Posts Tagged With: transportation

On to Penang

As our journey through Malaysia continues we find ourselves in Penang. Enroute from the Perhentian Islands we stopped for a few days at the Bali Beach Resort just outside of Kuala Besut. Nice place, but it certainly is a lesson in experiencing another culture. It just so happened we arrived there during the first day of Ramadan. As this area of Malaysia is predominately Muslim it made for a quiet stay. Quiet as in the only restaurant in the area open during the day was the one in the resort and they were definitely geared down for the month. Fortunately the pool is great and the rooms had fantastic views so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Lesson learned.

On to Penang.

Firefly Airline

We booked our flight on Malaysia Air but were flown to Penang on their budget airline, Firefly. Great airline, smooth landings and they served peanuts, I like peanuts! Quite enjoyable.

One of our new experiences we had in Penang is Uber. Wow! I understand it can be different in countries around the world, but here, it is awesome. I can see why taxi companies hate them. It would take an order of magnitude for any taxi company I have ever used to bring themselves up to the convenience, timelines, service, and price of what we have experienced with Uber in Penang. Love it.

Sunset from our apartment

The apartment we rented for the first ten days here is in an area that was described as lower middle class. I am not exactly sure what that means here, but I quite liked the area. I had a short conversation with a local in the restaurant, he was curious about where we were staying, as how he put it was “we don’t get many tourists around here”. The apartment was great, photo is of the sunset from our window, and the restaurants in the area were fantastic. And cheap.

It is hot here so casual walks around sightseeing can be a bit draining. We have gotten out to do a few and found the area safe, friendly, and interesting. Of course the most photogenic area we have been to is the UNESCO heritage site of Georgetown in the centre of Penang.

Pinang Fountain

This 4.8 metre high modern sculpture is meant to represent the betel nut, which is where the state derives its’ name from. Historical government building in the background.

Downing St.

The evidence and influence of 170+ years of British rule can be seen everywhere.

Little Children on a Bicycle

Ernest Zacharevic is a young Lithuania-born artist who did a series of murals on the walls in the streets of Penang. “Little Children on a Bicycle” is probably one of the most famous.

Boy on a Bike

A very popular activity for tourists is hunting down the location of all of the pieces of wall art around Georgetown.

Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur

Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur.

The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This

Not all the wall art is by Ernest Zacharevic. “The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This” mural is a sad example of how the climate is deteriorating the wall art all around Penang.

I look forward to returning several times over the next few weeks to explore more of the unique wall art here.

Poh Hock Seah Twa Peh Kong Temple

You never know what you will find around a corner in Georgetown. It lends itself to slow exploration.

We are super excited to be in Penang and get a feel for the pace of life here. Stay tuned for are further exploration of this great city.

Categories: Malaysia, Photography, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah

This statue represents one of the interpretations of the name Langkawi (Reddish-brown eagle in Malay). It is located in the administrative centre of Kuah which is the largest town on the island.

We have settled into our housesit on Langkawi Island in northern Malaysia. Not to give you the wrong idea, but one of the most attractive things about the island is it is a duty free zone. As Malaysia has the 3rd highest tax on alcohol in the world, this is a wonderful perk. There are limits on how much you can purchase a month, but they are fairly reasonable.

Malindo Air

Another wonderful find for us has been the Malaysian/Indonesian airline Malindo Air. Good service and comfortably spaced seats. As well, unlike North American airlines they do not gouge you for baggage weight. For this 65 minute flight we paid $65CDN for both of us and that included 30kg of checked luggage each.

The heat here is pretty brutal. The coolest time of the day is about an hour before sunrise when it is just 25 – 26C. During the day it gets up to 31 – 33C, the killer is the 65 – 95% humidity which adds another 10C of perceived heat. Thank goodness for air conditioning. This may not have been the best place to decide to start increasing my running mileage.

Rice Paddies

This fellows red top grabbed my attention as we were having our morning coffee. This is just off our back patio. Acres of rice paddies which they work with tractors and hand held hoes.

Evening Rain Showers

Most evenings we get some sort of rainfall. This evening we were also treated to some colour at sunset.

Pagan

So fortunate to have these wonderful cats to look after.

Tootsie

As the home owners have been incredibly gracious in allowing us to use their vehicle we have also started exploring the island and look forward to seeing even more of it before we leave.

