Christmas 2001

>Hello everyone,

Apologies, yet again, for another long email. There are more travel tales for you and just a few Christmas wishes at the end so please bear with me.

Well, it certainly has been a while since my last travel update to you all. For the moment at least I am taking a rest. I’m back in Melbourne and looking forward to spending the festive season with my family and friends which wont really be a rest at all I suppose, but the familiar surroundings should be pleasant and relaxing.

When I last left you I think I had just arrived in Koh Tao (Thailand). That was pretty much the end of my trip right there. I spent a few days hoping for the weather to clear up so I could go diving but there was only one reasonably decent day and even then the visibility in the water was pretty poor. The second dive was just a little bit eventful as my dive buddy lost her regulator in the water and panicked. We were at about 10 metres depth when she started throwing her hands around everywhere and pointing. To me this meant a shark has come to gnaw my leg off (completely illogical when I think about it), but what she was really trying to say was that she wasn’t getting any air and she shot up to the surface way too quickly. I followed her up pretty quickly as well and was later rewarded with plenty of tingles in my joints (air bubbles). Anyway, I was disappointed with my effort as a buddy not noticing that the reg was missing from her mouth. I can only apologise for that and suggest that none of you go diving with me.

Shortly after this dismal effort I started my journey home. First off was a high speed boat from Koh Tao to Koh Samui with a glimpse of Koh Phan Gan in between. As far as I’m aware speedboats aren’t designed for swells such as those I experienced on that day. For the first hours of the journey I concentrated hard on the horizon then began singing songs to myself to take my mind off “seasickness”. See even though I travel well and only a few things bother me, seasickness just happens to be one of those things.

After that, nothing really to say. An easy flight home and before I knew it I was back in Melbourne. I was very apprehensive but it had to be done. Actually it was nice being home catching up with my family and friends but I got itchy feet again quicker than you could say Kakadu … so off I went again!

This time it was only a brief journey to Australia’s Northern Territory. In all of my years this was the first time I had ventured up north and what a great spot it is. I didn’t manage to see it all. If you didn’t already know it, Australia is damn big! We drove forever but on the map had really covered no distance at all. Basically the trip was a bit of a tourist triangle. From sleepy but cosmopolitan Darwin, south to Katherine and the beautiful Katherine gorge, then back north to Kakadu. I timed everything perfectly to coincide with the low tourist season but still good enough weather for a great time sightseeing. Took a scenic flight through parts of Kakadu as some of the roads were already flooded in the wet season. Small planes aren’t my thing either (hence the reason I like to jump out of them – with a parachute). This time I didn’t have a parachute though so I had to stick it out. I must admit I avoided all the billabongs and swimming holes in favour of the croc free pools. The signs saying there “probably” aren’t any crocs around just isn’t reassuring enough for me!

Back to Darwin and then onto Broome. Along the way stopping briefly in Turkey Creek … population about 10. One roadhouse, a dry Aboriginal community and a helicopter service. Spending 24 hours in a place like this was an interesting experience, the best part of it being a one hour helicopter flight through the Bungles Bungles. That was amazing! Doors off so there was plenty of fresh air circulating (no motion sickness), plenty of moves to allow maximum viewing opportunities (flying sideways to get a better view of the gorges) etc. This is definitely a trip I recommend, even though you do have to sit in Turkey Creek for 24 hours. Luckily I had a packet of cards, a friend and money to buy all sorts of food to entertain myself.

Then, eventually and finally Broome – Western Australia. Here there was plenty of time to do nothing which is an absolute must as it’s quite hot. The Kimberley Klub where I stayed was terrific but I do have one gripe about it … the kitchen is too damn good and it just makes people like me look bad! The two minute noodles took 15 minutes to cook, including trying to start the gas cooker. Matches don’t light themselves you know. My cooking was hopelessly overshadowed by everyone else’s cooking. They didn’t seem to understand this was real cooking for me. Needless to say I was embarrassed by my effort. Bloody communal kitchens are no good for my confidence.

