Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Barang on a motorcycle, day III


It had been raining in the afternoons in Phnom Penh and rained the afternoon  travelling to Kratie so the thought was that an early start would get the travel out of the way by the time the rains came. Unfortunately breakfast took longer than intended as a result of slow service, getting cash etc it was well into the morning before the leaving of Kratie happened. I was not far out of it either when the rains started. Lightly at first, then the heavens opened and, despite taking shelter in a petrol station, I was soaked. I carried on and got to the morning’s destination.

The first thing I saw was the pictures of the dolphins on the sign in the big picture then the gateway in the smaller picture at the bottom. So I stopped and paid for my boat and a drizzle started almost immediately. Then it stopped then we headed into the rain you could see in the picture (top right) and I was wet through again. I even put on the life-jacket to have something for the rain to hit upon.

After about twenty minutes the rain, it stopped (Bottom top right) and then the boat stopped and things went very quiet. The driver indicated something but I could see nothing, then a fin, then the Mekong Dolphins in all their glory.

Everything I had hoped for, to see these rare, threatened, majestic creatures. On the way back we passed islands which were inhabited and being cultivated. People whose existence is said to be threatened, just like the dolphins, by proposals for dams on the river.


Back on the road and it was pretty much as it had been the day before. On the left-hand side properties heading down to the river and on the right ones in the forest or heading out into paddies and cultivated fields. A paved road so danger was less. It was never possible to get up much speed as all the time you were keeping your eyes peeled for animals or children running into the road, slowing down when there was a dog or a chicken, or a child who insisted in remaining in the road. The biggest offenders in staying in the road and staring at you were cows.


As you can see from the map above after a while I moved away from the riverside and traveled through a more rural route which had fewer homesteads alongside the road but more cows in the road. As also seen from the map, at Sangkum I joined National Highway 7 and the quality of the road improved significantly. Most houses were further back and when you went through built up areas people and animals were more aware of the traffic. If they weren’t the lorries screaming through would soon have made sure everyone else didn’t forget. The lorries added to the fun when a hilly stretch came and then they were to be overtaken,  then they would want to pass when heading downhill, and repeat. Then the rain came back.

I dived into the first place I found by the side of the road. Where the above film was taken from. The people running the shop must have been used to giving shelter from the storm to people, I bought some things from them then was offered some food. It was now into the afternoon and I had had nothing since breakfast so the noodles with salad and an omelet was most welcome. You can see how wet I was.



The redcoats are coming! Once the rain stopped most of the journey was uneventful, apart from trying to start in neutral after asking the way in O’Pong Muon and being laughed at  by the local people. Closing in on Stung Treng it started to rain again so I opened the throttle and tried to get there as quickly as possible, finishing up in a pharmacists on the outskirts of town. My thumb on my left, inside just below the knuckle, had got blisters each day from the grip for the handlebars and using the clutch. I had bought the see-through plasters but they had fallen off in the rain and made things worse so I was looking for industrial strength elastoplast type (other plaster types are available) plasters which they had and I was able to put on. Whilst there I rang the guesthouse for directions and, after conversations with a few people, they said someone would come to collect me. Typical of the friendliness I found whilst travelling, the pharmacist brought out a chair for me to sit on whilst waiting and sheltering from the rain.

When the person from the guesthouse arrived the rain had diminished and I followed them to it only to find, coincidence or irony of the day, that there was no water. So, I got moved to their other one which was a result as it was in the centre of town and I could walk to restaurants etc from it. After a shower and change of clothes I walked down to Ponika’s Place, recommended in the guide, for a very nice meal. I was willlingly sold some carry-outs as the owner and partner wanted to get to a birthday party and went back to my room for a read, drink and then sleep.

Barang on a motorcycle, day II


So, yesterday was get going and recover from the evening before. As I said I have explored Kampong Cham and you can read about it here, here and here. Today I wanted to visit something I had not visited before and then get to Kratie, via Hanchey Hill, which I had not seen before either and the ferry at Steung Trenung.(222 on the map here and the interweb thingy is no better to it.)