Tanjung Rhu Beach

Karen checking the water temperature on Tanjung Rhu Beach on the northeast corner of the island. It’s hot.

North Tanjung Rhu Beach

The clouds here are spectacular. This was on the north end of Tanjung Rhu Beach.

Stay tuned for more sights from Langkawi, as well as a report on the scuba diving here.

 

 

Categories: House Sitting, Malaysia, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Row 30, Vietjet

All settled in for our flights out of Vietnam to Thailand.

Even though our trip from Nha Trang, Vietnam to Chiang Mai, Thailand went exactly as scheduled, that would not be what it seemed at several points during our journey. We (being Karen) had the trip all set. Taxi to airport, flights to Ho Chi Minh City with connections to Bangkok, Thailand, metro to train station in Bangkok, then an overnight train to Chiang Mai where we were to be picked up by the people we are house sitting for. Sounds simple.

The aggravation started in the Nha Trang airport when the security informed me that I had too many AA batteries and he would be confiscating about 30 of them. (This after I had just received them from my mother in law who had brought them to me from Canada) After a heated exchange and accusations that he was stealing them, I walked away 30 batteries poorer, and a bit angry. My breathing exercises got a solid workout in the departure lounge. However, one just has to let this stuff go….right? Well, let me tell you, after that type of exchange (and perhaps being a little paranoid) when you are at the next airport (Ho Chi Minh City)  waiting in line for immigration and you hear your name being paged over the airport public address system to report to the checked baggage inspection office, your stress level goes up significantly. After watching the lady in front of me have her packages cut open looking for contraband and having the clock ticking closer to our boarding time I was ready for confrontation and possibly missing our connecting flight. As it turned out no aggravation was necessary, the officer simply could not identify my diving light and knife in my luggage and was most polite about the entire exchange. We were able to get to the boarding lounge with 10 minutes to spare. Funny how we work ourselves up and most times it is for no reason. From then on it was flawless, for the most part.

Bangkok subway

As we experienced before, the Bangkok public transportation system was amazing. The subway was spotless and on time.

Metro Station

As well the Metro stations were clean and safe. As soon as we started looking around with that lost appearance an employee would appear to help us with directions.

Bangkok Train Station

It was a bit of a challenge negotiating the construction around the train station in Bangkok, but it was doable. We had purchased our tickets on line through 12go Asia. A fantastic service and very helpful. You simply pick up your tickets across the street from the station when you arrive.

Inside the station

You can board the train up to an hour before departure, however the people watching in the station waiting area is a fantastic way to pass the time.

Car 5 on train #13

We did board the train 45 minutes early because of our luggage. Yes, we are those people with the two large suitcases and the carry on bag each. So to facilitate keeping our stuff close to us we make sure to board early.

Having a drink

As alcohol is not allowed on Thai trains, we enjoyed an orange juice as we waited for departure. We find the second class coaches very nice. You have a table for cards or computers, power plug ins (if you have the right seats). And when you are ready to retire for the night the attendant comes and makes the beds for you.

Restaurant Car

On this trip we had committed to checking out the restaurant car. Very glad we did.

Breakfast time

The restaurant car is a busy place. We enjoyed a complete breakfast and great views.

View Outside

As the 2nd class coach we were in are air conditioned you are unable to open the windows. However the restaurant car has wonderfully large windows that slide right open, allowing for better views and picture taking.

Rainy Morning

Once we finished breakfast the rain started to fall as the train arrived in Chiang Mai. This made for a very cool pleasant arrival in the city.

Chiangmai Train Station

Our final challenge of the journey occurred at the Chiang Mai train station. The problem wasn’t the being assaulted by what seemed like an endless supply of taxi and tuk tuk drivers asking if you wanted a ride. That is fairly standard at any station. It was that our ride wasn’t there to pick us up and we didn’t have a functioning cell phone to call her.

Thai Pay Phone

This was the final challenge. We asked in the train station and the nearby 7-11 store, but no one knew how the pay phones worked or how much they cost. However I am happy to report that the pay phones in Thailand do work and it just takes some patience for them to connect and give you a dial tone. It turns out our ride was delayed at the gas station when the attendant put gasoline in their diesel vehicle. All was resolved though and we were picked up a short time later.