Other things to do in Broome include a trip to beautiful Cable Beach. You can’t really swim there at this time of year though as there “might” be deadly box jellyfish in the water. Kind of like the crocodile thing for me, I’m not risking it when there’s a perfectly good pool nearby.

In Broome some things can be reached by the local bus and some can’t. So I hired a moped for a few hours and tried to get out to a place that I can’t spell. The moped idea was good in theory but then who knew the only way to get to some places was on dirt 4wd access roads only! So I tried anyway. Probably would have made it except for nearly running out of fuel as well which is definitely not the thing to do in the Australian outback!

Next effort was a microlight flight which I have to say is a much better was of seeing Broome than by moped! My flight was almost rescheduled due to high winds but I think he thought I was crazy and willing enough (and I was). I wasn’t quite so keen on low altitude near crocs and sharks we could see in the water!

That’s it. The end of my travel adventures for this year. I hope I haven’t bored you all too much and I hope you have found at least some of my tales interesting, funny and/or enjoyable to read.

For the meantime though, I would like to wish you all a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous Christmas and New Year.

I hope all your wishes and dreams came true in 2001 and if not, try again in 2002. I know I was lucky enough to have a sensational 2001 and many of you played a part in that so please accept my unconditional gratitude for your time and energy this year. It wouldn’t have been what it was without contributions from you all.

Best Wishes

Love Cheryl

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I’m so hungry I could eat a scabby baby

>Apologies in advance … this email is perhaps a bit long but I did try to cut it down.

It is amazing how skilled you can become at doing nothing. When I last left you I was doing nothing in Chiang Mai and unfortunately I must admit that I continued on doing the same for quite a while. Not in the same location, but I think a change of scenery is not enough to suggest that I was actually doing much other than playing cards and reading etc. My productive activities stretch no further than staying up to date with my emails!

I decided that it was time to leave Chiang Mai when my junk food intake became so high I had to go to different shops due to embarrassment! Leaving the Julie Guesthouse was very difficult as it’s the only place that has felt like home for the entire time I have been travelling. Home because of the people who stay there and work there. I miss the familiar cosy atmosphere.

Leaving a place when no-one says goodbye is a terrible thing but luckily for me everyone there seemed to enjoy the company of the girl from Oz, who rarely moved much from the bamboo bed or the rooftop hammock. We all waved, exchanged emails and I even got a heartfelt hug from Elie (Sorry Elie, I didn’t come back to Chiang Mai as time was running out so I changed my ticket). Thank you to everyone who kept me company there!

On to Yangon/Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma. Feels like a little bit of deja vu as I find myself back in the Chiang Mai international departure lounge where I was once before from Kunming to Bangkok. Perhaps I was in a daze reminiscing … I miss my flight call and am hurriedly whisked through and empty doorway, downstairs and quickly onto a waiting bus. There awaited three other passengers … sounds like a busy flight.

Shortly afterwards the bus headed off (with two more passengers), drove perhaps 20 metres where we all disembarked to board the Air Mandalay adventure. As I climbed the steps to the aircraft, I was a little disconcerted by the following series of events. Firstly, one of the two tyres I could see was bald … as in completely … and you could even see clear holes through the tread to the inner sanctum of the tyre. Then I noticed that the other tyre was quite flat. Next, the first flight attendant I came across had a great big stain on her uniform (like myself a thousand times after any meal), the second flight attendant must be new as her uniform wasn’t stained and I had to help her show people to their seats (she couldn’t work it out). Following this she lounged around in the nearby chair chatting with passengers. The arrival/departure card to Myanmar is also stained and my writing is quite messy, no doubt influenced by the SHUDDER of the plane.

It’s all good I say … apart from the turbulence and the shudders … oops, just broke the food tray!

