BORN IN THE 1930s 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF YOU WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930s 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s !

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints..

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, Subway or Nandos.

Even though all the shops closed at 5.30pm and didn’t open on the weekends, somehow we didn’t starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because…….


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K..

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with Matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY, no video/dvd films,

No mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time…

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn’t have to go to work to help Dad make ends meet!

RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on MERIT!

Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bullie s always ruled the playground at school.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.

They actually sided with the law!

Our parents didn’t invent stupid names for their kids like ‘Kiora’ and ‘Blade’ and ‘Ridge’ and ‘Vanilla’

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL !

And YOU are one of them!


You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

I can’t take credit for this wonderful prose…but I want ed to post it all the same! =]

Miskawaan and Getting Here

That was a long flight.

Not the first time that I’ve done the trip to Thailand, but the first time that it has been direct; no stopping in the Middle East. 11 hours in the same cattle-class seat. to be fair to BA it could have been much worse. The food was reasonable. The movies were ‘on demand’ and the wine was brought to us at an acceptable frequency both to us (getting a little merry) and to the stewardess (still assured that we weren’t going to be drunken trouble during the flight). The wine did cause the inevitable…drowsiness leading to deep sleep. By this point we had been awake since 6am (it was now 2am London time) and having done a full days work and stressed about getting to the airport had left us tired. We slept.

Suvarnabhumi Airport was just as I’d left it. It’s an incredible structure as you can see. As we dodged the taxi touts and leaflet givers we made our way back through to the check-in desks and to a very helpful clerk who managed to get us onto an earlier flight to Koh Samui. We had purposefully left a three hour window to account for any delays in getting to Thailand before catching our connection to the island, but BA being perfectly on time mean us waiting at Bangkok. Had we any more time then a trip into the city would have been possible but not with only three hours. But the wait was only 1 hour with a flight leaving in the very near future and with 2 spare seats! Result!

Now I’m a confident air passenger. I have complete confidence in pilots knowing that they can’t do their job unless perfectly fit to do so. I don’t think that the Koh Samui approach is a particularly difficult one but I seem to have read one too many articles like this and I always freak a little when descending to this runway. This time was no exception but as the medium turbulence was scaring Jen even more (my hand is still a little crushed) I was able to concentrate on her and not the descent. Long to short; we got down just fine and to the cutest little airport I’ve ever seen. No walls, no security, just huts and flowers.

We were met, as arranged by our driver and a20 minute, air-conditioned (may be nighttime but still baking, for us) ride later and we were at Miskawaan Luxury Villas. Wow.

As you can see on the Flickr Set the place is quiet incredible and as we were the first to arrive we had the place to ourselves. Our host, Tai showed us around to sounds of ‘Oh, wow!’ as we turned each corner. A short walk down the beach after she’d left us to our evening brought us to the Moon Hut restaurant. Our first Thai meal in Thailand and it was perfect…finally we felt like we were on holiday. At last.

So today has Jen running around with Jules making the final arrangements for the wedding in two days time and me with some free time to read and write. The stag and hen dos are tomorrow. We’re all going out on a ‘porno-boat’ (Alex’s title for the 30 foot power cruiser we’re hiring) to the national park for some uninhabited beaches for diving and beach cricket. As half of the wedding goers are Aussie we believe a reenactment of the last Ashes battle is in order 🙂

Right, I’m going for a swim in the sea, to hot to write. See you soon.

Far East Abound

So. Finally all the plans have come together. Tickets have been confirmed and insurance bought. Flip-flops dusted down and suncream dug from the back of the bathroom cabinet. Jen and I are off to the other side of the world again.

Our trip this time is going to take us to Thailand for Alex and Jules’ wedding on Koh Samui; a whistle sopt stay by all accounts but enough time for us to enjoy the five star resort the nuptials are to take place at and soak up a little sunshine (update: weather looks wet, oh dear!). I’m the official photographer for the wedding so I’m praying for the sun to shine.

Following the wedding an our earlier-than-most departure, we’re off to Australia’s east coast starting in Sydney. A catch up with old friends for Jen and a first time experience for me; we’re going to take a walk across the Harbor Bridge, cruise around the seafront in a luxury yacht and eat the best seafood on offer. We’ll be staying with some old friends of Jen’s both from her time there at from CBA in London who have moved back. It will be great to catch up with people.