Our good luck with travel continues to stay with us. I truly believe it is more a function of good planning, good attitude and flexibility than just luck. Whatever the reason another leg of our journey is successfully underway. The people we are house sitting for in Chiang Mai are incredibly friendly and helpful and the dogs and cats are too good to be true. It looks like it is going to be a great couple of weeks here.

Categories: Bangkok, Thailand, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vietnam Cost of Living

Sunset over Halong Bay

I have received a few requests for more information on the cost of living here in Vietnam. I am more than happy to share this information, however, I also want to point out this is just our personal experience. It is certainly possible to spend a lot more, or a lot less, depending on what you consider to be important. As we are Canadian, all prices are listed in Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated. Sorry if this is awkward but hey, if you travel you need to be good at currency conversion anyway. So without further ado….how much does it cost to live in Vietnam.

We did a two week tour of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City but the main portion of our time here has been three months in Nha Trang in early 2017. We chose to rent an apartment for the three months on the north end of Nha Trang. It is out of the main tourist hotspot but arguably we have the better beach at this end. Mainly because it is less crowded and commercialized. We paid $500US a month for a 2 bedroom apartment. I know if you go a bit inland (a few city blocks) you can easily bring that down by $150US, we just really happen to like the water. This is a video tour of our apartment.

 

The costs associated with the apartment are (these are monthly costs): electricity – $18, internet/TV – $17, maintenance fee – $18, water bill – $3. As it is not recommended to drink the tap water the 20 litre jugs of drinking water cost $2.40 and are available everywhere.

Public Transit

The bus system is quite good. It costs 7,000dong/ride (.42) no transfers. Just get on the bus and grab a seat and the fare collector will come to collect the fare and give you a ticket. I have found the service excellent. They give change and will tell you where to get off if you ask.

Made to order shoes

Karen saw on the expats Facebook page that you could get handmade flip flops in town. We took a walk over and in 4 days had my own handmade leather flip flops for $18. And they are wonderful.

Food costs are very inexpensive by anyone’s standards. But once again with very little effort one could easily spend less or a lot more. We eat out every night simply because it is that reasonable. An average dinner for two with four beer, a plate of fried rice or noodles, and a plate of meat, whether fresh shrimp, fish, or pork runs us between $11 and 18.

Viet Sub

A fresh made Vietnamese sub are 15000 dong each (less than $1)

Fresh limes

Incredibly juicy limes cost 15000 dong (less than a $1) for all these

Dragon fruit

The dragon fruit with the white inside is usually around $1 each while the ones with the red meat inside are about $1.50 each.

Hydration

Hydration is very important in these hot climates. A case of 24 cans of Saigon beer is 205,000 dong ($12.30). The coke is just over $1 and the rum is $3.50 a bottle. I personally would rate the quality the same as a standard bottle of Bacardi.

Restaurant Beer

The beer in restaurants is usually around $1 each.

Normal daytime alley

By day a normal alley

Back Alley Restaurant

By night it transforms into a restaurant that I believe is the best fish we have had so far in Asia. Yes I know it is a back alley. But incredible fish. Fresh fish with rice paper wraps, greens and beer for 260,000 dong, or about $16. That is for two people.

Adventurous Dining

Most restaurants here have menus in Russian and English. 69,000dong is about $4.10. Feel adventurous?

Hot pot

This Seafood hot pot will run you about $12. More than enough for two people.

Coffee Break

A nice break is enjoying a Vietnamese coffee which come with iced tea. Costs just over $1 per person. Honestly, the best coffee I have ever had.

We took advantage of the New Years special (10% off) and both got gym memberships to Olympic Nha Trang Gym and Fitness for 387,000 dong, or $24. They have two locations, we went to the one at 11 Bắc Sơn.

We have loved our time here in Vietnam and have found it to be a very reasonably priced place to live. If you have any questions about prices feel free to leave a question in the comments section and if I can answer it I will be more than happy to do so.

Categories: Food, transportation, travel, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Transportation Asia

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Enjoying the street level sights of Hanoi without the stress. Cyclo tours are a fantastic way of getting an introduction to the old centre of town.

