A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: caroline

The home stretch

Sitting on the beach in Mirissa having a Lion beer. The older three are body boarding, Paddy and Ciaran are building a sand Titanic. Its overcast threatening rain, perfect. Mirissa suits me so much better than Aurgam Bay which felt more like a holiday resort than a travellers destination. The people looked like they were born wearing bikinis, no obesity problem in France, Israel or Holland from what I can see. It did not help that I scalded the arses off Harry , Joe, Rosie and I on our first days surfing. The pain, the shame! People were visibly wincing if de-robed after that. Here, on the other hand, the buzz is get in the Monsoon wild sea, get milled out of it and emerge holding onto whatever swimwear you're left with. It's fantastic fun. Happy hour seems to run for hours, cocktails or beer are €1.50. We have a routine, beach in the morning, rotti shop for lunch, beach and rice and curry in some side street/ garden/kitchen/ garage for dinner. We can hear the beach parties but it's early to bed for us.
The last week has been wonderful. Escaped to the mountains with our sunburnt arses where the cooler climate had the effect of waking me up. I was mad for the walking having done no exercise in weeks. The home we stayed in in Haputale was a great experience. The accommodation was basic in the extreme but the family were so relaxed and warn hearted. All in together watching TV, neighbours coming and going, no one knocks on the door. The food was also a treat, fresh, tasty and seemingly endless. Lovely people.
Our journey to Mirissa brought us through breathtakingly beautiful scenery. As three hours turned into five we passed lush green forests and paddy fields. It's like the garden of Eden. We took a private taxi which was a good call and sounds fancy. It wasn't, the fleas ate us. Our day at the cricket was priceless. Harry managed to fall in with Percy, Sri Lankas super fan, who had Harry walking around the oval with his flag. My respect for the players increased greatly, standing out in the sun all day! When my interest waned I went over to Galle Fort and wandered around the charming 17th century streets.
We have two and a half days left. Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination. I have never felt unsafe, people are truly gracious and lovely. The food is fresh, healthy and cheap, I'll have to up my game at home to keep Ciaran happy. The best thing for me has been how diverse it is, it's like 4/5 holidays rolled into. There are beaches, mountains for walking, wildlife rich nature reserves, ancient sites, Jaffna ! It is possibly more a holiday destination , or at least becoming that way. Guest houses seem to be giving way to hotels and tourist numbers are soaring. Accommodation has cost more than we reckoned with and everything is monetised. If my room has one extra inch of a sea view you can be sure I'm paying for it. Fair enough, the economy seems to need the tourist dollar. So two and a half more beach days and home to the West for something completely different. It's good to be alive.

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Posted by caroline 05:45 Comments (0)

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I rather regret the negative tone of my last missal, I mean it's a bit rich really. I think travelling calls for great enthusiasm every step of the way and I ran out of steam for a while. Nothing like a Koh to revitalise . Koh Rong was fab. Limited electricity , no TVs, no motorbikes or even roads. Just beach and jungle, well a plastic bottle mountain too but lets keep with the positive. From there to Koh Kong city. At first glance a lot of Cambodian towns wouldn't delight. I swear the bus companies find the ugliest spot, about 3 Kms out of town, arrange a bit of rain, and voila! First impressions are generally poor. But I have found the market towns, the unassuming pass through places to have the most charm. Koh Kong was an example, lovely people and surrounded by the most beautiful, diverse scenery I saw in Cambodia. In a country not known for its conservation, Koh Kong seems to be an exception. Perhaps the fact that the Khmer Rouge were knocking about there as recently as the 90's kept everyone else away! Good job lads.
We went out on a high with a night in Rainbow Lodge. It is a divine place, on the river backed by jungle, amazing food, lovely couple in charge. A little beyond our means, Eco seems to be a by word for expensive, better for people travelling for shorter periods. But a heavenly place. Neil, the manager, asked had we heard the Gibbons this morning. I wouldn't be too well up on Gibbon sounds. Mind you Harry pointed out that living beside the zoo,monkey sounds are as familiar as the 37 bus to us.
So farewell to Cambodge, to it's western/ Khmer , dollar/ riel mash up. To its pyjama wearing female population. To its instant noodles. Fascinating country, be great to see it catch a break.