From here we fly up to The Gold Coast to stay with our friend Trev’s parents. A little surfing and wildlife parks finished off with a BBQ i think is what we have to look forward to there. Finally we fly up to the Whitsunday Islands and the part I’m looking forward to the most; sailing around the idyllic islands in our own catamaran for two days and two nights.

So; this is just a small update, more to come once we’re on our way. We fly Friday night at about 10pm so updates will come from the road/air/beach 🙂

A Theory About the Fight

It wasn’t a big fight or anything: just a little punch up between two commuters this morning at London Bridge that got me thinking about the state of mind of a few people around me on the way into work.

You see the strange thing was that neither of them looked like the sort of people who would ever get into a fight. They were both small fellas, both well dressed and groomed and both ‘friendly’ looking (no facial scars, no ‘f*ck off’ tattoos on their foreheads, that kind of thing).

So what might have happened?

My theory goes like this:

We all know that it only takes the cancellation of one train, timed correctly to completely ruin a commute into work and that happened this morning. Firstly, the train was late: this meant that there were more people than normal waiting for the train: some of the people standing around would have naturally missed the train and be waiting for the next one. This same thing had affected the stations further down the line so, secondly, by the time the train did arrive it was full.

Now, the only people who successfully make it on to a full train in these circumstances are people who have a naturally more aggressive demeanor; these people will force their way on to the train sacrificing a little comfort in the process but nonetheless still making it on to the train.

The pacifists remain on the platform. We don’t really want to be crammed into the carriage, my comfort is not to be sacrificed in order for me to arrive at work early. So the platform is full of pacifists. Not a bad thing. Maybe.

There comes a time when even the pacifists need to get to work. After seeing a few equally full trains come and go without taking aboard enough of the waiting (cold) commuters some of the pacifists start to get agitated. There’s nothing worse than as agitated pacifist. You see some of them have been storing this up for a while. There’s only so many times you can count to 10 when something gets to you; only so many times you can let ‘it’ slide before cracking.

My guess is that this exact thing happened. Two normally calm individuals found themselves in an unfamiliar situation and were pushed too far by one another.

And that’s it! That’s my theory for the day, and the solution. Beware of the pacifists; let them on the train first! 🙂

don’t go trekking in flip-flops

on the recommendation of a few people, sarah being the strongest contributor, i’m now in the cameron highlands of malaysia. this has to be one of the most beautiful and interesting bits of countryside i’ve seen yet; between the cameron highlands and an area called tama negara, the rain forests are the oldest on the planet, some 144 million years old.

the journey here wasn’t so great, i left bangkok on a 22 hour train ride across the thai-malay border to butterworth (possibly the ugliest and most uninteresting place i’ve ever been) and to the island of pengang. i didn’t spend enough time here to get a great feel for the place, it seemed cool enough and i was told that there are some nice beaches on the far side of the island but with the time i had left and the things i wanted to see, beaches didn’t factor too highly on the agenda.

from penang the bus journey was an easy one; some 5 hours up into the mountains and into increasingly more beautiful scenery. another of sarah’s spot-on recommendations was father’s guesthouse, the place i’ve been staying for the past few days and the place i’m going to be very reluctant to leave. if only every guesthouse was this perfect! for starters i’m sleeping in a second world war nissen hut in the perfectly landscaped gardens of the main house, perched up on it’s own private hill overlooking the town. the staff are fantastic, very helpful and always to remember your name and the common room facilities make for a wonderful ‘home-from-home’ atmosphere and everyone staying here seems to hang about in the evening reading, watching tv and chatting. a very cool crowd here.

so the first day i was here i decided to go on the full day jungle and mountain trek. after asking the staff what is involved and getting excited about the prospect of seeing some proper wildlife they added that parts of the trek are a little challenging and that i would need proper walking footware…no proplem, i have a great pair of shoes that i havn’t worn nearly enough on this trip…or at least i would have a great pair of shoes if i hadn’t have been chatting too much when i got off the bus from penang and left tham and my dry bag in the overhead storage on said bus! sh*t! (don’t worry mum, keep reading and there is a happy ending to this part). so i did the trek in the only remaining footware i had…my trusty vans flip-flops 🙂

honestly the trek wasn’t that difficult, i managed to stay cleaner than some of the others on the trip mainly by being really careful about where i trod. the first stop was the first of two viewpoints overlooking, in this case, the BOH tea plantations. the view was incredible, the parallel lines of the tea bushes like contours layed out about as far as we could see. our guide could not have been better; he has studied the ecology of the area for 15 years and had a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the plant and animal life (even reeling off the latin names for everything we saw). here he explained the history of the plantation, the growing and picking tasks and the process of getting the tea into the cup (later we were to go to the factory and sample the brew for ourselves).