Some of my first experiences in Myanmar are very interesting. Take for example Burmese TV. I’m not so sure that it places any value on entertainment. Imagine annoying little kids, admittedly in nice traditional costumes, doing some of the worst dancing and strutting you have ever seen. The kind of thing that as a parent you have to endure and applaud, but for anyone else it is actually quite painful. The fact that it is televised on national TV is very interesting.

In Yangon I visited the Strand Hotel. A bit stylish, rooms at a minimum are US$425 per night. Understand me correctly here … I wasn’t staying there, just browsing. They were kind enough to give me a glass of water (I probably looked a bit horrid from the heat) then a look at the drinks menu. Prices started at US$4 for a soft drink which was about the same as I was paying for my room! Deliberated about stealing a napkin, broke the newspaper holder then thought a quick departure was the best idea.

The next morning I departed Yangon. Arriving at the bus station we were immediately ushered onto a bus (being rushed along), only to sit there not moving for one hour! Later, when we were moving, we were treated to English movies … not the whole movie mind you, just the last 15 minutes of three films were shown. Better than the first 15 minutes I suppose.

Next stop was Bago … famous for I’m not sure what. Think I went there because the taxi driver said it was a good place to visit. Well we were under a 6pm curfew as there was rioting between the monks, the muslims and the police or something like that.

It was on this day that a funny thing happened … judge for yourself, perhaps my humour has become strange. I sneezed, but that’s not the funny thing. I said excuse me as you do, but that’s not the funny thing either. The funny thing was that the taxi driver said, “Ah, no problem”. Must’ve taken me excusing myself quite literally. I’m sorry, but during the heat of the day I did find this quite entertaining.

I remember asking the same taxi driver if there were many tourists in Bago. As it was off the beaten track for most I expected an answer such as “not many” or “a few” etc. When he replied by saying “Eight”, I was stupified. Partly because he knew exactly how many and partly because there were so few. This is the thing with Myanmar, they keep tabs on you everywhere.

Whilst in Bago we visited Kha Khat Wain Kyaung. This is one of the three biggest monasteries in the country, housing over 1000 monks. We timed our visit perfectly to watch and enjoy the monks procession to the meal hall. I was almost in hysterics when a few of the cheekier monks were throwing food from table to table in a food fight frenzy. How funny it would have been if all of them had joined in!

Stopping in Inle Lake only briefly, I eventually arrived in Mandalay. A huge sprawling city with a few things of interest. I went to see the Moustache Brothers – a comedic troupe. The show was entertaining, educational and original. Most importantly for me there was some political information about the brothers’ situation.

I spent quite a few days in lovely Maymyo. Relaxing in the cooler temperatures, visited a waterfall, ate some cake etc etc. We found a great confectionary shop although the things they sold seemed to taste horrible. No point being polite and saying they were ok because they were horrible – quite difficult to chew and even more difficult to swallow. Don’t try washing it down with “Star Sprite” either as this stuff seems quite bad as well.

If anyone wants to ask me about the hoses provided in the toilets, please let me know. I have quite a lot of useful information due to a bet/pact.

This email is getting quite long so lets just say I went to Bagan which was amazing. Cycled around for half a day and saw many sights. A definite highlight. From Bagan there was a long and demanding journey through Pyay and onto Ngapali beach. Basically we were on the road for approx 27 hours and none of it was in the slightest bit comfortable. The only highlight was about 24 hours into the journey when we still thought we might see the beach around the next corner … we had just passed through a village when words escape me and I start hitting Maud in the arm and pointing excitedly to some elephants! So amazing and so beautful … and while I had my head down changing a roll of film, so scary when they make great big trumpetting noises!

As for Ngapali beach … when we finally did get there, it was amazing. Beautiful warm water, few people, great accommodation right on the beach so that you fall asleep listening to the waves and you wake up with a morning swim. There’s not really anything else there to do but who wants anything else when it’s so amazing. This is the best beach I have seen. Better than anything in Thailand (ok so I have only seen Koh Tao)!

