A Travellerspoint blog

Arrival in Siem Reap

all seasons in one day 30 °C

We successfully managed to get to the airport in Kuala Lumpur. The panic about what we had printed off from the night before was justifed, as technically we needed the other piece of paper, but the guy on the bus let us off with a typical "stupid westerners" tut! On arrival at the airport we spent our last Malaysian money on a early morning breakfast of chicken and chips (we were good though, we went to Marrybrown, a Malaysia fast food place, rather than McDonalds!) and a cookie! Checking in was all surprisingly easy and stress free, and the only slight confusion came as we went through the gate. There were 3 flights going out of the same place, and nobody really seemed to know which way it was to which flight! As nice as I'm sure Hong Kong or the place in China that the other flight was going to are, we thought we'd really rather get on the plane to Siem Reap! We managed eventually, and got settled on the plane for our flight. We were slightly confused to hear that it was 2 hours, since we'd thought it was only 1, but it turned out the time difference was to blame, and an uneventful flight later we landed at Siem Reap's surprisingly lovely airport.

For those of you who don't know, we are spending 6 weeks in Siem Reap, volunteering with a charity called Globalteer. They run projects all over the world, but we are teaching in a school called Grace House in a small village about 3km from Siem Reap. We got met from the airport by Rose, who is a local who works for Globalteer, in a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is a rickshaw with a motorbike rather than a bike (it gets its name because that's apparently the sound they make!). She took us to the Globalteer House, where we will be staying whilst we're here. It's a little further out from town that we were expecting, but the house itself is lovely. We have our own room, which is en-suite and very nice indeed. The only bad thing about it is that it's on the 3rd floor, which means there's 64 steps (we counted) to go up and down everytime you want to get some water or want to go out. Luckily there's a little restaurant on the 4th floor, so we're not too far away from food anyway!
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The view from our room

Rose left us to get settled in and to relax for a few hours, after we told her that we'd been up at 2am. We spent the time sleeping, watching TV (we're loving having a TV with 70odd channels after not having had a TV for 3 weeks!) and eating lunch upstairs, which was very tasty. After this, Rose took us into town and showed us things like the supermarket, the swimming pool, where the main restaurants and bars are, etc. It's a really nice town, and all the people seem really friendly so that bodes well for our time here! After that, we went back to the Globalteer House, where all the other volunteers were collecting. There were about 9 other volunteers here when we arrived, all female, mostly Australian, although there were two Brits and an American as well, and a mix of ages, from our age upwards. They all seem friendly and on the first night we went out for dinner with them all to a very tasty (if slightly more upmarket than we're used to) vegetarian restaurant. We had a nice chat with a British girl who is our age, who said that most of the rest of them are on slightly bigger budgets than us backpackers, seeing as most of them are here on holidays from their jobs at home, rather than as part of longer travels. We'll have to watch our money situation!

The following day, we were taken by Rose to visit Grace House, the school we are volunteering in. It is run by a British couple, and has been opened for nearly 2 years. We were shown round the school and introduced to the classes we'll be teaching. John is working with the teenage class, and Susie is helping with a class of 8-12 ish year olds. The kids all come to the school for 2 hours per day, and so there is one group in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is because they go to state school for the other half of the day. Grace House also provides help for its students for state school, by providing uniforms, exercise books and bikes for the children from the poorest families. They also provide community help by giving rice, repairing houses and taking people to hospitals/doctors when needed. They also have one room that is used by local women (mostly mothers of students at the school) to make handbags, which are then sold at shops in towns, and they are currently setting up a classroom that will be used to teach electricians, as the current training in Cambodia is apparently very insufficient, and quite a lot of people die from electric shocks due to dodgy wiring.
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John's Class

The kids in both our classes seem lovely, and are very keen to learn. Each class has a Khmer teacher who runs the English program (to give it some continuity) and our job as volunteers is to run the other class of the day, which is a kind of general knowledge class, on the topic of the week. Neither of us have very much to do for this first week though, because Susie has another volunteer in the same class as her, who is leaving at the end of the week, and John's Khmer teacher is planning the other lessons on Pchum Ben, a festival that is next week, which unfortunately means there isn't any school next week.

After our first couple of days in Siem Reap, we felt fairly settled in, and that we knew a bit of what was going on! We'll blog again soon to let you know about the 2 weeks since we arrived!