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Posted by caroline 09:26 Comments (1)

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Good morning,
In Sihanoukville, what a mouthful. Got to the coast a few days ago and made a cruel discovery; every beach looks the same in the rain. On seeing the sea for the first time Ciaran said, looks like Dollymount. Our destination was Koh Tonsay, had heard lots about it being undeveloped, where we could sit on the beach all day and eat crab. But then I began to hear about rats, bedbugs and packs of dogs. That with rain and rough seas made my mind up. I'm just not that kind of girl anymore. In fact, instead of getting less bothered by where we stay it's bothering me more. I was ranting around our €8 room last night, railing against this ever present smell. Everywhere is musty. I'd say I will regret complaining when I see my "rustic" bungalow on Koh Rong today. I wish I didn't mind sleeping in other peoples dried sweat and body fluids but I seem to have reached saturation point, literally.

The weather looks better today. We booked into a place with a pool yesterday. I was conducting an experiment as to how long the kids would stay in the pool, rain and all.Three hours later I had to fold, how much longer could they have gone?

I can't get over the availability of western food in Cambodia, those NGO's have a lot to answer for. It makes it difficult to get the kids to tow the party line of local food. I prefer the food in Laos, although the choice was limited it seemed fresher, spicier, with more herbs. Khmer curries are surprisingly mild with potatoes, onions and pumpkins, a lot like stew at home.

So our time is getting shorter. Harry's B day tomorrow, Ciarans soon after. I think we will all be happy enough to go home, kids want to see their friends, I look forward to some silence. I'd say work has a certain appeal for Ciaran. That is of course until we arrive home and realise how good we had it here!

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Posted by caroline 21:06 Comments (5)

Week 5/6 who knows anymore.

In Champasak on the banks of the Mekong for the last couple of days. Lovely quiet place, lovely people. I spoke to a French woman who lives and works here, she reiterated what we have heard many times, Lao people don't do stress or worry. Life is lived in the moment, day to day. I imagine they would be bemused by the fact we take courses to learn this stuff. Mind you, when your dinner doesn't materialise I wish they did a slightly higher level of stress.
Also looking at the rubbish/deforestation issues would make one wonder if a more sustainable, longer term
outlook would be preferable?
People's ready smile has often been remarked upon. It's one thing when it comes from your guesthouse owner, quite another when it comes freely from someone who has spent most of their day bent double in a paddy field.
We continue to be the source of hilarity and confusion. At every encounter the children have to be counted a few times to establish that there are four. This is repeated over and back with hand gestures and in English and Lao. Then the issue of whether they are boys or girls follows and is often hotly debated. The boys long hair really throws people, and increasingly, I think my short hair. I think people are repeatedly asking," are they yours"? Seriously, blood is all that's keeping them here by times. An old woman took the gender issue literally into her own hands yesterday and copped a feel of Harry, poor fella couldn't believe the indignity of it, she thought it was hilarious.
One thing I've learned is that the best way to see this country is by your own steam. From Luang Prabang down there are some ugly towns/cities but go 5km out and the countryside is amazing. A motorbike would afford great freedom. These off main road loop trips could also be done by public transport would require more time than we have given over. It is a little frustrating to know these things in hindsight.
Anyways onwards. Going to 4000 islands tomorrow for our last few days in Laos. Caroline
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Posted by caroline 05:21 Comments (1)

Week three

Have really enjoyed our time in Nong Khiaw. The trip to Phongsali perplexed me. I thought the hotel was hateful but was aware it was a higher standard that most local people enjoyed. I found the blank stares we were occasionally greeted with unnerving, but it's not disneyland, why would people smile? Mostly it made me question what we want from this trip? What works for us? We are referencing backpacker sites but really? I can safely say we are not here for the trekking and a homestay would knock us over the edge. I suppose my expectations of what intrepid travellers we would make and how domesticated we actually are, are at odds.
No such concerns sitting on our balcony overlooking the river for the past few days. This place works because we can head out on bikes, or walking and see what happens along the way. Yesterday we had a great day, went walking to the next village to see caves that people holed up in during the Indochina war. We then raised a posse of 5 eight/ nine year olds to show us where the waterfall was. They were quite the little men, breaking off palm leaves to make hats for the expedition. The waterfall was gorgeous, all in, leeches included.On the way back there was a commotion, the boy/men had spotted a snake beside the path. Catapults did the initial work, then they set on it with vigour using sticks and stones and flung it into the ravine. A snake is held in such low regard it is not even eaten, and these boys didn't look over fed. Ours were impressed by the lack of parental involvement these boys enjoyed, and by their murderous ways. I feel the day of the snake will be remembered. I hope it's the only such day.
Arrived in Luang Prabang yesterday, it looks beautiful. Lots of tourists and higher prices. Will stay here for four days and start to head south. River travel has been wonderful, entertainment as you go, and cheap. You get to see all the coming and goings, remote villages. It is inexpensive to travel here, could be done a lot cheaper than we are doing it. I'm sure that day will come.

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Posted by caroline 18:11 Comments (5)

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