On The Road
After a year travelling in Asia Dave
can't leave and is revisiting his favourite places. He sent through
excellent updates on our website info from his recent visits
to Burma and Cambodia.
We will attempt to incorporate his travel notes into the 'travel info' sections, in the meantime....please read on for the positively most up-to-date info you will find anywhere...
|Email #14 Nov 7,99, from UK|
In Battambang I was told by a local guest-house owner that
it was possible to cross the Thai border at Pailin and this was
all the encouragement I needed to visit the former Khmer Rouge
stronghold, my visa long since expired & having already spoken
to someone in Phnom Penh who had recently visited the town &
had whet my appetite with his tales of tanks rumbling through
At the border itself, I was warmly received by the Cambodian
immigration officials, who allowed me to cross to speak with
the Thais before stamping me out, but predicted little chance
of success and so it proved. In this case it was simply a matter
of couldn't rather than wouldn't, I had no Thai visa & the
immigration officials had no means of issuing me one. I looked
for a gleam in the eye behind the initial refusal, a sign that
this was just sparring before striking a deal, but saw nothing.
It is easy to understand why the government failed for so long to prise Pailin from the grip of the Khmer Rouge. The mountains form a horseshoe around Pailin, protective cupped hands shielding the town from attack from all but one direction. If you wish to seize Pailin, you first must knock on the front door. Annually, each dry season would herald the start of the Cambodian Army offensive, stoutly repelled until the rains came, year after year, by the more motivated Khmer Rouge military. Eventually, the government troops did succeed in taking the town. The KR responded by splitting into small guerilla forces which sought refuge in the familiarity of the surrounding caves & mountains within 1 month they had re-asserted control, driving the Cambodian Army out. Finally in 1996, Pailin's commander, Ieng Sary, Brother No.2 in the 1975-79 infamous KR regime, agreed a deal with Hun Sen's government ,in which he and his considerable forces defected to the government in return for a total amnesty.
Pailin is now labelled a semi-autonomous town, still under Ieng Sary's control. Current international pressure for a war crimes tribunal may put a strain on this agreement & jeopardise Pailin & even Cambodia's future. Should an international tribunal insist Hun Sen's government bring Pailin's notorious residents Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea & Khieu Samphan before them, the response of these former KR leaders & their loyal following is critical. The gem & logging trades, which previously have provided the KR in Pailin with the necessary financial muscle to wage lengthy military campaigns, are reputed to be dwindling resources, the willingness for confrontation of the battle-weary former KR personnel maybe likewise. However, Cambodia's seemingly brighter future is still clouded with doubts.
|Email #13 June 12,99, Bangkok, Thailand|
Last email from On The Road
Penang - Recommendations
In Penang, a couple of excellent places definitely worthy of a mention. Wan Hai Hotel, Love Lane, which differs from the Chulia St accom in that it is cheaper, friendlier & the staff far more helpful. Good dorms 8Ringgit. They recommended me Kapitan Restaurant #49 Chulia St, which was superb, you'll kick yourself if you don't sample the tandoori chicken.
Flights: Now In Bangkok, soon to be ushered back to the UK by Air Bangladesh (Bangkok -> London 8800 Baht/ $240), with the added bonus of a couple of hours to go see Dhaka. Air Bangladesh offer some great stopover flights from Bangkok to cities such as Yangon & Calcutta where you can stay for up to 1 month (Burma visa) & 6 months (Indian Visa) before catching your next flight back to Europe. Prices are very competitive.
Health Issues: Lastly, if you have any health concerns, Bangkok's hospitals will take a blood sample & can test for malaria, dengue fever, flu virus, HIV. Cost is
approx. 250 Baht/ per test
|Email #12 June 6,99, Penang, Malaysia|
Elections in Indonesia
Pulau Banyak has a foundation funding conservation & social development programmes. Main office is on P.Balai, others at Singkil, Tapaktuan & Banda Aceh. Excellent for info. They run a turtle trip to faraway P.Bangkaru, where turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. You can also see the young turtles start their hazardous lives as they struggle the opposite direction to Mum. The coral here is reportedly much better. An all-in 3 day/2 night trip is 200,000 Rupiah ($25) per person.