the second stop was at the highest point in the highlands, 6666 feet above see level (and then another 50 feet up an observation tower) to get a spectacular view across the jungle as you’ll be able to see from the photos when i get them uploaded very soon.

from here we started off into the jungle. we walked through two sites at two different altitudes to get an idea of how the vegetation and animal life changes as the temperature and moisture does. the moss on the trees creates a natural air conditioning system; as soon as you walk into the undergrowth the air suddenly drops by about 10 degrees and becomes really quite chilly. you get a sense all the time that something is watching you, the area teeming with wildlife and the noise is at time deafening. i’d love to tell you the names of all the things we saw…but we were only told them in latin and it was lost on me i’m afraid. have a look at the photos and you get an idea.

next on the agenda was the BOH tea factory. the process is rather quite simple; the leaves are rolled, dried, sorted and graded and then stored in airtight bags for about 6 months then brewed up (for only 3 minutes for the perfect cup) easy! i like to think the cuppa i had in the cafe was the best i’ve ever had…i could possibly be converted from coffee (fat chance) i’ll have too see if i can brew as good a cup when i get home!

after a little lunch we picked up a few more people from the guesthouse for the afternoon trek. this one was much shorter, only 10 mins or so into the forest to a waterfall. this time though we were joined by a malay native from the orang asli tribe (orang, as in orangutan, means people. alsi means original and utan means forest). he taught us how to shoot with a blowpipe, something they still do to catch food and had us shoot at a polystyrene target. we got to try fish caught by the villagers that day and had a go at carving and decorating bamboo as they’ve done for thousands of years.

i’m going to stay in the highlands until tomorrow and in the meantime do a few of the local walks for myself. the air is great, the scenery is beautiful and i really don’t want to have to leave. but i have to, only 4 days of the trip remain so from here i’m going to singapore for the best part of two days before flying home. again i have some recommendations about where to stay and what to do while i’m there. the next post may be the last for this trip *sniff*.

almost forgot to mention the happy ending to the shoe story…so to recap, i left my dry bag on the bus, in it were my shoes, every pair of socks i own, my mask and snorkel from koh tao, a book and the lights for jen’s room. basically stuff that i was more than a little p*ssed off to have misplaced. in a very hopeful bid i walked to the other side of tanah rata to the bus station that evening to find that the bus i was on had arrived from penang only 10 minutes before i arrived and my bag was exactly where i had left it in the overhead rack! all the stuff was there! would that have happened anywhere else? not sure…but it happened here!

splish splash i was takin’ a bath…

imagine a water fight. we’ve all taken part at one point or another in our lives. you may have used a water pistol, supersoaker or water balloon to drench someone. has anyone ever been involved in a waterfight on a national scale lasting for 5 days straight from 9am until 9pm? welcome to the wonder that is songkran, the buddhist new year!

after jen left to go back to the uk i travelled back up to chiang mai on the night train, an awesome experience in itself, confortable, clean, relatively quiet and when you travel at night your accommodation and travel are paid for at the same time! (no showers tho :().

chiang mai was nice for the two days that i stayed but as i was now on my own again (boo!) i fancied being up where there were people i knew…off to pai! nelson, who i met in vang vieng, laos a few weeks ago spends quite a bit of time up in pai, i remembered him mentioning how great the festival is up there and no sooner had i gotten there than i found out. i left the bus station after being dropped off mid-town and had only walked about a hundred yards when i spotted a large group of thais and farang hurling water about. i with my ‘non-waterproof’ bags wasn’t looking to get soaked just yet…fat chance of that. the group were fairly easy on me; a girl who i would later find out was zoe missed both my bags by tipping a pan of water down the front of my shorts…cheers hun.

after dumping my gear at the riverside family hut bungalows i headed back into town to exact my revenge. the whole afternoon (and indeed the rest of the following four days) turned into one big booze fueled waterfight, us standing on street corners drenching passers by and taking refuge in bars and restaurants to get dried off.

we did have sone change in the evening; we’d all go off to see live music, eat out and on two of the nights eat at nelson’s self made treehouse home. simple food, but nelson, if you read this at some point, thanks so much man…that food was amazing!

