Putting The Bang Into Battambang.

We came on the six hour bus to Battambang – Cambodia’s second city. Our only sustenance provided by two crickets and a stag beetle, courtesy of our new New Yorker pals Maria and Logan, seated just ahead of us.

Fried, of course.  The bugs that is, not the Americans.  Although some of the recent impoliteness we have witnessed, from our cousins across the pond, especially  when dealing with the Khmer natives, has left us wanting to dip them into boiling oil just like their beloved French Fries.

Behaviour which can only be described as implausible.  Making any special relationship, impossible.

We have, however, began to form a burgeoning friendship with the slightly scruffy Battambang.  It’s much more, how do you say? Cambodian.  Yes – that’s the word.

image

Here, every other Tuk-Tuk driver isn’t desperately trying to entice you with the fierce whisper of,

“Lady? Lady?  You want lady?”

Or,

“You want smoke?  Tina? Coke?”

By which I’m sure they meant the real thing and not ‘The Real Thing”!

image

 

It’s, shall we say, more family orientated here, much like the famous beverage.  Mafia families I’ve no doubt, but let’s not harp on about that or I may have to refuse that offer after all!

image

 

The city actually feels more like a small town – one in which Gary Cooper would have felt at home  – but still, a friendly, ordinary town.

image image image image

Our hotel has the imaginative name, The First Hotel.  I imagine it will be the first and the last time we stay in it.  We are rooming on the fifth floor and were hoping for a view – we got one!

image

image

 

The Ritz, it ain’t, but then what can one expect for six dollar!  Hardly ‘Downton Abbey’, more downtown shabby!  The dowager countess would almost certainly not approve.  The ‘grounds’ are somewhat more charming.

 

That faded touch of French Indochine is spread rather thickly here, like a good Bearnaise sauce.  I have been won over by it’s particularly, parochial flavour and I shall miss the old madame when we have left.

I shall not, on the other hand, miss the hammering, screwing and sawing emanating from the five story building site, adjacent to the Hotel First.  Waking up to an energetic builder noisily drilling may sound appealing, but believe me, it does nothing but put the bang into Battambang.

Added to the noisy comings and goings of a local hooker, who is obviously doing a two for one deal, more bang for your buck up on the fifth floor, sleep has been rather erratic. But hey, a girl’s gotta make a living.  Had we realised the establishment also charges by the hour it may not have been our first choice.

In fact, this whole place comes to life at an ungodly hour.  From five-thirty, inappropriately loud music, thumps from the near distance and the french designed avenues erupt with an eastern joie de vivre, at an oriental volume.  Not to mention what sound like a thousand mopeds spluttering and coughing their way into the morning, like a huge pack of Gaulloise smoking dockers.

And, of course, le construction work!  Waking up has never been so noisy, yet so puzzlingly peaceful.  City sounds can be superbly soporific.

image

 

Andrew and I have done most things to do here.  We have taken a rickety, bone-banging, bamboo train through the searing heat of the countryside.  We have been lucky enough to witness six million bats make their nightly mass exodus from the giant limestone they call home.  Great swathes of flapping black, darkening the skies in almost biblical fashion.  Amazing.

Our Driver – Puffin’ Bill

 

imageimage

Andrew as batty as ever!

We also visited another cavernous wonder, only this one radiating more horror, than the  gigantically gothic batcave.  Known as ‘The Killing Cave’, this was the site where the monstrous Khmer Rouge would beat their prisoners half to death, before flinging them down through the large hole in the cave’s roof, onto the rocks far below.  For those wretched souls who survived the deadly drop and managed to crawl, with shattered limbs, to the surface, the fate that awaited them was to be kicked, nonchalantly by the Khmer cadre, back down the rocky scree, to join their dead friends and family amongst the stalag-like stalagnites.

Any visitor can never truly escape the recent,bloody past here in Cambodia, even when surrounded by such natural beauty.  Scratch the surface and Pol Pot and his gang of murderous clowns rear their ugly faces.

On a more positive note we saw some much less vicious clowning later on, when we attended the circus.  In all honesty it was more akin to a high school gym contest, only
with nicer costumes and the hint of a story.

image  image

The young, underpriviledged performers were so spirited and well meaning, the audience could not help but be enthused.  The charitable ringmaster who spins this big top is doing a great job, providing a much needed net for the local youngsters.  Helping to train the country’s budding artists, musicians, dancers and wannabee circus performers in their chosen profession.  Clevery juggling the books so that everything is provided for free for the kids that most need it.  In the words of Sir Tim Rice – Oh what a circus !

But my most abiding memory of this slightly shy and retiring city, will be the all too short time I have spent meandering along her riverside setting, basking in the tropical heat.  Stopping, only occasionally, for a Cambodian iced coffee or a stag beetle crepe.

In fact, the latter is not true.  I jest.  Since our last insect experience aboard the bus,  Andrew has not gone near another culinary creepy crawlie, for fear it should pierce his tongue again, making conversation an impossibility.

imageThis afternoon we have been marvellously marooned in a beautifully chic, family guest house in the colonial part of town.  Due, entirely, to La Biere Cambodie Andrew has insisted we try.  I am now suffering from the same magnificent malaise that is effecting him and cannot move.  When alcohol and heat meet, it is all to easy to sit and watch the world amble by, busy doing nothing.