Lastly in Aceh, there is Gunung Leuser National Park, home
to Orang Utan & the few remaining Sumatran tiger. Reportedly
much better trekking than Bukit Lawang, since less touristed.
|Email #11 April 29,99, Yogyakarta,Indonesia|
First a quick word for about travelling
Indo. The Indonesians are amongst the friendliest
people you will meet in Asia, noisy, happy-go-lucky, always laughing.
As in India, sometimes you feel the lack of personal space gets
over-intrusive, but I find my attitude towards people usually
reflects my own mood, normally I love the interaction,if I'm
tired or stressed it can piss me off!! The language is great,
probably the easiest to pick up in SE Asia, grammar like Tarzan-speak.
Weather has generally been hot,gets very hot in cities, but more rain around this year (La Nina??), particularly later in the day.
Boat trip Sumatra-Jakarta Now in Java after having done the Pelni boat, 30 hours from Padang to Jakarta. Horror stories about economy class & food exaggerated, you can take a mattress & sleep anywhere, OK the food is not exactly haute cuisine, basic rice, fish & veg, but edible & I've had much worse.
Still good idea to bring your own fruit & munchies for variety. Past Krakatoa at 5am, sound asleep, the reverse journey passes in the daytime.
First thing to say is SAFE, no bad atmosphere, Indonesians very friendly as ever. There is a military presence around Merdeka Sq.loads of army just hangin'around in hammocks, nothing happening. Saw a political rally ahead of June 7th election, atmosphere was excellent, very relaxed, like a carnival.
Buses full of buskers, always good to have some change on you, wide variety of ability, some excellent, some painful, all just trying to scrape some money together. Sight recommendations
Definitely recommend visiting the working dock in Kota, wooden ships sail from Kalimantan/Sumatra to Jakarta with timber..cheap travel option if you have a hammock, a sound stomach & faith in your crew!!
Taman Mini Indonesia worth a full day,
nice flavour of all the different Indo cultures..I want to go see Irian Jaya just on the back of what I saw there!!
Rahunan Zoo quite good, sometimes feels like you're a walking exhibit too though (Hallo Mister x 50!!)
Next Bogor, perfect antidote to Jakarta, tasted first fresh air for a week...yum!! Botanical gardens good, but again difficult to find a quiet spot, suggest go early before skool's out. Weather also better
in the morning.
Lots of possible day-trips from here, I went to Taman Mini Safari, midweek really quiet, excellent safari & modern zoo. Animals look really at home, why even the Komodo Dragons were active,not like stuffed exhibits as they usually are.
Now in Bandung, next reports will cover Pandangdaran, Yogya,Solo...please send request for specific info to....email@example.com
|Email #10 April 9, 99, Sumatra, Indonesia|
Just bought my ekonomi ticket to Jakarta from Padang, 73,000 rupiah ie 9US$, really looking forward to the journey. Off tomorrow morning.
Entry into Indonesia
|Email #9 April 7, 99, from Penang|
POSTAL RATES: PARCEL RATES TO EUROPE
Big is not necessarily beautiful when sending parcels home. At Bangkok GPO, don't go straight to the 2 "International Parcel" desks/kiosks.Ask at the 'normal' counters 1-10 for price to send a "small package".
