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April 1, 2004

Cambodia to Bangkok

We were hassled constantly in Cambodia by children begging, people asking us for money, and hawkers trying to sell things. Everything was much more expensive, and it often felt like people were aggressive and really trying to rip us off. On one occasion when we were desperate for something to drink we bought a bottle of mineral water, took a big gulp, and discovered they'd sold us a mineral water bottle that they'd filled with sewage! So we were very glad to get on the bus to Bangkok.

The bus left early in the morning, as usual, and we staggered onto it, happy to be going back to civilisation. Everyone piled in until it was full, they tied our bags onto the roof, and set off. Five minutes later, however, it pulled into a makeshift garage and they set about jacking the fully loaded bus (everyone still inside, of course) up on loose sand and changing one of the wheels. It looked like they'd ran over a nail the previous day, but, of course, couldn't be bothered swapping wheels until now. So we sat there for an hour... and waited. Carita got into an argument with a guy who was kicking a dog in the head for fun, which seems to be a Cambodian pastime, and pissed off at being up early to drive around the corner, I complained about, well, everything I could think of. Finally, they managed to figure it out, and with a wheel on each corner once again, we continued on our merry way. But not for long. Five minutes later we ran out of road. Most of Cambodia is dirt tracks or graded roads, and it seemed that they were still in the process of building this one. There was a huge pile of earth right in the middle of it, and we had to sit and wait for another hour while a bulldozer turned up and flattened the road enough for us to pass. We still weren't feeling very well, and once more we had a couple of near projectile vomitting incidents but managed to control ourselves. This we put down to the "tasty" steak we'd had a couple of nights previously, which didn't really taste like steak (possibly explaining the lack of dogs around the streets).

The day dragged on, the roads deteriorated to farm tracks, but finally, we were getting so close to the Thai border we could smell the green curry. We crossed over, had our passports stamped, and bought a banana smoothie in civilisation from a Thai cafe. Another couple of bus changes later, and we were on our way, speeding down the smooth motorway to Bangkok. We stopped for a break at a petrol station and bought noodles with pork and spring rolls from some of the so-clean-after-where-we'd-been food stalls, then before we knew it we were back in old Bangers, walking down Koh San Road, and checking into a nice, clean room. We took badly needed showers - I'd stupidly been wearing a white shirt and it was completely red from all the dust, and we opened our rucsacs which had been on the roof to find they were totally full of sand. But it felt SO good to be back.

April 4, 2004

iPod Lust

Since I'd first played with an iPod in an Apple dealers, I'd been hooked - there's just something highly sensual about their design that makes them so desirable. So the other day, now that I've got a decent laptop to plug it into, I finally bought one. The first really impressive thing about it is the box - you slide off the sleeve, the box flips open in the middle, and the word, "enjoy" is printed on a white card covering the machine. Truly the nicest box I've ever opened, and great if it's a present (even to yourself!). iPod itself is smaller than you expect, easily fits in the palm of your hand, and with a perfectly polished back, making it something you just want to touch. It works so smoothly and seamlessly with Mac OS X that it's truly a pleasure to use. I'm planning to rip all my CDs onto it and then, as well as carrying it around, use it as the main hi-fi on the boat, plugged through the main amp and speakers.

April 6, 2004

Long Flight to London

I didn't want to leave Thailand, but finally the time came, and I was dragged, kicking, screaming, and biting to Bangkok airport last night. It was a ten hour flight with Royal Jordanian until we landed in Amman for a stop-over, were taken to a complimentary hotel for a brief couple of hours sleep, awoken, and then driven back to the airport to board our onward flight. Twenty-three hours after leaving Bangkok we arrived in London. Carita's flight to Helsinki is early tomorrow morning so we're spending the night sleeping in a cold corner of Heathrow's terminal one.

April 8, 2004

Sore Arse

The dullness of spending a night in Heathrow airport was tempered somewhat when I paid a visit to the toilets and discovered blood running out of my arse. I was, needless to say, a bit shocked, and not having taken part in any bizarre sexual activities the only cause I could think of was sitting on the plane for such a long time. Anyway, I reckoned I would survive the night, despite Carita's attempts to take me to casualty, and when I awoke in the morning it appeared to have healed itself. So I saw Carita onto her flight, caught the coach up to Bristol, and went to Chris's flat. Carita called me back in the evening to say that she'd spoken to her doctor who had remotely diagnosed me (without even a photo of my arse) with possible minor haemorrhoids! I, of course denied it, arguing that only old women got those, but apparently our recent bouts of diarrhoea, constipation, and spending weeks sitting on trains, buses, and planes, could well have caused it.