I blame The French.

And The Cambodians.

But mostly, Andrew.  He has encouraged us both to sit and stagnate.

He may need a little help to get back into the saddle – something exotic to prick his palate.  Maybe stag beetle, rather than stagnation should be on the menu tonight.  And as it is dinner,

En Croute, of course.

Then en route, on course.

To the mighty Mekong Delta in deepest Vietnam.

We’ve been well and truly bitten by the travel bug again.  Only this one isn’t fried, it’s very much alive and kicking.

image

 

Categories: The Lola Boys | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Putting The Bang Into Battambang.

We came on the six hour bus to Battambang – Cambodia’s second city. Our only sustenance provided by two crickets and a stag beetle, courtesy of our new New Yorker pals Maria and Logan, seated just ahead of us.

Fried, of course.  The bugs that is, not the Americans.  Although some of the recent impoliteness we have witnessed, from our cousins across the pond, especially  when dealing with the Khmer natives, has left us wanting to dip them into boiling oil just like their beloved French Fries.

Behaviour which can only be described as implausible.  Making any special relationship, impossible.

We have, however, began to form a burgeoning friendship with the slightly scruffy Battambang.  It’s much more, how do you say? Cambodian.  Yes – that’s the word.

image

Here, every other Tuk-Tuk driver isn’t desperately trying to entice you with the fierce whisper of,

“Lady? Lady?  You want lady?”

Or,

“You want smoke?  Tina? Coke?”

By which I’m sure they meant the real thing and not ‘The Real Thing”!

image

 

It’s, shall we say, more family orientated here, much like the famous beverage.  Mafia families I’ve no doubt, but let’s not harp on about that or I may have to refuse that offer after all!

image

 

The city actually feels more like a small town – one in which Gary Cooper would have felt at home  – but still, a friendly, ordinary town.

image image image image

Our hotel has the imaginative name, The First Hotel.  I imagine it will be the first and the last time we stay in it.  We are rooming on the fifth floor and were hoping for a view – we got one!

image

image

 

The Ritz, it ain’t, but then what can one expect for six dollar!  Hardly ‘Downton Abbey’, more downtown shabby!  The dowager countess would almost certainly not approve.  The ‘grounds’ are somewhat more charming.

 

That faded touch of French Indochine is spread rather thickly here, like a good Bearnaise sauce.  I have been won over by it’s particularly, parochial flavour and I shall miss the old madame when we have left.

I shall not, on the other hand, miss the hammering, screwing and sawing emanating from the five story building site, adjacent to the Hotel First.  Waking up to an energetic builder noisily drilling may sound appealing, but believe me, it does nothing but put the bang into Battambang.

Added to the noisy comings and goings of a local hooker, who is obviously doing a two for one deal, more bang for your buck up on the fifth floor, sleep has been rather erratic. But hey, a girl’s gotta make a living.  Had we realised the establishment also charges by the hour it may not have been our first choice.

In fact, this whole place comes to life at an ungodly hour.  From five-thirty, inappropriately loud music, thumps from the near distance and the french designed avenues erupt with an eastern joie de vivre, at an oriental volume.  Not to mention what sound like a thousand mopeds spluttering and coughing their way into the morning, like a huge pack of Gaulloise smoking dockers.

And, of course, le construction work!  Waking up has never been so noisy, yet so puzzlingly peaceful.  City sounds can be superbly soporific.

image

 

Andrew and I have done most things to do here.  We have taken a rickety, bone-banging, bamboo train through the searing heat of the countryside.  We have been lucky enough to witness six million bats make their nightly mass exodus from the giant limestone they call home.  Great swathes of flapping black, darkening the skies in almost biblical fashion.  Amazing.

Our Driver – Puffin’ Bill

 

imageimage

Andrew as batty as ever!

We also visited another cavernous wonder, only this one radiating more horror, than the  gigantically gothic batcave.  Known as ‘The Killing Cave’, this was the site where the monstrous Khmer Rouge would beat their prisoners half to death, before flinging them down through the large hole in the cave’s roof, onto the rocks far below.  For those wretched souls who survived the deadly drop and managed to crawl, with shattered limbs, to the surface, the fate that awaited them was to be kicked, nonchalantly by the Khmer cadre, back down the rocky scree, to join their dead friends and family amongst the stalag-like stalagnites.

Any visitor can never truly escape the recent,bloody past here in Cambodia, even when surrounded by such natural beauty.  Scratch the surface and Pol Pot and his gang of murderous clowns rear their ugly faces.

On a more positive note we saw some much less vicious clowning later on, when we attended the circus.  In all honesty it was more akin to a high school gym contest, only
with nicer costumes and the hint of a story.

image  image

The young, underpriviledged performers were so spirited and well meaning, the audience could not help but be enthused.  The charitable ringmaster who spins this big top is doing a great job, providing a much needed net for the local youngsters.  Helping to train the country’s budding artists, musicians, dancers and wannabee circus performers in their chosen profession.  Clevery juggling the books so that everything is provided for free for the kids that most need it.  In the words of Sir Tim Rice – Oh what a circus !

