Myles Harrington

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Long Haul North

In Laos on November 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm

We had one week to go from Pakse in the far south of Laos up to the capital in the north, Vientiane. Our first trip wasn’t going to get us far, from Champasak we were going to Pakse, an old French admin post just opposite Thailand across the mighty Mekong. I’d heard from fellow travellers it wasn’t a great place, with just a row of restaurants and not much else. On our first night there as we were strolling along the riverside boulevard I trod on something squishy and warm, I thought I’d be spending most of my night stinking from that point but fortunately it was just a snake. When I felt something warm I tried to tread lightly and it slithered away into the undergrowth seemingly unharmed from its 70 kilo crushing. I think I must have got its head otherwise I would probably have required a trip to the new looking Pakse A&E.

One of the reasons why people stop off in Pakse is to travel east in to the Bolaven Plateau and other remote eastern provinces. Having become a couple of waterfall hunters recently we thought we should give it another go and head out on our own wheels to see what is supposedly one of Laos’ most impressive falls just a few kilometres out-of-town. The Tat Fan falls were cool but sadly the drop was so long from our vantage point you couldn’t even see the plunge pool. The water looked like a gas as it hit the rocks half way and flowed like liquid nitrogen into the abyss. After the obligatory South East Asian noodle soup for lunch in Paksong we were back on the road on our 100cc bad boy back towards Pakse via another less impressive waterfall.

 

Yet another waterfall

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Just In The Kip Of Time

In Cambodia, Laos on November 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

As the end of another visa approached we were at our last destination in Cambodia, Ban Lung in the Ratanakiri province. The dirt off the track for the last four hours of our journey covered everything in a think layer of red dust, just like how you’d imagine Mars to be, or a tropical Devon. On the mini bus we met a British couple who we befriended and both stayed in the Star Hotel. That evening we invited them to join us on the hotel’s balcony for a few Mekong whisky and Cokes, after that ran out we sent the girls down to try to gather more supplies from the mama who looked after the guesthouse. They came back twenty minutes later with a bottle of the Isle of Skye’s finest Talisker whisky, aged 10 years for a mere $10. That’s one great thing about Cambodia, they import all of Europe’s finest spirits through Singapore and sell them tax-free for cheaper than you can get them in the EU. Absolut, Gordon’s and Scotland’s best whiskies all for Asda smart prices, even though the $2 Mekong stuff actually tasted better.

 

 

The prince and the pauper

 

We’d arranged to be up early for a day on motorbikes with Matt and Cheryl and just as I’d finished throwing up the remains of the night before’s beef and green pepper and spirits, Matt knocked on our bedroom door. We struggled downstairs and eventually we were on the road to Ban Lung’s most spectacular natural wonder, a perfectly round crystal clear lake that the locals say was created 700,000 years ago by a meteor strike. A dip in the chilly water soon cleared the hangovers and we drove down some treacherous unsealed and slippery tracks to a couple of Rattanakiri’s other natural wonders; waterfalls. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Sites Worth Seeing

In Cambodia on November 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Our first overnight bus ride in over a month took us to Siem Reap, famous for pretty much just one thing, Angkor Wat. The famous 900 year old temple is even emblazoned upon Cambodia’s flag; it must be something special. We were considering at times not even visiting the so-called heart of Cambodia, but thought we should as we were around. I was worried Angkor was going to be another Taj Mahal moment, rammed with too many tourists, overpriced and not as magnificent as hyped, but I was really wrong.


At US$20 the entrance fee was cringingly steep to someone as frugal as myself and with the $15 tuk tuk ride on top it’s an even more painful day out for the poor. Approaching from the south you get the idea of the scale of the site, seeing the vast moat which looks more like a giant lake and makes old saxon castle moats look like punctured paddling pools. Angkor Wat is placed symmetrically on the middle mound and is massive. It’s not really the scale that struck me as the most important aspect of the temple though, it’s the detailing on such a scale, triple layers of carvings cover the whole structure from top to bottom and the views from the top are incredible.

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School’s Out

In Cambodia on November 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Last Thursday was the final day of term at Chumkriel Language School, that meant it was time for the end of term exams and then a long ‘bank holiday’ style four-day weekend to celebrate the King’s coronation and birthday. It was also our final day in Kampot so we treated the kids before their tests to a few pressies we’d bought at the market in the morning, two fishing sets, lots of building blocks, skipping ropes and a golf set. They were thrilled and manged to break all of the golf clubs and squash all the balls within a few minutes.

 

A Cambodian Tiger Woods teaches Shubes a thing or two

 

My first class that has been learning its ABCs simply had to write A-Z on a piece of paper. It’s traditional in Cambodia to cheat in tests, something that the teachers were weakly trying to eradicate for this exam and joking that of course they have cheated in every exam they’ve ever taken. One of the cutest little girls, who is actually the best in the class of 50 at reciting her ABCs was even found with a strip of the alphabet written on her lap. The kids were openly chatting during the test and glancing around the room for inspiration or a helping lip sync from a friend. It brought back all the nerves of school exams to me and I couldn’t help but give a few clues as I wondered around and saw the struggling teary eyed kids with sheets that only contained A B C D.

 

The cheating little shit didn't get away with it

 

The second class that I had to independently supervise for their test was quite a bit older, probably ranging from 13-17. I was a hard task master and managed to keep the exam room European style silent. There were the odd whispers that I had to let slip when I couldn’t detect the perpetrator, but on the whole I think I did a good job at keeping the cheating to a minimum. I moved two students and deducted marks off four. They all hated me at the end, so it was lucky I was leaving town the next morning.

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