Bangkok (+Phnom Penh) either side of Christmas - 2016-17

After working three years straight and counting I decided that if I was too continue working then I was going to enjoy myself whilst doing it. So this year I am wintering warm.

Plenty of time to laze by the pool.

First up a one month test before Christmas to make sure it works for me and convince work that it works for them. So I posted it safe and chose Bangkok for this first stint. Great weather, great food, great entertainment and most important of all great internet and only a very slight chance of any power cuts. So I headed out mid November booked into a lovely apart-hotel and made everyone at work very jealous. Although as I have the same Skype number as I use at home and we work via the internet anyway I don't think anyone who I hadn't told noticed any change.

As I've been to Bangkok many times before I didn't do a whole lot of touristy things in this first month. But I did see a lot of the city, a lot of Buddhas and ate some great food.

My favorite snapper in a chili and garlic sauce with a papaya salad.

Soft-shell crab in spicy sauce.

I love the hustle and bustle of Bangkok especially along the river where there is always boats going every which way.

I'd not visited Lumphini Park on previous trips so decided to take a look. A green oasis away from the traffic.

Actually Bangkok is a very green city. It is cris-crossed with canals and there are trees and green spaces everywhere. From the air it must look like one big park. My main reason for visiting was to try to spot a water monitor lizard and I wasn't disappointed.

I saw half a dozen or more from quite small juveniles up to four feet long monsters. And they are carnivorous!

Follow Me Bike Tour. I booked a bike tour to get me of the beaten track and see Bangkok from a different perspective. It was great booking around the back streets stopping at at less visited sites.

The Yodpiman Flower Market was interesting. Rows and rows of flowers, most will be bought and placed at temples.

We stopped off at the Turtle Temple and fed them with lettuce which they seemed to love.

But come week three it was time for a change of scenery so I headed off for a long weekend in Phnom Penh. A change of scenery scenery and a change of pace. Although the roads are as chaotic there are far less cars. Tuk-tuks and motorbikes file here. I stayed in a hotel overlooking the river which is very full this time of year. The promenade has been much improved since I first came here and now offers a lovely morning or evening or drinks stroll.

The food is different too although obviously from the same roots and for the first time on this 'trip' I endured on a few beers. England Australia rugby on TV it would've been rude not to.

I had one day to see some of PP so I first took a tuk-tuk down to the Russian Market. Christmas is approaching so I'm not going to turn down an opportunity to buy anything a bit different. The market is a big undercover mass of stalls selling everything. Some areas aimed more at tourists some completely local.

I bought a few things for my nephews at one of the souvenir stalls.

On the way out I bought a mini pineapple on its stalk and started the long walk back.

The reason for walking back was that I wanted to visit Tuol Slang the former school which was used by the Khmer Rouge as a detention and torture centre. It is now a museum to the horrors that happened there.

The buildings are much as they were when the place was 'liberated', barbed wire, iron beds and torture equipment. But the walls are covered in photos which tell the tale of what happened during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule.

As with most monstrous regimes the Khmer Rouge lived their paperwork so there are detailed record of those who passed through. Morbid mugshots of lives cut short.

Before I came to Cambodia for the first time ten years ago Kampuchea and the Khmer Rouge meant little more to me than the a Blue Peter appeal one year. Even now we hear little about what went on. The liberal lefties in the media can't even pretend this wasn't based on left wing ideology so they'd rather not really about it.

I'd like to come back and spend some more time in Cambodia this winter but so many places, so little time, maybe I won't get chance. Pity as I like a rawness of the place, less westernised than Thailand or Malaysia.

How quickly a month passes when you're having fun (except the bout of extreme food poisoning) so soon it was time to head back to the UK. Leaving made much easier by the fact that I know I'll be back again inside a month.

Mid-January and back to Bangkok. I left a bag here over Christmas so I had to come back here first to pick that up before continuing my travels. Only a week but I did fit in two touristy days. One Wat Pho which I've visited many times before and Ayutthaya which I hadn't but I really should have.

Wat Pho is one of the big temple complexes in Bangkok; second only to the Grand Palace I guess. I much prefer it to the Grand Palace, it's more later back and less busy; plus I love the huge statuses which guard the gates.

Whenever I come here they are working on some part of the temples. Often, as today, touching up the Buddhas :-).

The big attraction is the giant Reclining Buddha. It's the one bit that is crowded and the walkway around the outside is a bit of a crush. But it's big, it's impressive and deserves a visit however busy.

Ayutthaya is the old capital of Siam and I've meant to visit in the past but never got around to it. I will definitely come back again. The island in the centre is a UNESCO site and although post of the modern city full of rings of temples and palaces in varying states of repair.

I prefer these places which show their age over those that are rebuilt to look as they originally did. Maybe it's down to me being atheist and do not believing anything religious can be modern. I see religious buildings as outdated historical monuments. Ayutthaya had some great outdated monuments.

In many ways Ayutthaya is similar to Bagan in Burma, although Bagan is more item and less built up the vast number of Stupas is comparable. (Bagan has more but after the first 100 you really do caring.)

I love that everything is made out of bricks. I love the patterns and the textures. Where the ground has subsided the tiers are leaning and the walls looking like waves.

40 baht each way for the 90 minute train journey. 50 baht to hire a bike for the day. £3 very well spent. As a part of the commemorations for the last King entry to the Wats had been free for the last three months so it really was a bargain day out.

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