But my most abiding memory of this slightly shy and retiring city, will be the all too short time I have spent meandering along her riverside setting, basking in the tropical heat.  Stopping, only occasionally, for a Cambodian iced coffee or a stag beetle crepe.

In fact, the latter is not true.  I jest.  Since our last insect experience aboard the bus,  Andrew has not gone near another culinary creepy crawlie, for fear it should pierce his tongue again, making conversation an impossibility.

imageThis afternoon we have been marvellously marooned in a beautifully chic, family guest house in the colonial part of town.  Due, entirely, to La Biere Cambodie Andrew has insisted we try.  I am now suffering from the same magnificent malaise that is effecting him and cannot move.  When alcohol and heat meet, it is all to easy to sit and watch the world amble by, busy doing nothing.

I blame The French.

And The Cambodians.

But mostly, Andrew.  He has encouraged us both to sit and stagnate.

He may need a little help to get back into the saddle – something exotic to prick his palate.  Maybe stag beetle, rather than stagnation should be on the menu tonight.  And as it is dinner,

En Croute, of course.

Then en route, on course.

To the mighty Mekong Delta in deepest Vietnam.

We’ve been well and truly bitten by the travel bug again.  Only this one isn’t fried, it’s very much alive and kicking.

image

 

Categories: The Lola Boys | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mega Wattage!

As I gazed through the ornate sandstone balustrade onto the vast, luxurious pools, in which King Suryavarman the 2nd would purify himself before worshipping his Hindu gods, I drifted.

imageFor a brief moment I was there, in the 12th century, splashing in the cool waters. I, too, had ten thousand nubile dancers, like sexy suryavarman, only mine were dancing to a slightly different tune. My minions floated all around me – back-stroke, breast-stroke, mid-stroke. Marvellous.

And then, snap,  my exotic reverie was halted in a flash. A Japanese tourist with an overlong lense had pointed his weapon towards me and captured his moment, thereby dissolving mine. I smiled, far too English to make clear my distaste. When two more over-enthusiastic, oriental, ‘Cecil Beatons’ asked me for the same shot moments later, I gave it to them, like a porn actor who does it for the love of the art, not the cash. I have always hated that trait in myself.

We were in Angkor Wat, Andrew and I, in the largest religious building on earth. I had left him, ten minutes earlier, in a blazing courtyard filled with Japanese tourists doing a rather good impression of the invasion of Pearl Harbour. I needed somewhere quiet.

We had arrived in the nearby town of Siem Reap two days earlier, not without incident. As we arrived at our guest house after a lengthy bus journey, during which the driver insisted on screening hyperactive, Cambodian, pop videos, starring quite frightnening female midgets, at a terrifying volume, Andrew realised he had left his sunglasses on the bus. In blind panic, he persuaded a tuk tuk driver to take him to the bus station. It then transpired the bus had already departed – so the helpful chauffeur decided to chase the bus down an almost dirt-track, at high speed, attempting to flag down the driver. They eventually won the roadrace, and Andrew returned back to the hotel, shaken and stirred, but facewear in hand.

He did look somewhat pale though.

The next morning I tried to rouse him – but to no avail.  He was in a disastrous state after spending the previous evening slugging back cocktails and losing at pool, whilst bidding farewell to some of our friends who were also in town.

‘Andrew – are you getting up?’ I asked loudly, ‘you were the one who arranged this trip.’

In a muffled and confused tone the monster stirred.

‘What?’ he moaned.

‘Exactly’ I retorted, somewhat impatiently, ‘Angkor fucking wat!’

‘What?’

‘Angkor Wat!’

‘What?’

I gave up.

‘Wanker!’

‘What?’

I left !

I hit the road with the taciturn Chevran,  Andrew’s trusty sunglass catcher of the previous day. As we rattled down roads that had yet to be conceived, I realised that when it came to driving, Chevran was definitely a stripe short of a chevron – he was a madman.

We collided with great, ancient tree roots and leapt into the air like an untuned Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, landing everytime with a spine- shattering crash.  If there was a rock, we hit it.  A pothole, he found it.   By the time we got to the medieval, jungle city, I had more shake,rattle and roll then Jerry Lee Lewis.

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But then – the temples.

Constructed nearly a thousand years ago. Ornate and grand, inspiring an instant awe which few places can match.  If any.

imageimage
At once I forgot about Mr Magoo and our hair-rasing tuk tuk chase, and instead was overtaken by a great hum of serenity.  The energy emanating from the site was immense and all encompassing.  These buildings rocked.  They got me stone crazy.  It was surely the reaction it’s creator had hoped for.  King Suryavarman the second  needn’t have worried, his vision was still blinding.  Still rendering the most loquacious of tourists speechless, if only for a moment.

The next day I returned with Andrew, still, unwisely, keeping loyal to Chevran, the James Hunt of Rickshaw rallying, we endured another wacky race down the religious tracks towards the temples.

We prayed as we went.

