Friday, 16 December 2011

Angkor

A few years back I remember quite clearly watching Gordon Burns on North West Tonight saying that Preston College wanted people to enroll on the creative stone masonry course as it was a dying art. It was then that I decided this was my back up plan in life and at some point I would finish this course and become a master craftsman. For some reason i've always been attracted to stone carving, so it was with excitement (and groggy red eyes) that I set off on bike at 5am to see the temples of Angkor. I'm not here to give you history lesson so follow the link, parouse some photos of the sights and listen to the sounds I recorded throughout the day.


We arrived at Angkor Wat just before sunrise along with Aki and Mervin who had rode with us. Aki is a 27 year old Finnish restaurant manager and one of the few people i've met who likes food more than me. Mervin is a 20 year old German who loves Angelina Jolie a bit too much and has a penchant for body popping, which we found out later that day. The sunrise was nice but the lake was swarmed with tourists and "photographers" whose utterly miserable faces killed the buzz a little. We tried our hardest throughout the day to take decent photographs with a camera that broke in the jungle and now rarely turns on and only comes in to focus occasionally. Whilst spying the pictures from the rest of the day, listen to this clip of an orphan band playing traditonal music that I saw near the first temple.

Pagoda band at Angkor Wat by LogaMcr














I also took some photos in black and white in an attempt to look arty. For this I would suggest listening to a clip of a band of landmine victims playing Khmer music.

Angkor Landmine Victim Band by LogaMcr






This wasn't the end of the music either as on our bike ride home I chanced upon a brass band rehearsing outside a youth club.

Siem Reap Youth Brass Band by LogaMcr

After getting home and washing an unthinkable amount of dirt and dust off us we joined Aki and Mervin again for some beers. The highlight of the evening was ending up playing pool in a tiny bar that we thought was innocent and sweet but was actually a front for a brothel as Natalie found out when she went to the female toilets upstairs. It was here that she drunkenly asked the barman to play 90s RnB before putting on a Shaggy CD that the madam quickly turned off. All in a days work ey.

Thailand - Koh Chang



In summary, more youths, not as spectacular beaches but a bit more chilled and enjoyable. Didn't feel like we were gatecrashing a Russian wedding party on a beach. This is how we passed the hours.

Full Moon Party

Not as large in scale as the famous ones in Koh Phangan but enough to convince us that this is definitely not our bag. It was a parade of whoppers on the grandest of scales, like someone had threw the contents of the Printworks on to a beach at closing time and assaulted them with a barrage of iffy dance music. Nat said it looked like someone had vomited a Hawaiian shirt and we spent most of the time watching peoples spectacular dance moves and borderline rapey chat up moves. I now can confirm that Psytrance needs no further airtime in my life.

Sloppy Covers Bands


The place above had a nice driftwood interior if you will allow me to go Llewelym-Bowen for a moment. This said, the band were pretty dire and I will be happy if I don't hear another cover of No Woman No Cry for the remainder of my living days.

Shadow Fun




Elephants



Stumbled across some elephants bathing and Nat was invited to wash and ride the two baby elephants. Undoubtedly one of her travelling highlights to date

video

Thailand - Koh Samet



In a word, Sandals. To summarise further, lovely white sand and crisp blue sea but an inordinate amount of middle aged tourists in speedos and honeymooners. What follows is the sum total of our non sun, sand and sea related activities.

Funfair


After the ferry we bought tickets for decided not to set off for the island we spent the night on the mainland at a funfair where I threw darts at balloons, shot stones at cans and found out that Thai people are shitbags when it comes to the dodgems. They will do ANYTHING to avoid crashing, which I was led to believe was the whole point.

20" Pizza Challenge


Probably not the challenge for someone who is lactose intolerant but our competitive edge got the better of us. Needless to say we both failed and both made excuses. Her base was a proper thick, cardboardy, school dinner affair though. Refer to my before an after pictures as a warning to you all.



Modelling

On our first day we spent the best part of an hour watching a young couple cavort around the beach taking photos of each other jumping through air, spraying sea water about, sifting sand through their fingers whilst looking seductively into the camera and lying provocatively on rocks whilst looking removed and thoughtful. Forget the temples, skyscrapers and jungles, this was without doubt one of the best things we saw and they were only one of the many couples who did this endlessly without getting bored or causing their memory cards to buckle under the pressure. We tried a few of your own and i'm sure you'll agree that I have a big future ahead of me.


Sandcastling


No trip to the beach would be complete without a sandcastle. I made the moat and collected shells before leaving the flair and finer details to Nat.


I also went snorkelling but don't have much to tell you about that. It was nice. I saw fish and coral reefs really close and spent most of my time with a slightly racist Swede as he was the only person I could understand that wasn't too involved with a Thai Bride.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Thailand - Bangkok

After the peacefulness of Lake Toba and the wilderness of Bukit Lawang we found ourselves once again with another huge city to navigate. In the airport we were quickly befriended by a Canadian man called Roy and his silent Thai partner. He was keen to tell us which shops to hit, where the floods had hit and invite us to his companions (see how careful i'm being not to say Thai Bride) sisters house to use the internet and get our bearings. As nice and helpful as he was we just didn't feel right and wanted to sort somewhere to stay in town. When his stop came on the sky train we had to politely shake him off and wish him well before going to the end of the line in the middle of Bangkok and getting amongst it. Natalie promptly explained to me that the problem was that he had thin lips and wasn't to be trusted. This must come as a shock to those of you with thin lips who thought for a second that Nat even likes you in the slightest.

