A Travellerspoint blog

June 2014

Angkor temples

"One dollar...'

This was my second visit to the Angkor temples in Cambodia, the first being about 6 years ago. I was worried that they wouldn't live up to my memories, but I needn't have been...

There are over a hundred temples across an area of 250 sq miles, some over 1000 yrs old and the detail that remains is breathtaking. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to picture the temples at the heart of a thriving city with incredible wealth. It is not understood how, but this great civilisation came to an abrupt end and the temples were lost to the jungle for hundreds of years. So that's the guide book bit...

The splendor of the temples and the hordes of designer-clothes-clad, electronics-wielding tourists is a stark and rather unpleasant contrast to the local Cambodians. The area is extremely poor and the touts and sales people are desperate for your dollars. Its easy to become dismissive and even annoyed by the constant: "sir, lady, you want pant OK?" "Only 1 dollar OK", "Where you from?". We both found it easy enough to deal with with the adults, but the children make the whole experience quite heartbreaking. We did see a number of free school projects, english lessons and small scale local initiatives to improve the lives of some, but this is far from enough. We gave only to the bands made up of landmine victims and a girl with severe burns and a disability. There are literally hundreds of kids that want your money and you feel terrible for not giving it. We decided to find a local initiative to support rather than giving to individuals.

Around Asia, its easy to become a bit templed-out, but the Angkor temples are truly awe-inspiring and I could not recommend a visit enough. We spent from 5am to 6:30pm and did little more than scratch the surface. The local touts are a big part of the visit, though we had significant parts of the day walking though temples without hassle and where we we could neither see nor hear anything but the jungle and the incredible ruins. Responding in German also seemed to bring a swift end to conversations. Despite the constant attempts to relieve you of the contents of your wallet, the 2 of us had a driver for the day, entry to the park and a local lunch for under 80 dollars, which I thinks is worth every penny and a lot more...

Favourite temple:
Going to have to choose 3...

Bayon- the one with the surreal faces is INCREDIBLE
Tha Prohm- the one from tomb raider - large parts are unrestored and we had large areas to ourselves. Incredibly atmospheric and being able to climb around make you feel like your discovering it for yourself.
Banteay Srei - worth the 36km tuktuk ride (and extra 8 dollar charge!) The temple is 1000 years old and the stone work is not only pristine, but is also the most detailed I've ever seen. That, combined with the rose coloured stone and getting away from the crowds put this right up there.

Posted by bloorsontour 19:21 Archived in Cambodia Tagged angkor wat reap siem Comments (3)


Bangkok and Ayutthaya

Safely arrived in Bangkok. For those that don't know, we have already travelled around Thailand so its just a fleeting visit here on our way through to Cambodia. Oh, and to get Jason some new pants.

It was a tiring flight getting to Thailand as it was over night, so we booked straight into an air-con room and even upgraded to one with a bath (amazing). We caught up on some sleep and then headed out on the sky train to the MBK shopping centre. Jason loves his pants he got from there 6 years ago and was in search of some more. Success...an array of colourful pants, including fluorescent pink!

We both feel surprisingly at home again in Bangkok. Buzzing, cosmopolitan, east meets west, great food, good shopping, temples and you're never too far away from a beach. One place we didn't manage to visit last time was Autthaya; Thailand's old capital and just an hour or two from Bangkok. We've found a nice little hotel to stay in with a pool, which is most definitely needed as its soooooo hot. We hired a couple of bikes from the hotel and spent the day pootling around visiting various temple ruins, coffee shops and street side food stalls.

We've tried some of our favourite Thai food as well as other new things since being here; somtam (spicy papaya salad), red curry, pork broth, prawn and cuttle fish in basil leaves, spicy mussle omlette, fish cakes and fruit frappes to name just a few. Love, love, love the food here! We've tried to eat where the locals eat; including night markets, street stall food, MBK shopping mall; for fresh authentic food.

We've got an 8-9 hour bus drive booked now to get us over the border and into Cambodia so wish us luck!


Posted by bloorsontour 08:28 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Sri Lanka highlights

How to sum up our visit to Sri Lanka...


  • THE PEOPLE were generally incredibly friendly. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles and almost felt like celebrities. We certainly didn't manage to just fit in!


  • THE FOOD was pretty good, especially the local cafés. You can eat delicious rottis, fruit, curd and curries and I is all incredibly cheap!


  • PUBLIC TRANSPORT is astonishingly cheap and good fun (for the first hour at least). Its very easy to get around. The only issue is the craziness of the driving!