2 kg is the weight limit for a small package. Above 2 kg, parcel rates apply. Price comparison below, all prices in Thai Baht (1US$:37.75 Baht)
A similar system is operated in Malaysia. In Penang, I sent a 2kg package (surface) for 19 Ringgit to UK. Much cheaper than Thailand.
|Email #7 - from Bangkok, Mar 23, 99|
|CAMBODIA-GENERAL INFO - All this info has now been transferred to Cambodia - General Info Section|
|Email #6 - from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Mar 10, 99|
|Phnom Penh - City Info has been transferred to travel info section|
|Email #5 - from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb 99|
ANGKOR WAT- Siem Reap
BKK SR Day Carrier SR BKK Day Carrier 09-00 Daily Bangkok
Air 09-30 10-30 Daily Bangkok Air
Siem Reap to Phnom Penh Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Royal Air Cambodge Office:
Slow boat: (May/June- Jan). For the more adventurous & well-prepared with plenty of time. Large cargo boats ply the Tonle Sap between Siem Reap & Phnom Penh during the rainy season until the waters are too low. Cost is approx. US$6-8 & journey takes about 2 days depending on water level. Take a hammock & food/drink. Crew may supply basic fish / meat & rice. See real life on the Tonle Sap as you drift by. Best to visit Tonle Sap 1 or 2 days before you wish to depart & ask around. Useful if your moto driver can act as interpreter.
A minibus leaves Popular GH at 6:30am for Phnom Penh. Cost is US$12. Capitol 2 offers the same service from Phnom Penh which also leaves at 6:30
Poipet/Aranyapathet (Thai border crossing)
The border control is open daily 07-00 - 17-00. Obtain Thai visa at border. From the border, get a tuk-tuk to Aranyapathet (cost 10-15 Baht). From Aranyapathet, direct buses & trains both operate to Bangkok.
Transport From Bangkok
IF COMING FROM THAILAND, YOU MUST HAVE YOUR CAMBODIAN VISA ALREADY OR YOU WILL BE TURNED BACK.
Trains leave Bangkok for Aranyapathet at 06-30 &
13-30. The journey takes anywhere between 4-7 hours. Cost for
a 3rd class ticket is 49Baht. You can only obtain a ticket from
1hour before departure.
A tourist bus from Khao Sarn Rd Bangkok to the Thai border
Taxi is typically quoted as 20US$/day, but you can bargain.
Motorbike rental is very difficult. Only possible for people resident in Cambodia. For the rest of us, the police are apparently concerned for our safety, maybe also the flourishing moto driver industry influences this policy.
Bicycle rental is also not formally available. Your best chance
is to ask around at guest-houses for a spare bike. Expect to
pay 1$ / day.
Police Office Route 6, S side 2 blocks W from river, near GPO.
Psah Chas market - small market in Siem Reap, best
visited early in the day. Fresh meat, fish, fruit, vegetables
sections all quiet later in the day. General goods, souvenir
stalls (carved wood, brass, silver. T-shirts, clothing, Kramar
Several photo shops (Kodak, Fuji, Agfa, Konica) for film & developing on Route 6 direction Psah Leu market, east of river. Developing costs 5US$ for 1 colour film 36 exposure. All types of film available (colour, b/w, slide film). Kodak 200 36 exp cost 3.5US$
Many guesthouses offer laundry. Private places in town cheaper 500 - 700 riel/ item
There are many pharmacies in Siem Reap & medical labs
which can perform basic tests
Diethelm Travel Service: #4 Route 6, direction airport.
T: 063 963 524 / 063 963 694
Angkor Village (Tue,Thur,Sat, 7-00pm,20US$) & Grand Hotel d'Angkor (Mon, Wed , Sat, 7-00 pm 22IUS$) offer the chance to see Apsara dancing + meal. If you just wish to see the dancing this may be arranged at cost of 6US$. Again free for the longsighted.
Angkor Village also has a swimming pool which you can use as a non-resident for 5US$/day. It may be the size of a swollen kidney, but is refreshing with sun-beds in lovely surroundings Tip - bring your own drinks!!
The Cambodian Blind Development Centre:
|Email #4 - from Trat,Thailand 1999 Jan 29,|
Last session on Myanmar. Strongly recommend that travellers take a guide book, if only as a source of good maps.
