tower over the local folk. It really stands out when I’m in crowds like at markets and the likes. Who’d ever thought. I haven’t felt tall since grade 7 when I pretty much stopped growing up 🙂 The day did a 180 uturn for the far better at 4.30pm when I cycled into Xuan Loc. This place is my favorite city so far in Vietnam. It’s quaint in size but with all the local stuff going on and celebrations for new year just a toned down version. It’s really nice to enjoy the local factor without the craziness. I’ve just come in from checking out the place for the last couple of hours taking in the atmosphere of the New Years excitement, lights, flower and decorations stalls and the usual produce markets. The town is very young, people crazy friendly and Ive been flashed so many smiles I’m all warm and fuzzied up yay. The town’s one hotel cost $10 which I think is cheap as apparently the cost of hotels will now be between $15-20 so we’ll see. The room is really comfy and I’m happy. When I walked into the room this afternoon I just fell on the bed and laid there for 15minutes letting the day pass it was sooooo nice. Up and cleaned and revitalized. It’s been a fabulous end to the day. Tomorrows a 120kms to ride to Phan Thiet on the coast where the National Highway cycle route starts and heads up the eastern coast. For now it’s dinner and an early night shagged but smiling and life’s once again all good. By the way Rube did awesomely on the hills today she kicked arse gorgeous girl!!!! Talk soon x

Post # 44 Ho Chi Minh Saigon

Day 51 1029 days to go Distance: yesterday 135km today 71km total 2660km. Its 7.15pm Friday 20/1/2012 Hoi Chi Min (Saigon). I’ll start with the crap news to get it over and done with. I just tried to upload the photos from the last days and the computer says the memory card has insecure files and won’t let me upload. They’re also appearing as .exe files which I dont understand so if anyone has any ideas let me know ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Sorry there were some awesome photos amongst them including tonight walking round Saigon. So what I’ll do is send the spot tracker GPS and you can check out the city for yourself. There were interesting shots of the Mekong Delta river life and people Ive met along the days bugga. Can’t do anything about it for now except change the card which Ive done and get on with tomorrow. That aside back to the last couple of days. The cycle out of Cantho was a bit tricky finding the right road but that meant stopping and asking folk who were really helpful and got me to the arterial road that lead to this huge suspension bridge. It was like a hill climb to get up and over this thing. I had done some maintainance on Rube in Cantho and her gears purred under load which was very reassuring that I’m slowly getting my head around how she ticks yay. The view at the top of the bridge engineering and surrounding area was superb so much so the locals were stopping to have a picnic on the side of the road mind you but hey can’t beat them join them stuff and thought it a great spot to sit alongside and enjoy my breaky coffee, baguette and banana. There was even a guy walking amongst the traffic selling sunglasses!!!! Extreme vendering. It was a bit of a haul for the rest of the day as one town blended into the next meaning heavy traffic and little variation to break up the day. Heavy traffic means allot of noise like ALLOT. Earlier in the day I was ok with this but it sort of accumulated over the hours and kms and I got a bit over it and bottom lipped it by the end of the day. I approached today allot differently so instead of getting cranky and fighting the noise I stayed amongst it. I even had my break sitting at the side of the raod eating a fresh baguette. It worked and made for allot nicer day. Drivers here beep their assorted horns to warn, to move, to say hi, to say hi back, to check their old horn’s working, to show off their new horn, to show off their bigger horn. Or so it seams 🙂 As soon as I get into a mind set that it’s me against the horn brigade its all over – noise wins I loose I snarl. Not pretty. Hence different tactic. And it was needed today. I read that Saigon is more a buzz than an experience to cycle into. Road traffic is consistently intense and spills onto the footpaths. The roads and intersections are countless and crisscross in no order over a huge area. So you never really know what road is actually straight on or veers off. The best part of that was again stopping and asking directions or alternatively stopping and checking the lonely planet map and having people approach me to help. It was great. I was never where I thought and needed the help to be put back on track so it was sooo appreciated. It sort of tuned into this huge challenge that I got into. Not bad for someone who yesterday was going to cycle on through. Just stopping to find a place to do a recky enough off the road was a trick in itself. I stopped at one stage thinking the next hotel was going to be perfect and got given a price per hour. Maybe not!! Onwards into the thick of things. This fellow gave me such good advice at one stage he said to follow the overhead wires and that was really clever and worked for a bit. Otherwise it just took stopping and asking and I managed to get to District 1 about 3 hours later where the cheap accommodation was yay. I was chuffed with myself that I 1. Got here and 2. got here without getting squished by a crazy moped Saigonian yay yay. All good. I was checking the map and street signs yet again when this woman approached me and offered a dorm room for $6 perfect ending and no catch. The accommodation here is western prices so I’m pretty happy paying that. It’s kind of nice sharing space with others for a change. I met this American fella Tim who’s on holidays from teaching English in Saudi Arabia, really interesting and friendly guy and equally interested in my itinerary, planning and kit. Nice to have a decent chat to someone as its been a quite a few days so I pretty much babbled his ears off poor lad. But he invited me out for a bite to eat so I mustn’t have been too scary. After that it was good to clean up and head out to check out the city sights into the early evening. There’s so much going on leading up to New Year. The city is lit up like out Christmas but all over the top stuff super fluro and the theme no surprises, the dragon. Ive been told that everything goes really quiet from the 23rd for about a week as this is mostly family time so we’ll see how accommodation options goes during this and the rest of Chinese New Years. I found a flower market which was beautiful and a nice space to wonder. The plants, flowers and fruit trees are mostly everything orange or yellow so lots of assorted size daisies and sunflowers and fruiting trees that look like kumquats. The local folk are dressing their shop windows, front of restaurants or hotels etc with a yellow flowering tree like a huge bonsai decorated in hanging gold lanterns. Then there’s a food tray laid out with an assortment of meats, vegies, fruits and a tea or drink. The more impressive the meal the more something I’m sure. The place I stayed at in Cantho had a whole dressed pig and accompaniments on a table outside their entrance area. It was BBQ’ed bright red and overly dressed in decorative wrapping paper from ears to tail. It disturbs me but I stop any extended thoughts along those lines along with the live animals being sold for eating mistreatment issues. There’s too much of it in your face on the roads, in the markets, in the streets. I just think about where they are or will be in their next life and hope they have better fortune. I had hoped tonight to upload the photos as the hotel has free internet and wifi bonus but hence the debacle with the SD card grrrrrr. For now it’s off to have some dinner and an early to bed to read up on the National Highway route up the Vietnamese coast into China. Skype chats with my folks this morning and another date with my partner tomorrow. I’m spoilt yay. Talk soon x

