Battambang bamboo train

22 Jan

20th January 2013

We had a lazy morning with no alarm and a slow breakfast. We then spent a couple of hours catching up with e mails and uploading some pictures for the website. If you slip behind it becomes a chore to catch up!

We had heard about the ‘ bamboo train’ which was built by the french to move locals, produce, animals,  motorbikes or just about anything else you can imagine. They could just hop on the flat bamboo platform and the small engine and drive belt would propel the cart along the tracks at a surprising speed. It is now solely for tourists as only runs for about 20 mins out and 20 mins back. At the stopping point at the end you can get drinks or snacks and support the locals by buying a scarf etc.  If you pick the small stand on the right as you arrive, they are not too pushy and are really sweet! It is a fifteen minute tuk tuk ride out of town to the starting point.

Arriving at platform

As you shoot along the rails (much faster than you thought you would) it is pretty bumpy and a little noisy, but great fun! There is nothing to hold on to and you keep thinking about stories you have heard about wheels falling off …. but it is fine!

Ride on the bamboo train

Bamboo train driver

When a train comes the other way, you have to stop and jump off and dismantle the train and reassemble after the other train is pushed past. It must have been a real hassle when loaded up fully with produce.

The wheels / axles are only held in place by gravity …. that’s why they come off sometimes!

Oncoming train

Bamboo station stop

The family running the stall were very nice and so it was good to buy a drink and a scarf from them.


One of the girls had a particularly sweet face. You can see the traditional Khmer scarves behind her.

Sweet face

After about 15 minutes we boarded the ‘train’ and headed back to the start.

Ready to head back

It is a really touristy thing to do, but was great fun and the people nice. It is said that the Japanese are funding a ‘proper’ train on the same route. If this happens, the bamboo train is likely to go. So do it now or never!

Tomorrow we are booked on a bus ride to Phnom Penh. It is around 5 or 6 hours in air conditioned luxury and all for $5 each!

Siem Reap to Battambang by boat

20 Jan

19th January 2013

Another early start as the pickup for the boat trip to Battambang is supposed to be around 6.30 am so that the boat can leave at 7.00am. Setting the alarm for 5.30 am seems wrong when you are on holiday! If fact, we didn’t need to bother as the bus finally arrived at 8.00pm. The trip took about 30 minutes and we made another pickup with about 15 people even though the bus was already full … They all seemed to fit in somehow!

The boat finally left the jetty at 8.30 am with exactly the right number of people on. Empty by cambodian standards!

Inside the boat

The engine was massive with no silencers, so the seats at the back next to the engine did not stay used for long!

Not the quietest engine

Quieter on the roof

All along the journey are beautiful floating villages and you can see everyone going about their normal life, shopping, catching fish, washing etc. It is really nice to see.

Riverside village

Village shop

House boat

Waving to passers by

The children (and adults) are so friendly and the children wave like mad as soon as they see the boat.

Net fishing 

Retrieving the net

Some fish from bamboo rafts with big booms to lift the net.

Bamboo fishing rig

Fishing traps

Every turn of the river you see another great sight, but probably the nicest thing is seeing the local people.

Local girl

After eight hours we arrived in Siem Reap and walked the 500m to the Star Hotel. Really nice and rooms are between $6 and $20. We splashed out and for $15 had a big room with aircon, hot shower, fridge and comfy beds.

Siem Reap and Angkor Archaeological Park

20 Jan

17th January  2013

We got up at 4.30 am to leave at 5.00 am for the trip to Phnom Bakheng for sunrise. After a surprisingly chilly tuktuk ride we arrived at the foot of the hill. Still completely dark and so needed a torch to walk up the elephant path to the temple at the top. Although a nice place to be, there were cranes working on the renovation and so any good  sunrise pictures were tricky. We left fairly quickly and found our driver asleep under a big sack in the back seat …. obviously did not expect us back yet! We were heading to Banteay Srei next and the road took us past Angkor Wat, which we were leaving for the next day. We still had a nice view of the sun rising over the Temple.