I could continue forever, but for now all I will say is that I have left Myanmar and now find myself on the beach in Koh Tao. Have managed a little bit of diving and not much else.

I will be home soon …

Many thanks to Renagh, Maud, Julien and Mel for sharing my journey with me in Myanmar. Thanks again to Renagh for providing the title of this email … one irish quote I could never forget.

Hope you are all well and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Love Cheryl

Change of Pace

>It hasn’t been so long since I last emailed and there’s not so much to tell but I’m off to Myanmar in a few days, or perhaps a few plus some, and reports are that there is very limited email availability there. Never know when I will next be able to contact you all so here’s perhaps the last update for a while re: my travels. Apologies in advance for the lack of real content and inclusion of so much babble, but I haven’t really done anything lately and I need to make this email vaguely long and interesting.

After my “Lost in Thailand” adventure, Laos seemed quite nice and easy. In fact, the most difficult thing to do in Laos was to work out what to do. This is actually harder than it sounds as Laos is a place I think famous for not much. Each day I would sit around wondering what I would do for the day and eventually end up doing the same as the previous day, which was pretty much nothing. The only time I really varied from this routine was when I got sick again at which time I was always doing something, usually (in fact always – luckily) in the toilet.

Anyway, upon arrival in Vientiane (capital of Laos) I was a bundle of energy (which quickly disappeared but never mind). I strode off to see the city only to finish just a few hours later. Vientiane is not really a city at all. Just a small town, but hey, that’s Laos for you.

The next day I departed Vientiane on route to Vang Vieng, an even smaller town than Vientiane where there is probably even less to do but everything in Laos is just so relaxing that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had timed my visit to Vang Vieng perfectly to coincide with the annual village boat race where the locals compete against other villages and some travellers also feel the urge to get involved. Personally I thought it was a good idea in theory but in the end it was a struggle in the heat to even to watch the event. Instead I vaguely wandered off to see a cave and not much else for the day.

My visit to Vang Vieng also coincided with the trauma of the internet connection not working for the entire time I was there. Argh. Myself and a few other victims (Hi Susanne, Per and Chris) would check each day to see if we could log on, only to be met with signs saying “No Working”. This became a big joke in the end as we questioned the people working in these Internet establishments incessantly. All questions were invariably met with the same answer. So if you asked:

Is the internet working today, the answer would be “Not Working”.

When will it be working, the answer, “Not Working”.

How long hasn’t it been working for, answer, “No Working”.

Sometimes they might say “tomorrow” but this was just a trick as the next day you could return and the damn thing still wouldn’t be working and these questions would start all over again.

In the end, I’m sorry to say that the people working there would run at the sight of us, fearing our incessant questioning.

Next stop in Laos was Luang Prabang which I believe used to be the capital of Laos. A beautiful place full of temples and again I timed my visit perfectly to coincide with the boat festival. Again you will notice the pattern that I didn’t really do anything in Luang Prabang. In fact I think the only thing that I really did was to visit a beautiful waterfall. Not bad for three days. The rest of the time, again I just spent trying to work out what to do and where to go next.

What I ended up doing next was just following the Swedes I was travelling with, while my Scottish roomie followed us all as well. Next stop, Vang Vieng. Oh yeah, same place. I was heading back to Vientiane. This time in Vang Vieng to my great amazement, the internet was working (very quickly I might add). The stop was primarily to break the journey to Vientiane, but also to go tubing down the Nam Song (?) river which I hadn’t managed the first time. For 4000 kip you get a tyre tube, jump in the fast flowing river and head downstream for an hour or so. Just like the rest of Laos, this is just so relaxing (although you can get a little sunburnt) and apart from my control freak need to constantly steer, there is not really anything to do. Four kilometres later there is a sign, in English thankfully, telling the tubers to stop. My stop was faciltated by the small footbridge that I crashed into and nearly got trapped under. Not particularly graceful but it added some excitement to the adventure. Others took the drift into shore option so I’m sure my way was much more entertaining.

