Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Mr. T" For Hire: Motorcycle Taxi Driver Extraordinairre, Siem Reap, Cambodia

This post will be something of an advertisement, a plug for a young, up and coming tour guide in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

If you're ever in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and need someone to show you around, please consider calling my friend, Thy. He's a local fellow, has his own motorbike, and works at the airport bringing tourists into town after they arrive. Because he's one of many official drivers, though, he only works every 3rd or 4th day. So, chances are pretty good that he'll be available to show you around.

He's a licenced motorcycle taxi operator, has all the proper permits, and was a very competent and most importanly, safe driver. He obeyed traffic rules (such as there are in Cambodia), and got me, Melody and Lori around to wherever we wanted to go.

He also knows the town and its sights well. While riding around, he was able to talk about the history of the area, both ancient and the more recent, Khmer Rouge time. He also recommended checking out the fishing village on the Tonle Sap Lake, which turned out to be one of the higlights of the entire trip.

If you'd like to contact him, he gave me permission to put his information on our site here.

Mobile # (in Cambodia): 012 78 54 88

His rates are reasonable, and we basically worked out the price before hand. For a full day riding around with him, I paid $10 (plus another buck for a tip). If you have several people who want to get around, he has friends that he can bring along, and you can negotiate a group rate.

He's a personable fellow, speaks English well, and is also working hard to learn Spanish to fill a niche that is currently underrepresented. His ultimate goal is to be one of the main tour guides operating in Angkor Wat. There's a bit of an "old boy" network, though, that makes it hard for independent guys like him to break in. But, he's working hard, has a clear vision of where he wants to be in a few years, and is doing what he can to achieve it.

He would welcome your assistance, and you'll enjoy your experience even more for having had him as your driver and tour guide.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Majestic Angkor II - The Video

Just a short video I threw together with some of the pictures I took. It's not a complete overview of the trip, as it doesn't have any of Melody's time in Thailand. I'll try to put another one together highlighting some of her pictures too...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Majestic Angkor

Melody and I returned from our trip on Sunday afternoon. It was hard to get back and realize that we had to go back to the normal lives that we lead here. The trip was awesome, though...we saw some incredible things, and met some great people along the way.

Melody started in Thailand with our friend Lori, while I bypassed Bangkok and went to Singapore (previous post) with a side trip to Malaysia. We linked up in Siem Reap, Cambodia on the 4th. After a couple of days wandering the temples of Angkor Wat and visiting fishing villages, the group hopped on a bus to Phnom Penh. That portion of the trip was a little more depressing on a couple of levels...first, most of the sites that we visited were related to the tragic Khmer Rouge period of Cambodia's history. Second, the Democrats took the House and Senate. But, since this is a travel, and not a political blog, that's all I'll say about that for now.

After a couple of days there in Phnom Penh, we got on the Mekong Express to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) where the Imaginative Traveller portion of the trip ended. We stayed overnight though, and flew to Singapore for the last couple of days before returning home.

We'll both be posting more soon with our best attempt at a day by day, but I did want to put up a few pictures in the meantime. I took over 2200, and am in the process of sorting out the wheat from the chaff. There's a lot of chaff, unfortunately. But, when you take a few thousand pictures, a few are bound to turn out well. But, it's also a lot of work in the sorting and processing (somewhere along the way, I've picked up a speck of dust somewhere in the camera...I've cleaned the sensors, switched still shows up, so I have to go in and "erase" it from each picture that it affects...usually the nice sunset/sunrise pictures that would be nice to frame).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Singapore and Malaysia

I'm now here in Singapore. I got in last night around midnight after a long day of traveling. Melody and I woke up at about 5 AM to finish up packing and getting the house ready for us to leave for a week and a half, and made it out the door around 8 to catch a 10 o'clock bus to Narita.
Melody and Lori's flight left a few hours before mine did, so I kicked around the airport for a couple of hours and did the usual things to kill time there...observation deck, browse the electronics, relax and read with a Guinness.

Boarding was interesting. I flew United, an American carrier. If I'm not mistaken, back in the US, you can now bring a bottle of water on board as long as you bought it on the secure side of the TSA screening. I figured that it would be no different here, and bought 2 drinks to keep me hydrated through the 7 hour flight. As I walked down the jetway, however, I noticed a table set up with about 20 bottles of various drinks...all from people who thought like I did. So, it was a long thirsty flight. They came around a couple of times with the beverage cart, but not enough for my liking.