Sunrise Ankor Wat

We then had a quick breakfast by Angkor Wat and then headed north east towards Banteay Srei which was around 37km from Siem Reap through some really nice countryside.  The Temple was still really quiet as non of the big tour groups had arrived yet (mainly Korean and Chinese). The temple itself is small but very beautiful.

View across moat Banteay Srey

The detailing is incredible and where it is sheltered from the weather is really well preserved.

Carving deatil Banteay Srey

Corner detail Bantey Srei

Although the ground has settled under the temples, they have stayed together surprisingly well. They are all made of interlocking stones like a giant three dimentional jig saw. Obviously no cement used!

Banteay Srey

On the way back we stopped at the Landmine Museum which was set up to highlight the problem of the 4 to 6 million mines that still litter the Cambodian countryside. The exhibition focuses on the work of Aki Ra a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge who started to clear mines from 1997. He also set up a refuge for children who had been injured by mines (around 36 children still live at the centre).

In addition to the landmines are tons of unexploded bombs that are dug up by farmers every day. Something like 15 people a month are still killed or crippled.


Artificial limbs

Drop in if you can, the more visitors, the more good work they can do!

On the way back to the temples we crossed the Siem Reap River and watched the locals fishing.

Fishing near the temples

The next temple in the loop was Pre Rup.

Another Temple

Next was Preah Khan.

Small Temple at Preah Khan

Nature taking over

Alcove carving Preah Khan

In between we stopped at a number of other sites and took many pictures. It gets to a point where you need a break as you can’t take any more in. That is the time to point the tuk tuk back to Siem Reap for a shower and meal in one of the many restaurants. Maybe even a bottle of Angkor beer!

Pub Street Siem Reap 

Tomorrow we have a slower start. Tuk tuk not booked until 7.00am!

18th January

Today we headed straight to Angkor Wat. Most of today would be on what they call the Small Circuit. That is the loop with the most popular temples on. Often people do them all in one day, mainly because it costs about $20 each for the ticket to enter the park and about $15 for the tuk tuk. Two days is obviously more relaxed for people not on a backpacking budget. Traffic on this loop is definitely heavier though!

Tuktuks heading to Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is not something you can summarise in a few pictures. You need to see it for yourself! As you go inside you pass ornimental ponds full of lillies.

Water Lily

South west view of Angkor Wat

Ankor wat from outer wall

Steep stairs to temple

Cambodian girl dressed up to pose for photos with tourists.

Ankor dancer

Next we moved on to Bayon which is a temple famous for the faces on the tower, pointing South East West and North. Many are badly eroded but some are still intact.

Bayon Temple

Faces of Bayon

Next on to Ta Phrom which has been used as the set for various films including Tomb Raider. It is amazing how the trees have grown over the temples. People love to see them, but they are also causing slow but major damage.

Ta Phrom

We decided to finish there as we had seen enough temples for now.

There is a village not far south of Siem Reap that is built on the shore of the big lake. Tanle Sap is around seven meters lower in the dry season (now) which means that the houses either have to float or in this case be built on 10m high stilts.

Boat to Tonle Sap lake Kompong Pluk village Stilt house at Kompong Pluk

It was a good introduction to life on the water. We would see much more tomorrow as we are booked on the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang.

Siem Reap

17 Jan

16th January 2013

During a leisurely breakfast at the guest house we arranged to spend the following two days exploring the temples. We decided to start with the smaller and less famous ones on the first day, and move on to the big ones on the second day. Save the best until last? We we going to travel by tuk tuk, setting off at 5.00am!

Guest House tuk tuk

With arrangements made we could amuse ourselves around town. We thought that a visit to the Angkor National Museum would be good preparation for the the temples.

On the way we stumbled across the oldest Monestary in Siem Reap (around 500 yrs). It was beautifully kept and all around the walls stories were told in a series of paintings.

Preah Prohm Rath Monestary 

I think the cows are a bit newer!

Inside monestary

Wall painting Preah Prohn Rath Monestary

When we finally arrived at the museum, it was well presented and gave us an idea of what to expect, but not sure I would bother again. There is a $12 each entry fee plus $3 audio system fee (which may be good for non English speakers, but added nothing if you could read the signs).

