Travels Through The Khmer Country

Hopefully a resouce and a record of an all too qick trip to Cambodia in 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Margaret River - Yallingup

A three and a half hour drive from Perth takes you right into the heart of the Margaret River region. Loads of winereries and thankfully some breweries too.

Getting a beer in Australia is not easy!! Bottle shops, dodgy taverns. It reminds me of prohibition and some sort of wierd puritanism.

It's just a beer guys!

Stayed at Chandler Smith Beach Villas
a good place with amazing views. Two nights here.

Vistied Amberley Estate for lunch. Had the graze plate and a bottle of shiraz. Would recommend this place to anyone. A really nice relaxing few hours.

Also try Cape Lavender a really great winery. Try the spakling wine.

The Bootleg Brewery is also worth a try. Good food and a little oasis of beer amongst the wineries. Top location too.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kuala Lumpur - Chinatown

It's well worth a visit. Bustling and lively.

We only had one night but it certainly livens you up after a long flight.

Petaling Street is really hawker hell but dive a little further and the open air food stalls are awesome.

The steamed chicken hotpot looked fantastic.

Only about 10 minutes to KL Sentral for the KLIA Espress to the airport. This takes 28 minutes and costs RM35 per person. A much better alternative to the taxi.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Off and Running - Perth

Here we go!

Left Manchester on Friday 10th November at about 17:00 on British Midland flight to Heathrow. Then 22:00 MH0001 Malaysia Arlines flight to Kuala Lumpur. Thirteen hours didn't seem so bad. Good entertainment with the seat back entertainment system. Films, games and audio books. There is something about an audio book that works well on flights, drifting in and out of sleep.

Arrived at KL at about 18:25. Airport is a breeze.

Met by Mogans parents and driven to Swiss Garden Inn in Chinatown. No rooms at the inn but pointed us in the direction of Mandarin Pacific just around the corner. Not bad at all, 126 RM for a double, right in the heart of Chinatown.

Met by some friends of friends and driven Subaru style to
Nailis Place in Suntral. Couldn't have been better, amazing place with loads of atmosphere and great food. mains no more than RM7.50. Highly recommended.

Back to hotel about 01:30 for a few hours kip before an early start to the Airport for flight to Perth.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sisowath Quay

It was with some trepidation that I ventured to visit Sisowath Quay, after an absence of a few years. Phnom Penh's main riverside boulevard was in my memory little more than a dusty lane, a rubbish-strewn road with potholes so big that a bicycle-rickshaw could disappear into one of them without leaving a trace. Now, in the year 2001, Sisowath Quay is emerging as one of the world's great promenades, with new cafés, boardwalks and landscaping making the whole boulevard one of those rare cityscapes that immediately invite you to linger and enjoy. It is difficult to imagine that this is the same city as the Phnom Penh of 1975, a city of two million that on the sudden whim of the late despot Pol Pot was forcibly emptied, to become a ghost town that languished and rotted until the downfall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

It's early morning on Sisowath Quay, and the sun is a pregnant ball of red light across the Tonle Sap River. Then the sun rises, and a golden glow suffuses the sky. Before long, groups of joggers and walkers appear as if from nowhere, and the boardwalk along the River soon buzzes with people trying to get their daily exercise fix before the heat becomes unbearable.

Later is the morning the street cafés of Sisowath Quay come to life, as businesspeople and tourists take breakfast with the latest recycled newspaper. I buy a paper from a war veteran who has lost both legs in a land mine accident. I read the paper, and then give it back to him to sell again. It's the very least I can do, and even this minimal gesture is just a sop to my own conscience. In a country where it is estimated that the clearance of all landmines will take another hundred years, it's appalling to think that, to a Cambodia, merely walking the lanes of your own country is a real health hazard.

After breakfast, it's time to do a little exploring. I take a stroll north along the Quay, towards the junction of the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Rivers. The peninsula formed where the rivers meet is for now nothing but grazing land for cows and water buffalo; one day, I can't help thinking, a theme park or tropical gardens will transform this land into a prime recreational site.