So it looks as if between that and smashing my knee up in Bangkok (I thought I could fly like superman if I ran fast enough but I couldn't), it's maybe not such a good idea to go off cycling this week as I'd planned to. In fact just sitting down is a bit uncomfortable, but at least I've got a memento of the trip!

April 10, 2004

Drink Urine for Health

I came across this article in the Bangkok Post today and wonder if it's just what I need to cure my recent problems?

Family wakes up to 'benefits' of drinking urine on daily basis

The Chearanasathit family has their own way in keeping the doctor away - a glass of urine every morning.

"It wasn't easy at first. I watched the glass for hours before I grabbed it and swallowed the contents in one gulp,'' said 67-year-old Wannee.

Mrs Wannee said her urine tasted bitter and she suspected it was because of the medicine she took to cure a common cold.

After seven days of drinking her urine, she felt better - the cold was gone and so were muscle pains and allergies. It has been almost three years since her first sip.

May as well give it a go I suppose.
full article below

Family wakes up to `benefits' of drinking urine on daily basis

Doctor warns bodily waste is not a tonic

Amnat Thongdee

The Chearanasathit family has their own way in keeping the doctor away _ a glass of urine every morning.
They have no scientific evidence to prove it. They are simply speaking from experience.
``It wasn't easy at first. I watched the glass for hours before I grabbed it and swallowed the contents in one gulp,'' said 67-year-old Wannee.
Mrs Wannee said her urine tasted bitter and she suspected it was because of the medicine she took to cure a common cold.
After seven days of drinking her urine, she felt better _ the cold was gone and so were muscle pains and allergies. It has been almost three years since her first sip.

Mrs Wannee got the idea from Phra Ajarn Sington Narasapo who came to Chumphon three years ago and talked about the medical benefits of drinking urine.
``Buddhist monks in the past drank their own urine. They preserved fruit in urine and ate the fruit to relieve constipation,'' she said.

Her son, Paitoon, 36, and her daughter-in-law, Netchanok, 33, who works as a nurse at a private hospital, also take urine daily.
According to Mr Paitoon, the smell and the taste of urine is a good indicator of one's health.
``If it tastes sweet, it means you've had too much sugar. If it tastes salty, you've had too much salt. Basically, it warns us about the food we take,'' he said.

Mr Paitoon said urine with a mild taste and smell _ which is similar to that of a baby _ indicates good health.
Mrs Netchanok said she is surprised about the benefits of urine.
``It works well, especially on cold and allergies. I don't know why. Maybe it stimulates the body to produce immunity just like some drugs, except that there are few side-effects,'' she said.

Her eight-year-old daughter, Prapassorn, takes a glass of urine instead of paracetamol when she has a temperature.
She does not drink her urine on a regular basis _ only when she feels unwell.
``It has a mild taste today. I guess I drank lots of water. It's so hot,'' said Prapassorn after the urine disappeared down her throat.

According to Chearanasathit family, their Burmese maid also drinks her urine to cure allergies.

However, Dr Bisan Sapromyen, of Chumphonkhet Udomsak Hospital, said medically speaking urine is useless and there is no scientific evidence to support its benefits.
``It's liquid waste expelled by our body. And waste is waste. No one should drink it,'' he said.

April 12, 2004

Coastal Walking

Simon drove up to Bristol on Sunday and we've spent the last two days walking some of the south-west coastal path from it's official beginning in Minehead. I'm fairly knackered tonight after it, however, so I'm going to crash out and I'll fill in the details tomorrow.

April 13, 2004

Minehead to Porlock Walk

We left the van on Minehead's beach front, not far from the eyesore of Butlin's concentration camp, and prepared to begin the official start of the south west coastal path. Though we'd walked some sections previously we decided that it was time to take it a bit more seriously and make an official start. So Simon brought out the red ribbon, we asked some unsuspecting passers-by to hold the other end whilst someone else took a photo of us cutting it next to the monument which marks the beginning of the trail. The monument itself, an hallucinogenic large pair of hands holding an enormous map, is a fairly recent addition to the route, and we both agreed that without it we'd never have found the starting point.

Off we strode, full of vigour, determination, and with mind altering pasties in hand for sustenance, the path left the seafront with it's pissed and bored population milling around for the bank holiday, and instantly leapt up the nearest hill all the way onto Exmoor.

This part of the path appeared to be a bit of a rollercoaster as it climbed up the moorland, then suddenly plunged into a valley. The views, however, were stunning, and we sat looking out over the Bristol Channel to Wales admiringly. Surprisingly, although it was easter, hardly anyone else seemed to be walking the route, and I'd expected to be behind lines of people like it is in the Lake District.

