Monday, December 09, 2013

Wednesday December 4th

Cambodian Blitz

Today I am heading toward one of The 21's.

It's the first time I am travelling to one of the monuments on this list (since I made it) and I think I have chosen the one I wanted to see most of all; Angkor Wat - a temple in Cambodia which happens to be the largest religious monument in the world.

The set up for this trip is a little different than usual; the time spent travelling (back and forth, not including my home <-> the airport) is about 47 hours. The time I will spend in Cambodia is 48 hours.
Sounds like I am crazy, you say? Well, you aren't the first to have that thought, me included.
But there are several reasons for making this journey so short, not wanting to be apart from my daughter for too long is the the main one.

Anyway... I left Gothenburg at about lunch time and flew to Heathrow. After 4½ hours at the terminals I went aboard the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.

It was a insomnia flight. For some  reason the decided to serve food to all at 3am (destination time) so that kept me up. Then there were a bunch of babies crying all flight long (why do parents keep insisting on bringing babies on long flights??? They don't like it!), And then there were this old woman who fainted right in front of my seat. And it was cold when they finally put out the lights.

All these problems aside, Cathay was very nice to fly with. OK personnel, good plane, good food (ice cream!) and a lot of things to listen and watch on the media central (more than 100 movies).

Might have gotten one hour sleep in total.  :-/
See ye tomorrow. In Asia.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Thursday December 5th

Landed at Hong Kong International Airport at around 13:00 (local time). Just looking at the city skyline and mountains from the plane and airport made me excited. I will be back here some day to explore!
The airport also appealed to me. One of the nicer I've been to. :)

Next flight left at 14:50 (Dragonair) and came to Siem Reap about three hours later. Finally here!
It wasn't as hot as I thought, but it will probably be different tomorrow during day time.

I had arranged a pick up and thus got driven to Saem Siemriep Hotel, which is the hotel I am staying at.

I got room 204, which looked like this:

and had a view overlooking the pool:
I had ordered a massage when I got to the hotel; I had just time to take a quick shower before.

The massage was very nice, the one I ordered was similar to a Swedish massage. One difference from home was that she sometimes sat on the table/me to massage. I guess she could reach better that way?
And it was a very nice way of ending a 24-hour travel with most of that time spent in airplanes.

Then it was time for a late dinner. I didn't feel like going to a restaurant in town (it's late, dark and the air is very humid) so I ate at the hotel restaurant. I had some Cambodian chicken/rice meal. And some white rice/black rice thing for dessert.
And I drank two different local beers; 'Cambodian Draft' and 'Angkor'. Normal lagers, tasted German. They were OK for this weather.

Something that I noticed early on here is that there are plenty of people working (ie hanging around you). Nice when you need their attention, but a bit stressful when you are not.

Now time to sleep. Up early tomorrow for an extensive (and probably exhausting day) at the temples.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Friday December 6th

Woke up at 4 am, two hours before my alarm was set - so a small jet lag, but not as bad as I feared (maybe it'll get worse tomorrow?)

Had the breakfast buffet at the hotel which was very nice.

I had ordered a guide/driver that would take care of me today, showing me the temples I had on my list.
I got a guide and a driver (but the price for both were $75 which was still OK).

The reason for having my own guide was simply to make it easy. It would let me visit the things I wanted in the pace of my choice - and to inform me things I didn't know (not only on the temples, but also about Cambodia and some of the political things going on - not in the plan but he had some really interesting things to say - and he wasn't afraid to say them!).
It's also nice to have a driver so I didn't need to think about how to get from place to place. They also took good care of me giving me water and an ice-cold wet towel every time I returned to the car. Ahhh, the life worthy of a king!

At 8 am we set out and the first temple to visit was Angkor Wat - the reason I am here.

Inside the outer walls of Angkor Wat there were a large "park" with some different buildings - and in the middle; the main temple of Angkor Wat:

Inside this inner temple there were a lot of interesting things; like the "echo room", where you stand, leading your back towards the wall and thumped your chest. The sound then echoed in the (small) room. Very cool.

And here is the kind-of "inner-inner-temple":

Walking up on a very steep stair took you to the top of Angkor Wat (my lazy guide never walked on any of these steps with me - there were a few over the course of the day).

The view here was magnificent.

After Angkor Wat, we headed towards Angkor Thom, a temple complex a few kilometers from Angkor Wat.

First stop is the Bayon Temple, which is situated in the middle of Angkor Thom. It's known for it's faces - every tower has a smiling face on every side.

