Saturday, November 14, 2009

Phi Mai festival

Kilometeres: 786
Punctures: 1

This morning we left Korat, bound for Phi Mai. We had heard that they had some beautiful ruins in town, and there was a festival of lights on this weekend, so decided to check it out. As soon as we arrived in town, we knew the festival was BIG. Both with Thais and other Western tourists.

The whole town has turned itself into a giant heaving market! Awesome! We spent a bit of time wheeling around town, but found that everything was booked solid. All except a couple of dorm beds at a cute little guesthouse (Boonsiri guest house). We took them!

We have already been out to explore the market and have made sure to rehydrate with plenty of fruit-slushy drinks, and also picked up a delicious lunch of fried rice and a glutoneous amount of BBQ pork ribs hot off the grill. Mmmm! Did I mention that we like Thai food?

So, we have decided to stay on for tomorrow as well. We havn't managed to see much of the markets yet, despite walkng arounf for a few hours. But will have time to check them all out if we stay another day. Plus, we want to make the most of out two-week Thai visas ; )

A funny coincidence happened when we wheeled up to the guesthouse - apparently we had just missed Mark, the English cycle-tourer we met three days ago. Seems that he didn't quite make it all the way to Buriram and ended up staying two days in Phi Mai too! Apparently he told them all about us, and they were practically expecting us! Small world...

We hope that you are all keeping well - we are thinking of you.

-E & V xoxoxox

Friday, November 13, 2009

Korat: night-markets, fruit smoothies and smooth-riding

Total km: 731km
Punctures: 1

We are officially loving Thailand! The roads are really well maintained, the language is easy to pick up, and the food and drink is so, so delicious (and hasn't made us sick!).

We cycled a cruisy 50km to Buriram, from Surin, and then a longer 130km on to Korat (Nahkon Ratcharisma).

About 50km out of Korat, we met anoth cycle-tourer, Mark from England. He was on his own and had six months to make his way around SE Asia. He had only just started our from Bangkok on his first cycle-tour, so we were able to offer some advice about the road we had come from, and about Cambodia and Vietnam (which we toured in 2007)

Because we are cycling almost daily, we are trying to keep distances under 100km per day to a) ensure that we don't become exhausted b) try to get to our destination around lunch-time to re-fuel and have a decent look-around the town and c) limit exposure to extreme heat and sunlight. So far, we have only had a few 100km+ days, so things are going very well.

While it is definitely still hot in Thailand (some would euphemistically call it "beach-weather"), it is very pleasant compared to Cambodia, which was likened to "living in a furnace" by Vanessa ; )

Also, the food is much yummier in Thailand and hasn't made us sick (we were mildly sick most days in Cambodia) so that has been really helping with energy levels. Although local-restaurants are always tasty and cheap, the last two nights, in Bariram and Korat, we have had dinner at the local night-markets, which provide a great opportunity to buy little samples of a many things (noodles, BBQ meats, coconut-sweets etc) and have fun mixing with the locals. Luckily, we have both learned to count in Thai, and are pretty good at understanding how much stuff costs.

Because we know how to be polite and count, Thais always ask if we speak Thai. When we reply "mai chai" (no) they nonthless act impressed that we know how to say no! Thais really do make tourists feel lioke stars ; )

Ohh, and the fruit-shakes! Basically, you just point at the fruit you want, and the store-holder cuts it up in front of you, throws it in a blender with a whole lot of ice and blends the lot into a delicious and healthy icy-slush. Mmmmm! A big one costs about 15Baht (~50 cents). There are a lot of people selling iced coffees and iced tea on street-carts too, so we have never gone thirsty.

So, basically, we have been having a really great time cycling, eating, drinking our way through Thailand. We only have ten days left on our visas, before we need to move onto Laos and, while it will be great to see a new country, I want to stay in Thailand a lot longer! The people, roads, and food are all such a joy in the "kingdom of smiles".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bye Bye Temples; Hello Thailand!