Just a minute's walk off Sisowath Quay is the National Museum, with its superb sculpture collection. Designed by a French archaeologist in 1920, the Museum is one of the few cultural monuments to survive the Khmer Rouge era. The spires and roof cornices of the Museum nearly seem to puncture the clouds, while the striking red ochre façade stands out starkly against the sky.

The Museum's treasures include bronze sculptures from all over the country, particularly showcasing the riches of the civilisation that built the temples of Angkor. Maybe more than any other country, Cambodia has a glorious ancient history to which it can look, and the Hindu-influenced carvings from these temples are unmatched in their attention to detail. In pride of place at the Museum is the uniquely Khmer figure of Harihara, a god that is half Vishnu and half Siva.

Fronting the Tonle Sap River is the sumptuous classical-style Royal Palace, home to King and Queen Sihanouk. From the Royal Gatehouse on the River to Napoleon III villa to the gilded gazebos in the gardens, everything breathes panache and flair.

Slowly, I walk back towards downtown. Early afternoon is not a good time to be on Sisowath Quay. The ambiance is too somnolent, the sky too rain-threatening, the atmosphere so humid that you can just about grab handfuls of air and wring the moisture out. Everyone wants to sleep, but few get the chance to do so. I try to relax in a sidewalk café, but soon retreat to my hotel room for a welcome siesta.

Come evening, anybody who is anybody (together with most who aren't) congregates at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia, right on Sisowath Quay overlooking the River. The FCCC is world-famous, both as a hangout for respected reporters and as a haven for hack journalists. Many of the latter make the Club their home, and never take the trouble to get out into the provinces to see for themselves the real progress that is being made in rebuilding Cambodia. Nothing could be more accurate than a remark by Swiss travel writer and official election observer Marcel Stoessel, commenting on the elections of 1998:

"A peaceful vote in a former war zone, one of the 20 poorest countries in the world, with a turnout of more than 90%, doesn't make big news. A little bit more violence would have been nice, especially for the free-lancers who have to sell their stories."

These truths notwithstanding, the Foreign Correspondents' Club is still a "must" place for all visitors to Phnom Penh. The new English managers of the Club considered walling in the upstairs bar and installing air-conditioning, but all agreed that this would ruin the Club's unique ambiance. Could there be anything more pleasant than to relax at the end of the day under the languid ceiling fans of the FCCC, taking in the superb balcony views over the river junction? Talk may turn to the latest antics of President Hun Sen, but all are agreed that, like the figure of Harihara in the National Museum, the Cambodian leader is a master at carefully balancing opposing forces.

Around sunset the waterfront restaurants, each housed in a brand new Khmer-style pavilion, open to a roaring trade. These riverside pavilions are so new that some have yet to find tenants. Among the current occupants are an excellent Thai restaurant and a pizza bar.

Later at night, Phnom Penh's swinging bar scene is the place to be. I quaff a couple of drinks with friends in Sharky's Bar, an airy and thoroughly pleasant rooftop establishment. It could be a l-o-o-ong night - but there are other things to consider. In truth, I have to be up early the next morning - there's another Phnom Penh sunrise to catch!

Thanks to Graham Simmons this one

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh Cambodia. The attraction was recently privatized to a Japanese company as a concession for 30 years at a sum of GBP 8,000 per year. The price of genocide and selling your citizens souls comes down to cash. How sad.

Moto Cambodia

A crazed journey by motorcycle through the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Shot from the motorcyle's POV, look out for the cameo by Sambo the Elephant!

Phnom Pehn Transportation

Phnom Penh is a fairly easy city to get around. Though traffic is getting more congested by the day, you can still travel the length of the city in less than 30 minutes.

