Location: At Home in Hangzhou, China
At least for a while longer...
I thought I'd better update this page as the University is currently holding an exhibition of my photos. Quite flattering really. I'm getting a lot of feedback as well and students and professors alike seem to dig the photos. All very nice!
Getting fairly close to time for me to fly back to Australia and visit Sydney, for the first time in nearly 3 years. Even though I was away for longer last time, I was coming back from Canada, albeit via India and Bangladesh. This time I haven't even seen a western city - except on TV (Which I try to avoid!)
It's been a good start to the year with many friends coming to visit and of course the trip to Cambodia, which was very enjoyable. A highlight was finally getting to visit Beijing with my mum and brother, Roger a couple of months back.
But this latest chapter is drawing to a close fairly quickly. It was a wise decision to come east to the Chinese coast and in particular to choose Hangzhou. It really is a lovely city and a wonderful place to host visitors. Saying that, there're many things I miss about Yunnan and Xishuangbanna in particular.
But I know I'll miss this place equally. I've made quite a few good friends and the sad part is that some I've only really gotten to know in the last couple of months. I'll miss them.
Of course I'm going to miss this food terribly. True, I'm going back to Sydney - one of the great gourmet capitals of the world BUT, it's not China, and I suspect the food just won't taste the same. (Truth be told...today I just couldn't face another bowl of rice - or anything rice-based, and have just devoured a tasty pizza!)
So....amigos y amigas...here I sit in a lovely cafe overlooking gorgeous West Lake and raise my coffee cup to you all!
Location: Koh Chang Island, Thailand
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR TO ALL!
Still bumming about on this lovely island off the coast of Trat in the southeast of Thailand. Stayed longer than I thought I would. Little desire to head back to Bangkok, and Hangzhou is still chilly.
I stay at the far end of White Sandy Beach (imaginative name indeed), and you have to actually walk out through the surf to get there so it's very quiet.
Basically my arduous daily consists of:
(1) lying in a hammock and reading, or day-dreaming with the roll of the surf (if the book is too heavy)
(2) swimming (lots of nice fishies) & riding my bike (lots of horrible steep hills....fun!)
(3) drinking 1 delicious coffee at 11am
(4) eating delicious Thai seafood curries..mmmm..
(5) writing my memoirs of said activities
and, feeling particularly exhausted after such toil, I am
(6) sleeping a great deal!
Well, it all comes to end in a couple of days when I fly back to the reality of those crisp Hangzhou days. Still..be nice to see pals.
See some of you soon, and the rest.....just exercise your empathy in the interim.
Location: Koh Chang Island, Thailand
Quite a while then since my last instalment! I am now relaxing on the lovely island of Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand before I head back home to China.
To recap on that wonderful last leg in Cambodia (NO PUN):
Jan 15th : Sihanoukville - Sre Ambel = 100km
Found a shortcut outta S'ville very early in the morning, got over the hills and outta town and then rerode the road (sounds odd!) back to the town of Veal Rinh. Here I hooked up with the main P.P. - S'ville highway and its the best road I saw in Cambodia so I flew along to the Sre Ambel turn-off.
Sre Ambel had become one of those mysterious places that captures the imagination. It was a smugglers port but doesn't seem to be very important these days. the road instantly turns to dust off the highway but it's not too hard to S.A.
Went for walk at 7:30 but everything was completely closed-down so no chance of food. 4 boiled eggs for dinner.
Jan 16th : Sre Ambel - Ta Tai (4th river) = 120km (not easy)
This was the biggest ride of the trip and not easy. Hot, hilly and dusty I was slightly worried that there would be nowhere to stay in this part of the country. It was a fear not unfounded.
The total distance to Koh Kong was not as great as I'd thought. From S.A. just 144km! But not an easy ride. No shade and no good surface. I crashed pretty early in the day as a went downhill over a sandbank. Not really hurt but a few scratches that began to sting in the afternoon heat.
Also ran over a slithering snake in the morning (first time!). It was a great ride and more challenging than other days in the country so i was happy. Reached the 3rd river after about 90km and had had enough really but found there wasnowhere to stay in the small town. tried to find locals to take me in but no luck.
I met a German, Peter, travelling from his home in S'ville to his other home in Bangkok and he told me of a German guy at the next river who had a room I could stay in. Wasn't too clear and the distance to the next river was at least 30km over some more mountains so I wasn't sure I could make it before night but I had little option but to try.
So took off again and just as darkness started to fall hit the descent to the river after a tough ride. The river was bathed in moonlight as I reached the ferry and asked for "German Hans". Locals told me to cross the river so I did. (4 ferries in one day is another record!) Jesus would've had fun!