 

Post # 43 Cantho

Day 49 1031 days to go. Distance: today 65km total 2454 . It’s 11.56am Wednesday 18/1/2012 Cantho. Or at least I will be in about an hour. It’s 6.36pm and now I’m in Cantho. That post entry wasw very short before I was wonderfully interrupted by a local gentleman who served the transport vans in a town I passed through about 20kms short of Cantho. I love stopping in amongst the real folk. You know where there are those working hard just to keep their heads above water if so lucky. I find these folk the most real whatever the country. I find them the most real to interact with and genuinely wanting to know more about me in a way particular to the person that interests them. Todays a good example. In the town I stopped for lunch there’s heaps of cafes but what appeals is the small two chair roadstall cafe opposite the petrol station where the transport vans are pulling in and out. There’s an old lady there watching intently as the vans pull in the draw a customer. I asked her for hot water as I saw she had a flask, paid her 25c (5000 dang) and went to sit on the nearby kerb but she insisted I take one of her seats. She just sat and smiled and watched me eat my banana baguette. When done I started to post and pone of the van people came over to talk where I was from and where he want to travel to using a combination of his minimal English and map drawings scratched on the concrete. It drew a couple more lads. I love it and get so much out of their genuine effort. They don’t want anything just to talk. In Cantho I was in a supermarket (there’s that supermarket fettish again) pricing up honey options and this little girl came up watching me. I said hi and frightened her off. Then her father came up introduced himself and his daughter to me. I went to shake her hand and she took hold of my hand with both hers and squeezed. It was really beautiful sweet little thing. I spoke then with dad his English was ok. He wanted to know where I’m from and heading to and why and what I was wanting in the shop and what I thought if Vietnam etc. Whatever I said he’d repeat and nod then fire the next question at me. 30 minutes later he thanked me for my time and wished me a safe journey, shook my hand and left. Awesome I love this stuff and will never tire of this simple interaction. Today was a hard cycle not long but a strong head wind and Rubes only had 2 gears working without slipping which made it a bit tricky. It was only 65km so it passed soon enough. It was mostly urban sprawl today I passed through with no major highlights as far as scenery but I was happy to potter along and enjoy the ride flashing and/or exchanging smiles with passer bye traffic of all sorts. I have a real soft spot for truck drivers. They mostly travel in twos and its usually for the passenger to hang out the window and give me a big hello and thumbs up. Despite being the most ‘horn crazy’ they are always considerate passing by such a welcomed change to experiences back home whereby truck drivers can be a bit smart arsey. I’m going on a bit about the traffic of things tonight probably because it really interests me and the psyche of the people is very reflective on the roads. There is never a dull moment and Ive quickly learnt how to move through the chaos as best I can. You cant wait for a break in the traffic as there is none it’s about merging, peripheral vision foremost and adjusting your speed as opposed to direction to blend to where you want to head. Its really crazy stuff and I enjoy the skill and thrill of it. I’m very fortunate that the road users in south east asia are very used to dealing with the unexpected and I have not had any close calls as yet and hope it stays that way. One day, one pedal, one post at a time. It’s a true gift what I’m doing and I intend to savor and squeeze what I can out of the simple opportunities as they present. It’s very cool and I hope you’re enjoying the ride with me. Cantho is very busy with local tourists visiting for the Chinese New Year that apparently starts soon. It took me half dozen checks to find a hotel that would take me for one night and/or had vacancy. I ended up finding one for $7.50 bit more than I’m used to paying but it’s got wifi, air con and hot water so I’m spoiling myself and have even shaved the legs (you probably didnt need to know that but hey we’re all friends here). I’ve planned a skype date with my partner in the morning awesome then it’s onto Mytho 105km. I’ve put my nose in the bike manual this afternoon and got Rubes gears working again so that’ll make it a more comfy cycle all going well. My sister’s been doing some looking into the Chinese New Year this year being the year of the dragon. I’m going to share some of the info she’s shared with me interesting stuff. Hope you enjoy. Talk soon. x

