Monday, September 17, 2012

Dengue, big bad Bangkok and a wonder.

Honestly I really want to update the blog more often. Please believe me!

The other day though finally the excuse had arrived. Dengue fever. The last blog said we would be hanging around in Kanchanaburi for a week. This turned out to be a bit longer with the help of a mosquito friend. 

My room in hospital. Unfortunately no honey around for me or Mr Pooh. 

It all began (well the symptoms anyway) when we went out into the main street for a feed and a few beers. Normally, with budget constraints, we wouldn't eat food or drink beers but this was a special night. My age had caught up with me again. Once again for the period between August until March Clarissa could claim that we we're the same age. She could also claim ignorance that she thought I was almost 10 years older than her when we met. Although now as my beard becomes infused with the power of Zeus and the flying spagetti monster one may claim that physically I look 48. She's not a huge fan of the beard but 98% of Cambodian's compliment my beard on its length and thickness. So its not all bad news. I'm not going to be regularly blowing my beard horn here but because it was my 27th birthday I get one blog post to tell the world that in my own humble opinion its getting longer. On that note a special shout out to my beard idol, Costa from Gardening Australia. He keeps it real!

Dengue. Sorry about that. So we were enjoying a few English ciders at an expat bar in Kanchanaburi. Rumor has it that I had more than 3 of them and we got back after a hazy evening to bunk down about 3 hours before the rooster tells everyone to get up. Now here lies the problem. When you wake up with the hangover from hell, you automatically take all abuse dished out to appease the beer gods. Its the punishment we all normally suffer. I drank a lot of water before going to bed but still the hammer of Thor was smashing inside of my skull and the body was weak and mind not willing. Sounded to me like a perfect time to move guesthouse. Bad idea. 

100m up the road we motored, the cold engine mirrored my zombie like state. The bikes had no time to stretch their legs before being parked up again at Tara guesthouse. By this point while lugging gear up the stairs to our room, the hangover had proceeded to also include a fever. Bingo!
Now over the next three days I was in and out of bouts of hot and cold awesomeness. Eating lost its appeal and drinking water and electrolytes was the only thing I moved for. It wasn't the end of the world though. There's worse things my body has had to endure than malaria's shitty little brother.

Luckily to the rescue came an unlikely hero, a frenchman. Mr Matt, a fellow overlander, on a BMW to boot, told Clarissa and I that sick boy will goto hospital or he would make us eat snails and whip us with baguettes (this is not 100% true, but sounds better). Mind you, we didn't know I had dengue at this point. Using as much online help as possible it seemed unlikely as I didn't have the 'rash' that many do.

Now the committee in my fever ridden head decided that riding to a super excellent hospital in Bangkok was not going to happen and the traffic would kill me before we get close. So after enduring a spine numbing tuk tuk ride (the body aches/malaise was probably the worst part of the whole ordeal) to get out Thai visa extended, we ended up at the Kanchanaburi Memorial Hospital. To prevent this blog post from turning into a short story though, this turned out to be a good experience. Professional staff, good food and a doc that spoke english. The doc had me punching drips into my arm day and night and chewing down a tasty cocktail of pills to help the body mend. Even though dengue is one of those 'suck it and wait' things, it was good to know the daily blood tests were proving the evil was leaving the body. Three days and about $600AUD later, we left the hospital. No more fevers and I was dancing the hand jive after getting the drip out of my arm. On drips - drives you mental when you get shitty wheels on your roller jigger doesn't it? 

Eating food was not appealing for almost a week after leaving hospital though. Funnily enough Dr. Ronald McDonald's famous Big Mac somehow fixed it though. Its Clarissa's theory that western food helps reset the appetite. I generally agree after both of us have now been sick a couple of times each on the trip so far. We don't hesitate with eating ice or street food though. Fingers crossed that our bellies are evolving into demonic entities that will rule the food poisoning realms soon enough. As getting sick is not character building anymore.

So after escaping hospital we finally got to visit the Hellfire Pass memorial 70kms up the road. This was my second time to the place, the first being about 4 years before with my legendary good mate Richard. The second visit was as much a reminder if not more than the first of the terrible atrocities committed against the Allied POW's and the local South East Asian labour force. A 415km long railway was built over 15 months to support the Japanese advance southwards towards Australia. Hellfire pass (a large cutting through rock) in particular is a horrible site when you realise it was virtually dug by mens hands. Many large cuttings through the stunning jungle scenery exist though.  About 12,800 allies and 90,000 local workers perished from disease, starvation, accidents and beatings at the hands of the ruthless Japanese. It brings a bloody tear to the eye that there was that loads of aid parcels were locked away and not handed out. They were sent from the Red Cross to the POW's. The tragic loss of life should have been significantly lower if the bastards had handed them out for a start. Travelling through south east asia is a constant reminder of horrors committed by the Japanese here unfortunately. Its a burning pain in my heart as they don't teach anything about WW2 in schools and they need to chisel the names of convicted war criminals out of their bloody war shrines! Argh, the madness!