One of the hobbies around Minehead seems to be setting fire to things, and as we walked past scorched signs and burned hillsides we expected to meet pyromaniacs at any moment and be torched alive. We eventually came to a fork in the path, and decided to choose the 'rugged path', which followed the cliff edge. Since we were out to walk the coastal path, we figured, it was time to get a bit fundamental about it, and actively follow the coast.

Soon we found ourselves on Bossington Hill, high up and looking out over Porlock Bay. It was getting late, however, so realising that it would be difficult to find a bus or taxi on Easter Sunday to take us back to Minehead, we descended the hill, found a bridleway, and followed it back to the road to Minehead.

Back at the beginning of the trail, we found 'Jaws' fish and chip shop, which, apparently unchanged since the 70's with it's sitting area in the back of the shop, was just like chip shops used to be. We had a lovely supper, and Simon and I discussed where best to spend the night.

We opted to park on a track close to Selworthy Beacon, and I was introduced to Stealth Camping in Simon's modified Mercedes Sprinter. Looking like a plain van on the outside, the interior is fully kitted out with a double bed, sink, toilet and fridge, cleverly designed to enable you to park up and sleep anywhere without arousing any of the suspicions that a campervan or hippymobile would.

April 14, 2004

Porlock to Lynmouth Walk

We awoke fully rested in the morning and set off early through the woods, past deer and rabbits, and along the shingle beach of Porlock Bay. The village of Porlock Weir was very pretty, with it's cottages by the sea and a glassblower making vases in a shed on the front whilst listening to trance music. The path returned to the wood, climbed another hill, and crossed a private toll road (one pound per car to be paid at the old gatehouse) into Yearnor Wood. A little further on we came to Culbone Church, which, nestled in the forest, is in the Domesday Book and the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest church in England.

Soon after we came to another fork in the path, and mistakenly, from what we later heard, opted for the more inland route rather than the 'permissable' path which ran closer to the coastline and is, allegedly, more pleasant. We spent some time walking along farm tracks, through farmland, and fields with newly born lambs - one of which could only have been half an hour old, as the path meandered up and down the hills.

Finally, it joined onto the main road at the international border between Somerset and Devon, and there in front of us was the Exmoor Park visitors centre selling cold drinks and ice cream. We hurried towards it, but unfortunately they saw us coming, quickly turned the sign to closed, and locked the door. Disappointed and pissed off at them keeping us away from the ice cream, we had no other choice but to return to the forest and hope that someone from Minehead would come along and exact revenge on the building.

The path, however, immediately improved, and wound it's way through lovely woods and along the edge of cliffs, high above the sea. We passed a few other people, which was a novelty, then sat down and had our sandwiches in the sun. We were beginning to feel tired and sore, but knowing it wasn't far to Lynmouth where we planned to finish for the day, we pressed on.

The path eventually re-appeared from the woods, we followed a route suitable for mountain goats around Foreland Point lighthouse, and then Lynmouth came into view. We climbed over one more hilltop then descended into its river valley and entered the town from there. Lynmouth became famous after 90 million tons of water cascaded down it's valley in 1952, killing 35 people. Only a few years ago it came out that the British government had secretly been carrying out rain-making experiments (BBC news) in the area days before.

Nevertheless, it was good to be there, and we passed a sign extoling that the cliffs we had just walked over were the highest in Britain. We bought ourselves an ice cream, which, at 4.20 for two cones, obviously had to be the most expensive ice cream in Britain as well. I did my best to extract that full value of pleasure from mine and then the bus appeared and we stumbled on board, tired and sore.

April 18, 2004

Elephant Videos


I've been taking advantage of Simon's broadband connection today and trying to work on some of the photos and videos that have been piling up whilst I've been travelling.

Here's some of the videos we shot whilst in Thailand at Mae Sa Elephant Camp.

Elephant painting (1.89Mb)
Elephant scratching it's arse (4.00Mb)
Elephants bathing in the river (6.43Mb)
Elephants dancing and playing the mouth organ (4.87Mb)
Carita giving an elephant the last of our water (2.24Mb)

April 22, 2004

Baggage Extortion

Simon dropped me off at Newquay airport yesterday at 0630 and over I went to check in for Ryanair's morning flight to Stansted. They've recently cut the baggage allowance down to 15kg and so, carrying the stuff I brought back from Asia, I was told that my bag was 9kg too heavy and this would cost me 30! I of course said that my friend was still outside and that I would leave some things with him and be right back. I tried to call Simon who'd just left but couldn't get hold of him and so, determined not to pay any surcharges I began redistributing my luggage.

