13 Feb-Bicycle ride and Cooking Course

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Got up reasonably early to head out on our countryside bicycle ride. When I signed up for this ride I couldn’t actually ride a bike so I’ve spent most weekends since Christmas on a fast learning track. I did come prepared and brought my cushy seat and my helmet with me.

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The guys at Camouflage Adventure Cambodia were nice enough to put my seat on their bike for me. So off we set and the first thing we did was ride down the streets of Siem Reap full of bicycles, motorcycles, tuk tuks and buses. It’s a crazy driving environment and I am not at all confident at riding on roads at home, so this was a sink or swim moment. In fact, I felt much safer because of the seemingly crazy way they drive they they are comfortable moving around me unlike cars in Brisbane streets with a hate for cyclists.

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We got off the streets and rode through the rice paddies. It was fairly tough going in the really loose sand.

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So until now I hadn’t ridden a mountain bike. The bike we got for me has little skinny tyres so this was quite a different ride for me. I’m not used the kickstand and usually get on the right side of the bike so I was constantly running around to put the little bar up and down.

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Every now and then we’d pull over for a drink, or to take a few pictures.

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We were going along just fine when my back tyre blew out. The valve had actually torn from the tube and our guide had forgotten his pump. So he pushed my bike along while I attempted to ride his much smaller bike slowly as we looked for a house with a pump.

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We eventually found a family with a pump and the whole family helped us change the tyre. The eldest son was very enthusiastic on the pump. Big thanks to them for helping us out.

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We rode off to the bottom of this mountain and walked up a few flights of stairs to the top to check out the view. Then it was back down, around the mountain and back to the shop. The road was crazy bumpy and full of loose sand and it was really, really hot now. We’d only been riding in the cool till now so riding at 11am in full sun in a hot bike helmet was really taking it out of me. I’ve lost count how much I drank but boy did I got through some liquid.

Can definitely recommend these guys if you want to do something a bit different. They did pick a really good route on any roads we had to go on to ensure it was mainly right turns and not many intersection crossings.

Back to the hotel and a quick cold shower (who would have thought I would be glad our room doesn’t have hot water) and a quick bite to eat before our cooking class.

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After picking our dishes a quick trip to the market to look at the ingredients we’ll be using.

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Amazing how few ingredients go into these yummy dishes.

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Then it was a big job of cutting everything up. As I was making an Amok and we were making the paste, the better the cutting the less bashing would be needed.

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Our instructor showed us a few tricks with cooking he sticky rice.

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Lots of coconut milk, condensed milk and palm sugar … mmm… no wonder our sweet toothes like this one.

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It’s impressive how sticky the sticky rice actually is. Will have to work out where to buy it from at home.

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Then everyone was busy doing the cooking part of their dishes.

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And this is what we all made…not bad at all.

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Some happy cooks ready to eat! So full now that we just rolled back to the hotel.

We fly out tomorrow so not sure whether we want to try and squeeze in an extra activity before our flight back to KL.

 

12 Feb-Temple Day

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Today was our main temple day. We got up at 4:30am to get ready for the onslaught which is Angkor Wat sunrise. At 5 we set off to test my patience with people for the day.

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We arrived in the pitch black at the left reflecting pond with 100’s of our closest friends so we opted for the quieter right side were we got a pretty good pole position. It was fairly peaceful there until the crowds overflowed from the left to our side. The sunrise itself was non-event really but a spectacle of people to watch. The guy next to me really tested my patience with his point and shoot that seemed to double as a donkey kong game noise machine in my ear for about 1/2 hour. It took every ounce of will power not to grab the camera and toss it into the reflecting pond. I ventured to the left side to watch the shoving, jostling and otherwise amusing show of people putting iphones in front of iphones to get what was a crummy sunrise photo.

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As it approached 6:30 a few monks appeared along the main bridge.

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As we headed back to find our driver the sun finally broke through the clouds, a very long way to the right of the temple. There was no way that was ever going to line up with the reflecting pond this time of year.

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We moved onto Angkor Thom – Banyon first. This if full of massive faces lit up in the morning light.

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It also has a bunch of intricate carvings.  We tried to stay one temple ahead of the main bus groups to keep it as quiet as possible.

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We moved to Baphuon which was this massively tall temple that looked beautiful in the morning light.

