In the last month I've had to make two complete driving loops from Phnom Penh, across southern Cambodia from border to border, using the main roads and passing through Kampong Trach, Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville and Koh Kong. It's a nice time of year to drive the countryside. The country is pulling toward the monsoon season and rural Cambodia is lush and alive and buzzing with farming activity. The paddies are full of water and the season’s near mature rice stands tall and deep green.
"How do you say thank you in Vietnamese?"
The border guard stared blankly at me, mumbled something (which wasn't "thank you") and gestured me toward the baggage scanner before we reboarded the bus from Phnom Penh to Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City).
I asked the same question of the officer who stamped my passport but he just gave me back my document and gestured me to move on.
Once again, the powers that be have announced another competition to design a logo & slogan for Vietnam’s tourism industry, following the much-maligned Hidden Charm campaign. Presumably they have been casting admiring glances at Amazing Thailand and Malaysia – Truly Asia, and hope that the new slogan will act as a silver bullet and turn Vietnam into a major tourism player overnight.
Cambodia has only two major painted narratives of the story of Rama in Khmer art, the murals of the gallery that surround the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh and those that are found in the vihara of Wat Bo in Siem Reap. The story itself is Indian in origin and the Cambodian version, called the Reamker was localised and adapted, and can be found in bas-reliefs and carvings on the Angkor temples and in theatrical dance and shadow puppet stories.
By comparison to most Cambodian provincial capitals, many with histories counted in the centuries, Sihanoukville is a very new city. Nothing but jungle and a few fishing camps prior to the 1950s, the town was first established in 1960 as an adjunct to the newly constructed deep water port. Few of Sihanoukville’s historically or architecturally significant buildings from the period between 1955 and 1970 still exist.
2010 will be the 10th and final year of running the Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge. It remains a superb experience, but for us it is time to move on to new projects, so this is your last chance to experience this great cycle ride.
Please be sure to book early. To secure your place on the FINAL 2010 Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge
With rainy season just around the corner, I took a trip up to Siem Reap to see what the amazing temple complex had to offer in low season. Most people prefer to visit during the dry season but the stunning temples and exquisite surrounding countryside are well worth a visit at any time of year, with each season offering a new perspective and completely different experience.
It’s early morning and I’m on the motorcycle in very heavy traffic. I’m anxious, paranoid, and can’t stop thinking about crashing — I’m close to panicking. I know what the problem is but I don’t want to admit it. I’ve got the Fear.
Riding a motorcycle requires a certain amount of trust. Trust in your own abilities, in being able to spot trouble ahead and anticipate what others will do, adjusting accordingly. Trust in the physics that makes it possible to balance on two wheels at high speeds without falling off or the bike flopping over. Trust in your bike, knowing that the tires’ contact patch will still hold if you lean the bike just a few more inches because you came into that corner too hot.
This summer has been one of the hottest summers on record in Vietnam, with temperatures often rising above 100 F in many parts of the country. Low rainfall has rendered the country’s network of hydroelectrical power plants virtually useless, and rising energy consumption has outstripped the capacity of the state-owned energy sector, leading to rolling blackouts throughout the country in recent months.
It could be so beautiful. We arrive at the Organic Farm. Goats standing in their wooden stables, chewing mulberry leaves. A black-white kitten is walking with us, asking for attention with a loud "miau". Birds are singing from the trees. Morning clouds are hanging deep around the hills surrounding the Nam song river valley. Nature at it's best. If there wouldn't be another sound: blasting music. Welcome to Vang Vieng, the “paradise” for backpackers.