1. Stripped off outside and beginning with bottom layers, put on most of the clothes I was carrying until I looked enormous.
2. Removed all heavy object such as books and packed them into my jacket pockets.
3. Packed anything else that could possibly fit into my carry on bags.
4. Returned to counter to find that check-in weight was now fine.

Arriving in London Stansted, however, I had seven hours to wait for my flight to Glasgow and knowing that I was flying with Ryanair again I kept a lot of the clothes on. The day dragged on until finally check-in opened, I once again managed to get my gear on without any surcharges, and eventually we left Stansted airport. By the time I got to Colin's flat in Glasgow at 1900 I was fairly exhausted, though not tired enough to stop me from, traditionally, heading out to the pub for a few beers.

April 24, 2004

Fuel Cells for Sailing

Just when I was considering buying a new diesel engine for Zamindar, Californian company Haveblue have come along with a prototype fuel cell propulsion system for yachts which they plan to put into production next year. The system extracts hydrogen from seawater and uses it to propel the boat and power it's electrical system through a 10Kw fuel cell. Apart from being potentially cheaper to run and more environmentally friendly, they should also be nearly silent in operation. At the moment, however, a boat with their technology is expected to cost $300,000 to $500,000 so maybe I'll stick with diesel for the moment.

April 27, 2004

More South West Coastal Path

Last week in Cornwall, Simon and I continued our crusade to knock off more miles on the coastal path, walking the sections from Coverack to Falmouth, and from Padstow to the aptly named Booby's Bay.

Both days began dry but then the drizzle started, getting gradually heavier until, by the afternoon, we were soaked through. The walk from Coverack on the Lizard Peninsula in the south of Cornwall was through lush, rolling countryside and past sleepy village cottages with Range Rovers and Ferraris on their drives. We caught the ferry across the Helford river, which seems like a lovely place to moor a boat, and after eight hours of walking, finally got to the outskirts of Falmouth.

The section on the north coast was very different as we walked along the wide, sandy shores outside Padstow then followed a high, rocky coastline with big Atlantic breakers rolling in from the sea. We stood watching surfers sitting on their boards in one of the bays, then Simon, who's just bought himself a board (sorry, I mean stick) quizzed a couple of them on surf vocab and the best place to buy a Custard Point.

Back in the hills we passed within ten metres of a hawk eating it's newly caught prey on a rock, unconcerned by our presence as we continued along the path. The wind was picking up by this time and walking into it became punishing, like constantly walking uphill, rain stinging our faces. By mid-afternoon we crossed a long sandy beach, found a Booby's Bay, and decided that it was probably a good place to stop and get to know.

By the time we reached the shelter of the van our feet were sore and we were looking for something to perk us up so we decided to try Rick Stein's fish and chip shop. We drove around the centre of the town, past his expensive restaurants with their six month waiting lists for a table, his patisserie, the Rick Stein shop, his cooking school, and all the other businesses he owns in the town. No surprise really that the locals now call it Padstein. Finally, we found his fish and chip shop down by the fishing boats on the edge of town and we waited for it to open.

Minutes after the doors were unlocked the place was queued out. Somewhat shocked by it's popularity, we joined everyone else and waited to place our order. Simon had the gurney and I opted for a straightforward haddock with chips. We weren't disappointed, the fish was lovely and the portions were big - a far cry from your usual corner fish and chip shop, and certainly one of the nicest fish suppers I've ever had.

Suitably fulfilled, we drove to Newquay and went for a pint. The town was deserted, however, in the way that only a holiday destination can feel out of season so we didn't hang around for long. I had to get up for my early morning flight to London the next day so we parked the stealth camper by the lovely Porth Reservoir and enjoyed a peaceful night's rest.

April 29, 2004

The Strange World of Ryanair

I'm in Prestwick airport waiting for a flight to Frankfurt - or rather it would be Frankfurt if only I wasn't flying with Ryanair. After booking the flight to 'Frankfurt Hahn', I checked up how to get to Frankfurt railway station and discovered that what Ryanair calls Frankfurt Hahn has nothing to do with Frankfurt at all and is in fact 110km away from the city, it's main airport, almost two hours away by bus, and closer to Luxemburg than it is to Frankfurt!

If the flight's on time then I should be able to catch the last bus at 00:30, spend the night rough somewhere in Frankfurt, and, everything going to plan, rendevous with Carita who should turn up on an early morning train from Finland with Ira the Rottweiler. Then the plan is to take trains all the way down to Barcelona and catch the ferry over to Ibiza.

April 30, 2004

Frankfurt

Well, the flight from Prestwick went fine and I caught a long bus ride over to Frankfurt's main airport, which is where I am now. Seems like a good place to spend the night and with some luck meet up with Carita in it's train station.