In Chinese tradition, each year is dedicated to a specific animal. The
Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Rat, Boar, Rabbit, Dog, Rooster, Ox, Tiger, Snake, and Ram are the twelve animals that are part of this tradition. In 2012, the Dragon is welcomed back after the 2011 year of the Rabbit. Each of these
animals are thought to bestow their characteristics to the people born in
their year.

While the Year of the Rabbit was characterized by calm and tranquility, the Year of the Dragon will be marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. HOW AWESOME BRING ON 2012 I SAY!!!!! This year it starts Jan 23!!!!!!

Vietnam is BIG along with china in celebrating !!!!!!!!!! There’s a great site with all sorts of fun info. here’s a snippet……
http://chinesenewyear2012.net/

By the way I was born the year of the GOAT!!!!! How cool’s that!!!! No wonder I have an affinity with those gorgeous creatures. My sister was born the year of the OX but I’m not going to make any smart arse comments because I love her dearly 😉 More info….

Chinese New Year Celebration: The 15 Days of Chinese New Year. There are many traditions and customs associated with the Chinese New Year, which begins on the first new moon of the lunar New Year and ends two weeks later with the full moon. The first day of the Chinese New Year Celebrations is reserved for family and the last day is marked with the Lantern Festival and an elaborate Dragon Dance, but the days in between are also marked with tradition.

Day 1
Families gather together to honor ancestors and to welcome the gods of earth and of the heavens. People come from all over the world to reunite with their families, making this important Chinese holiday the cause of the largest annual human migration.

Day 2
Many Chinese will pray to ancestors and all the gods on this day. And because this day is also recognized as the birthday of all dogs, many will
be especially kind and generous to the canines they encounter.

Day 3 & 4
On these days husbands are to escort their wives to her parent’s home. Once there, the sons-in-law are to show special respect to their in-laws. It was once common for in-laws to present the couple with two lotus lanterns – one white and the other red. After returning home the couple would light and hang the lanterns by their bed. If the candle in the white lantern burned out first the couple would have a baby boy. If the candle in the red lantern burned first the couple would have a baby girl.

Day 5
Traditionally people stay home on this day, which is known as Po Woo and is set aside as a day to welcome in the God of Wealth. Visiting family and
friends on this day is believed to bring bad luck.

Days 6 to 12
During this part of the two week holiday the Chinese will visit family and friends and many will pray at local temples. Red envelopes called lai see are given out regularly throughout the New Year’s holiday. When arriving as a guest to the home of family or friends, it is common to bring a small gift for the host. This could be candy or even a bag of oranges or tangerines. A lai see filled with a new bill of “lucky money” should be placed inside the bag of citrus.

Day 13
Due to all the feasting of rich foods, many Chinese will eat a simple meal of rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) which are known to cleanse the body.

Day 14
This day is used to prepare for the Lantern Festival which takes place the next evening.

Day 15
One of the most well-known traditions and customs of the Chinese New Year is the New Year’s Parade which features the Lantern Festival and the much anticipated Dragon Dance.

