Myles Harrington

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Comparisons Between My Hometowns

In Cambodia on October 22, 2010 at 9:03 am

Today is my tenth day of living in Kampot and I really feel like I know the place now. We’re taking shortcuts through the dusty streets and are regulars at a couple of the restaurants and bars, I even get a nod of recognition from the cashiers at the supermarket. Although the town’s population is supposedly 33,000, there is much more of a village feel to it. One of the most fantastic aspects of Kampot, which definitely makes me feel at home, is the amazing array of roundabout designs. My other hometown of Basingstoke is well-known for its roundabouts, the Chineham Wave and Stonehenge examples spring to mind as wonders of modern architecture but Kampot takes the doughnut on this one, with the year 2000 monument and the new, yet to be finished, jack fruit centrepiece on the main traffic circle.

 

Roundabout wars, left the year 2000 monument Kampot, right the Chineham Wave, Crockford Lane roundabout, Basingstoke

 

The work at the school is going well, it’s strange to be in a routine for the first time in over six months but this one is a lot less taxing of my time than my previous job. A normal working day goes something like this; wake up at 11am, go to the market and buy some bread or instant noodles or stroll down to a local restaurant for a light lunch. We then head back to our guesthouse for some relaxation time, usually filled with an hour of BBC World News or a nap. At ten to three we have a 3km cycle to the school in Chumkriel village. I play football, create some Lego statues and draw some pictures with the children between 3 and 5pm and then take two English classes between 5 and 7pm. My first English class is full of little kids that I’m teaching the alphabet to, the second class is half monks and half teenagers all at the level of about five or six-year-old English children but with half the confidence. It’s extremely enjoyable teaching the kids as they pick it up really quickly and come in every day humming ABCDEFG HIJKLMNOP, they get a bit stuck after the speed of LMNOP but we’ll get there.

 

The Chumkriel Learning Center, Kampot

 

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Setting Up Camp in Cambodia

In Cambodia on October 15, 2010 at 11:24 am

For the last two weeks we’ve not had a single day without a torrential downpour lasting at least a few hours, if not all day or night or both. I thought it rained a lot in the UK but this is something different, raindrops the size of marbles cascade in waterfalls down the sides of buildings and pound on the tin roofs to make a deafening tribal like drum beat. As I’ve come to expect when arriving somewhere totally new, it’s normally pissing it down upon my arrival, our disembarkment in Cambodia’s capital was no exception. Luckily for us, King Guesthouse where we were dropped by the chilly air-con minibus was offering rooms for a steal at $6 a pop. After six months away I’m starting to get weary of the hunt to save 30p, I’ve realised sometimes it’s just not worth it. Why traipse around for an hour in the storm to save a few pence and find a scummier room when the first option was adequate, a good deal and not mouldy?

 

In Asia the roads turn to rivers when the rain comes down

 

With Shubes feeling a little under the weather on our first full day in Phnom Penh we did virtually nothing. With the promise of a Heinz baked bean and cheese toasted (Breville) sandwich on the guesthouse’s menu, who would want to go out and see one of Asia’s prettiest capitals? They failed to live up to their promise and served an imitation bean on an under-toasted baguette. If this was the UK I would be complaining under The Trade Descriptions Act 1968. I eventually managed to drag Shubes out of the room, after a disappointing lunch, but only with the promise of clothes shopping. She didn’t disappoint in living up to the reputation of woman worldwide, a couple of new items and some new shoes later and we were done for the day.

 

The best bit of the shopping mall was the roller blading rink, Shubes would disagree

 

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Sleep Deprived Sightseeing In Saigon

In Vietnam on October 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

We left Saigon after a rather lazy, boozey and tourist sight filled few days. Saigon’s Reunification Palace was a tad boring but well preserved, exactly as it was when it was stormed by the liberation troops in 1975, as you might expect the carpet looks a bit dated. We endured the extremely bias 40-minute war documentary video in the military command basement and got photos of the cabinet rooms and a cheeky one of me in the president’s war room chair.

 

The boss

 

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon’s official name) is excellent and it gives a shocking insight to the Vietnam War, albeit still very bias, but it’s as you’d expect considering the atrocities of the unprovoked war. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of visits to Saigon’s legendary nightclub; Apocalypse Now. The first time we visited we’d had a few too many Long island Ice Teas to notice the sleazy nature of the clientele. It was basically a meat market, the buyers being fat, ageing Western men and the prime cuts being Vietnam’s finest looking teenagers. It’s a shame this goes on, but I suppose it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. We also had our last two nights indulging in Vietnam’s best bargain purchase; bia hoi. I’ll miss that cheap stuff.

 

This poor bloke has been locked up since the summer of '75

 

The last few days have been spent on a tour around the Mekong delta, on which to fit in all the activities each day, we’ve had to wake up before 6am. I never thought I’d be doing that on my nine months off work. We visited the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi, a rice paper and wine factory, a handicapped handicrafts factory, a coconut candy and whisky factory, a honey factory, a rice noodle factory, two fruit farms and a fish farm. We’ve been on more separate boat rides than I can remember and cycled around a village, as well as visited four separate towns, Mytho, Ben Tre, Cantho and Chau Doc, we also spent one night at a local family’s house. It’s no wonder we want to go straight to bed when we reach Phnom Penh.

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Two Motorbike Rides and a Holiday

In Vietnam on October 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm
We’ve just returned from a bike ride into the country to see some beautiful waterfalls. That may sound like an idyllic way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and it was until the rain hit. Then it turned out a similar way to how my scooter trip in Goa went, with me drenched and shivering, looking like a bloke who’s gone swimming in the mid-winter Atlantic with his clothes on.

Sorry, I meant we rented elephants not motorbikes

The ride to the Elephant Falls was amazing, stunning scenery along a good condition (for Asia) mountain hugging road for 30km and then through some small villages. The walk down to the bottom of the falls wasn’t quite so relaxing. Shubes was cleverly wearing her prettiest frock and slippery sandals that were obviously ideal for trekking down wet rocks and along a path where the handrail disintegrated about a quarter of a century ago. She returned up the hill barefooted and muddy handed. It was great fun though and the view from the bottom was well worth the treacherous effort.

The stunning Elephant Falls near Dalat

A similar thing happened to us last time we got out a motorbike, five days ago in Hoi An. Except that time it decided to piss it down on the way to the attraction. We vistied the ancient Hindu temple site of Mi Son, again it was a fun bike ride, this time through a couple of small towns and along the coast road and we arrived looking like we’d been sprayed with a pressure washer. Mi Son itself was okay, but I think it could be better preserved, because a lot of the temples had crumbled and the shrubs tended to be winning the 1000 year war against the masonry.

One of Mi Son's crumbling temples