I was excited to see whether Andrew would have the same reaction as I to the exquisiteness I had beheld a day earlier.  I know he is definitely partial to an enormous structure, but also realise, after nearly twenty-four years together, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.  I also wondered whether my reaction would be the same, after all, sometimes things don’t always seem so impressive when one goes back for more.

I had no reason to be concerned.  The beautiful works of art were just as stunning.  If not more so on re-examination.  The hum even stronger.

Familiarity bred comtemplitude.  And so I drifted…..

As we explored the endless cloisters and clambered sweatily over the fallen stones and staircases throughout the palace, Andrew was just as taken with this once hidden paradise as I first was.

imageimage

Andrew And The King

We sauntered in silence across the vast emerald moat.  Andrew muttered something about being the hottest he had ever been in his life.

But I wasn’t really listening.  I was drifting.

Floating in my own fantastical pool of exoticism.

Lotus flowers decorate the surface and incense perfumes the air.  All the dancers have left now.  It is calm and peaceful – the water ripples.  The hum goes on.

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It is just the king and I …….

Categories: The Lola Boys | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Killing Trees.

For centuries the trees have told us tales – whether they be stories whispered of fairyfolk ‘neath the woodland canopy, or literally via the paper these great literary giants produce.

The trees have always spoken, and we, have always listened.

When Andrew and I decided to visit ‘The Killing Fields’ of Cambodia, neither of us had an inkling, that yet again, the wood would have a story to tell.

It is impossible to write a blog evoking anything but a semblance of the horrors that occurred in Cambodia during the latter half of the Seventies. The crimes being so vast, so heinous, that any scribe, certainly many with more talent than myself, would struggle to fully describe, or even make sense, of this international tragedy. But, after visiting the sites of these abominations, I feel I must have a try and put pen to paper – so to speak.

As a theatrical young lad I had heard of Pol Pot, the Maoist maniac who overtook this land. No doubt because I had a wonderfully, socially-concious headmaster, who thought we should all read Tolkien and play cricket. Two things I can honestly say I have taken little interest in, being neither interested in goblins or googlies. He also encouraged his students to think about those kids more luckless than us, and I can remember completing at least two sponsored walks for the children of ‘Kampuchea’ – a far away place that had changed it’s name. Of course, whilst walking miles, as a child of seven, I had no idea of the dreadful facts, just the need for a plaster afterwards!

In 1975, on April 18th, the day before Andrew’s fifth birthday, the smiling dictator, Pol Pot, and his murderous crew, the Khmer Rouge, took power in Cambodia, by way of a bloody revolution. Within twenty-four hours, they had begun to forcibly evict every citizen from every city in the country. Doctors, teachers, children, monks, nuns, – everyone with any hint of an education.

Those who were unfortunate enough to wear glasses, or who had ‘soft hands’, were killed immediately. The same fate befell anyone who could speak a foreign language. Hospital patients, the sick, the dying, were forced to march or limp, with whatever they could carry, into the impoverished countryside to begin work in forced labour camps, which were given the tragic misnoma, ‘collective farms’!

This was just the beginning of Comrade Pot’s misguidedly cruel experiment envisaging a return to an idyllic age  where all worked on, and lived off, the land. The ‘Angka’ was a mythical idea, like ‘Middle Earth’, that  big  ‘Brother No1’ simply made up.

Everyone who was suspected of previously living a ‘light life’ in the city, whilst their peasant brothers toiled the  soil, was imaginatively tortured. Sometimes for months. This practice was carried out by the crazed, fiercely loyal Khmer Rouge brigade, done in order to elicit false confessions and mendacious accusations against friends and loved ones. Therefore signing the death warrant of both themselves and their accused.

Three million men, women and children had been sadistically murdered and starved to death by the time the nutty Pol Potty and  his Khmer Rouge were overthrown.

And so, today, I try, in vain, to tell the story of this brutalist regime and the madness which ensued, but, of course, it is impossible. I can only describe our little experience. Our tale of a day trip from hell. But one which, I am very glad we made.

We left the city early in the morning, so as to avoid the heat of noon, escorted by Hong, our trusty, toothy, tuk-tuk driver, with whom we had arranged our ‘outing’. As we juddered our way through streets that may even have appalled Charles Dickens, we had only little idea of the horror which lay ahead.

When visiting ‘The Killing Fields’, the visitor is provided with a headset to provide an audio commentary of the points of interest. Much like The Tower Of London, in fact, the torture and insanity are somewhat similar, yet the evil that took place here was only forty years ago, not eight hundred!

As we strolled in silence around the mass graves, being instructed to be careful not to tread on any bones, the weight of the crime which unravelled here began to reveal itself. The atmosphere became heavier and sadder with every new, lurid revelation of barbarism, recounted through the headphones.

It was sensitively done, especially for a country with a love of kitsch, but there were moments I simply had to remove them from my ears and pause.

It was when we reached the first ‘special’ tree of the tour that I finally succumbed to the weaker sensibilities that the pathetic tourist has the luxury to feel.

Known as ‘ The Killing Tree’, it was here, that the idoctrinated, mindless Khmer guards, some of them only children themselves, would take the infant prisoners by the ankles and swing them hard against the tree. Smashing the babies skulls against the great trunk, their tiny trunks no match for mother nature, or the abomination of it which gripped their tiny feet.