After this temple we walked around inside Angkor Thom to look at other buildings (which were more or less interesting - mostly less). One had a nice, huge Buddha statue though. Laying down and incorporated inside a wall:

Then, finally, we headed towards another really interesting temple I was looking forward to, Ta Prohm! Here, the forest has taken over! Trees has grown over many of the walls and buildings. Very cool to see.

Like this:

 and this:

The temple area was very run down a few years ago, but they have started to restore it.

The place was so cool I could take photos all day long.

I didn't, but it was very fun to be there. A must if you ever go here.

After this, I had seen all the temples I had on my list - and my temple quota of the day year was filled up plenty, so I asked my driver to take me to down town Siem Reap. I wanted to see the town as well.
My guide took me through the market and also a little on the streets outside.

It felt strange to have them just waiting for me when I just wanted to stroll around and get the local feeling - so I told them to return home (even if I had several hours left on the clock).
The temple run had only taken about five hours. Much quicker than expected. I was done at 1 pm.

So I walked around down town for a bit, had something to eat and then took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel.

My plan was to get back out and take an elephant ride up a hill to watch the sun set over Angkor Wat - but I fell asleep and missed it (I figured I would, but I was so tired to really care).

But I did get out from the hotel around 8 pm for some food. I went to "Pub-street" (sounded suitable) and went inside one of the restaurants there.
It happened to be the 'Cambodian Soup Restaurant'. I got some food and a can(!) of the thai beer Chang. One sip of the beer and it went straight up on my top list - of worst beer ever drunk.
I naturally drunk it all.

After the food it was time for a dessert and I had already found it in a street corner earlier; a snake + some crickets.
I thought (hoped?) the crickets would be fried and crisp - but they were just...warm.
I'll be honest; I only ate about half of one cricket (the non-head part). But the snake was alright, just hard to eat (you had to peel of the skin, which wasn't easy - and when that was done it still didn't have much meat on it).
Believe it or not, but the snake actually tasted like chicken.

Then I went to a few bars (including the one with the obvious name for this place: "Angkor What?"). Had a few beers. Nothing exciting. On the streets I had to fight off people offering me tuk-tuk rides and "boom-boom".
At ten I went to the hotel again. To my (non-)amazement the driver offered to drive me to boom-boom "very close to the hotel". Lucky me!
It turned that down as well.

Back at the hotel I opened the Cambodian beers (Angkor Extra Stout: not that good and Kingdom Dark Lager - semi-OK) and the different kinds of chips I bought earlier (nothing good so far) and wrote this post.
Getting drunk on the internet - my masterplan for the rest of the night.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Saturday December 7th

Woke up at 5 am. I did pretty much everything on my list yesterday so I don't have any real plans for today.

I spend some hours in bed reading until it was time for breakfast  (which unfortunately wasn't as good as yesterday).

I stayed on at the hotel for a few hours longer, reading, laying by the pool and then headed down town to eat lunch and walk around a bit more.

Down town isn't really big so after circling it - again - I went for a manicure (of all things). It cost 5 dollars, but I got it down to 3 - and while I was doing it, I saw the place across the street was offering for 2.
But, still cheap - and some time was spent.

I went back to the hotel to take a shower and to collect my luggage. Then got a ride to the airport. Time for another marathon trip.

My flight left at 17:50, heading to Hong Kong where I will spend some hours before heading back to Europe.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sunday December 8th

Still in Hong Kong International Airport and I took the flight to Amsterdam at 0:20.

It was long, but endurable (they really have a lot of films on these Cathay flights!).
At Shiphol I didn't have that much time so I went almost straight to the gate to catch my last flight of the day; home to Gothenburg.

During this flight it occurred to me that, even though I never thought about it when booking, I had lucked out on the airlines on this trip; BA, Cathay, Dragonair and now KLM. All great airlines in my book.

So of course my luck changed when we landed (in a snowy Gothenburg); my luggage was not on board.  :-/
I was told that it was found, it was in Amsterdam and would arrive with the next KLM flight from Shiphol.

OK, some nuisance, but I would still have it before 19:00 tonight.

Well, it's passed that now and it's still not here. :(

Anyway, not really that much I needed the bag, but it's annoying.
However the trip itself was great. My speed trip was a success. I might do this again someday. :)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Cambodian Conclusion

Time to look back at my very quick, but fun, adventure in Cambodia.

