Friday, 4 February 2011

The Last One - Facts, Figures, Top 5's and the Before & After Photo

As all of you know we are back in the UK now, getting ready to head to Bristol on Saturday and Tony starting work again on Monday.  I thought it would be nice to share some of our highlights with you and also the before and after photo of how we look now and how we were 8 months ago.  We really enjoyed every minute of the trip and wished it could have gone on for even longer!  We are glad to be back with friends and family though, and both really looking forward to starting again in Bristol :)

We managed to total up how log we spent on buses and planes and it's even shocked me!  We both kept a diary for most of the trip so it wasn't too hard to do.  Anyway, here goes:

Time spent on public transport in South America (4 months):

249 hours - that's just over 10 days!  In 4 months!!  

Time spent on public transport in SE Asia (5 weeks and 2 days):

115.5 hours  - just under 5 days! 

Approximate distance driven in New Zealand (64 days in the van):

7000 km or 4350 miles

Amount of peanut butter sandwiches eaten whilst living in the van:

I reckon we had at least one a day, so i'm going to say around 70...each! 

Fish caught and fish eaten:

7 herrings, 2 kahawai and 1 trout (in 64 days of fishing, on average Tone spent 2 or 3 hours a day trying to catch dinner) and only 1 eaten (the rest were 'too small' and not worth bothering with)

We spent a total of around 51 hours on planes from start to finish

Top 10 new experiences and activities:
  • Skydiving over Lake Wanaka
  • Full Moon Party in Thailand
  • Swimming with caiman, piranhas and pink river dolphins (all at the same time!) - just Tony 
  • Learning to surf properly in Brazil and getting into it in New Zealand (Fia)
  • The Tobacco ceremony we did in the jungle in Peru
  • Star gazing tour in San Pedro de Atacama
  • Sandboarding (probably more Tony's choice as opposed to mine)
  • The Cambodian cookery school
  • Living in the jungle for 5 days in Peru
  • Living in the van for 2 months in New Zealand

Our Favourite Food:
  • Thai green curry (and pretty much all Thai food!)
  • The Cambodian Amok (will hopefully be able to recreate this as I learnt how to cook it in the cookery school)
  • Brazilian Rodizio Churrasco - all types of meat they bring to you on a skewer and you decide which bit you want.  AMAZING.
  • Pao de Queijo - possibly the most amazing thing ever, but hard to explain..
  • Chilean Empanadas (specifically the ones from this one shop in San Pedro - I want to learn how to make them!)

Most questionable dishes:
  • 90p Bolivian 3 course meal (made everyone ill)
  • Fried crickets as a snack (although they didn't taste that bad, I question the need to eat crickets...)
  • Chicken hearts
  • Testicles in noodle soup (hahaa!! )
  • Bolivian food in general (always found at least one hair in it, even the fruit salad!)

Most amazing, friendly, warm people:
  • Cambodians
  • Brazilians (specifically Bahians)
  • Kiwis
  • Thai
  • Peruvians
Most memorable monuments/landmarks we saw:

Foz do Iguacu - we'll never look at waterfalls in the same way again.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu - amazing beyond expectations
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni - just weird, but very cool.
Yellow Crater, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Tongariro National Park - a free walk you can do in New Zealand, and absolutely stunning
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat - cycling around ancient temples was one of the best things we did in Asia
Useless items we bought (and when I say we, I mean Tony):
  • Clay condor - in La Paz, Bolivia
  • Fake fossil trilobite - again in La Paz, they had a lot of useless tourist items on sale.
  • Juggling balls - one of Tony's first impulse buys.  He used them maybe a handful of times. 
  • Lemon and dill herb dressing (for all the fish we were going to catch in nz...didn't get opened at all) - Tony was feeling ambitious
  • Breadcrumbs (same reason as above)

Best beers/drinks:
  • 50 cent Angkor draft beer in Cambodia
  • Sang Som buckets in Thailand
  • Caipirinhas in Brazil
  • Maco Bull Coca leaf spirit "the andean viagra" in Peru
  • Mekong Whiskey in Cambodia ($1.50/750ml bottle!)

Sketchiest transport:
  • Bolivian buses - ALL OF THEM
  • Bolivian jeep ride with a broken exhaust pipe and a car full of fumes
  • Plane to Rurrenabaque (Bolivia, AGAIN!) - we landed in a different air strip on grass through a load of smoke!
  • Taxi journey to Bangkok airport on our last night (150km/hour in a 60km/hour zone!)
  • 16 people in a taxi in Koh Phangnan

We've really enjoyed keeping the blog, even though it was a bit difficult at times with no internet or very slow connections.  It's hard to say which place was our favourite, or what was our best/most memorable experience as each thing you did was totally new and amazing in different ways.  I think we both want to go back to South America to explore some of the countries we visited more, and visit new ones.  We also had to cut our time in Asia short so want to go back to Thailand, and see some other places as well.  We were so struck by the warmth and friendliness of everyone we met in SE Asia, we felt at home at every place we stayed.  New Zealand was so beautiful and again the people were super-friendly, and I would go back there again and again.  One place we haven't mentioned here actually is Sydney, which was great but we were there for only 3 nights. However, I reckon a trip back there to maybe live and work may be on the cards...who knows?!  

We've met some amazing people along the way and want to say thanks to all of them for making our trip even more memorable and special.  

Thanks for reading and big love to you all! xxxxx




Thursday, 27 January 2011

Going out with a bang - Sihanoukville and the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan

Well, well, well. What a mental couple of weeks we've had, and with that, an incredible 8 months away. As most of you know we're back in the UK now, so at last we've had time to put together a post about Sihanoukville and Koh Phangan. We wanted to go out with a bang that's exactly how it ended up.

From Siem Reap we headed to Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia (via Battambang, which is barely worth mentioning unfortunately, despite being one of The Lonely Planet guide's top five "highlights" - well done LP you did it again). With only three weeks left until our flight home we were determined to get as much sun as possible, and squeeze in as much partying as possible, what better destinations for both! In Sihanoukville we stayed a few minutes from the beach, where it felt like a small festival every night and there were rows and rows of candle-lit tables along the sand with countless BBQ's serving fresh Tuna steak, Barracuda, huge king prawns, and of course the usual beef, chicken, pork etc, not to mention a pint of ice cold beer for 50 cents (US)!!!

Big fat Tuna steaks and all sorts of other seafood, on ice next to beach

We arrived in Sihanoukville about 6 hours later than expected, because the transport in Cambodia is ridiculously disorganised. If you ever get a bus in Cambodia, multiply the journey time by 1.5 and you might not be as disappointed. Anyway, the late bus caused us problems. We wanted a nice cheap, but good Guesthouse near the beach, but so did everyone else, and their buses arrived in droves throughout the day, hours before we go there. We spent about 1/2 hour lugging our bags from one guesthouse to the other and in the end had no other option but to settle with a hostel called Utopia (the irony).

We had a 19 person dorm, where the beds were in two levels, all joined in a row next to each other, and the mattresses were pieces of foam that had clearly been run over by a steam roller - wafer thin. Still, it only cost us $2 a night
(almost everything is paid for in US$ by the way) and "it was only for one night". We dropped our stuff off in the dorm and had a quick beer in the quiet bar next to the hostel before going out for some food before a much needed early night. We strolled down to the beach, ate some nice food and then thought we'd just ask a local where was good for a party if we felt the need later. He said Utopia would be banging all night... Uh oh. Surely not, we were the only ones in there an hour ago and we did quite like the idea of sleeping at some point that night.

Back we went, and low and behold, a full on pool party was on, with buy one get one free 50 cent beers and all kinds of other ridiculously cheap drinks offers all night, people jumping (or being pushed) into the pool, and half of Sihanoukville partying hard.

The pool party at Utopia, our dorm is just off the to the side of the picture. It was almost pointless having walls.

After that there was no point trying to go to bed, our dorm was right next to the pool and the music was as loud there as it was outside... so the inevitable happened. We stayed up most of the night and joined the party which turned out to be pretty fun, and decided tomorrow we'd get up early and move to a nicer place.

That plan didn't really work, we woke up late and feeling rough so another night in utopia it was. Some more friends we'd met in Siem Reap arrived so the night turned out much the same as the one before. At last on the third day we managed to move to a private room down the road and could pick and choose whether we wanted to be in the party or not.

Me, Fia, Becky and Callum after we realise trying to go to sleep is pointless

The after party at JJ's down the road

As well as guzzling down buckets of Mekong Whiskey mixed with Redbull and Coke, 50 cent beers, and dancing like complete idiots to Barbara Streisand, we did an awesome boat trip with a company called Sun Tours. It was $25 for the day and we set off the next morning to visit three really nice islands down the coast, including snorkeling over a coral reef, fishing, an amazing Cambodian buffet with all sorts of culinary treats, aaaaaaaand, jumping of the top deck of the boat 7m down to the water below. Amazing!

Our boat, the top deck is 7m from the water.

Fia taking the plunge

It was actually one of the highlights, in fact I think our mate Glenn jumped off more than a dozen times. Whenever we needed anything from the bar on the lower deck we'd just jump off the top of the boat and swim round. Very cool. We also did a small trek to a secluded beach on another island and waded through a mangrove swamp later in the afternoon. The guide warned us not to wee in the mangroves because there are nasty little barbed fish that swim up your plumbing and take up residence there. It was hard to relax after that.

Secluded island off the cost of Cambodia

Fishing boats heading out at sunset

To top off the day we headed down to the beach to have our last meal together before parting ways, followed by one last party in Sihanoukville - their newly put together "black moon party". Basically a very small version of the full moon party in Koh Phangan which was in some ways a much nicer experience - if it stays quite small it certainly won't be a bad thing. Between the BBQ and the party we were given free shots by the guys who ran the restaurant/bar/shack (called Musli's) and bought some fireworks which we were assured were safe to set off while holding them... I'm not 100% sure they were now that I think back on it, but the guy who sold them seemed very sure!

Free shots for dessert!

Me and Craig with the "safe" fireworks

Sihanoukville was very pleasantly surprising. We'd heard Serendipity beach, near where we stayed, was a bit of a shit hole and really touristy, but we found it to be very welcoming and a far cry from the likes of Phuket in Thailand. Although it had clearly been developed for tourists very recently it was still very welcoming, and felt like it's still part of the real Cambodia. The locals were very friendly and the population of tourists wasn't too high. Hopefully things won't grow too far out of proportion in the next few years. We'd definitely go back, especially seeing as it's all so cheap!

Fia doing fire poi on the beach

I *heart* Dolphin, the beginning of the party.

Glenn and Zoe, Abi and Craig, Me and Fia

As with the journey to Sihanoukville, getting away was equally as frustrating. An 11 hour journey (which meant we could connect with the next bus in Bangkok and arrive in Koh Phangan within 24 hours) turned out to take 16 hours. Balls. To make things worse I'd gotten some bites, or was having a strange reaction to something, possibly my malaria tablets, which was beginning to bother me. It was getting unbearably itchy but like you do, I decided to just leave it a see what happens.

We got the Bangkok at midnight. There was no hope of finding a bus to carry on south so we had to find a hostel for the night. Everywhere was full, after 1/2 hour we found one place with a free room, it was the last one so we paid through the nose for it and took it. By the time we'd worked out a plan for the ext day it was 3am. The plan involved getting up at 6am to get back on the road. Awesome, three hours sleep, increasingly itchy everything and getting worse, and we just paid double price for this crappy room. After yet more faffing in the morning we found a bus at 9:30am to take us to Surat Thani where we could link up with a ferry and finally get to Koh Phangan. That didn't happen either! We could only find one ferry company who booked ferry's and they pretty much refused to sell us the night boat ticket, which we were very annoyed about at the time. We're not even sure why now, but it turned out for the best. On seeing my arms, Jimmy the tour operator immediately told me to hop on his bike and he took me to the doctor around the corner, turns out it wasn't something that was going to go away, or stop getting worse without injections at the hospital.

You can imagine how sketchy the Thai hospital was... but no. To my surprise it was actually the best hospital I've ever seen. Immaculate, I was seen immediately, blood test given, results within an hour, two injections and a pack of pills later and I was feeling better already, and it only cost me £20. What a relief.

Minging bites / rash

The next day we arrived in Koh Phangan, what we hoped would take 24 hours had taken us 60 hours, but the next day we met Bod and the final party began, the sun was beaming down on us and we were very happy.

The first night we landed an awesome little bungalow no more than 20m from the beach in Ban Tai, Koh Phangan. The resort was called Seagate Resort and it was a lovely spot to unwind after the long journey. Their Thai food menu was very good and the little shack/bar on the beach was an amazing spot to watch sunset with a cold bottle of Beer Chang.

Our beach-side bungalow

Looking back at the resort, so peaceful.