Post # 42 Long Xuyen

Day 48 1032 days to go. Distance: today 63km total 2389. It’s 7.00pm Tuesday 17/1/2012 Long Xuyen. This has been one of my favorite days. Planned stuff and lots of unplanned stuff all rolled into one very cool day of it. I’ve just got in from checking out the city for the afternoon, cleaned up squeaky clean and sitting on the bed under the fan posting to you fine folk. They’ve got the Australian open being telecasted and Layton Hewitt’s just won his match yay. I went into the morning market first up today and found freshly baked baguettes for the day. The cycle was fabulous. The road followed the mekong right on top of the local river life. I stopped for a break and just watched the comings and goings people washing transporting goods, ferrying people, just everyday stuff but on the water and such great people watching. Actually that’s pretty much the theme of the day for me. I got to nejoy the everyday life I came across by riding with it and sitting and watch it go by both on the river and on in the streets. Rube and I are so used to being gawked at like we got two heads and six wheels but I laughed out loud today. We were going through a town looking about and I caught our reflection in a shop window. We definitely look odd enough without extra bits and I cracked up. It was a good perspective and I’d gawk at us too but more so because we’re two spunky sportos 🙂 I had lots of people contact time from the very little to the very old and I loved the mix. Some people would just gawk but most would flash a smile or smiled back at my crocodile grin. it’s happened a few times over the last couple of days where guys would follow me on their mopeds not being weird but checking out rube then heading off looking back giving us the thumbs up, big nod and a grin. It’s cool. That’s quite a common salute the thumbs up or the peace sign from all ages but more so teenagers. I rode past this vending lady grilling bananas covered on cocoanut creamed rice and it smelt so good I had to stop and buy one. She was great and giggled the whole time. This old fella came up before heading and asked me ‘where you go’ and I showed him the map and he said ’54 km’ gave Rube a shake and nodded his approval and waved us on our way. The sprawl of towns doesn’t end one rolls into the next with very little unused space. The volume of people is a real stand out but there’s not a sense of aggression amongst the people. The chaos seems accepted and just a part of life so you just join them. It’s such a surprising step up from where Ive been with respect to the volume of people even Phenon. It makes me wonder what Saigon will be like but I’ll just ride that one it comes I think. One day at a time and there’s enough going on in the day to move from one moment to the next that’s for sure. I stopped today to watch this bicycle repair lady serving a bike and so into it and efficient. It was fascinating and I got a couple of pictures before she realized she had an audience. I gave her the biggest grin and thumbs up and shook her hand calling her a jet. She had no idea what I was saying but new it was a compliment coming from the passing female cyclist so she loved it. I passed lots of rice drying out on the road and coconut shell pieces that they dry for kindling. i also passed a few shops drying incense sticks. I arrived Long Xuyen about 1pm and its a huge city bigger than chou Doc and spread over such a distance. I didnt have a city map in my guide book but had a couple of names of hotels. There was just no way of finding myself around despite trying for about an hour to find where the hotels were. I ended up stopping at a cafe to ask and the man who owned it offered to leaed my by moped to one of the hotels in the book. how lovely was that. I sat with his elderly mother who was very amused by my visit and situation. He took me to the hotel which ended up being baulous only $5 and right in the city centre I think. It’s just up from a roundabout with a monument so I used that as a landmark to check out the city for the afternoon. Found the river markets where people living on boats were preparing their produce it was so interesting to watch. So much so I just had to stop sit myself in the street just up from the river and watched the markets and general goings on, passing of people and vendors it was just awesome. I sat there until the sun started to set so I thought I’d head for another ride about before it got dark. I found the river side markets of mostly flowers and assorted fruit trees and bonsai. I was there right on sunset and it was beautiful on the water. It started getting dark so I headed back to the hotel and here I am. Really loving the difference of Vietnam and the unique daily life and activity and being amongst it. Great day and onto Cantho tomorrow. Starving!!!! talk soon x