First was something I had wanted to see since pouring over the maps after my previous visit, the last surviving wooden temple in Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge had destroyed all the others but this survived thanks to being used as a hospital) at Wat Mohaleap. I was given a metaled route to follow by the fab people at Mekong Crossing Guest House, who also said the river was very high. Well, they were right as the river said I was not visiting the Wat:

So, I turned back, went back over the bridge into Kampong Cham and headed out of the city on the western side of the Mekong. I headed up route 220, which was just like any English country ‘C’ road passing though villages and with occasional glimpses of the mighty Mekong to Wat Hanchey and, as luck would have it, missed the entrance so had to go back to get to the entrance. As luck would also have it, many people talk about the walk up but, having found the road up, I was able to ride up in comfort to:

A few kilometres up the road I came to Steung Treung, which is a real place with a ferry crossing of the Mekong though the internet does not avow much of its existence. The ferry was on the other side and, on coming back it was clear how strong the river was. I took the obligatory photos and made the obligatory social media comment about the ‘ferry ‘cross the Mekong’:

So, according to the guide that was 31 kilometres done and it was around midday with another 78 to do. So I motored on. Initially it was like the bit before the ferry with largely riverside villages interspersed with areas of forest with fewer people. All the time though looking for someone, a child, an animal running out into the road. After a while the road became higher and the river had clearly broken its banks and the countryside on either side was flooded. Then there were herds of cows, goats, buffalo and other animals being taken back to the house over night. I had got used to avoiding most animals, then all of a sudden there was a commotion, people were running alongside the road and there were throngs of people. I came to a bridge, OK but nothing to see here then I got to the other side and:

The elephant on the left in the picture on the right clearly did not like me. I know people who have been around elephants in Africa and they said that you cannot beat elephants in a charge so I did not wait to find out so it was open throttle and high tail it outta there.

Someone at work had said to me “Why are you doing it in the rainy season” and I hadn’t really thought about it. I had the chance to think about it for the next tens of  kilometres through the drizzle that continued till I arrived in Kratie. It ceased raining enough to get these pictures of my accommodation for the night and then get something to eat.

Kratie mainly talked about the riverfront and the dolphins so, having seen the former I went to bed dreaming of the latter.

Barang on a motorcycle


Day one. 13th September, school’s out so, with a few friends something to eat and a few drinks to celebrate which meant, unfortunately I was up late and half an hour late to collect the motorcycle. Bag strapped on the back and headed off out to Kampong Cham. A fairly uneventful ride and arrive in tine for lunch and then catch up on sleep from the night before. Something to eat in a nearby hostelry and sleep.


I had previously been to Kampong Cham for a visit and wrote three posts about it starting here. The previous visit was at the end of the dry season/start of the rainy season in May and you can see how much higher the river is comparing the photos below taken from the same spot.




I had not really heard the term bucket list much until recently. 9788883701009-850_1I must have missed the film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die, you kick the bucket. I have for a long time had a list of places I wanted to visit. I kept them in my Moleskine notebook.Like the one on the left) Also in it were details of books I wanted to read and records to buy.

I then found out about the website where you can post details of your bucket list, of course there had to be such a thing in MV5BMTY2NTUyMjIyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzYwMDM4._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_good old cyberspace. So I got an account and put a few things on it.

Today I was uploading my list from my notebook to the site. (Sounds very technical, I was just typing the item into the list and giving some background on why I wanted to do the thing as a start for writing the mater up once I had achieved it.) I was pleased because I found that I had achieved one item from the list already. It was written in April 2008. (I know that as there are items written before and after it which place it at that time.) That item which had been achieved was to visit Hamburg which I did in the last weekend of June 2011.

It was a fantastic visit and I am surprised I did not write about it here. Places I want to goAs well as the Reeperbahn and the Beatles museum we visited the home of the Hamburg football team in the city, St Pauli, walked around the city, had a tour of the harbour, went to the wonderful Sunday morning fish market which sold most other things than fish and ate well and drank some good beer.

Home is in the Rhine valley between the two mountainous ranges of the Vosges and the Schwarzwald meaning the air is pretty still. It was great being somewhere where there was a proper breeze coming inland from the sea.

Since visiting Riga repeatedly when JTO was working there, having completed our goal of visiting every European city, and my having enjoyed living in Liverpool when there as a student, we had decided to try and visit Hanseatic port cities, of which this was the first. Last year we visited Gdansk which I wrote about on this blog here, here and here.

So, it is nice that one item on my bucket list has had some of it achieved.

Christmas Part I, or what we did in our holidays


This week I returned to Strasbourg from three weeks in the UK, seeing family and friends for Christmas and seeing the New Year in. If there was a theme for the period it was that we generally did the undoable.

dante%20gabriel%20rossetti%20lady%20lilith%20core_0The first day was spent looking round Walthamstow and the market, particularly to the good value store, and then on Friday we went to the Tate to see the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition. There were some fabulous paintings, a lot featuring women with long red hair, and I learned a lot about the movement, particularly on the impact they had on art, I hadn’t known before they were influential upon the Impressionists. The rest of the day was spent in London before meeting up with a friend who had recently left Strasbourg for Walthamstow.

searchSaturday saw us leave Walthamstow, via the fantastic and well worth visiting William Morris Gallery for more red-headed women, furniture wall paper etc, and headed to the Barbican for Complicite’s version of Bulgarkov’s Master and Margarita. Despite there having been earlier stage versions of the book it was held to be unstageable. Well it was three hours of fantastic theatre and definitely bought the story to life on the stage in an engaging and interesting way, was well acted and the time flew by.