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When the tree was first discovered, it’s bark was stained with blood, it’s cracks and crevices still grasping the children’s downy hair torn form their battered scalps.  Butchered beneath it’s boughs.

The children’s mothers were forced to watch these acts before being raped, battered and thrown into the pit besides their little sons and daughters. Cast into the mass graves beside The Killing Tree.

It was almost midday, and the shade provided shade but no relief. I am not ashamed to say, that beneath my flash, western sunglasses, I wept.

I was not alone.

Bullets were considered far too expensive to waste during the age of ‘The Democratic Republic Of Kampuchea’. Instead, it’s victims were bludgeoned to death with whatever came cheap. Hammers, axes, hoes, tyre irons, whatever came to hand. Many were thrown into the pits whilst still alive, then smothered with chemicals to hide the stench and aid decomposition.

Andrew had gone ahead. I sat for a moment alone, to regain my composure. I didn’t want to appear over emotional, like the pissed aunt at a funeral. I pondered a moment, that how often it seems to me, that countries which have ‘democratic’ in their title, rarely display very much democracy.

The second tree was almost worse, this great natural wonder, similar in genus to the one The Buddha sat under to attain enlightement, once housed The Party’s speakers and generator. It was from these imagebranches that the group’s macabre, musical, political propaganda blossomed. These great limbs carried forth the message of the Khmer Rouge. Blasting forth to cover the screams of those having their limbs removed. To disguise this depravity from the outside world. To stop the rest of us from finding out and helping these poor, defenceless people.

Even when the madness was over, because the Communist Vietnamese helped to establish a new Cambodian national government, western powers refused to acknowledge this evil.  In fact the Khmer Rouge was still recognised as the official goverment of Cambodia by The United Nations, despite being responsible for the deaths of a quarter of the population.

Imagine.  If one in four people, in your country, were murdered,  by fellow countrymen, speaking your language, with your customs, and no-one came to help!  How would you feel?

image

To me, it is unimaginable.

I really have no idea how these decent, charming, kind and dignified people have recovered so quickly from such genocide.  But bounced back they certainly have, and with a gentleness and spirit of reconciliation that is a lesson to us all.  Their sheer humanity is a shining example to ours.

I have always had a fondness for an old song from ‘Paint Your Wagon’ that goes,

‘I talk to the trees – but they don’t listen to me…’

It has always been so touching to me.

Today, here in beautiful Cambodia, the trees talked to me.  And I did listen.

I was truly touched, and I will never forget their tragic tales.

Categories: The Lola Boys | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hot Stuff In Kampot.

Kampot, a charming riverine Cambodian city, famous for it’s pepper, used by top chefs the world over, and it’s quaint nineteenth century, french-colonial architecture.  It may be tired, but a Notting Hill designer would charge a small fortune to replicate the effortless gallic chic that pervades this place.

image image image image

A faded but resplendant touch of french Indochine, that captivates it’s visitors like a talented Parisian tart on the Rue Pigalle.  We  are completely caught up in the limbs of this seductress, exploring each avenue of shuttered shopfronts with an almost salacious delight.

We, however, are not residing in one of the more high-falutin establishments on the left bank.  Non.  We have elected to stay at Captain Chim’s.  A much more local kinda place, downtown near the bus station !

image

After meeting the Captain and his lovely shipmate, Ria, we waited for our room to be cleaned, or built, whichever happened first.  After convincing Ria that we really didn’t mind having to share a ‘big bed’, (Andrew assuring her we would go ‘top to toe’), we met a marvellous character by the name of Mick.

We learnt that Mick, a wild, beautifully blue eyed, rough around every edge, type of bloke, had been in the Royal Marines for twenty five years.  We also gathered that he taught Katami, the art of fighting with a Samurai sword, plus almost every other form of vicious combat one can imagine, mostly using unspeakable weapons.  We then learnt he had been into battle on more than one occasion, worked tirelessly as a merciless mercenary, and now lived in the Cambodian countryside building houses out of giant lego and growing radish.

He also told us that we were staying at one of the best places in town, and if we encountered any trouble we should inform Captain Chim immediately, who would be more than happy to have the perpertrators punished.

Apparently when the local baker was robbed of some dough last month, the two guys kneading in the kitchen, caught up with the thief at the next roundabout.  They then proceeded to turn him into a human doughnut – plenty of oozing jam and a hole through the middle and everything ! Let’s just say, after they’d proved their point, he didn’t rise.

It’s not just the pepper that is volcanic here, the locals are a spicy mix too.

After eventually checking in to our room, for practically a peppercorn rent. A fiver a night! We headed to the river and happened to find ourselves in the ubiquitous Irish bar that we always seem to discover in these slightly sketchy Asian towns.

Before our stout was even contemplated, there was a loud crash and a female tourist came off her moped right in front of us. She lay in the road, her head bloody whilst ours were still settling!

image

It took a while, but eventually she was moved onto the pavement, and surrounded by concerned and fascinated Cambodians, she began to revive.  There followed a fiery debate between the cyclist and the onlookers as to what had actually occurred, which  we decided to stay out of, not wanting  to throw more pepper into the Kampot.  It was a sufficiently heated already.