Singapore seems to be a pretty cool place. It reminds me of Hong Kong, but without the vertical nature of that city, with high rises carpeting the hillsides. But, the ubiquitous use of English, the cleanliness, great public's a nice place.

In an effort to avoid a caning, I haven't chewed any gum, and in fact, haven't even been able to find any to chew if I wanted to. Doesn't seem like they sell it at all at the couple of places I've been. I did jaywalk, though. Once.

I'm staying in the Bugis Backpacker's Hostel, which is conveniently located near Little India and the north part of the central downtown district. I haven't really spent much time there, arriving at about 1 AM last night, and heading out at just after 6 this morning to wander, get my bearings, take some pictures, and join my tour to Malaysia. I figured that, since I'm so close, and there hasn't been a coup or anything that put it off limits, I'd join one of those organized tours to visit the southern state of Johor.

Malaysia was really felt somewhat like Oman to me, or a little like Macau. It's a Muslim country, so there were mosques all over the place. I did see one Catholic church, and several Hindu and Buddhist temples, but mosques far outnumbered them.

We only had 5 people on our trip, which was nice. A couple from Utah, and two British ladies and I made up the whole group. They shoehorned us into a 44 passenger bus (with seats much better than I'd been in the night before), and we were on our way. We stopped first at a place where they made pewter trinkets. It was interesting to see the process by which the tin, antimony and copper was mixed and melted, and then poured into molds. I resisted buying anything, not wanting to schlep it around for the next week and a half.

Next stop was an orchid farm...though flowers aren't really my thing, it was pretty interesting to see the hundred or so different types that they had there, and I did learn a few things as well like:

  1. 1. Orchids don't need to grow in dirt. Air is fine.
2. You can cut off just one inch of an orchid and it will take root and grow.

3. Something else...but I forget what it is.

There were acres and acres of flowers and shrubs and all sorts of plants. Pretty neat.

After that was done, we drove to Kukup, a traditional fishing village. We ate a delicious lunch, and then took a short boat ride to look around at the fish farms there. We saw red snapper, anchovies, groupers, and a bunch of other "eating" fish, as well as some little fish that would squirt water at bugs or whatever they were trying to eat. We also saw an electric eel (our boat driver touched it and demonstrated that it really was electric), a puffer fish, and a horseshoe crab. We also saw a fish eagle flying around which was neat. Big, and with a white head, it looked somewhat like a bald eagle.

The fishing village was really interesting, and will be better illustrated with pictures in the next coming days.

Tomorrow, I leave for Siem Reap to join Melody and Lori there. They leave tomorrow morning for a long bus and truck ride into Cambodia, of which I'm jealous. But, getting to take a day trip to Malaysia makes up for it, I suppose.

More coming soon...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The countdown continues...

The time has finally come...Tomorrow, we hop on the bus to take us to Narita to start our next trip, this time parts of Southeast Asia. I'll fly to Singapore, while Melody and Lori will fly to Bangkok. Sure enough, just as I expected, things settled down enough to allow travel to Thailand once again. But, to change the plans yet again would have cost a bunch of money. So, in the old airborne parlance, "hold what you got."

We'll all arrive at our respective destinations pretty late. I'm staying at a hostel downtown, and on Friday morning, will be heading out for a day trip to nearby Malaysia. Melody and Lori will enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and most certainly, the tastes of Bangkok. On Friday, they'll head for the border via bus, and then after crossing (at least according to the brochure) continue on to Siem Reap / Angkor Wat via pickup truck. I'll meet them there after flying in from Singapore that afternoon.

If you want to get a feel for some of what we'll be experiencing on our trip, check out Erik Trinidad's The Global Trip 2004 entries on Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapore. He's got some great writing, and a bunch of pictures scattered throughout the blog. While you're there, surf around to some of his other experiences using the drop down menu on the upper left side of the page. My personal favorite is his near-death experience in Nepal. Not that I was glad he almost died, mind you...It's a riveting story.

We're glad the trip is finally here. We're mostly packed...Melody still has a couple of things left to stuff in her backpack; but, we're pretty much ready to go.

We'd appreciate prayers for safe and fun travel. And, we'll try to update the blog when we have the chance. Internet cafe's are everywhere, so we should be able to get a post or 2 up while out there on the road.

So, stay tuned!