Then I was with my parents for a week and JTO braved the flooding in the west country to celebrate Christmas with her mother, the first time we have been apart at Christmas for almost two decades! I went to see Reading FC play Swansea which was a dire game but they did what had largely been undoable for them before and avoided losing. After a really good night out in Reading with some friends and JTO going to visit her newly arrived granddaughter it was off to celebrate New Years Eve.

Trans Germany Express


Well not quite all, the last time you left our happy travellers they had reached Szczecin, close to the Polish/German border. After arriving a search was made for life but nothing much was found open by the station so an hour was killed in the waiting room with a Polish 24 hour news channel for comfort. On the news it was OK but a panel discussion about Polish disasters, like the rail crash that week, with detailed stories about people’s problems in the train were not the best in view of there being a train journey facing us. So we headed for the platform and waited for our train. It arrived and we got on. Berlin bound. I finished writing the earlier post and then we cracked open a bottle of wine we found in a shop near the station. We had no glasses but I’d managed to find some by going to a group of people sat in the foyer of the end carriage where there was a party taking place, and getting a couple of glasses.

I’ve seen fridge magnets saying ‘life is too short to drink bad wine’ but I think those people have not been on a Szczecin – Berlin train leaving after 20:00. It was like Ribena and at 10%, like Ribena.

We got talking in German and English to nearby passenger Uwe, whilst his mate slept. Uwe said his mate had slept during the day whilst he was out looking around the city. They both seemed to have consumed plenty of beer and had plenty of beer and vodka for the journey. During the discussion he said that his parents were from Silesia and had moved to East Berlin, and that he and his sleeping friend had been there to look at a place which had previously been German and look at the German parts of it. On arriving in Berlin we discovered that there was a special deal on the German railway of €10 for a day return to discover Szczecin.

Our tickets were only to Ostbahnhof but we managed to stay on to the Hauptbahnhof which is where our hotel was, well with a name of Central Inn at Hauptbahnhof that’s what you would expect. But having left the station and headed to the road of its address we discovered we were some way off. After various diversions, around 20 minutes off. After we had been helped into the building by the nice young women hanging around near it and walked the 2 floors up we got into our hotel room. The promised wifi didn’t work so it was not possible to download podcasts for the next days journey or upload already written posts.

However a good sleep was had as we woke up late the next morning and I had to forego a shower and shave to check-out on time. We headed to the Hauptbahnhof and a communication failure resulted in me thinking we had to vet to Ostbahnhof when we didn’t. I had been   about getting to the Hauptbahnhof to try to find the right platform to get to the Ostbahnhof and not get caught by the guards, at the same time JTO had discovered we actually got the train from the Hauptbahnhof so we didn’t have to go to the Ostbahnhof.

I was very pleased to see a bus to take us straight to the Ostbahnhof outside the Hauptbahnhof, no worry about platform, no worry about guards, so we jumped straight on and I paid for us to go to Ostbahnhof, only to hear we didn’t have to. Well it was an interesting journey through the centre of Berlin and I saw more of the everyday parts of the city than I had ever done. We got to Ostbahnhof to discover our train left from their anyway so we could join it, just hope no-one asked for our tickets. The most important decision now was to decide what to have for breakfast.That done we got on the train, our tickets were not checked and we headed off across Germany for home. The first part was flat with birch and fir forest and the occasional habitation or clump of windmills.

Change at Hannover and we went through central Germany over valley and through hill down to Frankfurt. From there I know the journey much more, on to Mannheim, which I would like to visit, together with Ludwigshafen. Much more interesting than the sterile Heidelberg which we had visited before. Then onto Karlsruhe before joining the Schwarzwald on our left as we passed Baden-Baden and the journey into the Rhineland plain to Offenburg where we detrained before getting the local connection to Strasbourg and home. After Karlsruhe, particularly past Baden-Baden, the train runs along the plain with the Schwarzwald rising up on the left, through the cultivated fields and villages and small towns with the distinctive local houses and it feels like all is right with the world.