Later that evening we met our ex-marine mate, Mick.  When I asked for a photo, he was happy to oblige.  However, he made me assure him that I would not publish it on Facebook, it seems there are some cyber folk out there who would be more than happy to unfriend him.

image

I promised him I wouldn’t, and as a thank-you he showed me one of his special moves, that ended with him almost karate chopping me in the neck!  As I felt the breeze from the wake of his substantial forearm cut across my gullet, I heard Neil, the Irish landlord, chastise my ex-navy buddy,

‘No martial arts Mick. Not here!’

As I took a very deep breath, feeling fortunate I had avoided a partial tracheotomy, Mick apologised, his baby blues full of contrition.

‘Sorry’, he said, ‘that’s why I got barred the last time.  Some cunt wound be up and before you know it he was on the floor with a fractured collar bone and a broken nose.’

When he left for the loo moments later, I told Andrew to lay off any of his wind-up jokes and to just smile and be compliant.  My nose is, after all, odd enough, and I love the shape of my husbands.  I didn’t want either of us taking any risks. We didn’t want to put Mick’s nose out of joint!

imageimage  image

Today, after a visit to the pepper co-operative, and a walk along the beautiful riverside into some jungle, we bumped into Mick at Captain Chims.  He has invited us to his house in the foothills of The Elephant Mountains for a bar-be-que and sleep over.

He is so interesting, and charming, that we are both, irresponsibly tempted.

Albeit, slightly apprehensive that any dish he may happen to serve up, could be a little too spicy, even for our seasoned palates.

Looks like we may have to take his invitation with a pinch of salt, and leave the pepper alone.

 

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Bandits And Bumguns !!!

We made our way across the dusty, deserted roads of south eastern Cambodia, driven by Mr Lucky. We realised after the third time of overtaking on a blind corner, with juggernauts speeding towards us, just how he acquired  his name. We were bloody lucky to survive.

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Andrew & Lucky

We were also fortunate to miss any encounters with the bandits who ply their trade along these quiet roads. I had been furnished with this information beforehand, but decided I would refrain from sharing it with any of my fellow passengers so as not to make the trip any hairier than it already was.

On one particularly dead stretch, a man came suddenly from the side of the road as if to flag us down.  Our driver swerved slightly to avoid him and we continued on.  I must say I was secretly dissappointed that it didn’t materialise into a highway robbery moment, a la Mr Turpin.  Although I wouldn’t have enjoyed losing any belongings, the thought of a roaming Dick making me stand and deliver has always caused a deep stirring.  Maybe he held up my carraige in a previous life – who knows?  Trust us to be landed with a bum bandit!

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So we have arrived safe and almost sound in Sihanoukville on Cambodia’s south coast.

The beach is beautiful, if not very relaxing.  Sellers, fruit merchants and massage ladies (I use the term loosely!) abound.

Today I met Mary.  A tiny woman with a large voice. A particularly pushy and persistant masseuse, who wore blood red lipstick and carried a matching Gucci bag.  Her opening line was,

“Long hair – long cock”.

‘Thank you”, I replied.

She followed up with,

“Open your heart, open your legs”.

“No thank you” I replied.

“You want massage?  I make it happy!”

It was at this point I felt it only fair to inform Mary that where I came from, some less generous folk, called me by the same name.

She got my gist. Or so I thought.

“No worry. I can teach you”, she pleaded.

Exhausting.

I realise these workers are very poor and I genuinely sympathise.  But when you are being asked for the thirtieth time if you’d like a quick hand- shandy in the shade, it becomes incredibly difficult to preserve the English reserve !  I managed – just!

They never go near Andrew, even if he is sitting adjacent to me.  I think they are put off by his haughty demeanor, and the fact that he has a look of Ray Liotta in ‘Goodfellas”.

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In the evening we attended the night market.  Which was really like a very small music festival.  The band were great, the singer however, less so.  He had the look of a classic, pretty boy, front-man, but the sound of a backed -up drain.  Too many drugs, not enough diaphragm! Dreadful.

I am already hankering to find somewhere more authentic.

The beach is all very nice and all, but when one spends the majority of one’s day avoiding sunglass pedlars or women that want to toss you a salad or toss you off – or both!  It becomes wearing.  Not to mention tiring.

Why is it never the people you would like to give you a hand that offer?

Yes, we plan to head somwhere more real.  More Cambodian.

Also the bumgun in the ‘bathroom’ is much more poweful than the shower.  So far we have had to wash our hair over the toilet bowl, which I don’t really mind, although I keep getting a whiff of Domestos when I turn my head to the breeze. It brings an entirely new meaning to Wash And Go.

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So I’ve decided.  We’re off.  I don’t want to be bothered by anymore highwaywomen who are intent on making me lay and deliver.

And I’ve had enough of the bandit who is overcharging us for a room with a bumgun as a shower – so has my hair.

We’re outta here……

 

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Jumbo Chic.