Off the ferry on the other side and found the little place easily. Peter had told Hans I might arrive and Peter had decided to stay too. We spent the evening chatting on the bank of this beautiful river. I slept in the floating hut after a swim in the river to dust off being warned about crocodiles rather belatedly. A great day ended and I wasn't eaten.
Jan 17th : Ta Tai - Koh Kong - Ban Mai Rut (THAILAND ) = 55km
the morning ride was steep over the largest of the mountains on this dirt road but adter that it was okay. The road improved as I hit Koh Kong. I decided not to stay and just headed straight for the border. A long bridge and a viscious headwind and then... Thailand. No poblem!
Back on the fine roads and the fine food.
Jan 18th : Ban Mai Rut - Trat - Koh Chang Island = 108km
Pleasant enough riding but not particularly interesting. After Cambo Thailand is pretty dull and modern. reached Trat and was a little surprised by how small it is. So, uncharmed by the town, I elected to make for the ferry and the island of Koh Chang. And that's where you'll find me to this day!
Note : cycling in Cambodia is wonderful and made me recall Myanmar. there is so much life roadside and so many smiles that encourage you. I LOVED IT!!
Location: Sihanoukville, Cambodia
9/1 : Phnom Penh - Choeng Ek (Killing Fields) - Chhuk = 120km
It was fun hanging out in Phnom Penh. Stayed near the lake in the north of the small city and relaxed quite a lot. It's a pleasant city reminded me slightly of Vientianne in Laos. Had enough after 2 days and a bit so left and on the way outta town stopped in at The Killing Fields (Choeng Ek). Pretty chilling to see the place where the Khmer Rouge executed so many thousand.
Finding my wayfrom there back to a main road south was difficult but after a number of dirt roads and lanes I reconnected with the road south to Takeo province. Enjoyable riding again but hot come the afternoon so decided to stay at Chhuk (yes..that's pronounced "CHOOK" for all my old mates) Dreadful place unfortunately. Lots of insects and no food.
10/1 : Chhuk - Kampot - Kep = 88km
Early start again and easy ride to Kampot which was rather drab and disappointing. Decided to skip the Kampot experience and ride onto the beach area of Kep. Good choice. Stayed in a hammock on the beach and drank juice and ice coffee. kep was a French resort area through the 60's and until Pol Pot's mob ran amok. It's still in decay with lots of buildings in cluding the palace riddled with bullet holes.
Took a boat out to Rabbit island and that was fantastic. First time I'd been in the sea for 2 years! Stayed out there all day, hammock. eating fish. Lovely! Highly recommended.
12/1 : Kep - Kampot - Sihanoukville = 129km
Got up at 4:30 next morning as I thought it would be a long day on the bike. Not that bad really. Some crap dusty roads but nothing I'd complain about (all things considered) Some hills coming into tourist town Sihanoukville but wow! the beaches are lovely and the water is great. So that's where I am right now. After this dispatch I'm off to the beach for an afternoon dip and an Iced Coffee.
What are you doing?????
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This entry has been entered belatedly - mostly in the case of other cyclists checking out info.
Battambang -> Pursat -> Kompong Chnnang -> Phnom Penh
Jan 3rd : Battambang -> Pursat = 109km
Road improves on this stretch as I'm now on the better highway. Flat as.. and reaching Pursat is no drama. A drab and uninspiring town, it has a nice restaurant - The Co-op place. Nice food and fruit shakes!
Jan 4th : Pursat -> Kompong Chnnang = 96km
Nice riding again and pretty easy, just gets hot around lunch time.
Jan 5th : Kompong Chnnang -> PHNOM PENH = 91km
A very straight-forward and quick ride to Phnom Penh. Road gets quite smooth near town and it's not hard to ride into this small city. Found the lake area pretty easily and stayed there a few days.
Location: Battambang, Cambodia
Very tired so this entry will be short. Now firmly in Cambodia. I left Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) this morning and took the boat across the lake and up the river to this lovely little town. In fact it's the secnd largest city in Cambo!
Late night last as I ran into an old mate - Nathan from Uni and Bondi. We just spotted each other at Angkor Wat. SO beers last night and then very disorganised this morning.
The part in Thailand was straight-forward. Got to the border and kissed the good roads and the mod cons goodbye and into the old Cambo. The change is pretty startling and charming in a way.
30/12 : Road the afternoon from Poipet - Sisophon (60km) rough.
31/12 : Sisophon - Siem Reap = 107km very silty road.
Next morning up early and very hard road (DUST!) to Siem Reap. What a change tourist dollars bring! Smooth roads again and pancakes and pizza. Spent 3 nights in the Sydney Hotel. (Great)
An afternoon and best part of the next day were spent tooling around Angkor. It's a beautiful place but I found the time enough.
Home to bed now - early start tomorrow for Phnom Penh.