In 1982 I spent the summer mad about the album, New Gold Dream by Simple Minds, and I saw the band play live at the Top Rank in Reading. When I went to university in Liverpool that Autumn I didn’t have a record player so I relied upon the radio and a few cassettes I had made and that album was one of them. I still didn’t get bored with it. Then the band chased after commercial success, they wanted to have hits in the US and play stadiums. I fell out of love with their music. Then I heard a song on the radio, Chelsea Girl from an earlier album and loved it and bought the album at a second-hand record shop in Reading. Then a friend gave me a copy of another earlier album Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings. I had recently traveled over the channel to Europe, if you ask me to be more specific to visit a friend in Germany, near Koln and the record sounded so clean and shiny, so travelling fast across Europe it seemed to be the soundtrack for what I had done. I have written here before about my love at the time for Germany, and about the fact I am converting albums to MP3 files. I did the 1980 records fairly early on and have recently been doing the 1970’s. This meant for the first time I had New Gold Dream and Celebration together and played them as we crossed Germany on shuffle, as we crossed Europe. It just seemed that they were not just the “windy words and oversized anthems” but just how fabulous the band were. As they said in a recent interview, “using sequencers and industrial textures to create an unsettling disco-rock travelogue….Going through these amazing landscapes my head was full of movie, book and characters…. We were speedy…Driving to Rockfield with 20 grammes… it was an innocent, young thing.” To me it was speed, Europe, shiny, new.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this as the band have released their first five albums as a box set. I wonder that they chased the dollar after New Gold Dream and were successful at it. They had the actress wife and everything that comes with the lifestyle. Now, having banked that they have realised the choice they made, to go for the money and not continue with the artistic credit for ground breaking albums. They are doing publicity to promote the new box set. The two main members of the band are going on about the artistic worth of the early work. It is true. For me the early albums are good. But they made a choice to chase the dollar and were successful at it. It just seems wrong now for the band to be trying to say, “Ah but we were worthwhile once and should have our place in history for it.” No, you became known for some dross, lowest common denominator songs seeking hits and money in the US in the 1980’s, nothing wrong with that. The point is you cannot have it all ways and re-write history as a ground-breaking historic act as you claimed you were afterwards. For me, I’ll continue to love the music and listen to it as I travel across Europe. It will represent to me travelling across Europe, especially ‘Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings’.

Looking to the Future


The start of a new year and time to review the last year, as I did here, and to look forward to the coming year. As might have been said in a favourite TV programme, I’m not a big resolutions person. I normally make one that I religiously stick to, to not make any resolutions. This year I am again not making any. I have decided though to try and put a bit of a dent in the profits of Mr Amazon and the other booksellers by not buying any new books until I have read all the books I have in my reading pile, on e-readers and in my bookcase that I have not read. I do not expect this to be a hard and fast rule, or resolution, more just something I want to try and do. Obviously, if Milan Kundera or Jonathon Coe were to release a new book then it would have to be bought. Recognising that it has been over a decade since there was a new novel by Mr Kundera and Mr Coe has just had one out I am not holding my breath for something new to read on either account. When you include the number of books that will come my way from JTO during the year then I do not think I will be without something readable in my hands during the coming year.

Another thing to consider at the beginning of a year are plans for travel. In June last year I went with JTO on a great trip to Hamburg.(Hamburg Town Hall pictured) Like one of my favourite European capitals, Riga, it was a Hanseatic port. I must admit to knowing nothing about the Hanseatic League before going to Riga but after the visit to Hamburg decided I wanted to visit more Hanseatic port cities. So, for my birthday in March JTO and I are planning to visit Gdansk. As well as being a Hanseatic port, when it was in Germany before 1945 it was the birthplace of the German author Günter Grass whose memoir, ‘Peeling the Onion‘ I read a few years ago which made me want to visit what was then Danzig. Of course there is also the significant role it played in post-war history as the birthplace of Solidarność, the trade union which played such an important part in the ending of the false division of my homeland continent. So that I’m looking forward to a lot, particularly as the plan is to travel there by rail so we’ll be crossing Europe.

I expect to be working in the UK for July and August giving a chance to catch up with family and friends there then. After finishing the contract I’ll return home before heading off for a break with JTO. The plan is to go to Israel. I’ve wanted to visit the country for a long time but reading another book, ‘City of Oranges‘ by Adam LeBor (blog) about the story of ordinary people and their lives in the history of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. In 2005 we went to Egypt and were struck by how the landscape looked like the pictures in the illustrated bible I had as a child. As well as visiting Tel Aviv-Jafa, I’m looking forward to seeing for real the places like Jerusalem I read about as a child when I was in Sunday school or when younger and reading bible stories for myself.

As well there are visits by JTO to the UK later this month and probably in May. In 2003 we visited Corsica, some of which was for JTO to see members of the French Foreign Legion Parachute force storm a beach near Calvi. That is not expected to happen this time. But, on the stocks is a visit to the island and a travel around it by train following the viewing of this. I expect there will be visits out into parts of Alsace to experience more of the place which we call home.

Another CD I bought last year and enjoyed was Lykke Li‘s Wounded Rhymes. Here’s ‘Sadness is a Blessing,’ enjoy:

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