Koh Chang. Eastern Thailand named after the elephant not the famous Thai beer as Andrew and I had hopefully suspected !

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Apparently this beautiful island is the shape of a ‘Chang’, the Thai nomenclature for that great gentle beast. And if Koh Chang is the ‘Elephant Isle’ then we are definitely staying off the trunk road.

We have been extremely fortunate to find a colourful hippy hideaway on the ‘wrong’ side of the island, therefore keeping the right kind of people away !

imageIt is the brainchild of Orla, a wild-haired, Jewish, hippy-chick, with a blinding smile and an obvious fondness for life, and Greg, her graceful, soft spoken lover, who posesses ear piercings through which one could drive a golf ball.

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He is also decorated with intricate tatoos,  not the only designs he would have on his body if Andrew got his way !

They are a charming couple.

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This place is their home. It’s gotta be the coolest hangout around.

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Peaceful and serene, yet vibrant.  The only other guests are giant, lurid totems, with personalities all of their own, somewhat reminiscent of a happy house party on Easter Island.

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                                                        Far out …..

One never feels alone when strolling the grounds of an evening.  The other night, I could almost swear I saw one of the multicoloured monoliths move, although the copious amount of a home-made Hibiscus concoction I’ve been imbibing here, not to mention the extraordinary herbal tobacco I’ve just had to try, could be the real culprits for that midnight session of Musical Statues.  Whatever.  The place is alive. Literally.  At night we are treated to our own audio safari.

I was suddenly woken last night by a very loud, repetitive, screeching noise.  Imagining Andrew was fiddling with his ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ under the covers again, I asked him to turn down the volume.  Only to be indignantly informed that the sound was emanating from the jungle outside.  Eventually I slept – imagining Johnny Weismuller was laying next to me on the bed.  I didn’t tell Andrew.

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In the morning we had massage.  Before starting we asked the lady her name,

‘Tip’ she replied.

I’ll have the massage first I thought, then realised she was just introducing herself.

After nearly five hours of intense bodywork it became clear that Tip gave great massage.  She deserved every namesake she got.

Thai names never cease to surprise us.  Whilst recently staying in Bangkok, our hotel receptionist wore the name-badge, “Lookme”, her sidekick bore the title, ‘View’.  Given that licentiousness is almost compulsory in the Thai capital, it almost read like an invitation !

After Tip gave us good bed, our wonderful hosts took us on a tour of the lesser known part of the island – let’s hope it stays that way.  It is utterly unspoilt.

On the other coast the picture postcard is not so perfect.  Some Russian Dumbo has had the great idea to build highly incongruous high-rise right next to the beach.  Where the waves on our ‘Crusoe-esque’ part of the elephant are there to lap the shore and rinse the toes, the water on the West coast seems to perform an altogether murkier task – washing the dirty Roubles that have come ‘offshore’ during the last ten years.  Maybe that’s why it’s called ‘White Beach’, all terribly ‘Putin-esque’ and very dissapointing.  Most definitely the arse-end of this marvellous mammoth.

imageToday we are in recovery.  After all, the only way to ignore the peasants is to join them.  That potato vodka plays havoc with the head, not to mention the crow’s feet!  I look like Keith Richards on a good day!  No photos Mr Kennedy.

Tomorrow – We join Mr Whisky in Cambodia.  That is not a euphemism, but a taxi driver.  Let’s hope he doesn’t live up to his name when negotiating the notorious roads on that side of the border. I have a feeling a pre-drive Chang maybe essential.

And I do mean the beer this time !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blog Begins – Avoiding The ‘Bang-cough’ !

We have arived in Bangkok to begin our latest adventure in the far east and so my blog begins…..

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It is the fifth time Andrew and I have visited this strange and exotic city and again we are struck by the mix of hedonism and tradition that pervade the place. It is like a bordello, where one can have whatever one fancies, but must be aware that the ultra strict madame is watching like a hawk, ready to come down like a ton of brick Buddhas on anyone who should dare to break the many rules.

A very constrained type of hedonism.

Wonderful if one enjoys constraints! And by the marks on the wrists and ankles of some of the punters leaving the numerous establishments which cater for such amusement – many do!
imageIt is not just the dirty old man brigade who congregate here for such diversion. Balding, spotty, overweight youth, who would find it near impossible to swing a ride on the local ‘bike’ in their home town, jump onto the saddle here like Sir Bradley Wiggins on speed.

 

Of course, I do not judge. I have had many conversations with working ‘girls’ who assure me they would rather be employed in this manner than pick rice, in backbreaking fashion, from dusk til dawn. Looking at some of their customers, I think I’d rather suffer with a touch of lumbago! But hey, I’ve never picked rice! I’m sure that after a day or two in the paddy fields, I’d move to the capital to make capital on my back too !

However, as I have a rather nasty case of manflu, no doubt due to the long ‘brawl’ flight Andrew and I have just shared, sex is most definitely off the menu. I have had to ban cock whilst in bangkok! We need all our strength for the trip ahead.