That was pretty much it for Laos. I returned to Vientiane then departed the next day to Thailand heading to Chiang Mai. One note on Laos though is the brilliant currency they have. To make it easy, 10000 kip is approximately US$1, and the absolute biggest currency note they have is a 5000 kip note! Seriously! So if you cash a travellers cheque for US$50 you end up walking around with this great big wad of money that is impossible to conceal. It’s amazing.

Sadly, I had to leave Laos as my trip is coming closer to the end. The mission was to get to Chiang Mai where I could organise a Myanmar (Burma) visa and then fly into Mandalay. The bus trip to Chiang Mai was as wonderful as any 12 hours bus trip can be. Before boarding the bus we had a few hours to kill in Udon Thami and were befriended by a lovely monk. At the bus station he told us that he was headed to visit his mother at the hospital and would we like to join him. What can you say? If a visit to see his sick mother will help then who are we to refuse. When we arrived at the hospital we didn’t go in at all. Seems the monk’s mother has a food stall outside the hospital so she isn’t sick at all. We visited the family for a few hours, sitting around chatting about the monks favourite bands which include Westlife and Backstreet Boys.

Now I have been and still am in Chiang Mai doing nothing. I think it has been about four days that I have been here and each day I have managed about the same … nothing. I am staying at the Julie Guesthouse which is a wonderful place to relax and whilst there are many things to do, nothing always seems to be the best option. I contemplated doing a cookery course (NO LAUGHING) but as they didn’t seem to have one that started at the basics of opening a can and how to recognise cooking utensils, I haven’t yet bothered. In truth, I just prefer doing nothing at this stage.

So in a few days I will be in Myanmar which is pretty much the last leg of the journey before I head home. Perhaps I will find another week or so and then I can relax on a beach somewhere before flying back to Melbourne, but otherwise I will see those of you there soon. To everyone else, I hope to see you soon as well wherever you are.

Cheers

Cheryl

Lost in Thailand

>This is what happened and what didn’t happen.

After finishing up in Siem Reap visiting Angkor Wat et al, my plan was to head to Poipet and from there catch a bus to Chong Mek (Thailand), immediately heading to Pakse, Southern Laos. This wasn’t my preferred option as I really would have liked to head to Stung Kreng (spelling?!?) and then overland from Cambodia directly into Laos (skipping Thailand altogether for the moment), but was advised this was too hard and expensive and not worth the hassle. Fair enough, I’m not into undue hassle so I took the supposed easy route.

What I did manage was getting from Siem Reap to Poipet, crossing though immigration and into Thailand (stopping for a Magnum ice cream on the way!). This was prebooked so no great feat on my part.

From here it gets a bit strange. On the advice of a bus driver I took a tuk-tuk to the bus station and there boarded what I believed was a bus to Chong Mek. This would be too simple of course. In fact the bus wasn’t going to Chong Mek at all, although I understood that it would be heading at least towards there. To make matters worse, I didn’t even have any baht to pay for the fare. Yeah yeah, so I’m to blame for that one. I was just so used to using US dollars in Cambodia that I thought it wouldn’t be a problem doing the same for emergencies in Thailand. No such luck. Fortunately there was one lady on the bus who took pity on me and made her sister pay my fare. This was also the lady who told me that the bus wasn’t going to Chong Mek but to some place on no map I have ever seen.

Here I was faced with the prospect of being in a place I didn’t know, with no money, very little understanding of Thai and very little chance that anyone would speak English. My chances of getting accommodation slim, and everything else probably impossible.

Again fortune was with me as the same lady who made her sister pay my bus fare, invited me to stay at her place. I accepted straight away. It wasn’t until later that I thought this could be a bit iffy given that I didn’t know her, where I was or where she was taking me (perhaps somewhere to steal my money – although as I didn’t have any this wouldn’t have been any fun for her). I didn’t really have an option though so I gratefully followed her on her way home, which was another bus ride of one hour in the complete opposite direction to where I was headed.