From Ban Tai we headed to Haad Rin for 5 days, the heart of the Full Moon party area. Luckily the 19 person dorm we'd booked was clean and waaaaaaaaaaay better than any of us could imagine. On arrival David, the owner of Dancing Elephant Hostel, gave us all an hour long lecture on how not to end up in hospital, in a 3m x 3m prison cell without a passport and £2,000 worse off, beaten up, set on fire, or lost at sea. At first it seemed a bit overkill but as within moments of the sun going down it was obvious that this advice was extremely important. As usual it was the people staying in the hostel that really made it what it was. David was brilliant at creating an atmosphere that promoted making friends and the whole thing from start to finish was an incredible experience.

Our library of photos for this part of the trip isn't that great because taking Fia's camera out on Full moon night, or any night when we might drink a bucket of Sang Som, was just plain stupid. The first two nights turned into a foam party with people getting covered head to toe in foam, soaked through, covered in sand, falling off picnic benches, and throwing their flip flops into the sea shouting at the sky. Hmmm, don't know who that was...

The buckets there are so strong and so cheap it's dangerous. In your mind one bucket equals one drink, so you get another after the first, after all they only cost £3 - £4 each, that's one pint in England. By then you've already had 350ml of Sang Som (Thai rum), mixed only with one can of coke and a bottle of the dodgey Thai redbull, or even more ridiculous M-150, and you don't really need another one! Beyond that it all goes a bit blurry and before you know it it's 5am.

The bucket stands, check out the signage!

FOOOOAAAAM! Can you spot the Bod? (Photo courtesy of Mike Pennington)

Luckily we managed to avoid taking part fire limbo, or jumping over the giant skipping rope dowsed in Diesel and set on fire. I mean lucky too, everywhere you looked there were people on crutches, bandaged up or bleeding / burnt.
There was a guy at Full Moon with his who had clearly been injured the previous night, but that wasn't going to stop him. Tucked down the back of his bright pink short-shorts were his crutches, then in his hands were two buckets of Sang Som - good to see he got his priorities right!

Fire Limbo, insane. one guy lit a cigarette on his way under and it was a notch or two lower than this guy is doing. Impressive stuff.

Someone getting wiped out by the flaming skipping rope of doom! Not impressive, just plain dumb.

Apparently the local authoratative figures (rumoured to be mafia) know that it's dangerous and actively encourage it, the doctors wouldn't get paid without all the accidents. In 2 years the number of doctors clinics has risen from 2 to 27 because it makes so much money! We were told the bars all sell glass bottles of beer, whilst no bins are provided, so that the bottles end up on the floor (and unfortunately in the sea as well) meaning broken shards of glass gets walked into the sand and anyone who doesn't know about it and walks bare foot gets cut up and needs medical assistance. The same goes for loads of things on the island. Hiring a moped can be disastrous. The contracts on the bikes state that the user has to pay huge fees to fix any repairs. The guy below us didn't heed David's advice and unfortunately he slipped off the bike giving it just a few minor scratches, he was ordered to pay a few hundred quid before he got his passport back. We even heard they over inflate the tyres to increase the likelihood of accidents on the sandy roads. I'm probably sounding like a goody goody by highlighting these negatives but it is interesting to know these things, especially when a few simple improvements would stop the beaches around Haad Rin from being trashed and less people getting broken in the process. It was a very fun experience though, thankfully we were fortunate to receive the warnings so we could have a ridiculously mental, but slightly safer time.

The Full Moon Party itself was basically a bigger, more mental version of the nights leading up to it. Before everyone went out we went shopping for the most stupid looking day-glow vests and things we could find, along with fluorescent body paint, plastic necklaces, rings, and glasses. The beach was absolutely rammed, 20,000+ people swarm to Haad Rin for the Full Moon night. It's probably about as mental as you can imagine. Everyone stays up all night and at around 7am the sun rises at Sunrise beach (erm, hence the name...). Unfortunately for us, just as the sun came up, an old guy, probably in his 60's or 70's, resembling a wizard appeared. He was wearing a purple robe. Shortly after he appeared he de-robed and ran into the sea naked. Who knows what happened to him after that, we reckon he came to the original Full Moon party, lost his ticket home and has been there ever since.

Sunrise beach the night after the Full Moon Party

Aside from going completely bonkers and probably shaving 5 years off our lives, we did also get out to a few of the more idyllic beaches on the island. First off we went to Ban Mae Hat to the north. A boat trip was really expensive so we haggled for a taxi and got what we paid for... 15 people in a small pick up, I had to hang off the back and there are also two people sharing the front passenger seat! The beach was pretty nice, a sandy spit joined the beach with the island Koh Ma.

Getting cosey on the way to the beach

Holding on tight!