Motorcycle Taxi (Motodup)
The omnipresent ‘moto’ is the most common and fastest form of public transportation, but not necessarily the safest. They are more prone to accidents and robberies than cars. Motos can be found virtually everywhere in town, just step to the curb and they will find you. Motos cost from 1500R-4000R for a trip in town and $6-$8 per day. Prices go up at night and for multiple passengers.

Motorcycle trailers (‘Tuk-tuks’)
Motorcycle trailers and cabs (‘tuk-tuks,’ romauks) are growing in popularity. They are comfortable than motodups and are covered, offering protection from the sun and rain. Unlike the noisy, two-stroke tuk-tuks common to Bangkok Thailand, Cambodian tuk-tuks offer a quieter, more pleasant ride. Tuk-tuks for hire gather in popular tourist areas such as the riverfront and in front of tourist hotels. $1-$2 for short trips and $10-$15 for the whole day. Prices vary depending on the number of passengers and where you pick up the tuk-tuk.

Public Taxis
There are a couple of small on-call taxi services. Taxi Vantha is reliable and available 24 hours. More common are unmetered, unmarked taxis, which can be arranged through your hotel or travel agent. A car with driver costs $20-$30/day. Shorter jaunts run a minimum $2-$3.

The humble cyclo can be a romantic and practical form of transport though not as safe as a car or fast as a moto. Cyclos are easier on the nerves than motos and during a rain they offer a drier ride. Curiously, cyclos often charge twice as much as a motodup.

There is no in-city bus system. Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Co offers bus service to several destinations along the National Routes as well as Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorcycle Rental
Motorcycles (100cc-250cc) can be rented for $5 - $9/day. Tourists often rent 250cc dirt bikes, though they are a bit too much bike for the slow city traffic. For in-city driving, 100cc is recommended. A 250cc is perfect for the poor roads outside Phnom Penh. Chaotic traffic makes cycling in the city challenging in the extreme. Roads outside the city vary in condition. If you do decide to ride, drive slowly, stay right, wear a helmet and remember that medical services are limited.

All courtesy of Candy Publications another excellent on line resource for Cambodia

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Siem Reap to Phnom Pehn

Planning to get from Siem Reap to Phnom Pehn on the 22nd November. There seem to be two choices, either the boat or bus.

The boat takes on average 5 hours if you’re lucky (plus the 45-minute trip to the pier) and costs $25 leaving at 07:00. By all accounts a bit of a rip off. Boats often break down or run aground in the dry season and its not unknown for it to take ten hours.

The recommended bus company seems to be the Mekong Limousine Express, which takes 5 hours and costs $9. There are other buses costing $4 which will get you there but not in as much comfort (i.e free snacks, water and a toilet)

Bus companies, prices and timetable

I have looked at a few places in Phnom Pehn to stay and have considered both Riverside and Lakeside. The predominant opinion seems to be in favour of the former. It’s the slightly more expensive option, but then the additional $ per room per night does not particularly bother me.

Looked at a few places and will probably go with California 2 right on Sisowath Quay. Rooms in the high season.go for $20 or $25 with a river view.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Siem Reap (Day 2)

This will be Angkor day, I feel.

I have started with Maurice Glaize's popular and definitive 1944 guide to the Angkor Monuments
The Angkor Guide.

I’ve only a day really so its going to be sunrise to sunset and try and fit in the Grand Circuit.


The Grand Circuit, with a visit to Pre Rup, Neak Pean, Prah Khan (traverse from east to west), the terrace of the Leper King.
Distance - 37 kilometres.


The Bayon, the Small Circuit, a traverse of Ta Prohm from the west to the east, the terrace of Srah Srang, Angkor Wat. Distance - 30 kilometres.