  • THE ANIMALS. Wild elephants, incredible birds and leopards. Yala national park has to be one of our best days spent so far.


  • RELIGION plays a massive part in Sri Lankan life. There is great sense of community and always a festival of some description. All festivals seem to be about sharing what little they have...


  • THE BEACHES - stunning and deserted. Extremely laid back and missing the hedonistic element of resorts elsewhere in Asia - a great place to just relax.

Posted by bloorsontour 07:53 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)


Perfect beach, great food and men on fish hooks...

A penultimate post from Sri Lanka, we'll write something more as we await our flight to Bangkok...

Sophie has managed to get a cold, so we've taken a few lazy days on the beach to recover. I've been practising my front crawl, which has always been a problem stroke, whilst sophie watched from a hammock. We've treated ourselves to huge prawns and lobster for dinner on one evening, have found our favorite rotti/ kottu rotti place and also somewhere to watch the football that makes a cracking cuppa. Its been a good few days with little to report, at least until we set off for the train station...
Being a country of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and a Christians; there is seemingly always some religious celebration kicking off. For Buddhists, every full moon brings some form of celebration, usually accompanied by dansal (free food). It seems that the Tamil (Hindu) celebrations see the free food and then raise it with men suspended from moving vehicles by fish hooks through the skin... Sophie was horrified!
The night train was OK for me but a bit of an ordeal for sophie. 1st class was "sold out" so we had second class seats. These were similar to airline seats but we were directly facing another 2 seats, which meant half the legroom. A couple of hours in, 1st class suddenly became available. In fact only one of the 10 or so cabins were occupied... Naturally there would be a supplement, but after some hard negotiation, we settled on just over £2 per person! Corruption worked in our favour for once! The 1st class cabin was fairly rustic and came complete with the odd cockroach, but being able to lie down and stretch out our legs was a dream. I slept fairly well, but unfortunately sophie wasn't so lucky.
When we arrived, we headed to negombo and splashed out for our first AC room to spend the day and allow sophie to catch up on sleep. She's still not great, but I hope is on the mend. We fly at 1am so its going to be another long night, but we have a nice hotel in Bangkok booked and hopefully shell be back on form soon...

Posted by bloorsontour 22:06 Comments (2)

Kandy, Dambulla and sigiriya

A bit of history and culture before we go back to the beach...

Kandy is the second biggest town in Sri Lanka and is in the middle of the hill country so we travelled from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy on the train to enjoy the tea plantation views. The views are stunning and well worth the early start as you see the local Tamil tea pickers hard at work on the landscape. You get to hang out of the carriage doors to take photos and wave to the Tamil people along the way, plus we paid for first class and I got to have a lovely snooze.
DSC_0873_1.jpgDSC_0883_1.jpgWe had already seen a lot of the scenery of the hill country on the train journey and in Ella, therefore we decided to only spend a couple of hours in Kandy seeing the main attraction, the Sacred Tooth Relic, and so left our big bags at the train station's luggage office. At first we weren't sure whether to like Kandy Town as it was so busy, polluted, everybody in a rush or trying to rip you off (I guess we have been spoilt by the friendly locals we've met so far). I gather that as soon as you get into the out skirts of Kandy it gets a lot more pretty and secluded in the hill country.

You have to pay tourist prices at the main attraction sites so we paid 1500 rupees for a ticket each, plus an extra 500 ruppes for a half an hour guide around the Sacred Tooth Relic (our old guide claimed to have shown the Queen and Prince Charles around the site). The tooth is said to be that of the Buddhas and was smuggled into Sri Lanka in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. You can only see a replica of it for 3hours a day, which unfortately we were late for , and the original tooth can only be seen by the general public every 5years. It was definitely worth seeing; gold guilded Buddha statues, glorious temples, crowds of Buddhists making offerings to the Buddha and our best bit was seeing Rajah, the Maligawa tusker elephant, that died in 1998. Rajah was said to be the most impressive tusked elephant ever to walk on earth and took part in Sri Lankan processions for tens of years and so to honour him the Sri Lankan government paid to have him taxidermed. And he really was HUGE,very impressive.
It was a long day. After our quick stop in Kandy we got on a hot and sweaty bus to Dambulla and rested our heads ready for another packed day.