I am excited to be writing this post. First reason, after several weeks of wandering in the technological hinterland of having a non-functioning laptop, I am back in business. Second, transportation in S.E. Asia has been a consistent high point in every country we have been in thus far. So I am excited to be sharing a bit of information on what we have discovered in our first three months in SE Asia.

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We were floored with the excellent service on Thai Airlines. However, we then found that Vietnam Airlines was just as good, if not even a bit better, in our limited experience. The service and punctuality of the flights was great on both airlines.

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As we approached Hanoi on our first of several flights with Vietnam Airlines we were treated to a lovely sunset. This was the cherry on top of a wonderful introduction to this airline.

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This was the first time we had to wait in a line to check in for a flight. I was glad we already had three flights on this airline so I was comfortable we would get through in time. And we did with time to spare.

We have done six flights since coming to SE Asia and they have all been positive experiences. The only word of warning is pay attention to announcements in the airport and check the departures information frequently because changing boarding gates seems to be a popular activity. However, despite our positive flight experiences, the real fun has been moving about via bus and train.

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Within Cambodia we found the Giant Ibis bus company to be excellent. The buses were clean, well maintained, and offered power points at all the seats for getting your time in on whatever electronic device you like. Just know you need an actual plug, not just a USB connection to take advantage of this great feature.

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No matter what company we travelled with by bus they all stopped every two hours for a toilet and snack break. The stop locations provided everything you need.

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The toilets at these locations were not always something to admire, but we found them to be “reasonably” clean. Just not always the type of facility you might expect. i.e. pouring the water in by hand to flush and squatting. Some of the great experiences of travel.

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This bus in Thailand was a bit more run down than most that we were on and yet it was still very good. The most pleasant surprise was the amount of leg room. My expectation was none, however I found there was enough room that being a contortionist was not necessary.

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The only thing I found a bit disconcerting was the stockpile of fuel in the shed right by where we were loading onto the bus to start our trip in Cambodia. I was fairly confident none of these containers had any type of safety rating.

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One of the ways of passing the time when travelling by bus is keeping an eye out for other users of the roadways. It is phenomenal what and how much can be moved on the smallest of vehicles.

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I have no idea what is in the containers but we loved the collection of chickens on the back.

We have also used smaller buses for a number of our trips. These typically hold between 6 and 14 passengers and are operated by a much wider assortment of businesses. They take care of most trips under a couple of hours and can be quite entertaining.

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I found the fact the operator had taken the time to zip tie the seatbelts so they didn’t get all tangled up quite thoughtful. At least we could find these ones.

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We both were able to watch the collision that broke the left handgrip off this bike because he hit the side of the van right beside Karen. I watched his head bounce off the window and thought how fortunate the operator was one of the few who wore a helmet. After some discussion and a punch to the face, the motorcyclist drove off minus one hand grip and we continued on our trip.

One of the best travel experiences we have had, was the night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani in Thailand. Though the whole process from getting tickets to getting settled on the train was new to us, it went incredibly well. (OK, perhaps we had some severe stress when the taxi driver in Bangkok didn’t know where the train station was and our 90 minute buffer for getting the train ran down to 10 minutes. Got there though. And didn’t hurt the driver)

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The second class cars are dominated by western travellers with a few locals mixed in. The authorities on the train were very good. Interested in us but not over friendly. They did their job and let us be.

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We both had top berths which apparently are a little smaller than the lower ones. I found them fine. The only challenge was the lights are not turned off at night. That light you see in the photo is perfectly positioned to shine over the top of the berths curtain, right in your face. A mask would be a great addition.

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Upon arrival we got to see what our train looked like as it was very dark and we were in a big hurry when we boarded the night before. An awesome experience we look forward to repeating.

Of course travelling between cities and countries is only part of the transportation adventure. Getting around within the cities has been a truly eye-opening opportunity. From the chaos of Phnom Penh to the effectiveness of Hong Kong we have learned that North America is still truly in its infancy of learning to move large numbers of people effectively.

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The incredible number of these machines on several Asian city streets is awe-inspiring. We generally found the operators good at what they did. None of them even flinched when they saw our luggage, unlike many taxi operators we have encountered. These guys just made it work and got you to where you wanted to be.