Posted by Susiep539 21:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap globalteer grace_house Comments (0)

The rest of Kuala Lumpur

Never share dorms with Russians or drunks.

sunny 33 °C

After the amazing and exhausting day at the elephant sanctuary, we were looking forward to getting a good nights sleep. Unfortunately, that was not to be! We were staying in a 20ish person dorm, and unluckily for us there were some interesting characters in there too! As we were sat in bed reading, a very strange Russian guy came up, once to John and once to both of us, showing us something on his laptop. We thought he wanted help, but he said no and seemed to just want to show us google :s He was very strange and starey too, but after we ignored him for a while, he went away, and we thought nothing of it. Then after we'd gone to bed, we heard a commotion from the next set of bunk beds over, and after a lot of confusion, it turned out that the strange Russian guy had tried to get into bed with a middle aged Australian woman who was there with her husband and teenage daughter! Apparently he didn't just get out straight away either! The husband was (understandably!) very annoyed, and took hold of his shoulders and asked what was going on. The Russian didn't seem to understand anything and kept lighting a lighter, which he was using as a torch, in the mans face. It all looked very menacing! Eventually the receptionist moved the Russian into another room and we all got back to sleep. However, the nights adventures weren't over yet! A couple of hours later John felt someone get into bed with him, straddle him (so he had his bum pretty much in John's face!) and then get out the other side. This person then continued onto the next bed, where the dad of the Australian family was sleeping. Susie woke to him exclaiming "Not you again!", obviously assuming it was the Russian. They rushed out to tell the receptionist, who was very confused, as she'd been keeping a watch on his room to make sure he didn't come out! It turned out that it wasn't the Russian, but a drunk English guy who'd come back from a night on the town! After this, the dorm finally settled down to sleep, and, strange as it might sound, the next time we woke up, it was morning!

The next day we set out to do some sightseeing of KL. First we went to the Masjid Jamek mosque and had a little look round, but it was quite unexciting really. So we soon went on to Berjaya Times Square. I am informed by Wikitravel that it is the 13th largest shopping mall in the world, with 12 floors, and a total of a total of 3.5 million square feet of shops. Thats a lot of shops! We went to try and buy John the next book in his book series, but their only book shop was closing down, so we had no luck. However, the mall itself is an experience! So so huge - it just goes on forever and ever.
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And on the 7th floor of it, there is a theme park, which includes a massive rollercoaster, and several other rides! It's so ridiculous, and you have to keep reminding yourself that it's on the 7th floor, within a shopping mall!
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On the way back, we stopped at a tasty Muslim curry house (our favourites!) for an early lunch, and then went back and moved hostels (to a cheaper one, since the one we were in wasn't worth the extra money). After we'd settled in, we went to get a fish spa in the Central Market, where they were offering 10 minutes for 5RM (1pound). Since they have these in England now, most of you probably know what they are, but for those of you who don't (Dad), it's where you go and put your feet into a fish tank with this special type of fish in it, and they nibble all the dead skin off your feet. It doesn't really hurt (except where Susie had cut her foot before and one stupid fish kept sucking her blood!) but it tickles A LOT. John did not appreciate it at all with his super ticklish feet, but the fish must have had a feast because our feet were lovely and smooth afterwards.
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We then headed to Taman Tasik Perdana, which is a massive park in the middle of the city. We wandered around a bit, past various different tourist attraction options, but decided instead to just head to a big lake and sit and chill out and play scrabble for a while. A long while as it turned out, because the rain started, and it was so strong that we decided to stay in our little hut by the lake until it cleared off. We made friends with a local guy who was similarly sheltering, and gave him a small English lesson about the words we added to scrabble! 2 scrabble games later, when the rain finally cleared, we headed back to the centre. We got dinner at some stalls in Chinatown (tasty tasty satay sticks and weird rice squares and a disappointing rice claypot), and then went back to out hostel, watched an AWFUL film called Dragon Wars that was like watching a really bad computer game, and then went to sleep.

The day after we had a chilled out day. We has breakfast at another Muslim curry house, then walked to the train station, where we were going to get the train to the airport from that night. It was a long and VERY HOT walk there, but we were still thinking that we'd walk that night, until the guy in our hostel warned us that there had been lots of occasions of muggings, so we decided to get a taxi instead! After that stupidly hot walk, we chilled out in our hostel for most of the rest of the day, seeing as we had done pretty much everything that we wanted to in KL. In the evening we went to the same curry house we'd had breakfast in, and had our last Malaysia roti canai :( sad times!