Bikes in front of the Hellfire pass information building.

Such a breathtaking view despite the horrors committed.

Hellfire pass cutting.

So we had spent plenty of time in Kanchanaburi, walked the bridge over the river Kwai, indulged in the strange WW2 museum near the bridge and realised that the Jolly Frog was a guaranteed good feed.

 Most of the time was spent certainly spent indoors recovering from a fateful mosquito bite. Speaking of the WW2 museum, which we must point out has an amazing paintings of the province's history and rulers but was a bit of a strange and bizarre take on WW2.

Kanchanaburi crowd.

 We know we did miss out on seeing some great temples but when you know you need to push on, you get on your bike and ride. Ride we did.

Being extremely edgy to just get on the bike and spin the tyres I decided to ride a bit blind. With little help from the GPS or map, we may have done a few extra kilometers than needed but we finally descended on the outskirts of Bangkok. Bloody hell. Outskirts. The whole city CBD seemed to stretch right out to the edge! Traffic was chaos. You really need to know where your going otherwise Taxis/buses/trucks/scooters will just push you out of the way! Last time enjoying a taxi ride through Bangkok, I thought 'holy shit, don't particularly want try and navigate this stuff myself'. I can only say that this is still true. 

She rode like a demon in the city traffic!

Spirits were kept high though as we laughed off the near misses and rode through the seventh layer of hell. I'm sure if we rode through India this would view would be moot but for us two lazy bums cruising the world this was new (we have decided to avoid cities as much as possible in SEA). Clarissa certainly earned a minimum of 1000 experience points towards her next level of riding skill.

Starbucks internet.
Finally after deciding we had both had enough we stopped to eat and relax at Dr. Ronald McDonalds. It was here with a magical big mac that my appetite returned and once again started to enjoy food. Probably sounds weird but it was a welcome relief for both stomach and having a simple meal. After realising there was no free wifi in maccas we had to go into Starbucks and pay for wifi. Now we are qualified flash packers. The internet was 150 baht for two hours, shazbot! To put that in perspective we normally eat dinner for 80-110 baht for the both of us.

Western evil return thy appetite to Neil!

We googled a hotel with free transfer to the city/pool/secure parking but didn't find it funny enough. It seems the limit of the GPS maps was the main roads, not the suburban nightmare streets. 

Common theme of suburban traffic.

We entered the maze to only get completely disorientated and led directly away from the hotel but luckily found a 24 hour 'establishment'... I guess if your main customers only stay for 2 hours you don't need a soft mattress. A piece of broken wood will suffice. We ended up staying for two days as shopping was on the cards.

This must say 'get out of the way, I live in Bangkok'.

Finally after suffering migrane like headaches for the last 2000kms of riding (while wearing my helmet) we got a new stack hat for me. The verdict is my large mass of hair has been crushing my head. An unfortunate dent in the budget but I couldn't come to bring my self to cut the hair yet.

As long as your not riding an air-cooled BMW in the busted city traffic.
The same day as getting a new lid we ventured into the middle of the city and experienced some good food and bad air pollution. It was a fun taxi ride in as we enjoyed not being on the bikes as we passed the chaos by. Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief in the cab in the sweet air con.

High rollers. Mind you we will probably be eating from the bin by the end of the trip by ignoring the budget!

Take that Bangkok. Couple of easy riders!

 The ride back to the hotel was hilarious as we sat through 35mins of an Indian prayer/song playing on the taxi's dvd player. Free of the Hindi mantra and bellies full of sushi we slept well and left the next morning knowing we had the arduous task of escaping Bangkok. One thing to note is that motorcycles are not allowed on the expressways in and out of the city. This makes its pretty ordinary trying to ride through/skirt around the city. After a couple of hours of mystery u-turns and navigation by GPS compass we got out. The free GPS maps available for SEA are excellent for Malaysia but are lacking severely for the rest of the joint. Obviously can't complain too much, they are free after all. Our paper map is a little small on the scale for that sort of riding too.

I mentioned you can't ride on the expressway - but we ended up on it anyway, all roads lead to Rome type of thing. After playing clueless farang at the toll booth the policeman nicely let us through but I was always worried about big bike 'tax/bribe' if we were to be pulled over by highway patrol. So we got off and managed to zig zag our way towards the border crossing of Aranyaprathet(Thailand) /Poi Pet(Cambodia). Getting tired after a big days ride and with failing daylight we stopped at yet another 24 hour hotel and were treated with a nice mattress, but bugs/cockroaches galore. Crud.

 Not to worry as they had tasty milo ice creams which we had for dinner. We couldn't be bothered to head out for food that evening. Mind you none of these places say 24hr in english that we've seen. Its only a give away due to the free contraception next to the soap.

I think this chicken wasn't for sale at Tesco Lotus. But amusing to watch running around the car park.