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I am constantly impressed at how these little 125cc engines haul the loads they do. One of the ways they do it is a home-made water cooling system to augment the normal air cooling these engines use. These jugs of water provide a steady drip of water over the engine to help keep the temperatures down. Brilliant problem solving.

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One of the other components of city transportation here is cooperation. Other than the punch to the face after a collision, I have yet to see any road rage here. People just take the right of way. If someone else takes it from them they wait 2 seconds and carry on. Everything moves and the stress level is way lower than the stupidity one observes on most roadways.

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This is one of my favourite images. The relaxed nature of the family making their way through traffic. Admittedly we have seen the aftermath of more than a few accidents with people injured, probably more severely than necessary due to a lack of protection. However, because of the smaller engines and lower speeds the level of trauma is lower than expected.

The public transit has been awesome in SE Asia. Volume of ridership is obviously a key, but it is amazing!

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The elevated metro in Bangkok was my first exposure to well-educated riders following the rules. everyone stands back of the yellow line (or an attendant blows a whistle at you, trust me I know), and wait to the side for passengers to disembark before boarding.

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Both Bangkok and Hong Kong utilized these doors to some degree. No falling in front of trains from the platform here. And the trains are huge! Did I mention it is awesome?

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The transportation options on Hong Kong island are great. The longest running one is the electric tram. This double-decker tram system has been operating for more than 100 years, ding, ding.

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The tram is known as “ding, ding“. They run frequently, are super cheap, and a great way to see downtown Hong Kong. You hop on at any stop and pay your $2.30HK(.40CDN) when you exit.

Water taxis were another mode of transport we have used. The ones we have used all appeared quite safe and in no immediate threat of sinking, despite some of the horror stories we had read.

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This passenger ferry in Cambodia was good. Other than the operators not looking old enough to be driving a car, the trip was uneventful. On the return trip they took us to a different port, but hey, you have to roll with the unexpected. It was only a short bus ride to where we wanted to go.

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The biggest concern on the ferries was watching all your earthly belongings being slung over the water. Didn’t see any go in, but that really does not lessen the concern.

I will close off with a couple of images from Hong Kong. We took the tram up Victoria Peak which gets you close to the summit. Not only is this a tourist attraction, but some locals use this as part of their commute as well. And the other hugely historical and still highly used mode of transport is the Star Ferries in Victoria Harbour.

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The Peak Tram takes 1.4km to go up 400 metres in elevation. It is a fantastic way to get to the top. I went up by foot and by tram, the tram is much more pleasant.

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The Star Ferries have boats leaving approximately every 10 minutes for the 9 minute commute between Hong Kong and Kowloon. Being able to use a piece of history like this for an everyday event is one of the fascinating things of travel.

Categories: Bangkok, Cambodia, Photography, Thailand, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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It occurred to me that a lot of people would not be familiar with where in the world we are. I honestly would have had trouble 3 months ago finding many of these places on a map. The line indicates where we travelled from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. If you want to take a closer look at the map right down to the route the tuk tuk took through each city just follow this link.

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Our trip in Cambodia has been amazing so far. Phnom Penh is the capital of the country and the home to some of its most powerful museums.

Wow.

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The traffic is spectacular. Wild and flowing during the day.  Just as crazy at night but with fewer big trucks and more bikes going way too fast.

I said that word more times than I can recall during our four days in the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Wow.

The traffic. I know we will see more chaos and congestion in our travels through Asia, but for us, this was our first exposure to a large busy Asian city traffic. Wow. Perhaps due to my background and a general warm feeling toward order and control, this exposure to free form traffic was even more awe inspiring. Whereas the drivers we encountered in Australia are the friendliest and most patient I had ever met in the world, the drivers here are incredible problem solvers. Without the hinderance of licenses, laws or rules of the road to hold them back they just flow like lava into whatever open space is available.

On to the blog, the first part of this blog is a little dark and depressing, however I feel it is absolutely essential to acknowledge the horrors that occurred here in Cambodia in the fairly recent past. For me, it makes the rest of what we saw all the better because of the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

We visited two locations. S-21 and “The Killing Fields”. Though very disturbing I felt it essential to pay my respects to the dead. In just under 4 years the Kymer Rouge under Pol Pot were responsible for the deaths of nearly 3 million in a country with a population of just 8 million people. Stop and think about that for a moment. The most disturbing part of it from my perspective is the entire world stood by and did nothing.

