Thursday, May 14, 2009


After a month of frenzied packing and paperwork, the 13 Hour flight from Stansted to KL was uneventful (as flights should be) happily i slept through most of it (no movies on Air Asia).
Arrived at KL in a massive storm of lightening and heavy rain.

I remembered KL as being a nice airport, cool and airy in a modern tropical design (lots of high ceilings clad in thousands of curved wooden slats), but that was KLIA. I landed at the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) which was less glamorous, more of a vast corrugated iron shed, with limited facilities.

At 06.30 it was already hot with 70% humidity; fortunately I only had 8 hours or so to wait for my connection; not quite long enough to be worth going into the city (sans guidebook), but just long enough to come to really hate the airport; its only saving grace being that it is largely beige.

On arrival all passengers had to go through 'swine flu screening' which involved walking in front of a thermal imaging camera (is this a recognised method of seeing who has a fever?) and had our temperature taken for good measure. (all clear).

Customs and immigration were painless, watched over by half a dozen Malaysian policewomen who, dressed in dark blue uniforms with matching caps and scarves that covered them fromeye brow to chin, looked like a small amy of cute and smiling Ninjas.

Finally the flight to Cambodia was ready (check-in at the domestic gates, of course) and an hour or so later we landed in Phnom Penh.

Spent a few days (6) at the Boeung Kak Lakeside area of the city. A small strip of guesthouses and bars along the shore of a rapidly diminishing lake. The ''City Planners'' have decided to fill in this mosquito farm in order to develop it. How long this will take and what is going to be built seems to be a bit of a mystery to the locals i spoke with, but whatever happens, the tourist dollars are likely to dry up a bit when the peaceful lakeside setting and sunset views are replaced with modern Khmer buildings (not pretty - more on that later).

Having dinner with some Danish girls one evening, i suggested a trip to the 'beach'' - a wide strip of sandbanks on an island a few miles out of the city; we agreed to rent Motos the next morning for a ride in the country.

It all started well enough - i vaguely remembered the way from a previous visit in Jan 2000 and had some directions in the guidebook... found the ferry, cross the river, turn right.

Well, turn left actually, but who's counting? - went the long way round the island, arriving just in time to be ushered onto a small thatched platform on stilts over the water, seconds before the sky opened up. In the 20 seconds it took to get my bike under cover I was soaked through. And cold for the first time since arriving. The water however was warm, warm like a bath.

So we swam about in the muddy water while waiting for lunch to arrive; a pair of fried catfish, rice and chilli/papaya salad. Despite the guts falling out as i tried to fillet it, it was delicious, and eaten while sitting in the river as it was still raining hard.

Eventually it stopped raining and we decided to head back, taking the correct route it should have been a sunny 10 minute ride back to the ferry, through the palm trees and stilt houses that ring the island.

But an hour of monsoon style rain had put paid to the solid tracks of the morning; now all was mud. Deep mud, in places a foot deep, churned up by a couple of passing trucks. My previous experience of off-roading, on a motorbike, with a passenger, being exactly nil, what followed is best described as a farce. Trying to keep the bike moving in a straight line was near impossible, having a wobbly Dane on the back didn't help, but she gamely clung on, and walked when it became apparent that i was pretty useless.

An hour later we made it to solid ground and the ferry, largely unscathed (apart from running over my own foot) but knackered and very muddy.
(ah yes, my new shoes...)

Made it back to the city, got the bikes and shoes jet-washed ($1); shower / happy hour.

The rest of the time in Phnom Penh I rode around on a bicycle, visited some temples and ate interesting things in the market.

Hopefully i'll find a faster internet connection soon and tidy this page up a bit and sort out the pictures, but here, now, it's all taking forever. (bloody useless PC too).


1 comment: