Saturday, 20 January 2018

19th - 20th January- Chelsea Harbour

Having a spontaneous night in Chelsea Harbour to visit the Design Centre and Kings Road. I had lunch in a little restaurant with very very loud speaking young women - not sure who they were trying to impress with some comments as “well you know who my god father is” and “ we are off to Necker Island” so I was invisible which was interesting. Anyway got some fabric for covering the sofa cushions and saw and will order a marvellously comfortable bed - my old one is at the end of its life. 
Didn’t watch Ronnie being beaten in the semi finals of the Masters and am now sitting outside under a large blanket overlooking the docks and the rather sad array of moored boats. It’s pretty freezing but with soup inside me I’ll be fine though I may go in for dessert or coffee though perhaps hot chocolate would be best.
Somehow it’s all very impersonal around here - all the people who work here haven’t a hope of living nearby much like Oxfords problem for the nurses and other hospital staff.

This might be a 5 star hotel but the food while pricey is decidedly only about 2 - but good service and there is new management who will be upgrading everything.
Here is a marvellous chair I saw and covet. It is extremely comfortable and comes from LA so out of my price bracket. 
It is so quiet here that I got up at 8 which is two hours later than usual. It’s a grey wet day so will see about the Thames Path. Few people staying here and sounds like Russians mainly. Wandering up the Thames I’m struck by the number of seemingly empty flats and was then told that in the huge Imperial Wharf complex more than half are unoccupied. Then I met a young GP who lives on a boat in the harbour here where the cost of a years mooring is only £5000 a year though you can only stay 5 nights a week but that is good value if you have somewhere else to go for the other two nights and I wonder who checks up. 

Friday, 19 January 2018

January 2018 - Leather lane and Chiltern Rsilwsys

What an amazing little street in the jewellery quarter in what appears to be the borough of Camden  it is filled with places to eat and street trades - came to find out about some gold powder I found and of course not gold but a great few hours. Having lunch in Trent’s recommended by the girl at the gold refinery. But could have gone anywhere.

One wonders where all the travellers have come from. The car park is very nearly full - it has been a great addition to the transport in our area now we just need a Witney / Oxford line and we can stop complaining about the A40. No mater what they do to the road there are the two bridges which are unlikely to be widened so a bottleneck will still ensue.

Friday, 29 December 2017

29th December - 42 hours later

Yes it is 42 hours since I left Raffles on this journey home and now safely back to find members of my family happily looking after the house - there is still half a snowman in the garden. Thank you to all those who made this possible and helped me when I needed help and of course got me home safely. I used British Airport Transfers to get back and forth from the airports - excellent  service.
So signing out until next time - bye and thanks for reading.

28th December - leaving again

Another bed, another breakfast of mountains of food but am back to a bowl of cereal which is a waste as it costs the same as a three course meal - of course our meal today is free compliments of Cathay Dragon.
Flight ok but Hong Kong transit absolutely ghastly place. One thing everobd who ever reads this whatever ticket you ever buy ask if it is upgradeable / you may not want to but there is no way of finding out until you actually want to do it and then they tell you it is the wrong kind of ticket which you would never have known. This isn’t even the case for an expensive ticket there is some code somewhere. I’m stuck in this shopping fast food place for 9 hours where the healthiest food I could find was a bruschetta. I’m hoping that I can pay to lie down in a lounge somewhere. One could be reduced to tears by it all.
The lounge costs $103 - so not paying that - I’d say nth is is the worst airport experience ever / give me a scruffy place with no pretensions my day and the most populous nation on earth don’t help.
Have at last with a lot of complaining and repeated visits got a food voucher for pizza express or the spaghetti house!’ And directed to dim loungers. But still can’t talk to anyone from  Cathay Pacific. I’m so tired I feel quite ill - your body can only take so much mucking around with time but most of all is the false environment of aircon for what has been non-stop for 30 hours so far and there are another 12 or so to go.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

27-28th December - grounded in Phnom Penn

An hour or so into our flight the pilot told us he had a technical problem do we had to go back. Cathay Pacific then did not excel themselves and 4 hours later we were still milling around at the terminal wanting to know what to do. Meanwhile the airline or airport staff were taking selfies much to our irritation - there is an unhealthy self obsession - I watched one girl just looking at herself endlessly like looking in a mirror. Eventually a chap asked for all those travelling business class - well I just told them that I was going premium economy from Hong Kong and by then everyone was so confused that he just let me join the first group to come to this vast hotel. Of course the irony is that it is virtually opposite Raffles. It is absolutely huge with a dining room set with long tables like for a conference. Anyway I don’t feel too bad as shortly afterwards the rest of the connecting passengers arrived. Everything was further complicated by the fact that many passengers said they would just go home for the night.
Soon after I moved into this huge room a guy came to empty the mini bar.
So we wait to see what happens tomorrow. Cathay Pacific won’t look good unless they sort us out though personally I don’t mind if I have to spend some time in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

27th December - going home

Woken by a car alarm around 4 - that will be a popular person I’m sure. The fan is on and I’m catching up with all my online gamers. Luckily the breakfast here starts at 6 which  is unusual and usually I  have to wait until 7 or even later which is a nuisance for early risers.
I read in the newspaper last night about the Kep sea festival of which I saw just the beginning - there ended up being thousands of people there with all manner of events taking place though mainly after dark so well out of that.
There is no wind but a drizzly rain . I read the local Khmer Times - politics, business scandals and quite a lot on environmental issues - today illegal logging. Yesterday citric acid dumping by China was highlighted - due to a trade barrier by the EU China has been funnelling it through Cambodia which has different rules applied to it. And for those of us who like train journeys the line, the second only in the country, will connect PP with Thailand next year ahead of schedule. There is also a housing crisis here with an estimated 800000 homes needed - mainly due to urbanisation.
Just saw a man dangling from a rope attached to the top right corner of this building - he was swinging around!
Had my last massage for an hour and a half at $55 but with all the taxes which you aren’t told about it came to $71 - the notion that Cambodia is cheap is an illusion - if you backpack and live on street food maybe but as soon as you eat in any cafe or stay in even a small guesthouse all these taxes come into play around 30percent it looks like which is a huge amount extra and then the waiters etc all expect tips. 
I confirmed with the concierge that vat is added to all the other taxes so you might start with a 2 percent tax then a 7 percent of that subtotal and then a special tax of 10 percent of the next subtotal and finally vat of all that - so don’t be fooled that Cambodia is a cheap place to visit.

And I’m now having the famous afternoon tea for my late lunch. But the best thing I ate anywhere was that little cheese tart which I bit into in the shop on Saigon and the insides dribbled out all over my fingers but I could understand why there was a queue to buy them - just a little tart smaller than Mr Kipling for about 30c - amazing. 

Monday, 25 December 2017

26th December - the count down begins

Checked in, sorted out winter clothes and packed up all the presents and it’s 4.45 am and can’t sleep.
Cathay Pacific with which I am flying home have a system whereby you make a bid for an upgrade. I put one in for an upgrade to business class from premium economy only to have it rejected without explanation. I thought perhaps BC was full which would be fair enough only to find it was not. So what is the deal? Is there some secret amount that gets you an upgrade in which case they should tell you what it is - it’s not a lottery. Watch this space as I try to find out.
I told about the very small dogs in Vietnam while here in Cambodia they are quite different with very pointy ears  - no idea of the breed.
I’m in a huge mall - it’s odd to come to them as I’m not shopping but there are lots of places to eat, clean loos, and here more arcade machines than I’ve seen in  casino.  The kids are here during their lunch hour.
These outfits hopefully don’t suggest arranged marriages! One of the outlets is called Pink Pussy to rival Hello Kitty?

I had tried to get to the cinema to see Paddington 2, but after an abortive half hour tuktuking through the back streets it was closed when we finally found it and must say I’m not  too sure I would have ventured in. The back streets really are that but probably not in ten years time- they will have gone. I did however, see massage   parlour adverts for all manner of treatments, none of which I have ever been offered or sought.
You do a lot of thinking when you are away and especially when on your own. There are no beggars here though there are peddlers. You get to wondering about the sort of socialist state we have where despite all the complaints about universal credits, etc there is money from the state for living from birth to death. Here what is noticeable is that the poor are working at all manner of enterprises. In the countryside you don’t need permission to just make your front porch into a shop selling anything from fuel in old Pepsi bottles to a bunch of leaves of morning glory, flip flops or a fake Gucci watch which might also be secondhand.  In town there is every kind of street vendor - will this all go and create a class of poor who cannot compete with big business. 
The younger generation, those under 20, will have very different lives with all the modern inventions and expectations, certainly their grandparents and many parents could only dream of. Here in the mall it’s a world away from the rice paddies but those farmers’ children will have schooling and better health - the infant mortality has fallen dramatically and life expectancy almost doubled and there are amazing opportunities 
But at the same time there is a traumatised generation / do they get any help I wonder.
Have found a casino in a huge Chinese complex so going off with my tt driver - who has been very loyal and waits for me everywhere - perhaps I’m paying him too much  - to have some fun on the roulette table seeing I couldnt see Paddington this is a good substitute!
Back from Nagaworld the enormous gaming complex where I didnt spend a dollar- there were hundreds of slot machines (see above to amend), automatic roulettes, plenty of card games which I had not seen before and a few normal roulettes BUT you had to put a minimum of $25 on red or black and $5 on any individual number - so having bought $50 worth of chips I cashed them back again and just watched the croupiers, their minders and the punters and we were all watched again by roving eyes and probably cctv as well. It was an experience to see people placing thousands each time. 
The rain and wind have started to I’m in the hotel now until my taxi tomorrow.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

25th December - Xmas day strangely at Raffles in Phnom Penn

Weather very much cooler around 20 only which is perfect. Had to go inside because its actually raining. Went to the Russian market for final presents. As I don’t need anything for myself it is fun just buying for others. I went in a tuktuk and while the driver was waiting for me a “playboy” stole my bottle of water out of it  which has caused great amusement to all the bellboys etc to whom he told the story.
Have FaceTimed the Forbes family in Melbourne and will do the others later- quite a tricky thing to get the time right with Lisa in the Dominican Republic and the boys in Cheltenham and make sure it’s not the middle of the night. I thought today was Sunday but realise it is actually Monday,
I mentioned about using the main road for other uses well in the middle of the city here one street had an old kitchen chair placed in the middle of it with a hand written note very effectively stopping all traffic both ways - Id quite like  to be able to do that in East End sometimes .
All that’s left of my fall is one rather swollen leg and a hesitation to climb up and down too many stairs. On the other hand I get lots of help. 
A couple more tips for coming here
Large dollar bills are very unwelcome and looked on with suspicion so use 20s or 10s and do hang on to the odd Khmer note as they are useful for public loos called Happy rooms in Vietnam or “rooms with a thousand stars” if they have no roof.
A torch for visiting Angkor early in the morning as it is very dark and the paths uneven.
Remember the prices of meals all have at least two taxes or other additions and still space for an additional gratuity underneath,
If you are on you own it is handy to have an international game on your phone to play when you are lying around the pool and don’t feel like reading.
The hotel gave me a gingerbread man and a lollipop for xmas and this little snowman about one inch high was with my coffee after dinner.
There are an enormous number of people working here, just had someone at the door who would like to refresh my room- I’m just having a lie down: rest from all the activity!! From talking to Tom and his family!! The mini bar is so stacked with food and drink you could just hole up for a few days if it was either too hot or too wet - in fact I’m quite looking forward to being in a typhoon or just even the end of one - I’ll be all cosy and dry though I really do feel for all those for whom it is really dreadful- if they are flooded - which people are used to in the wet season - they have to move their belongings up out of the way but for me it will be an experience to see how the country handles it.
FaceTimed Lisa in the Dominican Republic where it is certainly warmer than here - if I can work out the aircon I’ll turn it off! Anyway here is the view from my window now as I go down for the Xmas Buffet. The bit that sticks out seems to a restaurant as I think those are umbrellas while the building  in the middle has a helipad on the top. There is quite a competition going on amongst these countries to have the most amazing skyscraper, comparing Hanoi, Ho and here with the Gulf States. What would nicer would be to see more equality and less ostentation. 
Oh yes and I justt remembered, there were some lovely little ceramic bowls in the market - they turned to be opium pipes - I would not want to land up in a Cambodian jail  so resisted.

Have just had enormously long Christmas buffet dinner with some very glamorous women to the accompaniment of two French guitarists and singers.
There were oysters and foire  gras and a chocolate fountain and a blue ice xmas tree that is slowly melting. I had tiny helpings like 1 marshmallow dipped in the chocolate and one tiny leg of a soft crab which might have come from the baskets I saw a day or so ago.
Now to my book and I’ve asked for the aircon to be switched off.
Battered and bruised but a smart shawl of lotus silk so they say.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

24th December - Xmas Eve and on to Phnom Penn

Can’t believe it is now the final move but this time luxury awaits at Raffles. All the other hotels have been a mixed bag except for location which was my first criterium when I was looking for them - is criterium right? It sounds odd. I had the fan on all night last night for the first time too though the locals are wearing jackets.
Mea Culpa in Kampot has excellent food - huge helpings of fruit. Had supper at Au Berge a Swiss restaurant I found while walking home in the dark along back streets and which turned out to be very good Swiss French food - no stir fry or oil.
On the Giant Ibis bus we were given hand wipes, water and two little croissants. All for $10 for a two and a half hour journey.
Arrived at Raffles where they take you money upfront but on account of my sore knee have upgraded me to an even more superior room. I have left my sandals on the bus but was going to chuck them anyway so now need to buy some as I can’t go to dinner in my very grubby plimsolls which we’re also for the chuck. 
My elegant new shoes for ten (should have been five but too hot to bargain or go wandering around trying to find my size) dollars - should last me three days.
There is well stocked mini bar and cupboard I might be tempted by the M&Ms!! as a xmas treat though am
having a xmas eve dinner tonight with a buffet tomorrow along with a large contingent of French people. Now time for a swim though wrapped well against the sun.
Opted for a jacuzzi and massage instead - came back to a xmas stocking in my room. 
Local children have been singing carols around the tree and wishing us all
Merry Christmas xmas - I must not get emotional.

We are predicted to get heavy rain as a result of Typhoon Tembin at present affecting the Phillipines.
This could be a disaster for all those farmers who I saw still harvesting or laying their crop out to dry / the government has put out a warning but it won’t stop the rain.
Very strange even to think it is Xmas tomorrow and what I would notmally be doing and have done for about 40 years or more. Only Tom and Jenna and Robert with William will be even in England.
Here there isn’t even an Anglican Church to go to or even a catholic one - Pol Pot destroyed the cathedral in 1975. There are a couple of US sort of community churches,

Friday, 22 December 2017

23rd December - WiFi and Kep

Just a word about the excellent WiFi everywhere and in SR Sok had a little device which seemed to act as a mobile router so that wherever we were I could access it even though I had mobile data OFF and I use pay as you go. When we left his home he just took it with him - it wasn’t a phone but something he said came from China.
On the other hand bathrooms and lighting are pretty rubbish especially trying to read in bed.
And about the roads - you might expect to see a buffalo, a dog or a duck on a main road but today going to Kep on the main road part of one lane was blocked off with a homemade sign and rice was drying on mats for 50 yards or so, then some kids had set up a skateboard ramp and finally a wedding tent took a whole lane outside someone’s house. 
Ali, my tuk tuk driver, taught me all about salt production though I didn’t understand much of it  but he went on to explain the difference between the various palm trees stopping down country lanes to show me how they climb them and collect the palm oil. In exchange I taught him the English words for parts of a tree, branch, trunk etc.
I mentioned about the huge walls that property owners build long before they build a house and indeed sometimes never do. Here is an example it is apparently to make sure no one sneaks a bit of land rather like in Vietnam where they leave shortened trees as a boundary.