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These 14 graves are the first thing you encounter when you visit S-21 (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum). Though this former school’s primary job was torture, as the Vietnamese closed in on the Kymer Rouge in 1979 these 14 graves represent the last prisoners to be held here. They were executed as the Vietnamese entered the City.

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The self guided audio tour that comes with your $6US admission to the museum is one of the best, most informative audio guides I have ever heard. From the torture of Cambodians to the unfortunate Westerners that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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When you see the cells where the prisoners were held in between their 3 torture sessions a day it makes you sick. The human misery oozes out of this place.

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This memorial which was built in 2015 and paid for by the German government lists the names of the over 12,000 victims who were tortured in this one facility before being executed elsewhere.

The next day we travelled by tuk tuk to just outside the city to what has become known as the “Killing Fields”.

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Each of these hollows in the ground represents a mass grave of murdered Cambodians. They are mixed with the graves of the Chinese, whose cemetery this was before the Kymer Rouge took over.

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These are more recently excavated mass graves. There has been a significant effort to honour the dead by at least finding out how many, their sex, and the way they died.

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Some will say this is too much, I don’t want to see this. But this is what can and does happen when megalomaniacs and extremists take or are given control of a country. I will get off my soap box now.

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Inside the Memorial Stupa at Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) are the skulls of more than 5,000 victims that have been exhumed from mass graves at the site. This is only a percentage of the people killed here. These skulls have all been studied by forensic personnel to understand as much as possible about the people who died here and how they died. Very powerful.

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A very powerful and moving place to visit. The audio tour helps to provide a degree of understanding of what went on here. But walking around and seeing the remnants cannot help but leave an impression on you.

The “Killing Fields” are a big reason why many people come to Phnom Penh. However there is way more to this amazing city than the tragedy that this beautiful country has suffered through.

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A fisherman and his family set off across the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers.

At the joining of the Mekong, Basaac, and Tonle Sap rivers, the city sprawls out in what appears to be chaotic growth.

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The view from the river provided an excellent perspective of the width of the building blocks in the city.

We did a sunset cruise on the Mekong river. The weather obscured any sunset, but it still provided a fantastic vantage point to observe part of the city.

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This was the vessel we enjoyed our river cruise on. There were two other customers on the boat

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As we watched the city skyline and the weather display these gentleman provided wonderful traditional music in the background.

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Locals casting their fishing nets from the banks of the Tonle Sap River in the heart of Phnom Penh.

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As we set off for our sunset river cruise on the Mekong River mother nature had some other plans. No sunset, but an impressive display of storm clouds and rain.

We took the time one evening to go to the Foreign Corespondents Club on the riverfront. The FCC holds an interesting place in the cities current history. It is said that nearly all the news reports from before, during, and after the internal conflict Cambodia suffered were filed from this building. The photos on the walls certainly show it was at the centre of the action.

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The dining room is excellent, but the best part of the FCC was the rooftop bar. We sat and enjoyed the night skyline (which admittedly is not that spectacular, but still nice) and listened to live music. The night we were there a gentleman on a sax was doing a fantastic job. It is a must do experience.

We had a chance to observe some amusing modern human behaviour while on the rooftop.

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Everyone who was sitting on the front edge overlooking the road and river were engrossed in their electronics.

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While right in front of them was a lovely view. I did not do it justice, but you get the idea. Kind of sad really.

We also took in the popular Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. These areas are very busy with tourists and hawkers but still worth the trip. We were fortunate to have the weather clear a bit for us.

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Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Silver Pagoda. The floor is covered with 5329 silver tiles (nearly all covered by carpets to protect them) Each tile weighs 1.125kg.

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The Bronze Palace where they store Royal regalia. The Pavilion in the background is for receptions.

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Constructed entirely of iron (on the left), this was the first permanent structure at the site of the Royal Palace. It was built for the wife of Napoleon III. The Throne Hall is in the background.

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We also checked out the National Museum. Unfortunately by this point we were starting to get a bit punch drunk on museums and ancient history.

Phnom Penh is a busy, dirty, fascinating city well worth the time to visit. If for no other reason than to experience the traffic. The history is epic as well.

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The Independence Monument was built in 1958 to celebrate Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953.