Post # 41 Chou Doc

Day 47 1033 days to go. Distance: today 76km total # . It’s 6.30pm Monday 16/1/2012 Chou Doc. I think south east Asian travel has finally got under my skin in a dam good way that is. I must say its got a quality all of its own that’s more a good buzz as opposed to a good time. I’m currently sitting in the street literally in my best Asian squat position trying to give the gps tracker a clear overhead which is a bit tricky in down town Chou doc. The lonely planet describes it as a quiet riverside Vietnamese town . Holly hell it’s so busy and full of people bustling and hustling and beeping to buy road space. It’s definately the size of a town but it’s jammed to the rafters with local folk. I could hear the town coming this afternoon I kid you not. Comparatively speaking it was a quiet ride in from the border and then about half a km out you could hear the quiet town. Love it. The population density and difference of Vietnam is felt immediately and it’s a next level of saturation up. Like
I said south east Asia is its own brand of travel and particularly now I’m feeling so much better I’m really getting a buzz put of it. It was about 50km to the border this morning. Im not exactly sure as rubes speedometer is busted from the bus trip or at least the sensor on the front tyre is. I love that bit of kit so after an indecent swear word or two I got on with it on the basis that it’s about 20 per hour I average with breaks. Our little porter boy from phenom phen will have burning wars for a day or two that’s for sure 😉 the last 20km saw a real change of scenery with rice field wetlands and stilted homes it was great it kind of post card rice field country. This area is not passable in the wet and you can see why with there being so much ground water even now in the dry . Perfct rice growing fields and they stretched for as far as the eye could see which in my case isn’t that far but you get the idea. i stopped off at this town about about 2km out and got an extra special welcome from this little thing that let out the biggest string of ‘hellos’ yet and that’s saying something because I’ve heard some doozies through Cambodia particularly. I stopped parked Rube pointed at the little knee high and ran straight over to her still pointing right up to her belly which I gave a gentle poke and said ‘hello’ back laughing. She loved it!!! Actually thinking now in hindsight I could have terrified the little thing and given her cyclist psychosis for the rest of her life. Not the case. Her and the family loved it and I joined them for lunch or at least sat with them while I ate my banana sandwich and coffee. Fun. I headed to the border and was following these two women chatting away on their bicycles unbeknownst Rube and I were behind so I snuck a photo which I love cause it shows the green rice field countryside beautifully. The border crossing was another experience. It was ‘let the tourist wait’ o’clock and took 2 1/2 hours of waiting at the Vietnamese immigration window before someone decided to let me in. Maybe I smelt really bad which is highly likely. The dodgy stinky aussie no wonder they were probably drawing straws ‘no you go’, ‘no you go ‘alright we’ll draw bamboo straws’ Anyway whatever the reason the actual processing took less than 5 minutes then it was a 25km ride to Chou Doc. Signage was again non existent and I went through heaps of towns with road junctions so that meant allot os stopping and checking but the locals were really helpful and clear in their directions not necessarily friendly but hey after yesterdays ‘help’ it was just good to get clear pointers. It also means I got to stop and ask for help and I like that. Theres a Chinese dragon procession of ‘kids in-training’ that just came past cute and loud they’re having so much fun. I think Chinese new year is in February some time. I read about Chou Doc that it has a large Chinese community evident in the markets with lots of decorative lanterns etc. So after I arrived I pretty much found a hotel $6 straight away which was kind of a relief as the ride in the full on. I cleaned up and headed out for a recky ride finding the river front and getting some initial picks of river life which will be the theme of things over the next few days. Its a real different look and feel even evident even in the short intro today and I’m excited. OK language lesson. Hello ‘sin jow’, thankyou ‘kam em’, goodbye ‘dum bee et’, please ‘lam em’, excuse me ‘sin lo-ee’, yes ‘vang’ or ‘ya’, no ‘kom’. They are the phonetical spelling in the guide book thank goodness as the actual word looks very different. I’m in Vietnam for a good month so I’m going to try to pick up the common phrases. languages are not my forte I don’t know why. I don’t really hear the sounds well some may say I don’t listen well but they clearly don’t appreciate the unique qualities of a virgo 😉 It’s time now to try and scam some hot water from the hotel for a 2 minute noodle fix. I sitting outside the hotel at a alfresco table and chairs with my sars I found in the markets, all my IT toys and the flask ready to scam some water. What a combination. The money here is dang and 20 000 = $1. I’ve bought the hugest bunch of bananas for 50c bargain and will grab some bread tomorrow morning as it was too late this evening for the bread vendors. They always smell so good first up in the morning. Alright mouth watering moment, time for dinner. Talk soon x

Post # 40 Takeo

Day 46 1034 days to go. Distance: today 78km total 2409km. It’s 6.15pm Sunday the 15/1/2012 Takeo. Hi there this is my last post from Cambodia. I have attached the last of the photos to day three of the temples and will round off Cambodia tonight ready to get into Vietnam tomorrow. I’ll send a spot check later on tonight but I’m about 50km short of the border following highway #2 south. From the border I’ll pick up highway 91 to Chau Doc. The next day will be heading into Mekong Delta country through Long Xuyen for lunch and onto Cantho (111km). The next days in the midst of it with ferry crossing and floating markets following highway 1A to Mytho. From there it’s onto Ho Chi Min then Philat on the coast where I’ll pick up national Highway following the coast all the way to China how cools that. I’ll cross the Chinese border 19/2/2012 allowing 60 days to Beijing. I plan to be in Hoi An on the 31/1/2012 for a day out to see friends then heaps of time to wander up the coast to Hanoi.
Today’s been a bit tricky. The signage out of Phenom Phen gave me an initial means to get out on the right road but all road signage stopped after that. Like all road signage. I wasn’t sure if I was on the right highway as there’sthree heading out in a similar direction at first and I didn’t know how many kms I was at during 6the day which made it all a bit challenging. What that did mean was lots of stops to try and get some orientation. The frist 3 hrs was spent pretty much trying to find the highway and I got such mixed directions so went in circles around outer suburbs. Directions were from police and tuk tuk drivers and shopw owners and no one really helped. It took this young lad scratching a map on the concrete to get me on track he was a resourceful jet and I think Id still be finding my way by headtorch by now if it wasn’t for him darling chap. Gave him the biggest hand shake. One police man was incredible drunk and the other just said ‘no’ and sent me in the opposite direction nice. Once on track I stopped for breaky and bought a banana wrapped in coconut sticky rice and baked in a banana leaf on the grill. And yes it tasted as good as it sounds. The girl was really sweet and I scored a photo wioth her. I had another stop to check where I was at the village café where all these men were hanging out and very not sure about me popping in. They all stood round the bike poking and discussing Rube and eventually agreed that she was a good thing. I got nods of approval and warm goodbyes so she was definitely a crowd pleaser in the end. Pretty much the road spat us out at 4.30 in Takeo with the first road sign saying I had arrived crazy. Distances are another funny one. The whole day was 20kms. One fellow even said 13km. It ended up being 78km which I saw on a sign heading back to Phenom Phen from Takeo. I found a great guest house with a balcony right next to the main market area. Really lively and good atmosphere to people watch. I’ll have a picnic out there when I head back to savour my last night in Cambodia. And what best ways then taking in the sounds and business going on of the local psar yay. Found an internet café and uploaded the last of the photos. It’s nice to round Cambodia off before heading in Vietnam. One door closes another opens awesome. Cambodia has been it’s own identity so different to Thailand and Laos. I’ve loved how it’s really stretched my comfort zones and challenged my perspective. This is one of the key things I’m after travelling the way I am so thankyou Cambodia. It hasn’t been comfortable but I take away all good stuff you have shared. Miss Jane and Blue Dog have kept a real low profile finding their feets over the initial weeks but they were keen to check out the view from the guest house when they heard me oooíng and ahhhhíng. It’s good to see they’re stepping out of their comfort zones too 🙂 Time to upload this post attach photos and head back for dinner hungry yay. Talk soon x