Dambulla was a base for us to see Sigiriya Rock and the cave temples. Sigiriya Rock is truely amazing. It juts out of the landscape as a magnificent mass formation, which is the magma plug of an extinct volcano. Archeological findings suggest it served as a monks monastery in 3rd century BC and later a palace for royalty, where they landscaped gardens and moats around the rock, which can still be seen today. In order to get to the top we had to firstly pose for photographs for locals visiting the rock (as don't think they'd seen a ginger person before), then go up some rickety spiral stairs and then squeeze down a wall of mirror rock, before reaching the summit past thousands of wasps/bees/hornets (not sure what they were, but they were massive things that sting). The views at the top were spectacular. Dad, not sure you'd have managed this, we know how you were with scaling heights in New York.
We quickly hopped on a local bus and visited the Rock Temple Caves in Dambulla. At the foot of the mountain is a new huge golden Buddha and then you have to climb to the top to reach the caves themselves. There are a series of 5 caves that are ornately decorated with various statues and beautiful frescoe paintings from floor to ceiling. Various Kings have lived in the caves, the earliest being King Valagamba in the first century BC. Jason thinks they went OTT with the decorating and thought one cave would have been enough. He also became a little obsessed with monkeys that looked like they were wearing a wig.
After a hectic couple of days, with early starts, busy public transport, the heat, I am writing these last couple of blog entries from my sun lounger on a picture perfect beach in Trincomalee...

Posted by bloorsontour 12:36 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged temple caves sri lanka kandy tooth relic dambulla Comments (2)

Nuwara eliya

Is this Sri Lanka?

12 °C

We set off from Arugam Bay (38 degree heat and sunshine) and arrived at Nuwara Eliya in the hill country, which was 12 degrees and raining. We had to get our waterproofs and hiking boots out to brave the elements, it was like being back home. On the bus on the way there we met a Swiss guy called Rafael and ended up settling in a 2 bedded cottage for two nights with him; it wasn't a patch on our April cottage though, but it did come with thick cosy bed sheets and wood fire in our bedrooms.
48CD42642219AC68176427928DA56268.jpgDSC_0840_1.jpgOur plan was to do some trekking at Horton Plains as we'd heard there were some amazing views at Worlds End. This plan was abandoned due to torrential rain and cloud cover. Instead we spent the day in our full waterproof gear and wandered around the town. It was a really strange place, didn't feel like we were in Sri Lanka at all; farmers growing strawberries, red post boxes, grand houses, a racecourse, Lake District looking lake and the British weather to match. It seemed strange to see the locals dressed in woolly hats and scarves.
DSC_0834_1.jpgOn our first night we got lost getting back to our cottage from the local pub (the pub had rats and I was so on edge, I hate rodents). A friendly but crazy tuk tuk driver offered to help us, however broke down part way up the hill and we had to help push the tuk tuk to safety. This gave me great amusement, I'm sure he was sozzled, but all ended well when a Sri Lankan family on their holiday helped us to get home. The next day we had tea and breakfast at the family's holiday home and the two older men later became Jason's drinking partners at night with some special arrack.

It was good to have Rafael's company because he had been travelling around the world for nearly a year and had learnt a lot. He has made us more aware of questioning the price of everything because locals try and charge a tourist price instead, where to eat to get the cheapest and most amazing street food and where to go next on our adventure. We've tried so many new types of Sri Lankan food now ; including dossas, paratthas, hoppers, kotthu rottis, various salties/short eats, curries of different types.
DSC_0854_1.jpgDSC_0847_1.jpgDSC_0849_1.jpgWe were lucky to be in Nuwara Eliya during a full moon because locals celebrate it with a dansal; this basically means that free food is provided for everyone at various stalls in the town. Amazing! We had a potato and chilli salsa mix, coconut rottis with tomato dip and spiced chickpeas. It was all freshly made in huge catering pans for hundreds of people. I'm not sure who provides the finance for this but it happens every month at full moon and its a 2 day public holiday.
DSC_0869_1.jpgDSC_0818_1.jpgDSC_0868_1.jpgWe only had one day here as the bad weather was due to last a few days and instead decided to head to Kandy and Dambulla to see some cultural sites.

Posted by bloorsontour 12:15 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged nuwara eliya dansal Comments (1)

Arugam bay

Surfing, scootering and sun...

38 °C

No post for a few days as we've been too busy sunning ourselves... We're currently sat in a little bar with our own fan, a cold banana smoothie, a good book and the smell of my rotti being prepared in the kitchen. It is HOT. The last 4days have been pretty relaxed with evenings spent playing card games, chatting to locals and fellow holidaymakers. I've broken my no-drinking-in-sri-lanka rule a couple of times with a few beers and the odd arrack (coconut spirit). In the day we have done a little swimming/fighting the waves, lounging around reading and a bit of walking across deserted beaches.

DSC_0749_1.jpgDSC_0744_1.jpgYesterday we hired a scooter and went on a little safari and found a monastery with all sorts of wildlife running, crawling and flying around. We were told that if we waited until dusk we would see elephants,but decided that driving down a dirt track for 40 minutes in the dark with wild elephants around may not have been the best idea so passed up the opportunity. We were also gasping for a drink, though a local offered up a fresh coconut- perfect timing. The roads are pretty interesting - on several occasions we've had to wait for a herd of wilderbeast to cross and today a herd of horned cows took over the road and we were in the middle of them as they sauntered past.
After, we decided to catch the sunset over one of the lagoons.

Today, we got going early and headed to the local surf spot- whisky point. I decided I didn't need a lesson, which proved to be optimistic... The few occasions that I did get up saw me heading straight for other bodies in the water at which point I jumped clear. I also got taken out and have a big bruise to show for it. I definitely need somewhere quieter next time I try surfing.

The bar we're sat in has food made by a boy orphaned by the tsunami. He was asking me, in broken English, various questions: where I was from, how old i was, what I did and what my dad did for a living. When I asked the same he shed a tear and told me. Everywhere you go, there are stories or signs of the devastation it caused.
DSC_0200_1.jpgDSC_0207_1.jpgThis afternoon we took a ride to elephant and crocodile rocks (apparently they look like them). On the way we passed a school with hundreds of school kids streaming out. They all want to know how you are and what your name is and many wanted a high 5 as we rode past. At one point they mobbed us so that they could touch Sophie! I guess seeing so many kids back in school is a sign that the area is moving on. It is clear that tourism is really important to the local economy and the locals seem to embrace it. Everywhere you go there is a smile, a beep or a wave. You do end up feeling like a bit of a celebrity.

Posted by bloorsontour 05:30 Tagged bay sri lanka arugam Comments (3)

A day in Ella

Ella rock,tea factory and waterfall

90_DSC_0644.jpg270_DSC_0648.jpgDSC_0659.jpgDSC_0650.jpgWe had an early start at 7am today,which was perfect for a clear sky hike to the top of Ella rock. Along the way we met a local farmer with machete in hand and anti snake venom in a metal cap around his neck, at which point I was quite happy for him to become our guide. He pointed out snake hideouts and other various things of interest along the way. It was hard work, hot and steep; not that you'd know the way the farmer effortlessly glided up the mountain. The views were spectacular (I don't think the photos do it justice). Because it was so clear you could see all the way out to the coast. Amazing.
270_DSC_0674.jpgDSC_0682.jpg90_DSC_0683.jpgDSC_0689.jpgWe were back down in Ella centre by 11am,which meant that we'd got plenty of the day left to fill. We decided to go to a local tea plantation, Halpewatte tea factory. We had a full guided tour around the working factory, but unfortunately there was no photography allowed so we can't show you any photos of the locals hard at work to bring you your cuppa to you guys back home. It was fascinating and well worth the visit. We decided our favourite is black pekoe Ceylon. We would have loved to buy some but we can't carry lots of souvenirs around with us for the whole of our trip.
90_DSC_0706.jpg270_DSC_0696.jpgAfter a brief rest for some lunch we headed down to the waterfall. Unfortunately we got off the bus too early, however fortunately for us met a local boy that showed us to our very own private waterfall with shallow pool. I needed a LOT of help reaching it, he helped me to clamber up some rocks in flimsy flip flops, but I made IG in the end with only a couple of hairy moments.

Just sat on our balcony watching the sun go down over the gorgeous Ella gap. It really has been a full fun packed day.


P.S. Lunch today consisted of an amazing kotthu rotti and yet again a honey and buffalo curd pudding with pineapple. Delicious.

Posted by bloorsontour 05:52 Tagged tea waterfall ella Comments (2)

Tissa to Ella

The best Sri Lankan curry

Ourlarge_IMG_20140604_054008.jpg90_DSC_0612.jpgDSC_0611.jpg day has been spent on the local buses,which is always good fun. We've had to negotiate three buses,each with their own crazy driver,blaring music and cheeky school children. The kids stare,giggle and smile and this time tried out their English; "what is your name?" "Hello" and "goodbye". All good fun and we arrived safely in one piece.
DSC_0615.jpgDSC_0628.jpgDSC_0624.jpgWe are staying at Rawana Hotel in Ella,based on our friends',Lib and Jack; recommendation. And so far so good. We have had an amazing fruit,curd and honey snack from the small street shop and then had a delicious Sri Lankan curry at our hotel. I'm not quite sure what the dishes were but it included sweet aubergine, dhal, curry squash & potato, spiced green beans, chilli spinach, coconut sambol, garlic curry (that was my fav!) and rice & poppadoms. Most of my entries will include a food update.

Anyway,off to bed as we've got an early start for our hike up Ella rock.


Posted by bloorsontour 08:59 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged bus ella Comments (0)

Animal and People watching

Safari and a wedding

IMG_20140603_110216.jpgDSC_0446.jpgWe were up at 4:30 this morning to get to Yala safari park. Sophie took a little shifting, but it was well worth it! Our guide warned us that they had not seen a leopard yesterday. He also advised that he would tear off round the park with us hanging on in the back of the Jeep if he got wind of anything. Sure enough, 30mins in, we were flying over pot holes and bouncing off our seats. We arrived to find about a dozen jeeps jockeying for a view of a leopard lounging on a rock, not too far from the road. It was great to think that we'd seen the most elusive animal in the park and it was far more impressive than the pictures suggest... After that we barely saw another Jeep as we crept around Yala, spotting hornbills, crocs, wild pigs, monkeys, deer and all sorts of other critters. Then we got another call... This time we saw a leopard with a fresh kill, munching away. Naturally we thought we'd join her and tucked into our breakfast; got to be up there with the most impressive settings for a breakfast that we've ever experienced. The egg sandwiches weren't great though.
90_DSC_0327.jpgDSC_0597.jpgAfter Yala we arrived back at the hotel to find a wedding in full swing! We sat on the edge of things and had a drink, before being beckoned to join for some food, which was a massive sri Lankan buffet. Just as we were finishing, the owner of the hotel brought a desert over and by the end of that we were stuffed. Retiring to our balcony ( we got a free room upgrade) we did some people watching and i started a new book. The music was blaring, but reading was easy enough until the men started dancing... Anything went, providing it was out of time and as camp as possible. Naturally, I thought: "I could have a go at that"! If I say so myself, I went down a storm... Being completely sober, made the dancing a little difficult but the local soon sought to remedy that with free 9% beer and some sort of whisky. All was good, but as the party abruptly ended at 4pm, I was told that I was joining my friends for an after party... They seemed to want to feed me tuna, have their photo taken with me and take me out on the lake. I declined the latter. I went down particularly well with chanaka who expects me to save him and thought I was like Jesus... If anyone knows of any jobs in England for a sri Lankan chef, it would really get him off my back... I tried to pay for my share of the whisky and coke, but they would have none of it. I've never met so many friendly people, who only want your company and maybe a photo!

Anyway, everyone has now left and I'm sat writing this as the sun goes down on an excellent day in sri Lanka.

Posted by bloorsontour 03:22 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged wedding safari yala Comments (2)

Mirissa to Tissa...

A day on the bus

We left Mirissa this morning and caught a local bus to Tissa,where we will be going on safari tomorrow. We had to change buses at Matara station,so saw this as an opportunity to try our first traditional Sri Lankan breakfast. We had a vegetable and egg rotti and full fat coke each...AMAZING!!!!!! It's a stuffed pancake with a spicy egg or veg filling that's sold at street vendors. We will be having them again I'm sure.

Just as we boarded our second bus of the day Jason gave me a panic attack. "I've lost my wallet,stop the bus". He'd turned grey as it had all of our money in. We quickly jumped off the bus with all of our bags,only to find that he had zipped it away in another compartment. It took a good 10 minutes for Jason to stop sweating with panic. (At least it wasn't my error).

We've just got to our hotel, Lake Edge Holiday Inn. It seems nice so far. There was a wedding finishing when we arrived. If only Jason hadn't made us get off that first bus as there was apparently an offering of free food from the wedding buffet. You all know I like my food. Gutted.

We're just gonna spend the evening chilling tonight around the hotel. There's a lake side view and hammocks where we can catch up on The Wire series and relax for the evening.

We've got a 5.00am start tomorrow for safari with a hope of seeing leopards...keep your fingers crossed.

Lots of love xxx

Posted by bloorsontour 06:27 Comments (4)

Leaving mirissa...

At least one of us slept well

We have been staying in amarasinghe's guesthouse. A series of cabis set amongst a spice, fruit and vegetable garden. Pretty basic, but did the job for me. Sophie got set upon by mozzies tho and the thunder all night kept her up. We had a very chilled night last night, playing cards under candlelight as huge waves crashed onto the beach, followed by another massive curry and a devilled prawn dish ( a bit Cantonese/sechuan tasting). Mirissa is pretty quiet so it's definitely time to move on. Safari at Yala tomorrow. Must dash...

Posted by bloorsontour 23:22 Comments (0)

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