What Wat? Angkor Wat!

What Wat? Angkor Wat!

Upon arrival at quite a nice little airport I was able to quickly get my visa and get through customs without any surprises. Outside the airport I was greated by my driver who took me on about a 15 minute drive to my hotel in a Romork, a Cambodian Tuk Tuk. The Kazna Hotel is nice but after seeing the pleathora of new hotels being built and huge amounts of advertised discounts, I realize I may have been better off arranging accomidations once I arrived here. There are now more hotels in Siem Reap than there are temples in the region, and that is saying an awful lot.
After a quick checkin and dropping my bags off in my room I was back downstairs and on my Romork with my “English” speaking guide Nahtan, not Nathan. He seemed like a very nice guy, but between the ridiculous Sanskrit to English translations, which always equated to some 15 sylabil name, and the fact that I felt like I was back in high school reliving a history class, my eyes quickly glazed over and I simply acknowledged every one of his pauses with a nod and an uh-huh. It worked out well, him escorting me around the site, me nodding “uh-huh”, until of course he asked me a question that had to do directly with his previous comment. He even gave me a choice between two answers, a 50/50 chance, I still managed to answer incorrectly. He staired at me in a way that I knew he was on to me, I’m pretty sure he just made up the rest of the history from there on out….uh-huh.
The temples were spectacular, and the site was enormous. I fear that there efforts to “restore” the temples is going to ruin some of the allure though. It is removing some of the exotic feel and instead making it feel like it should be at Disney World. More and more restrictions are in place too. Some tourists, as always are destroying it for the rest of us. But for now, most warnings are not enforced as my guide tells me to hop over ropes and disregard “no climbing” signs. The temples have dramatic carvings from floor to ceilings. Most representing the constant battles between good and evil.
Bantray Kdei temple stood out among the rest, with massive trees and there roots, hundreds of years old, growning over the ruins. Luckily I am here in the off season and was able to enjoy and explore this temple on my own for the most part. It is truly other worldly seeing how the tenticals of these trees have grown into every nook of whats left of the temple.
By 3:30pm I was starting to zone from jet lag and we had made it through most of the temples in the park. “How to see Siem Reap in an airport layover”. On our drive back to town I arranged with my guide to pick me up the following morning to take me to the country side and explore Beng Mealea temple and a few other sites about 100km away. I made it to 7pm before I passed out.
In the morning I made it to the roof of my hotel were I enjoyed a Potato Omelete and Toast. Looking around I can see cell phone towers and cranes across the horizon. It is amazing to me how technology can bring a country so far in such a short time. Siem Reap was nothing only a little over 10 years ago, but the fall of the regiem in the mid 90’s, and the relization that there is a lot of money in tourism, has created an absolute boom here.
Although Siem Reap has become westernized very quickly, with the exception of driving rules which is always an exciting experience, the country side is still stuck years in the past. 15 minutes outside of town we are surrounded with rice patties, water buffaloe, and mopeds carting any number of things. Entire family of five, Check. Three live pigs, check. One hundred live chickens, hanging from there feet, check. There is no end to the use of there mopeds. The lifestyle of the people is humble, but they seem very happy. Raised up, thatch homes, have numerous naked kids running around playing as the mothers socialize inside.
A bamboo cake, local streetside edible concotion, and 2 hours later we were at Beng Mealea. A temple that has had very little restoration due to the fact that has only been open to the public a little over 1.5 years. This, of course, is due to the fact that it is in the middle of a minefield which was finally cleaned up the end of 2007, I hope they did a good job. The temple was beautfiul, thick thick tree cover has allowed moss to overtake everything. It’s dark, it’s dank, it’s amazing.
We hit a few more temples on the way out. The heat and the jet lag was begining to catch up to me again. This is some major humdity, it doesn’t help that for lunch my guide suggested I have Amok Chicken which is basically a hot curry, cambodian style, tasty but better kept for eating in airconditioning or cold places in general. By the end of lunch, I looked like I just got out of a pool fully clothed. Hair matted, shirt drenched, shorts chaffing. Fun was wearing off as the heat began to overtake me. By 3:30 I was back in my room enjoying my A/C again.
That evening I went to a cambodian buffet with local music and dancing. It was a great experience, with the exception of the surrounding japanees tourists. Luckily no one on stage had epilepsy or they would have met there demise. The food was very good and the price was great, most meals have been under $3 this one was a heaft $7 for all you can eat and entertainment. I would say that is a reasonable price.
Here I am now, typing in my bed at 8am of the 17th. I head back to Bangkok tonight. Planning on hitting the old market today and walking around town. If I can manage to get on one of the earlier flights back I may. At this rate I need to add another 3 countries to my trips just to fill the days.