The Dancing Elephant crew in front of Koh Ma

My favourite though, was "Bottle Beach" (thankfully not named because it's covered in smashed bottles like Sunrise beach) also known as Ban Khuat. Again we haggled pretty hard and got a good price, this time there was ample seating but the guys driving the boat were about 12 years old! Still we made it and the day was amazing.

Have you got a license for that, mate?

Thai long boat at Bottle Beach

Sunset at Sunset beach (the opposite side of the headland to Sunrise beach where all the madness happens)

After 5 days of madness and little sleep it was time to say bye to all our new friends, and also the Bod, who was heading north to Chang Mei. Fia and I headed back to Seagate Resort in Ban Tai for one last Green Curry and amazing sunset before the 30 hour journey back to England. Needless to say we are very sad to know it's over, but being home has turned out to be quite nice so far. Now all we need to do is work our arses off so we can afford a 2 week holiday somewhere equally as exciting next year, and the year after, and the year after.

There will be one last post with all the highlights, top 5's, and various statistics from the trip. See you soon if we haven't already!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Cambodiaaaaaarrghhh!! (Or more specifically, Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor Wat)


So, we arrived in Cambodia after a pretty long journey from Phuket - it took us just under a day to get from one hostel to the next.  Our first stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap - we would be there for New Years and also to go and see the Temples of Angkor Wat.

Arriving at the Kingdom of Cambodia
Arriving in Cambodia
Our first day was pretty chilled - we walked around the town and got to know where the markets were and food places, but also more importantly the famous "Pub Street" where the party at New Year would be.  Unfortunately the food was way more expensive on this street than anywhere else (of course) but the beer is pretty much always either 50cents (US) or 75cents!  That's right, 30p for a glass of draught beer!!  

After we'd had a beer (ahem) we went to get some food and noticed this little restaurant was doing 3 courses for $4 - bargain!  I had a really tasty curry called an Amok, which is a Cambodian national dish, and Tone had a normal Cambodian Curry.  But mine was way better, purely for the fact that it came served IN A COCONUT! 

Also, Cambodians are super-friendly, and everywhere you go they want to get you to buy something!  You constantly here the shouts of "laydeee, siirr, you wanna massage laydeee??" Or something like that...they like their massages in SE Asia...

Amok in a Coconut
Amok Curry in a Coconut!
Also great here are the Tuk Tuks - they are basically just small carriages somehow attached to the back of mopeds.  Some of them are pimped out quite nicely, others are more basic (but obviously still do the job..)  The guy who owns the one below has clearly got a thing for Batman.

Batman Tuk Tuk
A Cambodian Tuk Tuk - basically a carriage attached to a moped!
I did see about 9 people (Cambodians) go past in a TukTuk outside the hostel once, I think a couple of them were kids but still, it's a pretty tight squeeze in there.  I think we managed to get in with 4 other people and it was a bit hairy, especially on the bumpy roads!  Also people drive all over the place here, just like in Thailand, so you can get pretty close to the moped/bike/truck in front of you.

Aside from the normal massage places that are in abundance in the centre of Siem Reap, are the "Fish Massage"places that are everywhere - including in bars and markets!  Basically, it's a tank of fish that you put your feet into, and then they "massage"your feet by nibbling away all the dead skin.  It's less massage and more "tickles" - I couldn't actually keep my feet in for more than 10 seconds at first, and you get a 20 minute go!  It's almost like torture!  Still, you get a free beer with it so all in all it was a pleasant, if odd way to spend 20 minutes of our day.

Fish Massage! Siem Reap
Tony and Me getting our Fish Massage
Fish Massage! Siem Reap
Fish nibbling at my feet
Angkor Wat

On the 30th and 31st December we went to see the temples of Angkor Wat.  The first day we hired a Tuk Tuk, with our driver Niel, to take us to the furthest away temples and on the second day we hired a bike to cycle round the closest and most famous temples.  What both of us didn't realise is just how spread out these temples are - they are in area about 10km x 15km - so there are a lot of temples.  I think we barely scrached the surface of what there was to see.  It was cool getting a tuk tuk on the first day, as you can sit back and enjoy the view in (relative) comfort. 

Me and our Tuk Tuk driver Niel
The temples were built from the 9th to the 15th Century.  They didn't actually take that long to build, but different temples were built during this time.  There are the most amazing engravings in stone and although most of the temples are in a bit of a state of disrepair, it kind of adds to the magic and wonder of the place. 