First of all the format of the trip; I was only in Cambodia for about 48 hours - and spent almost the same amount of time travelling.
I would say it worked - as in it fulfilled my travelling plans; I got there, saw what I wanted to see and got a (quick) feel for the country + the flying itself wasn't too bad.
However as a vacation, meaning to get some rest and actually reload the batteries, it didn't work as good.
But, considering I wasn't away for long, it's hardly a surprise.

As for the sights I saw; Angkor Wat was majestic!
Dispite this, unfortunately it did not fulfil all my expectations of it (I thought it would be more in-cooperated the jungle), but it was close enough. I was not disappointed.
Ta Prohm on the other hand did the opposite; I thought it would be a cool place to see, but with only one or two trees invading the temple grounds. It was more than that - which was a blast to see! :)

What I never got to do was to ride an elephant. But considering the elephant rides I saw was going straight on a dirt road a few hundred meters. Not really a big deal (I have ridden elephants in a zoo - this looked just about as exciting). I am also uncertain about how they were treating their elephants. I tried to ask my guide this several times, but he never understood what I was talking about.

Now for Siem Reap and Cambodia as a whole; it is a poor country, there were garbage along the roads, a certain smell in the air, but the situation never hit me with a "Wow, how different"-feeling.
It was more of a "yes, this is how it is here, I've seen it on television". Very strange feeling actually, not sure I have ever had that before. Is television blunting our feelings for new experiences - and our feelings for people that have less than us? I don't know.

The traffic is worth a special mentioning. It wasn't bad, but the roads had a lot of mopeds and motorcycles (next to the great amount of tuk-tuks) - and safety, well... it wasn't a issue. At all. More like " What's that?"
I saw mopeds with up to five people on them - and mostly only one was wearing a helmet.
I saw mothers sitting sideways on motorcycles - carrying infants.
Sights like this was very common. I shuddered in my western "we know better than you" attitude and was constantly worried for the children riding so unsafe.

Now for my least favourite topic, but so necessary for a trip like this; spiders. I-do-not-like-spiders.
I know they are good for the ecosystem and everything, but I don't care. I can't stand them.
So I had a lot of anxiety for this before and during the trip. The things I imagined and the solutions to spider related problems I thought up...
Turns out; I never saw any big-ass spiders; I only saw two small ones (not that the size really matter when it comes to spiders, but I think can handle them a little better). The first one I saw, was in Angkor Wat. I was walking along inside one of the temples when I saw a tourist sitting on her knees photographing something. I thoughts was like "why is she sit... A SPIDER, RUN, RUUUUUUUN!!!!!!". And I ran for a bit (while at the same time trying not to look like a total idiot - I probably failed). But seeing a spider in a 900 year old building; not a shocker.
The other one was actually in the tax free store at the Siem Reap airport going home. It was crawling on the floor. I went out of the shop not buying anything.

Next topic; tips and tricks in Siem Reap!
* In Cambodia they use two currencies; the domestic currency called Riel - and US dollars.
If you are only going there for some tourism like me, US dollars is all you need. Everyone (at least that I came in contact with) takes it. I did get some Riel as change a few times (when it was under one dollar), but I never used it myself (so I put most of it in a charity box at the airport).
* Make sure to take a business card from the hotel. You will have great use of it when you want to go back to the hotel and your tuk-tuk driver hardly understands any English. Just show him the card - and hopefully he will understand (or at least get the proper directions from someone else).
* Angkor Wat is mostly a big open space. Make sure to bring water - and why not a hat to protect you from the hot sun!

This trip wasn't that expensive (considering I went to the other side of the world). The total sum was about 11.500 SEK.

All in all a fun, fast trip.
The concept of these trips has been proven sound, which means I will probably do more of them in the future.

And for all that are wondering - I got my bag back from KLM the next day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Mali Malfunction

In my grand plan of visiting all 21 monuments that were nominated for the "The New Seven Wonders of the World", I have found difficulties with some of the destinations (that will be interesting & fun to overcome), but only one real problem.


There is currently a civil war in Mali and from what I understand when reading about it, one side of the conflict (or probably just one semi-high ranking person) decided that they didn't like the temples of Timbuktu. So they tore them down.

Basically they are no more.

That means that I won't be going there at all and with a sad heart I will cross that nominee of my "21 list". Sad because I (nor anyone else) will get to see the original temples in the future.

War is stupid.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Sunday August 4th

A Bondian Adventure

Usually I travel to places I want to see - and as a coincidence the same place usually happens to be a film location for some random James Bond movie. But this time it's different.