Upon arrival at quite a nice little airport I was able to quickly get my visa and get through customs without any surprises. Outside the airport I was greeted by my driver who took me on about a 15 minute drive to my hotel in a Romork, a Cambodian Tuk Tuk. The Kazna Hotel is nice but after seeing the plethora of new hotels being built and huge amounts of advertised discounts, I realize I may have been better off arranging accommodations once I arrived here. There are now more hotels in Siem Reap than there are temples in the region, and that is saying an awful lot.

After a quick check in and dropping my bags off in my room I was back downstairs and on my Romork with my “English” speaking guide Nahtan, not Nathan. He seemed like a very nice guy, but between the ridiculous SanskritAngkor-0090 to English translations, which always equated to some 15 syllable name, and the fact that I felt like I was back in high school reliving a history class, my eyes quickly glazed over and I simply acknowledged every one of his pauses with a nod and an uh-huh. It worked out well, him escorting me around the site, me nodding “uh-huh”, until of course he asked me a question that had to do directly with his previous comment. He even gave me a choice between two answers, a 50/50 chance, I still managed to answer incorrectly. He stared at me in a way that I knew he was on to me, I’m pretty sure he just made up the rest of the history from there on out….uh-huh.

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Where Am I, What Day Is It, And How Did I Get Here?

Where am I, what day is it, and how did I get here?