Kep is quite different from Kampot except for the foreigners. Still lots of Dutch. The Prime Minister
came to visit today as there was some kind of water festival happening. I went to the famous or perhaps infamous crab market where literally thousands of crabs are brought in for sale. Plenty of other fish as well but there is much concern over the crabs which seemed rather small to me and conservationists would like to see some restrictions. This is just one basket absolutely full with about 60 + in it,

So for something different I went to a showing of The Killing Fields which is on every day at 4pm - but had to walk out half way in order not to miss the boat trip to see the fireflies. This was rather spoilt by the loud Cambodian pop music played all the way down the river.
And so ends my time here. By staying three nights in a place not only do you stop moving and can get siome laundry done but you are quickly recognised and in turn you become familiar with part of the town. I like that.

22nd December - Mea Culpa, Kampot

Cocks crowing and birds tweeting and wind blowing off the water with sunrise through my window.
Best breakfast because it was just what I would have at home- muesli, fruit and yogurt. Lost my hairbrush and have a cold - it is standard here to wear a mask when you have a cold so will have to comply. It is quite chilly strangely with people wearing jackets yet it is still in the 20s - it’s amazing how quickly your body adjusts to the local temperature.
Off to the pepper plantation and a butterfly farm. This region is supposed to have the finest pepper in the world and was responsible for making the port here one of great importance in the past.
Before I tell you about the trip to the countryside - 
I’m in the Epic Art cafe home of old hippies and backpackers eating vegan food, Israelis and Dutch around me served by people with disabilities like missing arms. There is a preponderance of string vests and skimpy tops.
Ali my tuktuk driver agreed to  drive me through the country stopping to talk to farmers bringing in the rice crop - here I am helping to winnow rather unsuccessfully.
He pointed out peanuts, morning glory, chillies  and then we watched sugar cane being planted. This is for cane juice while sugar is cultivated by large companies on a huge scale.
A bit about housing.
The predominant colours are pale cream through to a rusty red with the odd lime green one. But scattered throughout are bright blue buildings or parts of them from just a door to the roof only. This is also the colour of the Cambodian Peoples Party but I’m not sure if they are connected and it’s a way of showing allegiance. On the farms and smaller wooden houses first the upright poles are put in and then the roof and later when they can afford them the walls which could be wood or palm or banana leaves/ ventilation is essential. 

You also see, especially nearer the towns, land surrounded by high walls but within which there is nothing but bare ground. Sadly of course with increased living standards and consumerism come plastic bags and rubbish before the infrastructure to collect it and dispose of it.
Next month is wedding month as the rice harvest is in and planting has not started.
And so we arrived at one of the pepper plantations for which Kampot is famous  along about 20 km of gravel roads which are in a state of constant improvement,. The other product found here is salt from the salt flats. Pepper is a vine that they train up hollow brick columns. It is mainly exported to France and is extremely expensive.
To avoid dodgy food my family won’t believe I’m having a pizza for the second night in a row - there is a proper pizza oven here.
There are a fair few US do-gooders here and even worse evangelicals.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

21st December - off to the seaside at Kampot

I wake around 5 every day and it is nice to catch up on news. I have been thinking why we all comment on people spending so much time on their phones - couples lying on sunbeds for instance - but then no one commented if instead they were reading a book and indeed perhaps some still are - now we just have a broader  range of activities.
Siem Reap is experiencing enormous growth much of which is funded by China and South Korea. There are smart suburban houses cheek by jowl with shacks of bamboo and corrugated iron. Prosperity in general goes not make everyone rich but certainly offers opportunities. When we went shopping for the birthday present I was told that the fruit and vegetables there came from Thailand rather from the abundant local produce. I should think standards and reliability have something to do with it - each local producer of say mango from their own tree would have to be washed and sorted rather than displayed on a table or basket in the street. Sounds like the EU all over again!
Caught the plane down to Sihanoukville then a taxi to Kampot and a guesthouse called Mea Culpa with a thatched boma where I’m sitting and quite chilly at 27• 
The coastal strip is bounded by hills inland and the sea to the south but the cold air has managed to drift downwater  and people were shivering this morning in SR at 14•
The vegetation is different too, a lot of bush scrub with eucalyptus and much is uncultivated. The coconut palms were bent over in the wind and we had a proper shower on the way here.
I visited the Provincial Museum of Kampot which is housed in the old French Governor’s house. It consisted of some photos and architect’s models of the town in 2030.
There are orchids hanging from the trees with their roots in coconut shells.
Building is going on everywhere so perhaps the 2030 dream may happen. Note the scaffolding. 
There is a side promenade along the river but few promenaders and instead of being by the seaside I am down by the riverside.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