On account of needing to be up by 4.30am we avoided ‘Pub Street’, particularly a pub called ‘Angkor What?’ that proudly announced that it had ‘Promoted Irrisponsible drinking since 1998’!!

Temples tomorrow!

Cambodia 2013 – Not in Troopy!

16 Jan

During our drive through South East Asia in 2011 and the first half January 2012 we missed Cambodia. Maybe it was something to do with the number of border crossing that we had done through the six months and the fact that we were getting close to our destination. Like the horse smelling the stables …. we seemed to be drawn towards Port Klang in Malaysia, not wanting to deviate too far. In any case, for whatever reason, we missed what most people agree is one of the most rewarding countries to visit in the world. Our flights into South East Asia are in and out of Bangkok and so we will have a day or so there each way. We are following Cambodia with a trip to New Zealand for a month (sort of on the way home!), where again we will not have Troopy, but will buy an old car, van or camper. Our backpacks are a bit overweight as we have all our camping and cooking gear as well as clothes for hiking. On the way back we are stopping off in Sydney for aweek to visit friends and family.

So the next posts will be us travelling without our own transport, storage, fridge, ccoking facilities, bed and everything else we love about overlanding. It will give us a good opportunity to compare the two ways of travelling.

13th January 2013

We arrived in Bangkok at aroud 5.00 pm and headed to the hotel Villa Cha Cha in Rambuttri Rd (not far from the Grand Palace). This takes about an hour and costs 400 Bht. Its a great area to wander around in the evening, with plenty of bars and restaurants to keep us occupied and awake. Great to be back in Thailand. The Thai flag looks great against a clear blue sky!

Thai Flag

14th January 2013

Today we visited the Grand Palace.

Grand Palace Bangkok

 Inside Palace grounds

 Ornate detailing

Sparrow enjoying offering

Wall painting Palace

It is a beautiful place with amazing detail. You will never be there on your own, but certainly worth a visit.

15th January 2013 – Crossing into Cambodia

The minivan picked at us at 7.30 in the morning for drive to the border at Poipot (Cambodian side). It is difficult not to get caught up in the scam issue on this border. At every turn there is an attempt to rip you off. We won’t go into the details here, but read the guide books (eg lonely planet). Nastiest bit is where they get vulnerable non English speaking tourists to change money at the ‘tourist terminal’ at an exchange rate about 30% worse than the rate in Siem Reap. Lots of stories about change being a problem in town …. dont believe any of it. We tried to intervene with a Japanese man who was about to change 10.000 Bht at that rate. We managed to get him to half this, but still a real shame. It is a horrible crossing, but if you tough it out and go through the visa process yourself, it is OK. If you can go a different way.

Cambodian Border Poipet 

Eventually we arrived at Siem Reap at 9.00pm and took a moto (like a Tuk Tuk) to our guest house which was right near the old market and pub street. It had taken us 14hrs from Bangkok. It is called Our Best Western and is run jointly by Australians and Cambodians. Really friendly, with nice staff and service.

Our Best Western Gueshouse in Siem Reap 

Tomorrow we plan a relaxed day walking around the area. Hope to book transport around Angkor Wat and the other temples.

Home – Devon to Malaysia completed!

20 Jan

As you have probably now guessed from the lack of new posts, we are home! We have lots more information to post, but first we need to catch up on some of the jobs and work that we have neglected over the last six months! If you would like to ask any specific questions, feel free to e-mail us on

Thanks for your interest, we have had at least 100 hits on the site per day with the biggest day well over 300!

Troopy is now on its way back in this ship.  Not sure which one, but I know its a blue container …..


7th to 10th January – More images of Langkawi

10 Jan

The last few days of the trip before heading home have been spent relaxing in Langkawi. We have been lucky with the weather …. still warm and sunny. We heard yesterday that Troopy is now on its way back to Southampton.

The pictures sum up the last few days for us, either taken as we wander around on the beach or on the Island hopping trip that we did yesterday to see the sea eagles.