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It had a really long bridge of pillars. Unfortunately even though there looked like a way to get to the top it was closed.

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As the next bus group arrived we moved up to the Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King.

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There were these lion looking guys standing guard.

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And the elephant heads with long trunks.

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The last little section with a walk through area was pretty cool with lots of carvings fairly well preserved in good detail.

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Looks like there has been a bunch of restoration work here with a big wall built to support the outer stones.

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Next up was Ta Prohm – or as many people think of it as the  “Tomb Raider” temple.

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This one was pretty awesome with the figs and other trees forcing their way through the stone work.

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This time there was no avoiding the crowds and I really struggled to get pictures not covered in people. It was about this point we hit the “Tomb Raider” tree where I was patiently waiting to take a picture and some lady walked right in front of my camera facing me with her friend behind her and told me to get out of the way I almost lost it. I promptly ignored her and took a few snaps as I was clearly there first and then her friend tried to shove me out of the way. Lucky I had about 6 inches on them. Anyway….time to move on before I got in a fight.

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After getting away from that crowd John picked up some random guy who “lives at the temples” and offered to show us some good picture spots. Firs up a nice corner picture of all the beehive spires.

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A quiet corner of ruins.

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A quiet few side alleys of intricate carvings.

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The famous face in the tree.

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Tomb Raider tree take 2. I think the guy literally held people back while I got a photo with 0 people. Then we said goodbye to our makeshift guide and parted with quite a few $. In the end totally worth it Smile

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The final tree shot before finding our driver.

So now it’s about 9:30am and we’re pretty much over temples and people but have the driver for the day. He suggests we go out to the floating village. I’d taken a quick glance at it and it hadn’t appealed to me when I was looking for things to do but he’d been pretty good at restaurants etc. so far so off we went. It was all kinds of bad – did not enjoy at all and let’s just leave it at that for now.

So back to get get some lunch and have a nanna nap before venturing “into town” to suss out where our bicycle tour and cooking class are for the next morning.

For what it’s worth my temple ranking would be:

1. Angkor Thom – big variety in types of carvings.

2. Ta Phrom – the tree roots through the structures are cool

3. Angkor Wat – big but much of the same throughout the temple.

 

11 Feb-Angkor Wat sunset

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Today we set off from KL to Siem Reap. We managed to flag down a cab driver fairly easily and made it to the airport without any major dramas. By the time we found something to eat and were herded to a few different places we boarded the plane.

The flight was fairly short at 2 hours. As we’d pre-bought our visa getting through immigration was fairly quick, then had to wait for our bags, go through customs which was a line to put your piece of paper in a box and grabbed an airport taxi to our hotel for the next few days – Park Lane Hotel. We decided to keep our taxi driver and go out to Angkor Wat for the afternoon via a restaurant for some food.

Bought our 3 day pass and headed off to the temple for the afternoon.

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The temple is filled with intricate carvings.

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Some are in better nick than others.

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The ones that look like timber carvings are kinda cool but they are actually stone.

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There’s a hint of colour on some. You can only imagine what these looked like before the elements gave it a beating.

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Others have been touched so much they are quite shiny.

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Just this first building is quite massive.

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It’s essentially a few gigantic rectangles.

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Few steep bits of stairs to go up it you want a better view. After about an hour we’d pretty much “done” this temple so sat under the tree near the reflecting pond to wait for sunset and people watched for a bit. Had a few tourists who wanted their photo taken with us, so had to get rid of them quick smart.

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While the right reflecting pond was fairly empty it approached 5pm (when people can get a free sunset without incurring a ticket day) so we picked a good spot for a photo. Even though this bank is about 50m long and there were no other people this lady decided this was the only place she wanted to get a picture.

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Meanwhile the other pond was really busy with tour groups, people selling stuff etc. This one seems to give a slightly better reflection but don’t think it’s worth the extra “people effort”.

So back to our hotel to get a good night of sleep so we can try this again for sunrise. Out hotel internet is a bit flakey so posts may be a bit erratic over the next few days.

 

10 Feb – Transformers Expo

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Today is our last full day in KL. We were lined up to do some more presentations which got cancelled so we had the whole day to fill in. I’d spotted the 30th anniversary Transformers Expo so off we went to Gentling.