Post # 39 Phenom Phen

Day 45 1035 days to go. Distance: today 0 total 2326. it’s 8.15pm Saturday the 14/1/2012 phenom phen. It’s been a logistics day today bringing together the timings for Vietnam and china and it looks like it can work with what I want to do at least on paper which is the place to start. It’s pretty much taken the day to sort out but happy I have myself this time. Tonight I am still fighting with the Internet to ensure the photos are uploaded before moving on to Vietnam. I have no idea why it is taking so long already hours spent and I’m so over it. Anyway worth it when done but the last day of temples may have to wait. Also the blog has uploaded the photos all out of order again I don’t know why but if some appear of of sequence that’s why. Enjoy what photos are there and I’ll sort out the rest when I’m in a more Internet friendly place. Head tomorrow towards Vietnam and will cross the border at chow doc on the 16/1/2012. Talk soon x

Post # 38 Phenom Phen

Day 44 1036 days to go. Distance: today: 12km total 2326km. It’s 7.30am Friday 13/1/2012 bus route to phenom phen. It was ‘still dark’ o’clock this morning when we headed to the bus stop so it was a bit tricky finding the signs but we got there a bit late but Eventually. I’ve just had a read through the posts from Angkor. It’s nice to check out the posts and photos. I’ll upload the photos later today for you. I must firstly apologies for all the typos that make reading a bit tricky at times. I havnt been proof reading the posts happy to just have them uploaded with details while still fresh. However I’ll make a point of checking them so you don’t have to decrypt too much particularly when predicted text has been inserted out of context. That aside its cool to read over first draft stuff it’s kinda raw and candid I like it. The historical info is taken from lonely planet. it’s a resource you can manage without but it shaves some of the guess work out and the town maps are gems to navigate when arriving in places at the end of long days when the heads a bit spent.
I’ve been thinking about the intent of my travels in particular experiencing more about the world and being less ignorant about it. Undoubtedly contact with everyday folk provides rich opportunity for this. Home stays are ways you can have this experience and in return your money goes direct to the host family. It seems however that arranging home stays is currently through tourist or volunteering centers and as part of organized tours or project work. I think this is great for that client group but misses the independent traveler of which there are many. Independent travelers do so to personalize and enrich their experience and would be an ideal target group for home stays. A bucket wash, basic dinner/breakfast and a mattress on the floor would not be everyone’s cup of tea so it would not take away from the guesthouse industry. However having access to families prepared to offer travelers this experience would be wonderful. Alternately it has meant I approach families and ask if I may pitch my tent and this mostly has been ok. This approach however is confronting also for the family and it would be better knowing they offer this opportunity to the traveller when able. I see examples of NGO and other community development work aimed to improve standard of living for those in need. This is such needed and commendable work helping those less fortunate. However these same people poor in resources and assets are rich in other ways we can learn much from. Westerners are proned to feeling unfulfilled and accumulating more stuff to fill this emptiness. Valuing assets as indication of success in our commercial world is also a biggy. These people live relatively substandard with few assets but are generally happy and content. The tourist industry serves the tourist but does not provide rich experience . Travelers open to difference, learning and change seek experience to facilitate this and the everyday folk provide this already. They certainly don’t need us to help them out with this stuff. In turn we can pay them for this opportunity. This industry potential is based on a healthy mutual respect for needs and cuts out the middle man wanting to make a buck out of the situation. Really good food for thought for those who love the gift of independent travel.