I will wrap up this rather long blog with a couple of night time street shots. The vibe of the city changes at night and it probably deserves a visit just focusing on after dark.

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You can get all kinds of food to go.

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Or sit down and relax after a hard day of working.

 

Categories: Cambodia, Photography, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Singapore in 35 Hours

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The Gardens by the Bay is a 101 hectare park built entirely on reclaimed land. It is very popular in the evening.

Singapore was never a place I had considered as a travel destination. However, that is the beauty of travel is you become aware of things previously unknown to you. At best I understood that Singapore was one of those places you passed through on your way to other locales. On our way from Australia to our house sit in Cambodia we booked a 35 hour layover in Singapore. Karen found a fantastic deal with Singapore Airlines for $162AUD (essentially the same as the Canadian dollar). We arrived early in the morning, had multiple passes to attractions and a nights accommodation, with airport transfers. The key is getting some sleep on the plane from Brisbane which we were successful in doing.

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The flag of Singapore.

I would be remiss if I did not mention our experience with Singapore Airlines. Honestly they did not win me over with super personal service. However, it is rare that one encounters a level of professionalism, efficiency, and cleanliness that we enjoyed with them. The flight was flawless and the food and seats were excellent. Just to confirm, we did just fly economy. As well, when we left Singapore on our way to Siem Reap we flew Silk Air (a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) and they were just as fantastic, though a little more personable. The meal with Silk Air was perhaps the tastiest I have every had on an airplane. Absolute top marks. Anyway, I digress, back to Singapore.

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The Merlion looks out over Marina Bay at the mouth of the Singapore River. This shot was taken from our river cruise boat.

In addition to tickets for the Hop on, Hop off buses around Singapore our package also had tickets for a short river cruise on the Singapore River Cruise. Between these two tours we were able to get a tenuous grip on just a slice of what Singapore has to offer.

http://rivercruise.com.sg/about.php?p=history

Singapore River Cruise have an excellent 40 minute cruise along part of the Singapore River and into the Marina Bay.

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A worker keeping things shipshape in preparation for the next tour.

https://skyscrapercenter.com/cities

Singapore is ranked in 7th place for the most skyscrapers in a city in the world. This is part of their financial district.

As a first time tourist to Singapore perhaps the biggest attraction is the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort (quite a mouthful). This $5billion+US complex dominates the southern tip of Singapore. I am not a gambler but apparently it has the largest casino in the world. The hotel is truly spectacular.

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A shot from the Helix Bridge with the Resort in the background. Apparently that is the largest public access cantilever construction in the world.

It is possible to eat very cheaply in Singapore.

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A tasty inexpensive lunch amongst the locals. No idea what was with the noodles, but it was good.

However, when doing the tourist highlights one would be negligent if they did not take a trip to the top of the Marina Bay Sands Resort to check out the pool and the view. Just to be clear, when I say check out the pool I mean look at it. You must be a guest to swim in it.

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Looking SW along the roof of the Marina Bay Sands Resort infinity pool. It is 146 metres long, on the 57th floor (191 metres above the ground).

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This is what a $100US meal looks like on the rooftop bar at the Marina Bay Resort. Location, location, location.

We had to pay $20US to take the elevator to the top, but that was good to go toward your bill at the bar at the top. Expensive, yes. Worth it? I thought so. The views were amazing even though we were given a rather grey overcast day to enjoy. And quite frankly who doesn’t mind paying $24US for a cocktail, come on people, loosen up.

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Looking east from the roof of the Marina Bay Sands Resort over the Gardens by the Bay toward the shipping and residential area in the distance.

Sunset was a bit of a non event due to the weather but we still enjoyed a free laser light and music show on the bay while we relaxed on the esplanade. While we were there, a local fellow came up and asked me to take photos for him with his iPhone while his brother proposed marriage. Made for an interesting evening.

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While we were enjoying the view of Marina Bay a young gentleman asked me to take photos while his brother proposed to his girlfriend. Apparently they were a little short handed.

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The view of the Fullerton Hotel and the Merlion across Marina Bay.

We headed over to the Gardens by the Bay to check some of this spectacle out. This entire area is built on reclaimed land developed with sand that had to be shipped in from outside of Singapore. This probably explains some of the $2 millionUS apartments we saw being constructed.