We needed a good breakfast at Tesco Lotus to prepare us for the border crossing the next day though. In a short summary we did get ripped off by some quick english speaking characters on the Thai side and then proceeded to get sent on a wild goose chase for our Carnet stamp on the Cambodian side. 


After a couple of hours we had it sorted and were now driving on the right hand side of the road in a new land. The ride out to Siem Reap was a wild ride dodging all sorts of crazy traffic. A truck managed to roll on the longest stretch of straight road we have ridden so far and everybody stopped the recovery effort to wish us peace and a thumbs up! Didn't stop for a yarn in fear of someone cracking a bottle of booze and a party starting in the middle of the highway. 

Arboretum's icy cold beer. Horrible.
We got into Siem Reap right on cue in busy afternoon traffic. Although being here for three days now we realise traffic is pretty gnarly most hours of the day and night. Tuk Tuk drivers still harass you with offers of a ride constantly. If you don't need a ride then maybe a ride tomorrow to the temple and failing that it starts with shout for marijuana and leads up to a whispered offer of ecstasy and opium. This usually happens within earshot if not arms length from a 'policeman' nearby. Still the same as I remember from 4 years ago but the choice for accommodation is now much better. With boutique guesthouses coming in and offering some refuge in the madness. We're staying at the lovely Arboretum guesthouse. Absolute gold dust. The place to stay in Siem Reap without a doubt.

Big bike. Big temple. Note the new helmet!

At a guess most people visit Cambodia for the great Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. The history of it all is a bit over my head but its definitely worth visiting. My second time here and its just as magnificent as the first.

Tuk Tuk to the temple. Ferrari red in color and similar ride characteristics.

The great temple in the background.

Ancient water bottle dispenser. 

Photo bombing Clarissa's panorama.
Temple foolery was at an all time high.
Auditioning for the job as a pillar.
Getting my ommmm on.
Clarissa's Aspara pose. 8/10.
Do the Aspara pose. Oh yea.
Holding the big bugger together with aircraft straps! Awesome!

Tree 1 temple 0.

A lot of the ruins looked like a mega lego set waiting to be ripped into.

It somehow didn't rain during our visit, but bucketed down that evening. 
Please buy something.

She tried valiantly to get Clarissa to buy a scarf. 
She just smiled. Must have come over to check out the beard.
 Held this up while they got some wooden supports in place.
Clarissa had to hold this balustrade up as it was falling to bits.

Cute now. But in 2 years time they will be armed to the teeth with trinkets. 
Do the bird man!
Ye old' tweak.

Even had a go at a serious documentary. 

 Its a shame of the harassment in town but it shows the extreme competition for your US doller. Cambodians so far are extremely friendly people and their smiles seem well genuine. Even if you don't end up buying what they're selling you don't feel as bad walking away. It really does help here as it gets a bit overwhelming every time you venture into town for food. Be prepared for the constant harassment of begging and children asking you to buy them infant formula (only to return it for money after you leave) and you can survive here. Thankfully I've noticed my beard will scare away most and leave us with only the real dedicated ones. Not to say we haven't given a few dollars away to those that look like they need it but it gets a bit pricey doing it every 2 minutes.

Make sure you get your feet 'fish massaged'. Pick the tank with the biggest fish for a grand old time.

We also have eaten some delicious local food and there's some well regarded and reviewed up market places to eat on offer. We tested one midrange place last night for some pizza and came away having eaten our best (western) meal of the trip so far. The cheapest bottle of red wine turned out to be excellent and we felt mega yuppy when paying the $48 dollar bill. With a plan to venture off the beaten track in a couple of days we look forward to the adventure. Although with the wet season in full swing the roads will be highly interesting. The visa idea for our semi-complicated itinerary for the next 5 month will have us hanging around in Cambodia for the next couple of weeks trying to get off the beaten track and experience some of the less touristy spots. This will no doubt be interesting as we know the roads will be our worst enemy during this weather season. Hopefully it will be excellent off road training for Clarissa and she doesn't bury me for putting her through it. Don't fret too much about off the beaten track - I've no want to find any landmines!

The road less travelled?

Until next time! (which will probably coincide with a return to civilisation!)


  1. Hey Clarissa and Neil, great blog once again - particularly the 'serious' video - some great pictures as always.
    Good to 'catch up' with you,
    take care,
    lots of love from home,

  2. Hey Guys, I just read you blog in full...poor Internet previously but no excuse... I am slack, especially for waiting so long to read such a great entry in your log. I'm glad to hear you are better Neil-the last thing we want is a sick governator! As for the rest of your entries including your beard saga, I had to do the double hand neck choke as I was laughing so hard! It's great to see the Gov and Lady are overcoming all obstacles on their way...albeit with a minor helping of McDonald's along the way. My fond regards to you both and don't hesitate to call if you need moral or physical/actual help. I've finished my UK adventure for now but still hope to meet up with you sometime in future. I'll monitor your movements and am contactable via email. Muchos respectos and muchos gracias for sharing your awesome adventures, respect, Ricardo


Thanks for taking the time to reply :)