The sea eagles gather in numbers as they are fed bits of chicken skin to ensure that they are around for the tourists.



They line up like planes coming into a busy airport.






And away with the chicken skin!

Not sure what the other birds of prey are but they are actually prettier than the sea eagles.



The monkeys on one of the islands that we visit on the way back are aggressive and prowl ready to steal food. People still feed them which just makes them worse. They look sweet though.



Just one more day here ….



4th to 6th January – Images from Langkawi

6 Jan

We expected Langkawi to be quite developed, but from what we have seen so far, development has been well controlled. We are outside the Malaysian school holidays and so there are no real crowds.














With sunshine and clear blue skies, it seems like a great place to wait for our flight home!


3rd January – Container day Port Klang

3 Jan

1$ happened to be near the hotel this morning and so he got us to follow him to the car cleaning place, where we left the car, and then he drove us to the office to sort out the paperwork.

The paperwork was very fast and afterwards we went to a local tea house / restaurant tea served with flat bread and curried gravy. Delicious!

When we got the car back it was spotless. None the worse for wear for its trip through 16 countries.

We will update this post later today when Troopy is safely loaded into the container. Fingers crossed! We have a week until our flight home and so we are busy making arrangements to fly up to Langkawi for a week on Air Asia (50GBP return each!).

While we were waiting for the container a French family turned up with a big camper that they had driven almost the same route as us to Malaysia. Hats off to them for getting through Mongolia in this camper!! Well done Muriel, Christophe, Emma and Louis! It sounds as though the trip was tough on the camper, with a blown engine after a river crossing, written off suspension and lots of getting stuck with spinning wheels.

While we were a little jealous of their comfort and space (especially the heating!), the offroad capability of Troopy had enabled us to go on the smaller back roads away from the main southern and northern Mongolian routes and to camping spots inaccessible to a standard vehicle. On the other hand the vast majority of our route did not require a 4×4. On balance we think that we had the right vehicle for our trip. Shipping is also much more expensive (x2) for a large camper and less secure as it is not locked and sealed inside a container.

Unfortunately the container did not arrive in time for us to see the car loaded. We could however take it to the warehouse where the car would be loaded so that it would be ready when the container arrived.

With 1$’s promise to look after the car and get it loaded tomorrow, we were happy to head over to our hotel near the airport in preparation for our flight to Langkawi. It’s hard to leave Troopy behind, we have relied on it for transport and accommodation for 6 months, and if we are honest will not relax totally until the ship is underway with our container loaded.

The following day, 1$ sent us pictures of the car all loaded up, and once we know the name of the ship we will be able to log onto one of the marine tracking sites and see exactly where it is.



Not only does 1$ know every one who matters in terms of travel, logistics and generally getting things done in Malaysia and many other continents, but he is also addicted to travelling and loves to meet anyone who shares the same passion. If you get the chance, get in touch with him.

The full details of the company are:

Syarikat Aseantex Marine Service

No.9 Lorong Cempening

4200 Port Klang

Tel. 603 3168 0000

2nd January – Troopy arrives in Klang

3 Jan

Finally, after 26500 km we feel that we have made it!!!



We  left our beach camping spot and drove the last few km towards Klang. We had decided to book a hotel for the night so that we could sort out Troopy for shipping and to meet with the famous 1$, who’s company Aseantex was to make all the arrangements. 1$ is also a keen traveller and has organised both bike and 4×4 trips all around the world. We had got his contact details from Liz at OEC (Overland Expedition Company) based in Kingsteignton Devon UK. He is a really friendly bloke and so if you have any queries on logistics or guiding, get in touch. We also met 1$’s wife Alina and son Azim for dinner. They were lovely and shared our interest in travelling.




Back at the hotel we sorted things that could stay in the car and things that we would need  during the week that we had before the flight home to the UK.



Tomorrow we meet 1$ in his office at 11.00 am to sign the papers and hand over the carnet, V5 and passport copy. The car will also be cleaned before loading into the container. Unlike Australia, we will be there for the process of loading and strapping down in the container.