20th December - seeing the temples

Much better for having had a day of nothingness - almost. Thank you to all the Words with Friends  players as I wake very early long before breakfast and there are always some games to play similarly in the evening if I’m on my own or don’t feel like talking to another stranger although someone just came up to me and asked how I was compared to yesterday and said I should have had an MRI for a fall hitting my head - never seen her before but it’s quite noticeable to have me walking around looking like this even though much of the swelling is down thanks to the hot herb treatment but knee preventing me climbing all over the uneven steps.
After another massage and a session on my legs and eyes Sok took me in his tuk tuk to Bayon one of the smaller complexes within the whole archaeological park.
Awkward to walk around with current physical limitations and thousands of tourists. But saw much of this site and we then did a sort of scenic drive stopping from time to time.
All along the road around the park there are little popup rest areas where the local people and some a bit more intrepid than me can stop for a drink or a bite to eat or just a lay down in a hammock.

Until a quick stop at Lucky Mall where I bought Sok’s daughter my little pony lookalikes for her 5th birthday today. He said he would get her and her friend some Coca Cola for the party. He brought his wife here to the hotel yesterday - she was overawed having never been inside a hotel before. Even though it became too difficult to stay with them and has become  a rather more expensive few days it was worth every penny to be with them in their home and hear their story and helping with setting up the classroom too. On our way back we saw some monkeys 

and there were some rather sad old elephants giving people rides. Cambodia however, is quite environmentally conscious and I read today of a host of new species that have been identified along the Mekong recently.
Found what is supposed to be the best restaurant in SR according to Tripadvisor - had a lactovegetarian salad and a dessert for $11 which was pretty cheap as on the whole Cambodia isn’t all that cheap.

19th December - Angkor Wat

Up and down much of the night with cocks crowing and some persistent barking dogs and the odd thing falling on the roof.
At 4 I got up and pretty soon the family were up too and we were off to firstly buy the $62 three day ticket for the temples. Then along with thousands of others we walked to wait for the sunrise. I was really not in the best of shape to do this, barely able to see out of one eye and with a dodgy knee even dodgier. There are multiple steps of various stages of unevenness and frankly it wasn’t really worth it except to say I’ve done it.
On the way back to Sok’s house we stopped at the school stationary shop and it was great fun choosing equipment for his little school- pencils, rulers, exercise and copy books as well as a map of the world, a magnifying glass and some first stage English books. I like to think that I’ve have made some contribution to this complex country. Enormous sums of money come in from just the Angkor tickets alone - over 4 million visitors already this year.  Tickets cost $37 of which 2 goes to the childrens' hospital which is also a maternity hospital and has been instrumental in bringing down the infant mortality rate as well as contributing to the health of children. But not much is for local people. Imagine if there were so few schools that you built a lean- to on to the side of your house for children who are even poorer than yours.
Here is Sok’s house for him and his wife and two children. You can see the lean- to on the right.

After that I transferred to a hotel and spent the day resting up after a foot and leg massage but the masseuse was so worried about my eye that she enrolled a colleague to apply hot herbs wrapped in a sort of pad to reduce the swelling. I have been treated with the utmost kindness, sympathy and respect throughout. 
So after hours of lounging around I ventured out to the night market. Much of the same stuff. The Chinese and Koreans are very much in evidence- with lots of shops and enormous new hotels with thousands of rooms on the outskirts of town.!