It’s 8.11pm Friday 13/1/2012 Phenom Phen. The afternoon has flown and I didn’t realize the time until I’ve sat down now at the Internet café to upload the photos fromAngkor. Time flies when you’re doing cool stuff and I have been. I’ve just had my first Skype date with my parents. Aren’t they out of control clever and IT all over it? I’m so proud of them. Fun and loved it and we even have another date in the morning as we got disconnected before finishing our chats. I still have a few things to organize before heading off toVietnamso I’m here for one more day tomorrow to give myself a chance to get organized. Rube needs attention – she got battered a bit on the bus ride and some bits came loose which I eventually found in the luggage compartment but lost her seat post screws. I’ll crack some “screws loose” jokes once she calms down it’s a bit early for the Virgo. Not a biggy to fix as I since found spares that will do the trick but it didn’t stop me giving the luggage man a blast for rushing the situation.  ”Sorry Miss” he called out as they started reversing out. It was out of my mouth what I thought of their care factor about my Rubes. On a positive there was no bloodshed and he just smiled at me so I walked off trying to recall something I said about acting respectfully grrrr. I returned to the same hotel and found my gear all waiting safe and sound yay. It’s been an afternoon of doing some have-to’s in an attempt to head tomorrow but ran out of hours in the day so tomorrow I’ll sort the rest tomorrow. I want to bring some time frames together to meet up with friends in Hoi An and Family inBeijingso its’ well worth the extra day to bring that stuff together. The photos fromAngkorare uploading as I type very excited to add them to the posts. On the bus today I met this group of five cyclists fromChina. How cool is that. They gave me a neck scarf to pull up over my nose when it’s dusty, a little flag with their cycling logo and an email contact once I’m inChina. Very cool. I think I mentioned I lost Rube’s dinky flag so I’m on a mission now to find a plastic post to mount her new one which is Red and not yellow much to her delight. Ruby winged all the way throughThailandthat her dinky flag made her feel like a lollypop lady. For those not familiar with Lollypop ladies they are volunteers (usually woman) who keep traffic control at pedestrian crossings for school children. They are dressed in bright yellow accessories to stand out. MMMM maybe it was Ruby who “misplaced” the flag on the long boat to Luang Prabang. Full points to the girl for strategy I say (She so has me wrapped around her peddles and knows it) J I’m not sure which way I’ll head toVietnamand will have a look at the map tonight over dinner. Time is somewhat a factor with other priorities so I’ll see what I can bring together tomorrow. The photos have taken longer than initially thought to upload into the blog so I’ll come back tomorrow and attach them to the posts. One extra day won’t make a difference most of you are sleeping anyway J Talk soon x

Post # 37 Temples of Angkor

Day 43 1037 days to go. Distance: today 92km total 2314 . It’s 6.40am Thursday 12/1/2012. I’m back in the company of king jayavarman V11 the ego responsible for Angkor Thom in particular the central 3 level temple you may remember known as the Bayon. Im sponging the atmosphere of this place from head torch to sunnies or time wise 5am to 8am when I’ll head back to the guesthouse for another Skype date with my partner yay. There’s quite a cloud cover so the original plan of seeing the sun rise amongst the 216 faces which adorn the lotus domed towers on the 3rd level somewhat changed. It was totally dark when I arrived eerie walk in no one around jut the light of the head torch very cool stuff. I found a possie amongst the huge heads glaring down at this early hour intruder. Instead of the morning light i wittnessed the return of the miniture bat colony which live divided amongst the 54 towers. Imagine the layered sounds of swooping gusts as thousands of bats return to nest in the rocky crevices. This chaos lasted about 5 minutes with the next 5 minutes of piercing squeaks whilst they settled in their beloved dome. Sitting now you wouldn’t know they were there. The morning light came with a cool breeze lasting minutes then still. At any one moment you can count over the dozen faces as you walk around the 3rd level of the Bayon. It such a unique sense and such a bold contrast to the delicate intricacies of Banteay Srei yesterday arv. I’m liking that and liking the uniqueness of the temples which on face value appear as just another domed temple. Even the carved impressions tell their own story unique to the purpose of the commissioned king. Yesterday at Angkor watt I followed the carved reliefs around the walls of the ground level corridors and they each told an epic story of war or creation or lifes journey albeit to heaven or hell. The stone reliefs have been polished in sections by a history of hands rubbing the stone for holy good measure. These polished parts appear like black marble adding to the depth and perspective of the carving. My favourite is called the ‘ churning of the ocean of milk’ it depicts a tug of war with a rope serpant, 88 devils or asuuras pulling from the head and 92 good gods or devas from the tail. The duel churns the ocean to extract the Alicia of immortality for the winners. At the centre of the struggle are overseeing gods: shiva of course, brahma her mate, the multi handed vishnu reincarnated as a turtle for the others to stand upon, and the monkey god hanuman to name a select few. Overhead are nymphs or goddesses called apsaras dancing encouragement for the heavenly team who win of course. Reason being the devils are hot blooded and too destracted by the lure of the nymphs. Love it. You also see carved reliefs of Aspsaras gracing the doors and entrances and holding vines to cleanse the visitor on their journey to the temple heaven on earth. They are curvaceous and topless. It cracks me up their luring curves are well polished with a history of being holy groped lol 😉 Well the cloud covers pretty heavy so there’s not much light impact this morning in the awesome space. However I stumbled across an unplanned stuff outside that usually experienced by visitors so I leave very content and smiling. I got a date to get to talk soon x
It’s 5.00pm and I’m sitting at Pre Nup temple I really enjoyed this space yesterday and ran up the stairs as a crazy stair lady must do when presented the impressive set that grace this watt. Cambodian stairways to heaven as opposed to their roads to hell. Found a few of them this afternoon and I’m very bumped out for the day with a sore but. I’ve has an awesome day but and heaps of fun. I had a great Skype with my partner for about 3 he’s awesome. Then I headed out for a long ride this arv. I went to the western Baray which is a huge water expanse created by the ancient Khmer now used for weekend escapes by the locals. It was a bit of a non event but good for a ride. The local village folk are so resourceful and in het to see small examples of this when i cycle which i really enjoy. This young lad today was fishing with a bamboo pole and top eyelet where the line was thread through. Instead of a reel he had the line rolled round a water bottle. He somehow manage this hand line as part of the rod set up and could cast beautifully. After this i cycled the way through the main temple group for one last look and out to where I saw the clay pits and culdrens used for making the palm sugar paste. I stopped at the home where the woman had a pot of palm date juice on the early boil and she explained by actions how she boils it and once it gets to a certain point you stir it like crazy and it reduces to a yellowish paste. Pounded dates are squeezed through a cloth to gather the juice. Water is added and that’s what get boiled up. She was great and liked sharing her trade but not getting her photo taken. When the paste is boiled longer dollops are dropped in palm leaves and cooled to a fudge which of course I had to buy some to support the local industry. So the sunsets not spectacular but the setting perfect for palm sugar fudge and a coffee. I won’t forget the last few days and it’s been really special for me to share choice times with you. Tomorrow morning we head 5.30am for the 6.30am bus back to phenom phen. Thank you Siem Reap. Talk soon x