We then went back the hostel where we looked through all our flight info and realised that we didn't have anything that said we'd paid for our bus to the airport...and on checking we realised that we were about 10sen (about 2p) short of having enough money for the internet to check whether we needed to have another page or not. It was an entirely ridiculous situation, and in the end we solved it in a slightly immoral way, by John keeping a lookout and Susie using the laptop of the other people in our dorm since they'd left it on their bed while they'd gone out. It was stressful, but we established that there was another page just before another person from our dorm came in and we panic-ly closed the windows and got (quickly and nonchalantly) into our beds! We had a good chat with the guy who came into our dorm. He was a local who was staying in the hostel whilst the people lived with had guests to visit. His English was fantastic and he gave us some interesting insights into local life. He had travelled quite a bit too and gave us some advice for our future trip. After that, we went to sleep early, seeing as we were getting up at 2am to get our flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia for our volunteering.

Posted by Susiep539 21:06 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur malaysia berjaya_times_square Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur

sunny 35 °C

So our journey to KL started with a taxi and a bus. Simple enough..perhaps? We got to the bus terminal easily enough, told the ticket touts where we wanted to go and when and were promptly bundled onto the 845am bus. Almost inevitably 9am arrived and we still hadn't left. Soon after, however we were approached by a conductor, he took our tickets and told us we were on the wrong bus and the 845 had already left! EUGH. Fortunately the 9am wasn't fully booked so we stayed onboard and set off soon after. Disaster averted!

Not too long afterwards (6 hours) we could see the towers of KL looming in the distance. Perhaps this made us too excited, or perhaps the thunderstorm which had just started had made us edgy. Regardless, we jumped off the bus at the first opportunity thinking it was our stop. (It wasn't.) This led to a very angry Susie and a very exasperated John! Fortunately the solution was a local bus which cost 4R (less than a pound) and it actually dropped us off nearer to our hostel than the original bus would have done!

However, our first day problems weren't over yet! After our bus ride we were pretty tired so we headed for the first place we could find for dinner. This happened to be a rather local looking Chinese restaurant, it wasn't a tourist trap and only had one other westerner vs 10 or so locals inside. We ordered two dishes, some rice and a beer, which should have cost about 15R.....as if they saw us coming (and later we realised the menu hadn't had any prices on it) the bill we ended up with was for 49R! We reluctantly paid but it left a nasty taste in our mouths which we hoped wouldn't be a running theme for our time in KL.

The second day promised to be much better and it certainly delivered! Susie had industriously found a man who did tours to an elephant sanctuary he volunteered at. It was slightly more than the normal tour but had the potential to be far more exciting and interesting. We went to get picked up at Titiwangsa (ahem) metro station at 9 am, where we'd been told a Dutch couple would be accompanying us. (queue the jitteriest, most picky and fussy aged couple an elephant sanctuary had ever seen...more on this later). We were also followed by 3 Aussies and their 11 yr old son. One of them can be explained in one word...spandex. Eugh. The drive to the sanctuary would take about an hour and a half, during which time the dutch man kept hanging his camera out of the window very precariously. A few more bumps and he'd have lost it over the rather sizable cliffs!

Anyway, we got to the sanctuary and were told we would first meet two elephants who were in the most need of care. We were told not to take photos because it could stress them. Cue the dutch man snapping away again..... Of the two elephants, one had been attacked by the other elephants 2 years ago and was still recovering, and another baby with elephant ADHD. The former had spent the best part of the two years lying on it's side because his left legs had been broken. The volunteer told us it had crushed his side so he looked more like ( | than ( ), however in the last week he had managed to stand! We helped with his physio for the best part of an hour, trying to get him to push himself up, John was even left in the paddock with him on his own for a good while to try and tease him out. Unfortunatly he'd had an injection earlier that day and it was just too painful for him. Nevertheless, the volunteer hopes he will continue his recovery and be better soon. The other little one was an attention seeker and would not calm down til he had a thumb to suck (cough). He also loved velcro and would happily spend a good few hours pulling our sandals apart with his trunk if you gave him the chance, not to mention the tyre which he...tirelessly.... threw around his paddock all day long.
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After seeing these elephants we helped strip some banana trees for the others' lunch and then fed them. The two we were looking after were a bit of a comedy act. The female was greedy as can be and kept stealing from all the other piles! She just would not stop! The others didn't seem too bothered but she was a pig-ephant if ever there was one! Earlier in the day we had been told that while we were feeding the two elephants, a third would be brought out and that he did not like people he didn't know. We had to stay away from him. In strolls the dutch man to within a few feet snapping away with his camera.....(un) fortunately the elephant didn't choose today to lash out!
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Next the work continued and Susie was tasked with making the milk for the baby, recovering and greedy elephant. The milk was a particularly tasty combination of bread, water, milk, rice and sugar made into a porridge, sick, goo. The elephants loved the stuff though and the recovering elephant drank approx 5L of the stuff!