i have a cold now, possible something to do with not being dry for the last five days…not to worry mum, i’ll shake it. i’m back in bangkok after taking the night train back down here last night. i have to stay one night as the night train down to butterworth in malaysia was full today so i go tomorrow. unfortunately i’m going to have to pay an overstay charge when i leave, my visa ran out on the 15th and it was more costly to do it this way than to do a visa run, no big deal, i’ve not met too many people who haven’t had to do it at some point on their travels.

i’ve now finished the gift buying…hopefully this means i won’t have to see the khao san road again for while. i’m going to chill out in my room and listen to some music (it’s so much hotter here than in the north…and i have air-con this time :)) and venture out later for some food and back for an early night (i didn’t sleep too well on the train thanks to the efforts made by one woman to keep the whole 12 car train awake with her snoring…successfully too)

i’ll be in malaysia by the time i next write. going to be there for about a week then on to singapore for two days at the most before i fly home…something that seems to have come about very quickly but something i think i’m totally ready for now.

i’m looking forward to seeing everyone very soon. M

i’m so smooth i slipped off myself

firstly, sorry for not posting anything sooner, genuine apologies too, as a couple of people have noticed that it took me a while to get this up here.

my last 10 days have been spent between bangkok, nai yang and pih phi, i asked jen to come visit while i was here to give her a holiday and so we could spend some time together and i could show her some of the parts of this trip that i’ve loved. it was great to go back to some of these places and catch up with some of the people i’ve met.

we started off slowly on the first day in bangkok, jen was jet lagged and the weather was hot even for me. after dumping bags in the room i showed her the khao san road great that the excitment of seeing it for the first time came back to me as i saw her reaction. that evening too was spent there eating, drinking, catching up after two months and dancing with the thais. we flew to phuket the next day thankfully without a hangover and on to a place called nai yang. i’d bought a few cds for wat, the owner of the bar i spent some time in with anna, laura and colin and watched him gamble with the other bar and restaurant owners while we drank. it’s really getting into the low season here and places are getting quiet, we had the bar to ourselves most of the time.

the same peace wasn’t to be found on phi phi the follwing day. after taking a boat crossing that was certainly quieter than the previous time, and finding the bars a little emptier there were still plenty of people. true that i had seen most of what we saw the time before but it was so much better this time with jen there and i felt great being able to show her somewhere that i have such great memories about. so on that note we saw the sunset from the waterfall bar, drank margaritas and sat on the beach, we wondered through the town and bought gifts, we watch some incredible fire shows at hippies, but we also got up to so much more finding better food and an even better fir show at carpe diem, kayaking out into ton sai bay, walking up to the biew point and seeing the whole north east side of the island, visiting the tsunami memorial park, albeit in the dark, feeding and befriending a cat called casper, getting caught out in a powercut, watching great movies in the ‘irish’ pub and getting holding a real, live, wild eagle! seriously, it was perched out on the menu stand of carpe diem and with a little encouragement hopped off and onto my arm.

the final night, back in bangkok was spent shopping for gifts (some people back home are going to be happy) and packing for her flight back today (hope it went smoothly babe).

not sure exactly how i’m going to finish up the last 3 weeks of the trip. i’d love to go into vietnam, but not sure about the time i could spend there. i really want to to go chiang mai for the buddhist new year, songkran and the water festival so as soon as i know after getting in touch with some people (got an email from bopper today who’s coming over to go climbing in krabi, could be a plan) i’ll shall let you know.

i intend to write more about about this last week but i don’t want to sit in front of the computer too long this evening; i ate something that didn’t agree with me and i’m nowhere near a bathroom (nothing to worry about mum) but i wanted to get something up here for jen to read when she gets back into work.

in other news, congrats to dad on the job in jordan, he flew out there yesterday so i’m yet to hear how it went, sure i’ll hear soon.

thanks to pete for the last few comments…which website are you getting those from?? :p they are great tho, i’ll leave one of my own.