This time the only reason for this trip is to see James Bond locations - and mainly that of Piz Gloria; Blofeld's lair in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'. In real life a restaurant in the Alps called Schilthorn.
Since Bregenz is "close", I decided to go there as well - and hopefully get a real opera treat at the same time.

My journey starts on a Sunday morning with the first international flight leaving Landvetter airport; the 06:15 to Munich.
It shouldn't be allowed to get up this early on a Sunday morning.

At Munich I transferred to a flight to Zurich. Once there I took the train to Bregenz; my main goal for today.
I had to switch trains twice; first time I had only six minutes to find my new train and get on it. The second time I only had three. Thankfully you can really trust the Swiss trains - I had no problems at either station.

At Bregenz, I went a little further; to a suburb called Dornbirn and my hotel for the night; Harry's Home Hotels.
I got room 234 and it was quite OK (once they cleaned my room which they hadn't when I arrived).

I went out for something to eat and found a nice place where I had a wienerschnitzen and beer. It was pretty good!

Back to the hotel I freshened up for tonight's festivity; to see the opera "The Magic Flute" on the Seebühne stage at Bregenzer Festspiele.

Now; this is the same place where Bond was in 'Quantum of Solace' (although they played Tosca at the time). I was very excited getting there.
My initial plan was to take a taxi back and forth to the opera, but I learned that taking the train took about the same amount of time and the train was free for opera guests (I live three minutes from the train at Dortbirn - and the Seebühne is another three minutes from the Bregenz station). So I took the train and was happy with that.

On site at the Seebühne, I recognize myself at once. It was just like 'Quantum of Solace' (although it felt smaller):

I looked around inside and found several places where they filmed; like here:
Quantum of Solace

And here:
Quantum of Solace


I also smiled my way into Greene's theatre box and was able to sit down for a little while. =)

After all the Bond sightings, I changed focus to the opera I was about to see.

Here is some pictures of the scene:

And then it started. And I was blown away.
This was something out of the ordinary. They really took advantage of the stage in the water - and what they have built on it.

It was AMAZING!!

If you are an opera fan , it is your god-damn duty to see an opera here!

I am a bit worried though, seeing an opera here - will that make all future operas be... not so exiting? Like when you eat the perfect meal - and all the meals you will eat for the rest of your life will never reach that taste. You know what I mean?

After the opera, I took the train back to the hotel. I have another long day of travels tomorrow.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Monday August 5th

Today I am a very happy man. After a long day of travelling, I got to see more Bond locations than expected this first day in Lauterbrunnen.

But let's start from the beginning. I left Bregenz slightly before 9:00. I had a very busy day using nine different trains and buses to reach my destination in Switzerland.

The main reason for this complicated route was that I wanted to tick off a country I haven't been to; Liechtenstein.
The country was actually larger than expected - and very beautiful surrounded by mountains.

I walked around a bit in the capital; Vaduz, before continuing.

After more buses and trains I arrived at Lauterbrunnen at around 16:00.

The kiosk as seen in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service':

And I found more sightings when looking around the station!

This made me very happy!! (but wait - there's more [soon]!)

Leaving the station in euphoria for my hotel; Hotel Schützen, I got a surprise when I got there. This sign was outside the hotel:

Why the heck does my hotel have a sign from the Swedish Ice hockey committee?
The girl in the front desk didn't know, so I'll ask the manager tomorrow.

Rest for a few minutes, then out to eat something - while trying to sort out what I'll do the upcoming days here.

After the food I had some time to look at Lauterbrunnen. I also decided to get closer to one of the waterfalls they have around here; the Staubbachfall (apparently the highest free-falling waterfall in Europe - 297 m).
But before I got there I saw this part of the road:

It felt familiar (doesn't it!?!?) and - oh, yes - 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' strikes again:

This made me look around more closely - and behold; the Bond locations are EVERYWHERE!

After all the photographing was done I actually had to take a minute (or ten) to let it all sink in. I was on classic James Bond territory! :)

Then I continued to Staubbachfall and it was big. Very nice to see.
I then returned to the hotel and three minutes after I got there, this very hot day changed to heavy rain and hailstorm.
Glad I'm not going out more today! :)

This has been a very exciting day. And tomorrow won't be any less - it's time to visit the Bond location; Schilthorn aka Piz Gloria (if the weather works with me...).
I have wanted to go there for like... EVAR!

Until then - ta!