How to do it (Courtesy of Tales of Asia)

Most people either hire a taxi or use a motodriver (motodop). Taxis cost about $20 a day, motodops cost from $6-8 a day. A lot of motodops are now pulling these two-seat cars with a shade cover that are sort of like tuk-tuks in Thailand and this is becoming a very popular option. You'll pay about $10 a day for one of these. If you go to Banteay Srei you're looking at $15. For Kbal Spean it's $20-25, and for Beng Mealea you'll pay $30-35. Double these prices if using a taxi. If by any chance you're halfway to your destination and the price suddenly increases, call his bluff and get off the bike or out of the car. Either the price will go back to where it should have been or you can flag down another motodop as one comes by every minute or two, leaving the bastard stuck with nothing. But this is not a common scam so don't worry too much about it. Most importantly, never pay your driver in advance.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Siem Reap (Day 1)

I am hoping to find more to Siem Reap than a staging post for visits to Angkor. Maybe something like this extract from John Keay’s book “Mad about the Mekong”.

"The menu in today’s Café Kampuchino in Siem Reap reads like a witchdoctors shopping list. Cambodia’s culinary ingenuity was legendary well before the Khmer Rouge, it extends to various sorts of rat, bat, toad and snake, some of the larger, scrunchier insects, and assorted innards and extremities from more familiar animals.
No great courage is required to order these things. Like heavily advertised promotions the world over, they are never available. “No have” says the waiter scrutinising the carte like he’s never seen it before. “Bat no now”, “Entrail finish”, “Frog tomorrow” The list of fare is in fact a wish list. Only rice and noodles with a few proteinous trace elements can be guaranteed. As for the more delectable sections of, say, a chicken – the bits between its feet, its beak and parson’s nose – they never appear. What happens to the breast, leg, wing and wishbone is one of the inscrutable Eats best kept secrets.

We will try Abacus in the evening, again it gets all the rave reviews. can't really imaging we are going to do much more than flop later in the evening. I am sure Perth will seem a million miles away even though we will only have left there the day before.

Monday, August 21, 2006

On The Road to Siem Reap

Plan is off to KLIA LCCT at about 08:00 for the 10:00 Air Asia flight to Siem Reap which arrives at about 11:10, currently 250 rinngits. A bargain I feel.

Pick up at airport courtesy of Two Dragons Guest House. For those without pick up Motodops run at about $1 and taxis $5 for the ride into town its about 6km.

This place has been recommended by so many people it is difficult to ignore and at $15 - $22 per night fits in with my I'm on holiday not an endurance test philosophy. Should reach there about 13:00 for lunch.

This will be my first chance to experience Khmer Food. This is an amazing site. I love it.

Should go to Angkor for sunset. Only really have one day so will take advantage of getting in after 17:00 on a one day ticket purchased for the next day. Can't wait. This is up there with Machu Picchu as one of the things that I have wanted to do ever since I was a child. I fear I will never row a Roman Galleon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap

The start of this journey will be from Kuala Lumpur on the 19th November 2006. We arrive from Perth at 22:00.

Looking at staying at the Swiss Inn in the heart of China Town as the night bazaar is just out the back door. About RM 120 - 160 per room per night. Not bad for the ease of transportation links and cramming as much into one night as you can.

This is how to get there. It's also close to KL Sentral Station were the KLIA Ekspres train to/from the airport leaves every fifteen minutes. It costs RM 35.00 one way and takes 28 minutes.

Plan to get the 10:00 Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap the next morning currently RM 265 arriving at 11:05.

That will mean leaving about 07:00 to get to the newish Low Cost Carrier Terminal at KLIA with a bit of leeway

Shuttle Bus Service Between KLIA - LCCT

Since LCCT is located about 20km away from the Main Terminal Building (MTB) at KLIA and people flying into/out of KLIA may need to catch a transit or onwatd flight from LCCT, a new shuttle bus service was introduced to link the two locations. The shuttle bus journey between KLIA and LCCT takes approximately 22 minutes to complete. Shuttles every 30 minutes and costs RM 1.50


This ain't going to work. Not enough time to get int KL and do anything worthwhile. We will probably stay at the Concorde Inn

It's 27 GBP a night but saves the too and frowing. The free shuttlle doesn't go to the LCCT but I can deal with that.