With that the work was pretty much done. All that was left was a ride on the larger elephants. This would have been the highlight of any tourist visit, but after the connection we'd had with the other elephants, especially the one struggling to stand, it paled in comparison but was pretty cool all the same!
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We clambered onto the bus, covered in elephant....stuff....exhausted after an absolutely incredible day! KL would have to try hard to match up to this!

Posted by Susiep539 03:57 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

Georgetown/Penang

Malaysia is TOO HOT.

sunny 35 °C

So after our EPIC journey, we made it to Georgetown, to a lovely hostel, the Red Inn. Friendly staff, small dorm, lovely layout with a big chilling out area, and yummy breakfast (Susie especially likes the banana bread. Yum yum)! Our favourite hostel so far definitely!

Georgetown itself is nice, but John wasn't feeling very well (he's all mended now though, so don't worry Mummy!) and it was SO SO hot that we took things pretty slowly really. Over the 2 1/2 days we were there, we did most of the touristy things that were within walking distance, as well as spending quite a bit of time at the hostel watching episodes of House (getting our Hugh Laurie fix!).

On the first day, we went to Fort Cornwallis in the morning, a British built fort on the seafront. There's never been a battle there, even in World Wa 2, and it was a bit pointless really, but Susie locked John in a dungeon, and John liked the cannons, and since it only cost 2RM (40p) each, it was probably worth it! As we walked back from the Fort, we went into the State museum, mainly because it cost 1RM (20p) each, and had air conditioning! It was quite interesting, with lots of information about the history of Penang, but the best bit was a games section where they had traditional games to play. Unfortunately the instructions didn't really make sense, but there was a draughts board, and we used a bit of artistic licence and guesswork and played the other games too!

After Susie was John's little slave girl and fetched him lunch to the hostel, we went for a wander to look at several temples around the area we were staying in. I'm afraid I can't tell their names as there was about 6 and they were very similar so they've all blended into one a little bit! At one of them there was a lovely friendly old man, who hardly spoke any English, but was obviously a bit of a fan, because he proudly showed us a massive portrait of the Queen that he had in a room next to the altar, and then later brought out a newspaper article from 2004 from when Tony Blair visited Georgetown!

The following day we set off to visit two temples that were supposed to be really lovely. According to the map, we just needed to follow the road down and they should be obvious - I mean how hard can it be to find 2 massive temples??? Apparently very. After going to another (wrong but still very pretty) temple, getting very hot and flustered, having an argument then asking a passerby, we eventually found them. First we went to Wat Chayamangkalaram, the largest Thai Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It was very pretty, with a ridiculously big lying Buddha!
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We then went over the road to Dharmikarama Burmese Temple, which was much more spread out, with lots of little shrines and garden bits and things. The temples were very pretty andmight have been worth all the stress involved in getting there! We then walked back along the seafront, keeping our eyes peeled for something to eat. A long, hot walk and a drinks stop later, we found a restaurant that served up really tasty curries on a banana leaf. It was very yummy and the novelty of eating off a banana leaf instead of a plate certainly added somethin!!
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We walked back to the hostel, and spent the rest of the afternoon recovering from all our walking by watching House :)

In the evening we headed to a Muslim curry house, and after a ridiculous situation where we ordered drinks, then spent about 10 minutes wanting to order food but being too scared to catch a waiter, in this very locals place, when they seemed to be ignoring us! Susie was brave eventually though, and we order very very tasty food, which we ate with our hands (something we're getting used to as hardly any of the curry places offer cutlery - it's surprisingly satisfying!). Both of us agreed it was the best food we'd had so far, and it only cost us 10RM (£2) for both of us to eat, and including drinks! We want this place round the corner all the time! Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to eat there again, as it was off to Kuala Lumpur for us the following day.

Posted by Susiep539 14:28 Archived in Malaysia Tagged penang georgetown red_inn Comments (0)

Malaysia is too big.

overcast 30 °C

We woke up in the beautiful paradise that is the Perhentian Islands...and then there was a boat, and a bus - which was broken...so then there was a fixing lady, and a taxi, and another bus, and another bus and a REALLY long bridge and another taxi with the French and then 11 hours later, Penang, or George Town, or Butterworth or Pinang or whatever. Phew!

Posted by Susiep539 05:36 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

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