So for the next few days we plan to take it easy.  I am determined not to succumb to the dreaded ‘Bang-imagecough’ which nearly killed my mother on our last expedition here.   So, currently I am reclining on a sunbed fiddling with my itinerary surrounded by a  ring of resting ‘Romeos’, and I can just see Andrew, through my prism of phlegm, pretending to do something industrious in the gym.  Yes – easy does it…

Although,  I have just heard about a very interesting night-spot involving 6.6 black men and randy Japanese lady tourists.  As Andrew and I are such keen anthropologists a visit to this show seems far too good to miss.  I have persuaded our friends, David and Michelle to accompany us there this evening.  So, as I recover during the day, a possible relapse is on the cards once the sun, or someone’s son, goes down!

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Oh well, you only live once, or twice as they believe here, and as this is also known as ‘The City Of Angels’ I am quite confident we shall be adequately protected.

For the more high-brow readers following this blog, (both of you!), fear not, some culture will follow.  By that, I do not mean Penicillin!  There will no doubt be more sophisticated experiences along the way.

But for now, with or without my ‘male malady’, we plan to make gay while the moon shines,  After all, when in Rome….

I only hope we don’t get fed to the lions.

They’ll eat anything here!

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Fasten Your Seatbelts – It’s Gonna Be A Bumpy Few Months!

Well, we have done it!

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‘The Lola Boys’  have booked to go roaming once again.

The latest adventure we are to embark upon will begin with us flying to Bangkok and then  making our way eastwards.  We shall journey overland through some of the less salubrious parts of eastern Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, on route to an unpronounceable, unfashionable, and from what I hear, quite unfriendly city, deep in Southern China.

To celebrate our newly, almost-planned itinerary and to welcome our new  followers on Twitter and the like – I am re-blogging a couple of the highs and lows of our recent sojourn in the orient !!!

I am certain that come January – there will be even more about which to cogitate, or rather, ‘blogitate’!

In the immortal words of Ms Bette Davis …bette

Fasten your seatbelts – it’s gonna be a bumpy few months!

(Or something like that!)

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Lola’s Blog. Stardate – 11/3/15 – The Final One Tear!

And finally ……..
The East, the final frontier.

These were the voyages of the The Lola Boys’ Enterprise.

Our three month mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new guest houses, to boldly go where no poof has gone before.

Captain’s blog – Stardate 11/3/15 – The final one tear…..

At times we could have done with ‘Lieutenant Uhura’.

After all, she was always William Shatner’s right hand in times of need!image

But we have coped,  without her and any of the other crew on ‘Kirk’s’ ship – we have done it alone.

Or should I say – together.

We have reached the end of our adventure and are on the home straight, or rather, strait, as we are making our way via Singapore and the ‘Straits Of Malacca’.

I cannot help but shed a tear.

Although we are both looking forward to returning to normal ( if that’s the right word!) life – I know we shall both mourn our wonderful walkabout.  It has become almost like a friend. The only certainty we have had for the past three months has been the necessity to move on – to journey forward.

And so we have.

‘Homo’s Odyssey!’  Although I doubt whether Odysseus laughed quite as much on his famous exploration.

We’ve encountered beauty, drama, kindness, cruelty and everything in between.

Not to mention a few bouts of diarrhoea, vomiting and man flu along the way.

But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, apparently.

Although, shockingly, I still look as though I should be tested for Ebola!

As Andrew has said to me, on too many occasions –

‘You love travelling – It’s a shame travelling doesn’t love you!’

I know he doesn’t mean it – or he wouldn’t be my ‘Passepartout’ – but one’s rucksack does seem to get a little heavier as you trek on in life!

We really must pack lighter next time!

So here, on our last leg, literally, we have just left the glorious city state of Singapore. An urban wonder. Which, at times, was a little too controlled for me, but certainly had the good looks to make any visitor ignore that fact.

We leave her as ardent admirers – of her futuristic beauty, at least.

And now Bangkok. How comforting to be in a town we are familiar with after so many alien experiences. Her food, her shabbiness, her downright cheek, have left us feeling ensconced in a warm, friendly quilt – woven in varying shades of naughtiness. Even a foot massage transforms itself into a scene from ‘Carmen’.

At times it seems that everyone is playing the same game here – or on it!

Why do we enjoy these travels? What do we garner from leaving our comfortable existence?

We have a good friend, who once asked me –

‘Why do you stay in those hideous places?’ ( If she’s reading this she’ll know who she is!).

There  have been a couple of moments on this trip I have given her question a modicum of thought – now, I think, I know.

Why do we do it?

Because we can!

By that, I do not mean to be trite or flippant. I mean only, because we are able.

When the day eventually arrives when neither of us is lucky enough to be adequately fit and strong to struggle on with our considerable ruck-sacks; to take the local transport, meeting fantastic characters along the way; to exist, merrily, in places we would never have discovered, or even thought we’d like; to make new friends, with people we would never have otherwise met; to learn; to grow; to change, hopefully, for the better: then we shall be sad!

But, we shall always have our memories.

Funny, ridiculous, stupid and lovely.

And just like Captain James T. Kirk – we shall be richer for it.

Hopefully, with more hair!

And there it is –

The Final Blog –

The Lola Boys Out East –

Over – and definitely out!

Categories: The Lola Boys | 7 Comments

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