By the time we got there I was exhausted and concerned about where I was and how I would get any money to get out. These problems soon left my mind though as everyone in the village seemed to be related and turned up to visit their exciting guest from Australia staying at their humble home. My spoken Thai really is pathetic and although a few of the girls knew some English, most of the conversation was based on smiling faces and nodding. It wasn’t long before I was drinking (sprite) with one guy who kept filling my glass (good thing it wasn’t alcohol) and giving me the thumbs up. He was a hoot but eventually his wife dragged him away so one of the other twenty people could sit beside me. For entertainment value I took out some photos I had developed and showed them around. Major excitement and in the end I ended up giving quite a few of them away and autographing the back with the promise to send more in the mail at a later date.

Eventually I moved on to another house where I was asked to stay and I slept on the ground in the living room with the rest of the family.

By the morning I had learned to say dog and duck in Thai (useful?) and a few other things which I now forget. One quick ride on the back of a motorbike to the nearest town so I could change money at the bank … which was closed. But again I was in luck, the ATM accepted my card and gave me money! I think my Rocky style jumping up and down was a highlight for everyone around, but I didn’t care. I had money, I could pay back my debts and get back on the road.

The lovely Thai family all posed for a photo, then took me to the road where I could catch a passing bus still in the complete opposite direction to where I was heading, but it was a bus nonetheless. I ended up changing my plans altogether and headed north to Nong Khai (where I am now) and where I will cross into Vientiane (Laos) tomorrow morning. This is only about 600km from where I had planned to be the day before, but what the hell. Now I’m in a town within sight of a place that I have at least heard of.

I must say that the hospitality of the Thai family was beautiful and I should never have worried, but for about 24 hours I had no idea where I was. Now I have another great experience to add to my travels and I remember again how fortunate I am to have the life that I have.

Lana and family – oops, sorry this was probably a bad risk to take but I didn’t have an option and it’s all ok in the end (plus I will be good from now on).

Throwing up in Cambodia

>Since I last emailed you all, so much has happened … and as I posted my first travel journal home, I’m not sure that I will be able to remember more than a little. I think I left you when I was in Kunming, China about to head off to Bangkok and eventually Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Well, from what I remember, the room I took in Bangkok was the smallest ever although not the cheapest. It was quite easy to touch either wall of the bedroom with my outstretched arms and hands, and although it was long enough to fit a single bed, it wasn’t able to fit much else. Aside from this, the room was nice enough and it was in a better area than the dreadful Khao San Road.

Bangkok itself it a good place to stop if you need to stock up on toiletries but otherwise I think there are much better places to be. Whilst there, all I really managed was a trip to a Wat and to the Grand Palace, which I’m sure is so Grand because of the price they charge people to visit!

Next stop, Vietnam. This was a little tricky as I didn’t have my Vietnam visa with me, planning instead to pick it up from the airport having organised it on the internet. Could have been dodgy, but in the end it all worked out wonderfully and then before I knew it I was back in Ho Chi Minh City where I met up with Jens and Natsue. My time with Jens was amazing and I didn’t realise that two people could have such a strong bond in such a short time. To be with Jens when we heard of the terrible terrorist attack on the US was more than I could ask for.

For the first time in Vietnam I took time to relax on the beach at Mui Ne as there is basically nothing else to do there. If you did want to wander a little bit, there are some great sand dunes nearby and for 5000d (less than one aussie dollar) you can hire a piece of flat plastic to slide down the dune. We only did this twice, as walking back up isn’t near as much fun as going down, and I didn’t manage to slide down too efficiently anyway. We did hire a motorbike once or twice as well but the roads are usually too chaotic and it’s best to stay away. My riding isn’t the best either, as Jens will testify, but I did avoid one collision and almost popped a wheelie at the lights in another instance.