18th December - arrival at Siem Reap

Until you actually come here most of us have never heard of the place though of course know if Angkor Wat. It is in fact the nearest town, once the capital of a much larger Cambodia and where everyone stays for the ruins. It also has the busiest airport and I may add very expensive flights due to loading of special tourist taxes.
Talking to the ship staff they tell me they work every day for 9 months - ie the dry season - then have 3 months off. This must be hard on those with small children, well any children and for their relationships. Not sure if relationships on board develop one would imagine they do as the staff is pretty large and they are away from home for so long.
All together it has been very good - the staff excellent, the food pretty good and the excursions as good as they could be as there aren’t many places to see on the way but that was fine as I just love the sailing along. I met some interesting people, perhaps some I’ll meet up with again but you never know.
A rather more eventful day than I might have liked. I tripped over the stay of an umbrella at a local market and went flying onto my face. Everyone on the buses was very helpful and sympathetic and luckily no damage to my eye or skin broken which would have been a nuisance for infections.
So here I am looking like an old battered woman with sore knees as well which took the bulk of the fall.

Anyway now after a four hour journey I’m at the homestay. I was met by my host Sok Pen who whisked me off in a tuk tuk to the local clinic where the doctor was more interested in swollen ankles and wanted to do blood tests etc which I declined. So he listened carefully to my front and back, prodded by tummy, gave up on taking my blood pressure as my arm was too fat for the strap, gave me some drops for my eye and 5 paracetamol saying only to take them if I really needed them and then I paid $3.5 and we were off. 
My homestay is down a little lane - photos tomorrow. Surrounded by jungly plants, up on stilts with the loo down some very steep stairs. Sok’s wife offered to sleep up here with me but I declined that too however, she then collected some leaves and a paraffin burner and rubbing the leaves in her hands then passed them through the flames and laid them over my eyes. This went on for about half an hour and it does feel a bit better certainly less sore but I can’t see so well out of the swelling. They are being very solicitous so I do hope I’ll be able to explore a bit on my own though it doesn’t seem likely, my biggest worry is getting down the steps at night, at present I’m lying under the red mosquito net with my feet on garish cushions wishing for an old fashioned potty under the bed.

Very steep steps to be negotiated in the night!! Oh and here are the spiders they grill and eat which were at the market where I fell.

17th December - cooler and hilly on last day

Woke up to peaceful landscape. On either side are small conical hills, smaller trees, no more palms and fewer houses on stilts along the broad flat banks. There is also a power line and yesterday I heard a train.
There is almost no hyacinth floating down but a lot on the banks. All parts of the plant are used. The people here get most of their protein from fish from this lake. There are three groups living up here. The Chan who are Muslims but do not wear any scarves over their heads or burkas, etc which only goes to show it is not necessary as part of their religion - they produce meat for the Buddhists who of course can’t kill anything though of course they can eat it. Then there are the Vietnamese - they are not at present considered Cambodian citizens and live in a floating village - 
However, as they use the water for ALL their needs their life expectancy is lower than others and in order also to protect the environment the government has decided that the entire community will move in 2018. They all have to move to higher ground and as they will then be able to own land these people will become citizens.
The third group are the local Kampucheans. 
Lots of bugs, cooked with chilli,  on sale as well as a whol truck full of pineapples.
The very tall palms are sugar palms whose leaves are used for rooves and the wood for boats.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

16th December - moving on to Oudong

Having spent the night moored to a muddy bank at Koh Chen we will make our way to the old capital Oudong. It was the capital of this much-invaded country from 1618 to 1865. After which it reverted to PP.
A bus ride to the largest monastery in Cambodia. It has a wonderful interior and we sat on the floor and received a blessing from the monks. Four groups live there. The priests and the nuns who are permanent, the monks who come for a year of two and old people who have no family to look after them. 

We then went on an oxcart - not quite sure why - the oxen are a hybrid between Brahmin and local cattle. The females do not give milk and are just used for breeding more oxen and for meat.
After a snooze and an ice cream party and bingo the sun is setting over the lake.
A talent show competed the night.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

15th December - Phnom Penn and silver village

Getting up before sunrise the lights of the city are reflected in the still - but fast flowing - gleaming river. If it wasn’t for the hyacinth sometimes you would think it not moving. There is of course a pink glow on the horizon.
Not to mention any more about food but my clothes are definitely tighter than they were in the summer.
Had a quick tour of PP with two people I like in a tuktuk but the city is just too full of cars. This is partly because of the incredible growth that is taking place and the cheapness of cars.
For the first time too the heat has got to me so I’m going off to collapse in my cool cabin,
Here we are and also the late King Sihanouk who is much revered due to his efforts to bring independence to the country.