 

Post # 36 Temples of Angkor

Day 42 1038 days to go. Distance: today 82km total 2222km . It’s 4.45pm wednesday 11/1/2012 Banteay Srei. I’m sitting in front of my favorite temple by far. Lonely planet calls it the art gallery of Angkor and it is. It’s a jewel. A Hindu temple dedicated to shiva cut from pinkish sandstone that glows this time of day giving perfect compliment to the finest stone carvings seen on earth. Shiva is the hindu deity. The exquisite detail of these carvings is jaw dropping and it’s beyond comprehension that it is carved let alone carved in stone. It’s crazy. The designs are very feminine and delicate clearly for a chick to which the pink hues accessorize perfectly. The temple dates back to 967AD and the gemstone in my books. But then again I’m a chick 🙂 This morning started perfect with a Skype date with my partner I love Skype. Then I booked my seat on the 6.30am return bus to phenom phen Friday and found where the main bus station is different to where I arrived. Next I found the post office to send my postcard friend Robbie her Cambodian one x my last ‘have to’ was to but some tinidazole antibiotics as I most likely have guardia bug going by the symptoms which are very specific as anyone who’s had it will know eeek. After this I headed back to Angkor watt to check out the temple. It was such a treat just to wonder and explore this crowd pleaser. It’s so massive there’s heaps of spots on the far sides away from the tourist route you can just sit and take it in. The sandstone blocks from which Angkor watt was built were floated down the seim reap river on rafts. When you see the size and PprocOye the weight each stone must weight this is mind blowing considering the labour and era this feat was achieved. The temple has three stories the first being galleries of wall impressions and Buddha statues. the second and third stories are domed each with towers shaped like lotus buds. The stairs to the central temple measuring 50m are deliberately steep because reaching the kingdom of the gods should never be an easy task. I’ve had so much relaxed fun today with a good ride out here this arv through tree lined backroads and small villages. The villages are selling creaming palm sugar boiled on wok shaped urns on the roadside over a fire in clay made kiln. It looks as great as it tastes and I scored a huge tub for $1. It tastes like crystal used honey yum. I had to stop at another tiny stall with an extended family sitting by their half dozen bunches of bananas which I relieved them of 1 for 50c and a group photo. We all had giggles trying to squeeze in the 3 generations and me but managed just. It’s been such a cool day loving it and the space here in the late afternoon light tops it. Tomorrow I have a couple of options where to head and will decide later over dinner. There will definitely be choice sun rise and sunset spots to end what’s been an epic visit to ancient Angkor. Talk soon x ps the police man on guard duty let me in the ropes area to take the last of my pickies good cop story nice. Bit of a long headtorch ride home but worth it x