In all honesty our stay in Bangkok was pretty uneventful in comparison to other legs of the trip as we ended up staying at a friends step dads house and and taking full advantage of his selection of Alan Partridge DVDs and functioning internet (which informed us that a lanky, pubed haired car fanatic was airing some opinions that not everyone was so keen on). However it is still a great city which we will be seeing more of when we pass through to fly to Vietnam and India next year. Aside from relaxing we did see some good stuff, the highlights of which were.

Night Markets -


You can't go anywhere in Bangkok without ending up at a market of some sort and we took in quite a few, the best of which were Ratchada Night Bazaar and Rot Fai Market. Ratchada is an market where Vespa enthusiasts come to show off and stalls sell everything from vintage car parts to vintage clothing and Rot Fai is a sprawling market outside of town selling just about everything you could imagine. It was here I found some dusty Thai and Chinese records for pennies and Nat found a Kewpie Doll (like one she had as a kid) which I got her as an early Christmas present.



The King's Birthday -


The King is a big deal in Thailand and as such his 84th birthday celebrations were anything but low key. When we say celebrations I don't mean Queens Jubilee, couple of clowns on a cul-de-sac having a picnic celebrations, its more the city is all out enjoying the stalls, plays, and 50ft posters of his face. He is so revered that in Thailand you will be imprisoned for saying anything bad about him. For example, if I was to say he is a boss eyed whopper, which i'm obviously not, I would be looking at serious jail time. Before we arrived someone had just been jailed for 20 years after sending a scathing email about him.

ZudRangMa Records -


After Nat suggested I maybe checked for record shops in the city (I know, I thought that was a bad call after enduring Japan) I found out about ZudRangMa, a cute little store a ten minute walk from where we are satying selling massively expensive Thai Funk and Folk records. I only bought one 7" from the bargain section but it is worth checking the albums they helped compile with Finders Keepers and Soundway if you are interested in Thai music. If your not but would amused by a track that sounds suspiciously like Iron Man by Black Sabbath, check the video below.




Koasan Rd - 


Not a highlight as such but worth mentioning if you are interested in the shower of shit that passes for humanity here. Bit harsh maybe but its just lights, horrible bars playing grating house and ping pong shows, which for those who don't know have nothing to do with ping pong. We did get a giggle out of the terrifying model heads that line the streets though.

Monday, 12 December 2011

VICTIM!

I thought Natalie was going to be the primary target for midgies and mozzies but obviously not on this evidence.

Indonesia - Bukit Lawang

Right, this time i'm keeping it short. I promise.

I'll try to anyway but it could be difficult as our trip to the jungles of Bukit Lawang was right up there with our favourite experiences of the travels so far. That said it was amazingly serene, with a dearth of anything constituting night life and most evenings were spent eating out whilst locals snoozed in the back or watched unintelligible soap operas. The drama was intense at times, transcending the language barrier and leaving us gripped.


For those of you eager to know what was on our iPods for the journey there I shall put you out of your misery. This time around I shared Natalie's and listened to everything from Nick Drake to Joanna Newsom, as well as one of my own mixes (above) because that is the kind of super cool guy I am. A brief and welcome interlude was when a busking band ran on the bus at one stop to run through a quick tune.

Sumatra Bus Band by LogaMcr

I do find it interesting how much our music choices change and adapt to our surroundings. Sumatra was more folky and organic sounding after the more electronic and industrial soundtrack to Japan. Then again I can be pretty dull and your probably not in the least interested so i'll tell you more about the jungle trek to see Orangutans which originally brought us to Bukit Lawang. (Below is one of the 4 bridges that crossed the river from our guesthouse to the town)


The night before we set off we were told by a fellow trekker that there was a wedding party going on in the town so we headed out to see how they celebrated. Much to our amazement the festivities consisted of a troupe of unconvincing lady boys playing with snakes, singing, dancing and dry humping a demon that had emerged from the crowds whilst an unimpressed man at a keyboard veered between 80s horror movie music and Euro Dance. All this from the Muslim country that had suggested Natalie covered her shoulders as to not offend anyone. Nothing like lady boys and monsters to keep all generations pleased. Good Clean Family Fun.

After a crack of dawn brekkie we packed our bags and got ready to go all Bear Grylls. Our guide Thomas was a proper joker and as well as showing us the secrets of the jungle such as the rubber tree, clove leaf and the sap that made incense he also kept us entertained with stories and recipes for herbal remedies to spice up your love life. According to him, if you mix together pure honey, the yolk of a duck's egg and Guiness "You will be taking off and NEVER landing".

I was pretty happy he was keeping it lighthearted and feeding me regularly as at times the 2 day trek got pretty rigorous. I really enjoyed getting stuck in though and seeing Orangutans in one of only two of their wild habitats left was pretty special. Unfortunately you don't always get that close and our camera is by no means at a professional level but we got a couple of decent snaps nonetheless.






The next day we passed up on a further 2 hour trek after Thomas said it was unlikely that we would see anything. Instead we joined the stragglers from another group and dossed about in a waterfall for a bit before rafting back. Hard work I know.


Our stay was coming to an end and as well as washing our clothes in the river (strangely satisfying) we spent time with the local kids by the river. Me doing my best Tarzan impression on a vine and Nat introducing them to the world of paste ups.




Oh and we found some more big things to continue the " Big things we have found in different countries that we have visited so far and then taken photos of" string of the blog.



The call to prayer was an almost ever present during our stay in Sumatra and on the last day I recorded this one at Bukit Lawang's Mosque.

Bukit Lawang Call To Prayer by LogaMcr