Much better after a sleep. With no fuss we have started day 5’s sail up to a village where the company supports a school for local children although schools are free there are not enough of them so the children either go in the morning or the afternoon. If you kill all the professional people, all those who can read and write you have a massive job on your hands to build up education, medicine, architecture, engineering, etc. In the years since the KR were overthrown life expectancy has jumped about 30 years and GDP is increasing at about7% year on year.
The scenery along the banks of the river constantly changes. Here it is just now on the tributary Tonle Sap.
Here inside the boat there is a lot of Bonhomie as the booze is free or, should  I say, included. So you can imagine that advantage is taken of this rather too much by some.
Had a nice chatty FaceTime with the Forbes children with the Ashes on in the background- they didn’t seem too impressed with the river here which is pretty brown and the sky overcast today.
Our excursion today was at Koh Chen where we visited a primary school but I, like a young Mexican couple find it rather uncomfortable to photograph ‘poor’ children and really inappropriate for men to be taking pictures of cute little girls as one man was doing. This could not happen in either the UK or the States indeed when a Chinese lady wanted to take a picture of Otis in the Natural History Museum he refused to look up at all - quite right too.
Anyway then we saw some silversmiths at work and was not too tempted. 
I spent supper with the Mexicans who are on honeymoon. They are both doing their PHDs and were very interesting - she working in the field of women’s rights and policy making amongst elite groups which is rather different from what you expect anthropologists to be involved in. Usually there is emphasis on tribes and ethnic minorities. So I have met some interesting people if I just bother to ask and not just talk about where people have been and where they plan to go next. After all the cost alone is quite a filter. 
Tonight was dancing night and it would have been nice to have been with someone but I’m not alone. There are a fair few single men and women on board. And I do think of Roger and know that it is thanks to him that I am here st all. Having lost tree old friends this year and two more very ill I need to make the best of this time.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

14th December - first time in Phnom Penn

Sleep eludes me. Went out on to my balcony and the tropical night with a crescent moon was so marvellous it seemed a pity to be in bed. You don’t get the same smells that you do in Africa. Years ago all cheap flights to South Africa stopped in places like Libreville or Entebbe and you would come out of the plane with swollen feet to the exotic smells and buzz of insects in the sticky heat of the tropics. It’s quite different here but equally exotic and of course there is the hum of the motors as we move though the glistening water. During the day from early on there are other boats of all sizes plying their way up and down with the floating weeds, some debris and often banging and grinding of working machinery on barges. It’s a whole city in the water.
Here is one of the few bridges over this mighty river. In Vietnam the Government only builds a bridge if there are enough cars whose tolls will cover the cost as motorbikes don’t pay, so for the poorer areas there are only ferries.

A trip to the notorious killing field is a sobering experience and from there to the detention centre S2. So I will only show one photo.
The Khmer Rouge simply slaughtered people for the most irrational reasons. It was one thing to kill intellectuals, but to also kill people because they had two syllables to their name, etc and their methods were on a par with that of Isis and many of the former executioners are now running the government. So although the country is a democratic republic with a figure head of a king the old guys still have power and now that vast deposits of gold have been discovered along with all the other minerals and oil there is much scope for corruption.
A tropical storm has blown up and I’m lying on the sun deck being blown around.
Another trip, another photo op - me at the royal palace.
The day finishes with local children doing dancing and playing their musical instruments. The population was so decimated that all schools and cultural activities had to be virtually started from scratch after 1979 when the Vietnamese overthrew Pol Pot. Only 7 people survived S2 camp including 2 artists who were needed to paint Pol Pot - if he didn’t like the portraits he killed the artist. The other survivors included the electrician, carpenter and surgeon. Virtually everyone lost someone and it has taken many years for healing to take place. Because almost 90% of the Khmer are Buddhists who do not believe in revenge those who had been part of the killing machine have not faced retribution by those whose lives they destroyed. The international court has only sentenced one senior commander to life imprisonment. Watch a film called Terror's Advocate some time.