Quick monotrain wide to KL Sentral then a ticket on the Gentling Express and skyrail for 10.30. Pretty easy trip up with the bus driver who was trying out for the formula one on the windy corners up the hills taking up random amounts of lanes. The cars that past sure we game as he weaved in and out.

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Then it was a 3.5k ride up the sky rail. Pretty cool view over the mountains. There was an announcement about stopping and pretty much all we remembered were the words panic and elderly.

The complex is a long chain of hotels and casinos and we found out way to the very end where the expo was on.

First up was a really cool exhibit of a few thousand Transformer figurines. Massive collection from the different characters from 1984 to today. Found a few familiar ones the we both had owned in our childhoods.

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One of my highlights was the Camero (Bumblebee) used in the movies. I had a major drool over this car.

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Cool little touches like the Transformer logo on the wheel cap etc.

After wandering through a bunch of cool artwork that you can have your photo with we watched a 10min video on the history of Transformers. We remembered the cartoon / movie from the early 80’s so was interesting to see some of the other cartoons with Dinobots that we hadn’t seen before.

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Up next was a projection show onto a 3D cut-out. This was in a massive arena and we were the only ones there. Nothing like a private show. Then it was an augmented reality experience which turned out to be dancing with Optimus – which John and I just laughed so hard at as we’re so into dancing Winking smile

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The final bit we checked out was the full scale version of Bumblebee and Optimus.

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You don’t really get a feeling for how huge these guys are till you put them in perspective with say a car.

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We wandered around the rest of the complex for a bit and had a go at the Haunted House – which would have been quite boring except for the other couple with us who were freaked out, screamed the whole way and insisted I go first. I just spent the whole way through laughing at them totally freaking out.

Going back down we re-catch the skytrain but can only buy that ticket. Then we have trouble finding the ticket counter for the bus and John picks up a random driver hanging out near the bus that offers to drive us back for 80 (normal taxi fare is 150-200) and will take us by the strawberry farm on the way…Hmmmm…

This soon becomes a trip to the Chocolate Factory – which did have really nice chocolate and the girls had the sales pitch down pat – feed you a bunch of yummy chocolate then show you it’s pretty much buy 3 bags to get your monies worth.

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The strawberry farm was interesting in that they grow them in special bags off the ground. We were reminiscing of the awesome strawberry farm we’d taken my mum to in Tasmania a few years back that had the most awesome strawberry milkshakes…yummo.

The driver was quite chatty as he drove us back to KL Sentral without any other detours , so that did work out fairly well in the end.

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Used up close the the last credit on our card on the monorail to get some dinner. I must say I find it amusing the stations are sponsored e.g. Raja Chulan is the KFC stop to me.

Tomorrow we’ve got a decent flight to Siem Reap so see how the cab experience back to the airport is.

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9 Feb-KL Bird Park, KL Tower, Petronas Towers

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Our room has no windows so there’s no real indication of weather or time outside. It also appears that our phones aren’t synching their time properly. So we woke up this morning and thought it was 7 when in fact it was 5. Luckily we discovered this before we really did much about it which meant more sleep for us.

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Waking up take two, and we hailed a cab and off to KL Bird Park we went. 5.20 (less than $2) was the fair – well worth it when it was pretty hard and about 3 trains to go a 5 min drive.

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The park is a massive walk in aviary divided into a few sections.

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I assume based on birds that are happy to live in the same environment. The enclosures are massive and it’s so nice to see these birds freely flying around.

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I did like how they did a lot of the feeding too. They put fruit bits etc on spikes in the trees rather than everything on one big tray.

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For part of our wander around it felt like these guys were our guides. There was a big group and they seemed to keep stopping to wait for us to follow.

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There was also a few ponds filled with fish that you could feed using a little food dispenser. No wonder they came rushing to the surface as you approached the pond.

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There was  a waterfall aviary where a bunch of the birds like to fly up really high.

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And of course a fake water fall which was nice to sit inside and look out of.

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One of my favourite sections you could feed the emus and ostriches.

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I could have easily just stood there all day feeding these guys they were so friendly.

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Right next door was the cassowary which I always think looks very prehistoric and dinosaur like.