Note to self, pack one change of clothes in carry on, and remember deoderant for the sake of those who have to travel within a 25 foot vicinety of me.
Well here I am, finally sitting on my flight to Cambodia. A tiny turbo prop which is without a doubt designed for Camodians, all 4’11” and 90 lbs of them. Before I even sit down I receive chuckles from the flight attendants. I would laugh to, it must be commical watching me, doubled over, bumping my head everytime I have the nerve to look up to see what row I’m at,  trying to navigate to my seat, which of course is the furthest one from the door. I feel sorry for those that must sit next to me. One leg off in front of the seat next to me, the other  tucked up nearly into my chest. The seats are narrow too. Trying my best, I can’t even attempt to use the arm rest, so insted I’ll just use the person leg next to me.
Day late, dollars short, and at the wrong airport. I should have been on this flight yesterday, but as luck would have it someone had a panic attack back at JFK which in turn would throw off the next few days for me. So after being delayed for an hour we started our 13 hour flight over the North Pole to Beijing. I had a 1.5 hr layover and airlines can usually “make up time”, whatever that means, so I wasn’t overly worried. Well, we landed 1 hour late, make up time my ass. 30 minutes to my next flight…I could do it. After exiting the plane there was an airline agent with my sign “Flight 979” asking us to please stand off to the right. Awesome, personal escort to the plane, they knew we were running late and they are going to get us there quick, or so I thought. After waiting for another few passengers she walked us to quarantine and imigration. Here she delightfully informed us, the flight had already left and the next flight was in 24 hours. There were no other flights out of Beijing airport to Bangkok that evening but we had a choice, we could pay $200 extra to get a flight that leaves in only 22 hours if we like. This was going to get pricey. Being the genius that I am, I booked internet specials at the airport hotel in bangkok for that evening, and the next morning I had a non-refundable/changeable web special flight to Siem Reap. All the sudden those deals were no longer deals. I had to rebook the next night at my hotel and buy another airline ticket. 1 Night for the price of two and 2 flights for the price of 3. Something is wrong there.
A hodge podge group. There were four other individuals stuck with me in Beijing, a turkish jewler, a Tiwanese brother and sister, and a young thai man trying to make it back to Chang Mai. After some discussion with agents at Air China and we were able to aquire 1 day visas and instructions to go to the Air China desk in the terminal were they would arrange us a hotel, no bags though as they were “checked” through to Bangkok for us already. I’m not sure how the Chinese got left out of the loop, but most people, at least ones who work in international airports, at international ticket desks speak English. Well four “help” desks later and after a plethora of Chinese women yelling at each other over the phone, which can only be described in a way of sounding like the early communist Chinese propoganda recordings, we were told to sit over on a bench and we would be escorted to our hotel in 15 minutes. 2 hours later and more propoganda yelling later, we finally got on our bus to our hotel.
Chinese Intitute of People with Many Talent. Clearly Air China doesn’t recruite from the institute across from our hotel. After our bus driver abandoned us on the side of the street, we wandered up to what we hoped was our hotel. We’re in luck, it was our hotel. We were informed by the hotel desk clerk that our transfer back to the airport was at 5:30am even though our flight was not until 7:30pm that evening. I grabbed the members of our hodge podge group and asked them if they wanted to do a quick tour of Beijing. I, being the only one who had been here before, arranged 2 cars with “english” speaking drivers to take us to the Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, and the Great Wall of China. Normally I would be excited, except for the fact I had allready been to all three just last year, but it will be better than sitting in the airport.
Can I get two fermented eggs please. After about 1 hour of sleep and 4 hours of staring at the ceiling, it was time to get ready to meet the group for breakfast. I forgot how much I dislike chinese breakfasts. Not only is there very little that I deam edible, most items just turn your stomach. After eating my fair share of dry toast and one bannana we were off to our cars. We walked up, said hi, and they stared at us blankly. English speaking, uh huh. So after heading back in and working with half the hotel staff I was able to get chinese translations next to our english words for everywhere we wanted to go so we could at least point. We were off again. I am thinking of writing a new book. How to see “fill in the city name” in an airport layover. We left the hotel at 7am and were done with Beijing and sitting in the airport by 2pm.
Are you sure my bag is checked through to Bangkok? 4 hours later we were finally able to check in, we’ll most of us anyway. Aparently some of the people in our group had already flown to Bangkok on the previous night, unbeknownst to them. Also aparently a simple question of “Are you sure my bag is checked through to Bangkok?”. Is not that simple. Another 15 minutes of propaganda yelling later we were told we needed to go pick up our bags from there storage facility and then re-check them back in. In hindsight at least I asked. Otherwise we would be, without a doubt, wearing the same clothes again. Finally, jumping through numerous hoops, we were able to get our boarding passes, check our bags, get through security, and make it to the gate with 15 minutes to spare, even though we had gotten there almost 6 hours before takeoff.
$0.50 a minute. After another nearly 6 hour flight we made it to Bangkok just before midnight. After grabbing my bag and getting through customs I made my way over to the Novetel Airport hotel by around 1am. Of course they didn’t honor my reservation, but I needed a shower and a new change of clothes. So for a discounted rate of nearly $150 I could spend 5 hours in the hotel. It was a rippoff but with an 8am flight I didn’t need anymore than 5 hours and it was a fair price for the way I felt in the morning, showered, shaved, and in clean clothes.
Well here I am now, finishing my first blog entry and about to land in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Look for another update in a day or two.

Note to self, pack one change of clothes in carry on, and remember deodorant for the sake of those who have to travel within a 25 foot vicinity of me.