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Supertree Grove is one of the main features in the Gardens by the Bay. They range between 25 and 50 metres tall with a walkway connecting two of the tallest trees.

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Night time view of the Singapore Flyer with part of the Gardens by the Bay to the right.

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The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City was listed as the largest fountain in the world in 1998. The brass fountain is set in the middle of five office towers designed to look like a left hand.

Included in our package were tickets on the Singapore Flyer, apparently the tallest observation wheel in Asia.

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The view was pretty impressive from the top of the wheel.

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At 165 metres tall the Singapore Flyer is Asia’s tallest giant observation wheel. We were fortunate enough to only have to share our pod with two others.

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Looking SSW from the Singapore Flyer toward the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort.

After an enjoyable yet tiring 35 hours in Singapore I know one thing for sure, if an opportunity came available to do a house sit in this city I would be all over it. It is a city with a ton of cultural diversity to explore and history that helps one get a grip on this corner of the world. I would highly recommend to anyone travelling to set aside time to explore this gem.

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The ArtScience Museum is beside the Marine Bay Sands Resort. It is a lotus blossom shaped building set on a pond filled with blossoms.

 

Categories: Photography, Singapore, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

San Juan del Sur

After several hundred shots, the best I managed from the hummingbirds in San Ramon, Costa Rica.

After several hundred shots, the best I managed from the hummingbirds in San Ramon, Costa Rica.

We have moved on from our short stay just outside San Ramon, Costa Rica, and started our newest adventure in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The 10 days we were able to spend in San Ramon were fantastic. It was the respite from hot weather that both Karen and I badly needed. As well, it would be hard to beat the comfort of the home we had the privilege to watch during that time.

Welcome to San Juan del Sur.

Welcome to San Juan del Sur.

After much investigation and the knowledge gleaned from our first trip to Nicaragua, Karen and I chose to hire a private driver to provide transportation from San Ramon to San Juan del Sur. I honestly don’t know whether we could have found a cheaper driver and quite frankly don’t care. We know the bus fare would have been about $56US plus we would have been looking at a minimum of $150US in extra fees for our excess heavy baggage, with no guarantee that the extra bags would have ended up on the same bus as us. We were informed that it was very possible we would have to make an extra trip to Managua to pick up our bags if the bus we caught was already full. So when we inquired with Arenas Travel and they set us up with Seley to drive us to San Juan del Sur for $300US door to door, we were sold. Not only did Seley come and see us a couple of weeks early to make sure all of our bags fit into his Toyota Yaris (just), but on travel day he shows up 15 minutes early. The bus trip that takes 9 hours turned into 5.5 hours with Seley picking us up at our house, helping us through the border crossing, and delivering us to the doorstep of our new condo home. Worth every penny.

Our home for the next 6 weeks.

Our home for the next 6 weeks.

Our new home is the second floor of a 4 story condo complex which is directly across the street from the beach. There is an ice cream shop across the street which blocks part of our view, but provides some outstanding people watching opportunities. Very different locale compared to our previous homes. When we first arrived we were a little nervous because everything was so dark and quiet, then the gentleman on the first floor informed us that the power had been off all day. Shortly after that the power came on and we got around to unpacking. Great condo. A few kinks, but we got them sorted out in short order and were settled in comfortably.

A great secondary use for the trekking poles I brought. The patio door locks are not the most secure.

A great secondary use for the trekking poles I brought. The patio door locks are not the most secure.

Our condo is located right in the middle of the action and as such prices are a bit higher here. However we have taken the opportunity to check out a couple of restaurants right on the beach and I have to say, very nice. Yes you pay a bit more, but the view is truly outstanding.

View from our table during lunch.

View from our table during lunch.

And we felt it would have been negligent not to check out the national beverages.

Tona, The beer of Nicaragua.

Tona, the beer of Nicaragua.

Our border crossing allowed us the perfect chance to stock up on the rum of Nicaragua.

Ron de Cana, the rum of Nicaragua. Couldn't pass up the deal at Duty Free.

Flor de Cana, the rum of Nicaragua. Couldn’t pass up the deal at Duty Free.

We are looking forward to a very relaxing 6 weeks here in the heart of San Juan del Sur.

 

Categories: Nicaragua, Photography, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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