HOW to AVOID PAYING MONEY to the GOVERNMENT
The following section is based on a photocopy currently appearing in guesthouses around the Khaosarn & certainly helped us avoid any dollar exchange at the airport.
Thanks to the mystery person who did a great service.
Dear traveller, this section outlines how to avoid supporting the military government:
1) At the AIRPORT
As with most bargaining, negotiate hard, but be polite &
friendly. Don't be intimidated!! These people are just doing
their jobs & will probably quickly ask for a "present".
This is up to you!! You can still refuse
2) AIRPORT TAX
3) CHANGING MONEY
4) SITE ENTRANCE FEES.
Please feel free to print off more than one copy & distribute to guest houses/on the flight to Myanmar etc. Above all have a safe & enjoyable visit to Myanmar.
|Email #3 - from Bangkok, 1999 Jan 25,|
FLIGHTS to Burma - Cheapest
is Bangladesh Air - Flight leaves every Sun afternoon
(I believe 4-30 pm arriving 5-15 local time). 4700Baht, return
(Jan 99), at Namhasin Tour on road which runs parallel
to Khaosarn (down from Santa travel.) Myanmar Airlines,
Similar prices around Khaosarn or travel agents on same road
as Myanmar Embassy. 5750 baht return, fly daily.
|Email #2, from Bangkok,, Jan22 1999|
Hi Burma was excellent, & actually the govt fee avoidance
part was like a really fun little game!!!
Anisakan Waterfalls - Enjoyable descent 6km back down road towards Mandalay. Look for signs, turn to the right. At bottom of road leave bikes at coffee shop & walk down a further 45 mins. Beautiful falls. Definitely take your cossie & a good thick towel!!! Water is fantastic very cold & very refreshing!! Bike back up to junction & then get a truck to take you & your bike back up the arduous climb.
Restaurant Recommendation: Candacraig is a classical colonial building made for bachelors in the teak trade at the time. Now serves excellent roast beef & chicken dinner for about 700 kyat with real gravy!! This price includes soup & fruit dessert.
Getting To / From Mandalay
Accommodation: Mr Charls
GH 600k double, hot water
If you have time hire a bike & try visiting the local
Getting there: 200 kyat on truck from Bago gets you to Kinpun. From here either trek up (decent shoes a bonus) which takes a pleasant but energetic 5 hours or get on one of the trucks costing 150 kyat. If you walk porters will carry your bags for 200 kyat. Tourist fee of 6US$.
Accommodation : There
is a monastery at the top which accomodates up to 5000 pilgrims.
However, the govt forbids foreign tourists from staying. This
may have something to do with the fact that the govt has generously
provided 2 guest-houses, the cheaper charging 15US$ single /
24US$ double for basic accomodation. Much cheaper rooms are easiuly
available in Kinpun (we found 5000 kyat double with free swimming
Coming Soon.... THE FEE AVOIDANCE PAGE!!
Below is info after checking the "general" section of ITIS Travelers - Myanmar info, organised according to your system down as far as mail/phone....
MANDATORY EXCHANGE - or how to reduce
(Note to Ed: We used the ATM ploy & paid NOTHING Just be adamant!!! You will then be asked for a "present!!!!" Flight was Myanmar Airlines .Another traveller used the same ploy and changed 50US$ which is easily spent - airline not known) Another single traveller used the short stay ploy & negotiated down to 150US.
Yangon => Mandalay 10 US$ (Leo): Train 30US$ sleeper
RECOMMENDATION:1 train journey worth doing: Pyin-u-Lwin => Hsipaw (Shan State). 3US$, crosses famous Goteik ()spelling??) viaduct, 8-9 hours, attractive scenery, standard class, great experience, food sellers, salesman, in our case wandering one-legged minstrels even!!).Return journey Hsipaw => Mandalay back down mountain about 10 hours, price 1500 kyat. (confirm price)
Note: Festivals coincide with run up to full moon. Often the day preceding full moon is the biggest, full moon itself triggers departures.
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