Engravings on the walls of one of the Temples
One thing that was slightly hard to deal with was the fact that all throughout the temples thee are small children begging for money, or trying to sell you fruit or postcards - they all come up to you and practice there english on you as well and are so cute!  It's really hard though because it's impossible to attempt to give money to them all.  Thee are also loads of other people selling their wares in the temples, which is slightly off-putting, but hey, we're in Cambodia! 

There are trees growing out of many of the walls and into the temples, which look really bizarre but amazing too.  

A girl sitting in one of the Temple "windows"
Trees growing out of the ruins
An Elephant statue at Pre Rup
On the second day we decided to cycle to the temples and have a bit more of a chilled look around the temple of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.  It was really nice being able to just cycle around them, although I feared for my life slightly in the Cambodia traffic with no helmet on...

We didn't realise quite how big it was, and it took us about 3 hours to get round most of it, and we were trying to hurry a bit as well because Angkor Thom was even bigger!

There are loads of statues throughout the corridors of Angkor Wat, that are taken care of today by Buddhist monk who live and work in the temples, maintaining it and keeping the grounds clean.  Most of the statues are adorned with flowers, or a bright orange sash and you can make an offering to them by lighting incense. 
Tone on his bike

Man pumping water from a well

Buddha statue in one of the Temples
Some of the carvings and engravings in Angkor Wat are really well kept, and it's unbelievable to think that they've been around since the 12th Century!  Angkor Wat is also unusual as it''s the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation — first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. It is the world's largest religious building!  

Engravings of Apsaras
Probably the most famous features of Angkor Wat is the huge bas-reliefs found running along the 4 walls of the outer wall of the temple.  They are hugely detailed wall carvings that depict various religious symbols - mostly Hindu.  

Bas Relief on the side of Angkor Wat
We went on to Angkor Thom to see some of the temples there, but decided we'd go back to Angkor Wat for the sunset (us and about a million other people!) .  You're "meant to"see sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat to see it's true beauty, but we were quite happy with just seeing the sunset, which was really beautiful.

Angkor Wat at sunset
So after our jaunt around the temples we got back and got ready for New Years Eve.  We heard that there was a street party going on in Pub St, but we wern't sure whether there would be many people wrong we were!  We got there at around 10pm and it was rammed!  There was the same music playing in all the bars and on the street, and everyone seemed to be drinking some kind of bucket drink.  The drink of choice I think was a "whiskey bucket" which had in it half a bottle of Mekong whiskey, coke, red bull and lime!  Potent and cheap ($5!).  As you can imagine we didn't do much the next day, other then nurse our sore heads...

The Cooking Course

One thing that I was really keen to do whilst in Cambodia or Thailand was learn to cook some native food.  It was pretty cheap to do it in Siem Reap, only $10, and we got to cook 3 courses and then eat them all!  I learnt how to cook an Amok (one of my favourite dishes here) and fresh Spring Rolls, plus a banana/coconut/tapioca pudding.  Tone cooked a Cambodian curry, freid Spring Rolls and a similar pudding to mine but with pumpkin instead of banana.

Us before the cooking began
We got to make the spice paste from scratch, which took ages!  And learnt that Cambodians put a lot of sugar into their dishes!  Both of ours had about 3 spoons of palm sugar and 2 of white sugar.  They were a bit sweet at the end actually, but I guess that's how they're meant to be.  

Tony chopping his onions
When we finally started cooking, it was about 50 degrees in the room.  There was no aircon as it was an open air sort of place.  One thing which was a slight pity was the fact that there were too many of us for the cooking stations, so you had to share a pan with someone else.  Actually, for some reason or another I didn't actually have to share mine once, but Tone did and was slightly disappointed.  
Cooking the Amok
Eating the Amok
Curry and Spring Roll induced food coma
It was really satisfying eating at the end, although we were so full by the end of it we could hardly move!  Definitely hope we can recreate these back home, and hopefully we can find most of the ingredients in the Vietnamese/Asian supermarkets.  There were only a couple of spices which I thought we'd have a hard time finding.

So, we're in Sihanoukville at the moment - on Cambodia's coast.  We're trying to spend the rest of our time out here on a beach, before going back to the cold on the 24th.  This is our penultimate stop - the last one will be Koh Phangan in Thailand for the Full Moon party and then it's home time!  Crazy!


PS there is a man in front of me who is coughing his guts up every 2 minutes, and when he does he sounds like he's about to puke and it's making me feel a little more than's proper minging.  So sorry if this post seems a little short on words/descriptions...