On the 13th of November we hit the milestone of 100 days travelling on the road. Aside from two of us throwing up to celebrate it was pretty non-eventful. Both recovered fine and are back to normal but they were kind enough to pass the bug on to me. I am slowly recovering but had to take a pass on running in Venice.
We did a poll of some of our favourite things and thought we would share as we will be off-line for about twenty days as the cruise we are going on will not have internet. At least, we aren’t paying the extra fees for internet.
A year ago we booked the hotel to be at the Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai. This festival was the focal point of the whole trip around the world. We didn’t care where we went as long as we were present for Yee Peng – the Lantern Festival.
This story is getting a little old. You see we found a guy in Chiang Mai who could get us a car. His credentials you ask? He spoke good English, and he smiled as he walked by pointing towards the place to get coffee. What else does a Westerner need first thing in the morning? No talk, No Tuk-tuk, just some coffee and then we can embrace all that you have to offer.
It turns out he lived in Baltimore for many years and could get us a car for $3000baht which would include a stop at a hot spring and at the White Temple.
I have watched the movie, Bridge on the River Kwai, many times. It is a story of leadership and perseverance in the harshest of conditions. The late Sir Alec Guinness is one of my favourite actors whether in leadership role as Lt Col Nicholson for this movie, as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, as Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia, or as the infamous Jock Sinclair in Tunes of Glory.
The problem is the movie was fiction based on an author who knew very little about the true incidents that occurred to build the Death Railway although he did suffer forced labour at the hands of the Japanese for two years as a POW. I now have a greater appreciation of the true story and the hardship endured.
According to wikipedia, “[Ayutthaya] was capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and a prosperous international trading port, from 1350 until razed by the Burmese in 1767. The ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya Historical Park, an archaeological site that contains palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues.”
The options for travel to Bangkok from Siem Reap were many. We looked at planes, trains, buses and cars. Funny enough, the best solution for a family of five was flying. It took away some headaches of multiple transfers and it got us to our destination the fastest.
Travelling from a hotel to the airport is a big deal when you are a big family. For example, in Ottawa, to ask for a cab to the airport for five requires an extra $15 which is absurd. We avoid it every chance we get so imagine our chagrin in Siem Reap at the Le Meridien when they slipped in a $19USD car to the airport. Ooh it burns, when we should have crossed the street and tried to find a guy with a private car. There is always a guy with a private car in South-east Asia. We waited in the lounge at the airport and had to buy lunch. We knew we would pay airport prices. Burger King was a request by someone who likes burgers. Not only was it pricey, the burgers were definitely not the same size that we get in North America. Burn number 2.
We arrived in Bangkok without incident. Read about immigration and the crazy taxi rules (here).
The last couple of weeks I was getting a bit stressed about our hotel situation. Most specifically how much we were forking out per night for two rooms. ‘Stress’ may not be the right word, but I was certainly getting a little melancholy about our lack of free hotel nights and the cost of paid stays as we ventured away from major destination cities and my beloved hotel chains.
What About All Those ‘Family Friendly’ and ‘Cheap’ South East Asia Tales?
And, as I’ve quickly learned on this RTW trip, I’m a bit a lot more of a princess than I thought I was. All those $20 room nights I’ve read about on South East Asia travel blogs… ? Turns out they’re not for me.
I know, I’m ashamed of myself too.
I knew I wasn’t in the ‘budget backpack’ category. But I thought I was solidly in the ‘flashpacker’ zone for sure. Turns out my threshold seems to be at the low-end of luxury. Ah well.
Add in the lack of true ‘family friendly’ accommodations and our cost of shelter more than doubles. Yes! When we have to pay for them at the non-chain hotels, our nightly cost more than doubles. Even at the shitty end of the hotel scale.
Have a kid under two? No problem, they can stay for free. Even multiples. But when we add a third child to our mandatory two rooms (even one who is only ten) the nightly rate often goes up 50%. Trust me. I’ve spent hours on booking engines in the last few months. I’ve been caught by the great $25 entry fee for an okay room. Add in VAT and service charge, $30. Still sounds good. Two rooms $60. Still great. Add in Ben, $90. See what happened there? Countless times. How in the world!?! I’ve vowed that next time we’re going to book three rooms. Just because. And damn, that was all in US dollars. It’s somewhat painful converting to Canadian.
Oh, and for any arm-chair travellers out there, I have asked on arrival at several hotels for ‘walk in’ rates and get the same kind of thing.
I took some time to publish posts on the Angkor Archeological Complex which is the most amazing part of our visit to Cambodia. But, there are other aspects worth noting.
You’ll recall that the illustrious Mr Tay brought us into Cambodia as a clandestine border crossing from Vietnam (here). Ok, so it was a little bit dramatic, but as Colleen noted, ‘It definitely felt like a human smuggling operation or something equally shady. In truth, it was just a more expensive logistics arrangement commonly used by dozens of people daily.’
With a three day pass to the Angkor Complex you have 10 days to use it or lose it. We went on the 25th, 28th and the 30th of September. To avoid being over ‘Wat’ I recommend taking breaks in-between visits. A ‘wat’ is a temple so for us Western / Christian types just think Churches.
Our Tuk-tuk driver, Mr Davudthny Vun <firstname.lastname@example.org> helped shape our final route which includes a visit to the Cambodian Landmine Museum, and a visit to Banteay Srey which is approximately 37km from Siam Reap. The return trip includes a stop at Banteay Saimre. We had the option to carry on to see the Rolous Group to the South East of Siam Reap but declined…Too many temples makes Rob a dull boy.
The Landmine Museum provides a stark reminder of the horrors that Cambodia faced from the Vietnam War and also the brutal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.