From Mui Ne Jens, myself and the remaining Germans I had met in my previous venture into Vietnam (Sabrina, Oli, Agate) headed south to the Mekong Delta. This was all very beautiful and different than anything I had yet seen, although the floating market was a disappointment … possibly because it was raining so hard all the locals thought it futile to be out trading in such weather.

Eventually it was time for my German friends to depart even though my German language was still in a poor state. So with many tears at the airport and great hopes for their safe flight home, I wished them well and embarked on the next leg of my journey – Cambodia.

If you haven’t yet heard, the roads in Camboida are amazing. I’m yet to be convinced that they are roads at all but as most of the alternative is water, there is little option. Always remember, never sit in the back of the bus unless you like a little bit of air time on your journey. More than a few times I was dozing off, only to wake up flying upwards before settling uncomfortably back down on the seat below.

The first stop in Cambodia was the capital Phnom Penh. This is a lovely city. For so many years it has been devastated by war but this hasn’t removed its charm. I can’t say exactly what it is about the place that appeals to me but I genuinely enjoyed being there.

Of the things to see in Phnom Penh, the things which rate most highly are the S21 Genocide Museum – where the Khmer Rouge housed many thousands of prisoners, torturing and killing them. The pictures of these attrocities are terrible and the fact that the Khmer Rouge took such pride in their brutality (by recording it all in photos) is just awful. Next is the Killing Fields where the victims of S21 and others were buried in mass graves. There is not much here apart from pits in the ground which represent the exhumed graves. There is also one building filled with the skulls of the exhumed. In general, the Killing Fields was so terrible that I was almost throwing up from the smell, even though there was no smell at all, just in my mind.

Also in Phnom Penh, travellers can head out to the Atillery Range to try a selection of weapons. From the horrific things I had seen so far in this country, perhaps this is not the most socially responsible thing to do, but at the time it seemed like a bit of fun, something I definitely needed.

Usually I am terrible at aiming so the fact that I hit the target at all was astounding. I tried four different weapons including a ruger22, shotgun, M16 and an MK57. Personally I think the M16 was the most fun, the shotgun seemed a bit too powerful and I still didn’t really manage to hit anything other than a few dregs of pellets landing on the target.

My last evening in Phnom Penh was spent alone as my new friends had already departed. Instead of eating at the local guesthouse I ventured off to the riverfront where there are many lovely and expensive restaurants (due to a large ex pat community). I hadn’t been sitting there too long when I heard what I thought was the repeated (four) backfiring of a car … frighteningly enough, it wasn’t this at all, it was real gunshots. Only 10 metres away from where I was sitting, someone had been killed. I was assured by the restaurant staff that it was safe to stay where I was for the moment so this I did until another gunshot was fired. At this point we were all ushered inside only to be told later that it was just the police firing to disperse the crowd. None of this made me feel particularly comfortable even though I was assured that westerners are “generally” safe.

Eventually I did manage to get safely back to my guesthouse, gave my moto driver a nice tip for his trouble and retired to my room. Unfortunately from this point onwards things haven’t been well. I spent the night throwing up, sorry for the detail, but dinner didn’t agree with me and have been unwell ever since. The following morning I thought none too highly of getting up at 6am to take a five hour boat ride to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) but what other option did I have given that the non refundable ticket cost US$22. So a wonderful journey it was. Fortunately for the horrible Frenchman beside me, who earned this title for cruelly elbowing me in the stomach, I didn’t throw up. If I did I was planning to simply turn his way and apologise pathetically just as he did when he elbowed me.

For now I am in Siem Reap. Kind of like base camp for Angkor Wat but for the moment I am unable to move too far as I am still quite ill. In two days I have managed just two cans of sprite but I’m sure I will pick up soon enough.

This is probably enough for you all, please get back to work, I’m sure I have bothered you enough already.

Best wishes to you all and please send me your tales and adventures too.

Love Cheryl