Well here I am, finally sitting on my flight to Cambodia. A tiny turbo propwhich is without a doubt designed for Camodians, all 4’11” and 90 lbs of them.RyanForbiddenCity-0064 Before I even sit down I receive chuckles from the flight attendants. I would laugh to, it must be comical watching me, doubled over, bumping my head every time I have the nerve to look up to see what row I’m at,  trying to navigate to my seat, which of course is the furthest one from the door. I feel sorry for those that must sit next to me. One leg off in front of the seat next to me, the other  tucked up nearly into my chest. The seats are narrow too. Trying my best, I can’t even attempt to use the arm rest, so instead I’ll just use the person leg next to me. 20 hours of flights down, only a little, cramped, 1 hour flight remaining.

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The Top Of The World.

The Top of the World.

On the 5th of September we wrapped up our tour in Beijing and checked our bags through to Lhasa . After a quick goodbye to Lynn we head down the escalator to security. Since this was a domestic flight, neither of our security guards could explain to us what they needed but after playing a quick round of charades we deciphered that they were looking for our Tibet visa. Now for a little background on this, our20080906-IMG_8228Chinese visa was originally denied due to the fact our itinerary said we were going to Lhasa after Beijing . After a fabricated itinerary and some help with our tour guide, we were able to get one once we were in Beijing . Back to the story, once we produced our visa we endured ten minutes of confusion and lots of animated discussion in Chinese among security, we were finally let through to the x-ray machines. At this point dad and I had to stand on a short pedestal while we endured a thorough body search which would have been more appropriately done behind closed doors and after a few drinks. After are rear ends had been thoroughly groped we went on to our final stage of our examination which included a thorough wipe down of us and our carry-on with the bomb detecting fabric. Apparently we passed and were allowed through to Tibet .

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5 Days in Beijing and beyond…

Well we are well into our trip at this point and I thought I would drop an email and let everyone know how we are doing.

Lua, Dad, and I headed off to the airport on the 1st of September, Lua heading off to Mexico for the month and Dad and I off on our whirlwind tour of Beijing, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and India(it counts, we will be out of the airport for a few hours!).

14 hours later, and a trip over the North Pole and Siberia, we landed in Beijing. The new terminal at Beijing international Airport is the largest terminal in the world, and it was obvious that China has put a huge push into developing Beijing for the Olympics. Upon exiting customs, which was a smooth affair, we met our Beijing tour guide Lynn. Lynn and our private driver took us off to downtown Beijing, a 30 min drive, for dinner before heading to the hotel. Once we got closer into downtown we were both amazed at how modern and updated everything was. The streets were clean, the buildings were new, and they had a20080902-IMG_7472 plethora of western conveniences including the ever important Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Hagan Daz. If it were not for all the Chinese people and bi-lingual signs, you would assume you were in a nice American town….

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Lost World

Well we just got back from the lost world epic. A 7 hour caving experience!
Lonely Planet called this one of the must do trips in New Zealand so we figured we would finish up with a bang, and it did not disappoint.  Lua said this was her favorite part of the trip, even though her knees were knocking together all morning beforehand!Epic 10.30am 11 May - Jimmy Rob (1)_2_2

We lucked out as we are in the off season it was just Lua and me with two guides! We first took a drive out to some rather inconspicuous shed where we geared up with wet suits, harnesses, helmets, and headlamps. Then we were off to the rappel!

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Tongariro Crossing

Tongariro Crossing

What an amazing day!

We were picked up at about 5:30am from our holiday park and driven over to the big bus down to Tongariro Crossing. We arrived at the trail head at around 7am and after a quick bathroom break we were on our way to the crossing.IMG_2778

The Tongariro Park is basically a still active volcanic area just south of Lake Taupo. It is a desolate wasteland that was very pretty in its own unique way. It started out fairly flat for about an hour or so and then we started Devils Staircase which was an old lava flow. I have been on some tough, steep climbs, but this takes the cake as far as tough climbs. Imagine 45 minutes on the stair stepper of death, with steps twice as big as the should be, that gave you constant vertigo, and had loose rocks that could give way at any moment. Lua loved it…..

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