‘Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.’

in case anyone is wondering about the title. jen brough over this skin treatment for us, gets rid of dead skin and helps the tan and left me very smooth…so much so that when we ate that night sitting on floor cushions i leant over, put my elbow on my knee and slipped off crashing into the table. jen found this so funny she could, hardly breathe for the first minute and kept giggling at my ‘smoothness’ the rest of the week. as it made you smile so much, this page is dedicated to you.

gah! and like a little fish…i’m hooked!

it’s true, i knew it would happen…pete i think you did too, sarah, you certainly did…i’ve been bitten by the very same bug as you. i’ve found another expensive sport to become addicted to. diving is just something else. there really is no other way that you can defy nature so completely than to breathe underwater. i was a little surprised by how natural it feels; there wasn’t one point where i felt panicked or uncomfortable, even at 28m in less than 1 meter visibility on our deepest dive where to surface immediately would had meant time in a decompression chamber or serious injury. it was fine tho, i remember my breathing being calm and i can remember thinking ‘i wish i could see a little more, i wonder what there is out there just out of sight’.

i really sorry to have to leave the island today, it’s been an amazing 10 days, i’ve got my advanced open water card, certainly going to use it again on this trip even if it is only for doing a little fun diving. the next part of the trip is going to awesome tho,jen arrives on tuesday for 10 days, we’re going to hang about in bangkok for a night or two, then come down to the islands and relax, give her some time to work on the tan before heading off to vegas (jealous!)

this will now be the fifth time i will have been back into bangkok, i can’t say that i hate the place, that would be totally untrue, it’s really quite a wonderful city, but i have been to so many other better areas that it seems a shame to have to leave one of the better ones even if it is for only a few days in order to meetjen and show her around. jen’s arrival will be exactly 2/3 of the way through the trip. i will be home exactly a month after she arrives…wow, how time flies. i’m in no mood to start thinking about coming home just yet, just thought i’d mention it.

hope you enjoy the underwater photos, i had so much fun taking them…in need of a little practice at both the diving (buoyancy in particular) and the underwater shooting skills. can’t wait to give it another go sometime soon.

now even the lows are highs

firstly: massive apologies for taking so long to post anything up here, it has been a while but my last few days have been proper hectic and massively rewarding.

my luck was truely in on the trip out of cambodia, i checked out of the angkor international at 6am to be greeted by the tuk-tuk driver who’d been showing me about for the previous few days and he got me to the airport in seemingly record time, essential as the queue at the airport meant that i was in the departure longue for only 10 minutes before the flight was called. the very easy flight to bangkok got me there with enought time to spare before catching another plane down to koh samui where i landed 30 mins before the final boat to koh tao (where i was provisionally enrolled in the diving course for the following day). i got to the island, found the diving school and was lucky enough again to be the last person they were going to sign on that day due to a lack of instructors (they were all off in myanmar doing visa runs). so i got here, signed on the the course and checked into a sweeting little bungalow 50 yards from the beach and the diving school.

the first afternoon was spent in the classroom. they get us a fairly chunky book, the first two chapters of which we were to have studied and answered the questions on before the class. no problem at all. the class explaind the function of the variuos pieces of equipment and the safety proceedures and structure of the rest of the course. day 2 and we get to dive! that first evening i wondered up the beach to sai ree and bumped into some people i met in bangkok the night before going to cambodia. very small world over here.

so, day 2. we get fitted up for wetsuits and buoyancy controlls and straight out to the boat and off to the ‘japanese gardens’ dive site. we started in shallow water learining to snorkel and clear the masks before we were let loose with the air tanks. there’s nothing more surreal that defying nature and breathing normally underwater! it’s so exciting. that first day we got down to about 7.5 meters for about a half hour and got to see trigger fish, moray eels and a school of barracuda deeper below us. i’m hooked!

the third day and we were back in the classroom after more studying to learn how to execute some of the emergency techniques and to use dive tables to calculate the amount of time you can safely dive before you start getting high for the saturated nitrogen in your system. so much more to think about that i first thought. that afternoon’s dives took us a little deeper and we practiced more buoyancy techniques and safety tips.

day four and we were back in class for the exam. no problem, passed with flying colors and celebrated suitably afterwards. this was last night, i’m feeling the effects a little now, but we have the morning off anyway. this afternoon we have two dives at different locations where we can practice a little underwater navigation and get to dive a little deeper, to 12 meters i think.

as i say, i’m hooked and as such i’m going to stay on for a few more days to get the advanced course done. deeper still, more advance ‘peak performance buoyancy’ skills, another night dive and the finale for me…underwater photography! oh yes!

time to go and get ready for the afternoon, there will be photos going up very soon, hopefully later today now that i have found a decent internet cafe and the phone lines are up again.

finally an internet connection

and so much to say!