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I’m a bit of a sucker for a bird show. This one was quite cute with a few of the parrots talking, having races where one cheats and of course picking up rubbish. I thought it was a great little spot to spend a few hours if you like birds and like to see most of them out of tiny cages. Totally ripped off by taxis on the way back wanting 15 (three times as much as we paid to get there). They seemed to have a system so there was no getting around it, and in the end it’s like $5.

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After a nanna nap we ventured back to town and up KL Tower. We went for the expensive trip to the Observation Deck which is an open air platform with glass bannister around the outside to allow you to see 360 degrees as you walk around. It’s always nice to get up high and get a feel for the size of a city.

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We wandered back to KLCC and sussed out a few photo spots and waited for the sun to set to get a few snaps (with a bunch of other people with the same idea) of Petronas Towers. I think it looks much better at night. It’s really hard to get a good day shot as there’s not a nice blue sky (we haven’t seen one yet).

 

7/8 Feb-First day in Kuala Lumpur

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First trip to Kuala Lumpur for us this week. Our trip was to begin with an 11:20pm flight out of Brisbane. After running out of time to do things at home we quickly looked up the coffee club at the airport and noticed it was open till midnight so decided we’d get dinner at the airport.

So backed our bags and headed off to the airport. It’s our first time flying Malaysian Airlines and the queue is long and moving really, really slowly. With hit the first guy who asks us to weigh our carry on….mine 8.3, John’s 9.7 …. and the limit is 7kg …ooops. The guys nicely explains that if we don’t move bits into checkin security will send us back upstairs. Hmm, well we have lots of camera gear that’s never getting checked in and laptop, kinects etc so we’re just going to wing it for now.

After what seems like forever as everyone seems to be having issues checking in, we get through in about a minute and off to security we go.

Another long queue. I’ve never seen it this long. The guys is trying to herd us so more people can join the queue. As we slowly move up the queue – 2nd bag weigh … oh oh … but the guy is really nice and lets us go through cause we have laptops and camera gear or maybe it was just too late in the day.

After we finally make it through security we discover that yes Coffee Club is open, but the kitchen is closed, and so is most of the other food venues. Hmm…plane food….pass.

Plane trip is uneventful and we arrive in KL. Immigration and customs are really quick and go get our airport taxi. I must be getting less stingy in my old age, as we hit the airport taxi at 5:45, so get hit with the surcharge before 6am and I just don’t care, I want a shower and a sleep. Arrive our our hotel – Grid 9, and have a power nap before breakfast. It seems odd that it’s +8 here but it’s pitch black at 6:30am.

This is where I discover I have no hairbrush … doh … so off to Pentling st in seach of somewhere that sells one. Just as I’m ready to have crazy hair week we find a ware house hairdresser supply and grab a brush and comb for 10rmb. Not my usual stefan brush but hey…it eventually gets the knots out.

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We decide to try the train as we’re right next to Maharajela monorail. Quickly discover that we can’t buy the oyster cards, the ticket machine doesn’t take credit card, and we don’t have the right notes to buy a ticket. We interrupt the poor ticket lady having breakfast and she kindly sells us a token. Off we go up the monorail and get off to switch to train when our token goes in never to be seen again…guess that was just a ticket to that part of our journey.

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Wander across to the train line and the nice ticket lady explains that the oyster cards cost 2rmb (less than $1). Fine by me and you put 10rmb credit on it to start with.  Off we go to KLCC to check out where Petronis Towers is.

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It’s definitely not small and is surrounded by shopping center. Grab a few quick shots and of KL Tower where I want to go tomorrow before grabbing lunch and heading back to our hotel.

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Then we’re back on the rail system to get to MindValley office to show of the new Kinect, Bing Maps and Photosynth.

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After massive demo failure finally get to show of the new sensor with some really good questions from the audience.

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The venue was really funky and we managed to get 6 people up in one frame as full skeletons which is pretty awesome. I must say I loved seeing their expressions when John showed off the new Bing Maps Preview control. If only I’d had a camera to capture that room full of “so cool” look. Microsoft put on some pizza and we had a good chat to the attendees.

Big thanks to Microsoft, MindValley etc for having us today.

 

Now we’re a bit tired and ready for sleep! Have 2 days to fill with exploring and I’m sure the humidity will take away some enthusiasm. I’m keen to check out the big bird park and get some night time pics of Petronis.