We are writing this blog entry in Thailand! So happy to be moving onward with our holiday and checking out a new country.

We spent last night in Anlong Vien, which is about 150km from Siam Reap and 17km from the border crossing town of Choam. It was a pretty dusty little town, with nothing to recommend it except its proximity to the Thai border, and some macabre Khmer Rouge memorabilia, if one were that way inclined (including Pol Pot's cremation site and Ta Mok's old house).

To us, Anlong Vien was a comfortable place to rest, between two big days.

Today was spent crossing from Cambodia to Thailand, and hoofing it to the Thai town of Surin. Although we set off at the crack of dawn, the 17km up to Choam were slow, thanks to it being at the top of a small mountain range. In the end, we made it to Choam by 8am, and 45 minutes later, we were happily in Thailand.

Surin is 150km from Choam and, after cycing for 100km in the scorching heat, we decided to call it quits and try our luck at thumbing a lift to Surin. No problems - Thais are so friendly, the the first pick-up we hailed stopped for us! After roping our bikes onto the flat-deck, we spent the next 50km happily watching the world whizz by from the back of a pick-up truck. Lovely ; )

Although we did enjoy our time in Cambodia, it is good to move on. Thailand has been great to us already - better food, roads (and vehicle drivers!) and accommodation than in Cambodia, although it seems to be a little more expensive. We went for a cycle around Surin this afternoon, and it was nice not to be heckled by beggars and orphans, for a change. In almost every regard, Thailand is notably more affluent than it's poor neighbour.

Tomorrow we are on to Biriram, and on to Khorat a few days after that. No matter were we go, internet speeds (read: photo upload speed) seems to be a major problem, although we will continue to try to pop photos up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taking in the Temples

Total Kilometeres : 420km
Punctures: 1

It has been a few days since we last updated, and we have been going flat-tack up to Siem Reap and all around the Angkor Temples.

Still no photos of Tuol Sleng, and very few of the temples, sorry. This one took 45minutes to download. We will get things sorted inThailand, land of fast(er) internet connections!

We cycled from Kampong Thom to Kampong Kdei, and then on to Siem Reap, about +/-80km each day. We thought that we would have been able to cover more ground, but it has been pretty tough going in the 30+ degree heat and high humidity, although we are loving it.

Our fan-club is steadily growing actross the country too - everywhere we go, there are heaps of cute kids and some pretty friendly adults who say "hello" (in the case of the kids, usually screaming!). Some of the people are pretty funny, too - in some of the rural towns, the "barangs" have caused quite a stir while going through. A little kid said to us the other day 'bye bye Barang"as we were cycling past. Pretty sassy!

We are finding the the heat is messing with our appetites, but have taken to exploring the full range of icy-cold canned drinksto quench our thirst and provide much-neded energy. We have been very impressed with the range of Fanta products available in Cambodia ; )

Oh yeah, and the temples... they have been okay. No really, they are AMAZING something everyone should try to see in their lifetime, if possible. We are constantly amazed by the sheer size of the complexes and the intracacy of the stone carving is breathtaking. We have decided to take a tuk-tuk around the temples, both to give us a bit of a break, and also to maximise our time here. Our driver for both days, Soviet, has been really helpful.

Just to make you all jealous, we got an hour massage each yesterday - $5 for a whole hour of pummelling! Sweet. Nothing like an hour massege to straighten out cycling-weary bodies. To bad there isnt aquick-fix for those odd tan lines we are developing though... hmm.

We were planning ontaking a dirt road up to some off-the-beaten-track temples, but the roads ate like papaya-shakes this time of year, so definately not bicycle-friendly... Not to worry, we are planning on taking in another far-flung temple - Kbal Spean - tomorrow as we make our way up to the Cambodia-Thai border crosssing on Anlong Veng. Apparently, there is a small monument in the town, marking the place where Pol Pot was creamted atop a pile of tyres, but I think we might give it a miss. Pretty grim stuff.

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