Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sand, please.

After the depressing Killing Fields and visits to S21, the prison where the Khmer Rouge tortured their victims, and a couple of days more sightseeing in Phnom Penh, it was time for some more lying on a beach I thought! The southern coast of Cambodia was my next destination, and although it's not famous for its cracking coastline, it should be.
A sunset. For some reason, all of them have been brilliant in Cambodia.

Some of my fellow travelers. After you drink the contents, they make for excellent beach-based fun. The bucket of course, the Asian standard alcohol receptacle, not the backpacker.

After about 5 days of this sun loving environment, it was back to Bangkok so I could then head south to, erm, some more beaches. And, relax...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Killing Fields

The Rhmer Rouge, the political party that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979, lead by Pol Pot intended to reduce Cambodia into a form of agrarian communism where the whole population had to work in collective farms or forced labor projects. Anyone who opposed this regime was killed, anyone who was educated was killed. This went so far as to kill people who wore spectacles, and all of their immediate family, just because it was assumed that they were clever. Estimates of the numbers of people executed tend to be around 1.5 million, which is more than Hitler managed in the Holocaust.

For most Cambodians, who on the whole are very cheery people, Pol Pot (who died in 1998 of a heart attack, still awaiting trial) is a very sore subject and, considering his rein ended only 30 years ago, the adults now are the sons and daughters of the that generation, so it's entirely understandable at it's status of taboo. There are many mass graves dotted all around the country, but one of the largest, labeled the Killing Fields is just outside of Phnom Penh.

The monument at the Killing Fields. Within are thousands of human bones found at the sight that are impossible to identify.

"Mass grave of 166 with out heads."

Only recently are members of the Khmer Rouge party being taken to trial, the surviving members of which all tend to act innocent of blame each other. Considering Pol Pot also acted dumb when he was charged it doesn't surprise me.

This is probably one of the saddest and depressing places I've ever been too and the fact that nations still engage in genocide, even today, (Dafur anyone?) is a demoralising state of affairs.

Angkor What?

One of Asia's most famous tourist destinations are the Temples of Angkor based just outside of Siem Reap. It's a huge site with loads of old Hindu temples built by various guys from about the 10th to the 12th century, the gem of which is Angkor Wat, boasting the title of "largest religious site in the world". Sadly they have all been neglected for ages and sacked by the lovely regime of the Khmer Rouge lead by Pol Pot. He sounded like a really nice fellow. It's only recently that many of the temples have gone under serious conservation efforts, as Cambodia wakes up and realises their cultural and economical worth.

Angkor Thom, one of the more run down of the temples.

Angkor Thom had 216 on these massive faces carved into it, apparently resembling King Suryavarman II the fellow who had them built, just so he could keep a good eye on his minions.

Some of the temples had been taken over by the surrounding jungle and gave a great Indian Jones vibe. Tomb Raider 2 was shot here I've been told. Great.

Angkor Wat.

Naturally, such a magical and magnificent place draws an unfathomable number of tourists every day, the place being hoarded from the beautiful sunrise to beautiful sunset. So like most cracking places I've been, the herds of people took something away from the experience, but I was one of them, so who am I to judge?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Numb Bum

From Ko Chang I headed into Cambodia, to a place called Siem Reap. Not as easy as it sounds mind you. From Siem Reap you can do days trips to Angkor Wat, an enormous collection of huge and incredibly ornate temples that is a must see, but more on that later. The journey began with a 5 hour boat and bus ride from Ko Chang with a nice and early start, next a 4 hour delay at the border sorting out visa's and what not and then another 5 hour bus ride at the other side. In this last 5 hours you travel only 156km, but because the road is such poor quality it takes an age. I don't think I've ever been on such an uncomfortable journey. Dust, mosquitoes and vibration; not the greatest combination of things when traveling for almost 14 hours straight.

Welcome to Cambodia.

The quality of all the other roads in Cambodia is pretty darn good. So why such a poor road connecting Bangkok, the international hub of these parts, through to Angkor Wat, one of Asia's most renowned tourist attractions, I hear you ask? It appears to be common knowledge that the one and only airways that does that connection via air, pays the Cambodian government a significant amount of money to delay the construction of a new road outright. Madness.

Although the trip made all the passengers grumble, especially when they try and scam you by dropping you off at only one accommodation outside of the town centre, it did create an excellent sense of camaraderie between my fellow travelers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ko Chang - Sunny!

East of Bangkok, close to the border of Cambodia, just off the coast is the serene island of Ko Chang. After much deliberating it was decided that this was to be the place to get thoroughly Thompsonated. From the ferry, the island looked surprisingly like Jurassic Park with it's steep jungle walls and beautiful beaches. I was expecting Richard Attenborough to meet us and show us some brontosaurus's or summit.

Lonely beach. We spend 5-8 hours each day sat in it, carefully numbering and placing rocks underwater.

After some initial drawbacks we finally got settled in this nice little place where we got a couple of bungalows between us, about 5 minutes from the beach.

Hammocks were the way forward here, this one expertly modeled by CT.

Basically the week was spent going to the beach, kicking footballs, discussing how much CT looked like Mike Ashley in his Newcastle shirt (because of his gut), avoiding lady boys, laughing at outrageous lady boys, asking lady boys if they can bench press a tank, discussing the modern day hip-hop scene, getting beating by Andy T at pool and eating and drinking. Oh, we also learned to hate the fact that Michael Duberry had invaded out beach.

See ball, kick ball, swim.

Our bungalows at night. Peaceful with a capital P.

Discussing hip-hop in it's raw form. L-R Mike Ashley, Big Foot and the Hendersons and the Original OG.

They love climbing stuff, just look at how happy they are. Not seen them grin this much since the '93 Tour of Mediterranean Medieval Lighthouses.

All the peeps from out place of residence at one of the many beach-based parties. And yes, I'm the most tanned (apart from the guy who is actually Thai).

As ever, all good things must come to an end. They both had to get back to something called "a job" otherwise they would "be fired". Dunno what any of that means to be honest. It was great to have a holiday type holiday and be settled in one place for a good while and to share that with your much-loved siblings made it an honour. Needless to say, we all had a crackin' time doing what brothers do best; laughing constantly and creating fun times out of next to nothing. It really would suck to be boring! I'll see them again in just over a month.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

International Brotherhood of Reunion

Our original plans were to travel around the southern islands of Thailand, but due to information about incredibly suspect weather from our man in Krabi (that's me) there was a massive change of logistics. Instead of the boys flying south to meet me, I was to fly to Bangkok to meet them. They next day I went to airport and demanded from the steward the next possible ticket to Bangkok. I felt like James Bond, how often to you go to the airport and demand next available tickets to somewhere?! Never! That's how often. And why? 'Cos it's already all sorted through Thomas Cook. Thankfully, I play a different game...

So, Bangkok! I arrived and located the boys without problem, they were staying on quite possibly the most touristy street in the world called Ko Sahn Road. The hustle and bustle of people trying to get as much many from the thousands of tourists as possible is basically what was going on. It was awesome to see them. The boys, not the hustle and bustle-ers.

Team Thompson, in the flesh, true to life.

We spend to next day and a half moseying around Bangkok looking at stuff; some temples, statues and monuments and whatnot, perusing the amount of bootleg and faux goods you could buy from the never-ending supply of street fenders.

One of the many Buddhist temples with surrounding fancy roofs.

"The Monument of Democracy". Ironically, the country is currently ruled by the military.