so, upon getting to cambodia y the worst means possible, i got washed and rested at the guesthouse i was dropped off at (not a chance in hell i was going to venture out to find anywhere else the state i was in) and the following day i did what everyone in siam reap does, go to angkor wat.

you hear people’s stories about how vast the site is and how the sight of it is breathtaking and will blow you away, well our guide showed us the site in the perfect fashion: little at a time and building up to the grand finale.

we started with the out lying temples, all wonderful: every square inch covered in intricate carvings and murals and all in various states of ruined disrepair. the $20 entrance fee evidently in use as there was restoration work going on in most of the buildings we visited. the site of the site became apparent when we spend about a 1/2 driving from the penultimate building to the main wat, a distance that didn;t look very far on the map.

i walked down the long central walkway to the courtyard at the perfect time of day; the sun setting behind me casting a wonderful orange light over the stone. once you pass through the carved archway you see the magnificent five towered temple and fell very small indeed. i must have spent about an hour just walking around the perimeter, admittedly stopping to take the odd photo along the way until i found the perfect spot to get the famous evening photo of the temple. i was truly done by this point, the heat and the distance having worn me out.

that evening the irish lads that i met on the bus took me out for a few drinks and a few games of cards. i taught them sh*thead, they taught me an irish game, 45 which i’ve now totally forgotten, the rules being totally absurd and even by there admittance hard to master. i’ll stick to sh*thead. pete, by the way, got a few more rule to add to our game. you’ll like ’em.

that’s really all there is to do in siam reap, so i booked a bus on a much easier road to the capitol, phnom pehn.

from the description in the guidebook this place sounds ace. “a collection of broad tree lined boulevards and colonial buildings, traditional architecture and traditional heritage” all that is there, no doubt, but they fail to mention the enormous collection of terrible smells. maybe it was just the part of town i was in with it’s open sewers and market selling meat in the hottest parts of the day. don’t get me wrong, i ‘do like the place, the people are incredibly friendly in a way that makes you feel like you aren’t getting shafted everytime you get a tuk tuk or go see one of the sites and it is very picturesque.

cambodia does of course have a very dark recent history, something that i was very keen to find out more about while here. it all starts with angkor wat, more specifically the enormous barrets surrounding the temple grounds. the barrets are large reservoirs, some 17000 olympic sized swimming pools originally thought to be the hub of an irrigation system for the area (that has since been disproved as there are no channels leading away from it. they have seemingly no purpose whatsoever!). pol pot took this first theory to heart and proclaimed that the great civilisation of angkor was founded on it’s ability to produce vast quantities of rice.

after the end of the vietnam war, cambodia’s western supporting government was too weak to withstand a revolution by pol pot’s kymer rouge army and within a week, he took power and forced everyone to leave the cities, telling them that the americans would return, and put them to work in the fields. to stop any overthrowing of his power he immediately arrested, interrogated and killed any teacher, doctor, intellectual, minister, monk, anyone who had any possibly way of refuting his power. in addition to this anyone who stood up to the strict rule of his dictatorship also faced the same. (rules like ýou cannot look left or right, only forward’ the guy was insane!). some 2 million cambodians were killed by fellow cambodians in 4 years. one other horrible fact, pol pot saw that the best soldiers for his private army must also be the most obedient…children, some as young as 10 (children younger than that faced the same fate as their parents).

i first went to see the killing fields, a site about 10km south of the city. set in idillic surroundings it’s theplace where the victims of the interrogations came to be killed, if they had not as a result of the torture at S21 (coming next). it’s dominated by a glass stupa containing 8689 skulls from the fraction of the bodies exhumed so far. this temple is surrounded by 84 mass graves. disturbingly you can still see clothing and boned protruding from the ground. the site was only discovered due to the terrible smell it gave off else it would still be a mystery.

the following day i visited S12, a high school turned prison through which everyone passed on the way to the killing field. it’s like something from a horror film: long narrow corridors with classrooms divided into cells 0.8×1.2m in size. some of the rooms have metal beds with the electrocution wires still on show.

every victim had their photo taken, name recorded and biography taken. all these records are still on show as if they are something to pride. i was truely sickened by the whole thing.

today i escaped. i’m on the beach at sihanoukville, only for one day before i return to phnom pehn to catch an early flight back to bangkok and on to the diving course on koh tao. some light relief from the past few days.

sorry to have not written anything for a while, internet connections are something of a rarety here. hope everyone is happy and well.