Archive for March, 2008


X40 Sailing on the Bay

March 30, 2008   

Today I went out on iShares Xtreme 40 which Hugh Styles is skippering. Hugh and I worked together on Yeoman XXXII last year and when he was asked to bring the X40 to the Bay he called Racing Yacht Management to help out with some of the logistics.

The boat arrived in a 40 foot container at the end of February – the hulls mast etc all fits onto a trailer which goes in the container. There is about 2 inches on all sides. The crew built the boat last week  over at Svendsens only needing a crane to put the mast up and launch the boat.

The boat is sponsored by iShares and Hugh has been hired on as skipper see

I really enjoyed my little sail around the bay. The boat is very fast and when you start flying the hull it is a cool feeling. You can tell that there is a fine line and it can all go tits up very quickly. It was a perfect sunny day on the bay blowing 20-25 knots and we were going the same speed as the wind. I was glad to have my Kokotat drysuit on as although it wasn’t that wet it was cold.

After lunch with the guys at the club of soup to warm the cockles of Hugh’s heart, I took them all to sports basement as they needed thermals. They hadn’t heeded my warning about the temperature at this time of year.

See video below of the boat sailing.

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The Killing Fields

March 24, 2008   

24th March – I pretty much snapped this morning and told Annabelle that we were upgrading from the $1.50/night room on the lake to a new place with air conditioning. I just couldn’t deal with sweating profusely while trying to sleep in a dirty room. So I dragged her to a new place with air conditioning, clean sheets and a TV all for the very expensive $13/night.

After checking into our new place our driver took us to the Genocide Museum S21 it is very horrifying we went from there onto the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek before moving on from there we sat at a table in the shade. The sheer horror of what we had seen made for a very quite day. It is amazing the cruelty that human beings are capable of. I didn’t like how they tried to portray the tragic events as being more horrifying than the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. In my mind both regimes were horrendous and they don’t need to be compared to make them anymore so.

Annabelle and I have been reading a few books by people who survived the Khmer Rouge – Stay Alive My Son is very good. At the moment I am reading The Gate by Francois Bizot one of the only Westerners to survive the Khmer Rouge.

We went back into town for lunch at Friends a resturant run by former street children. The food was delicous it was though western level pricing. Then onto the National Museum which had every type of  carved Budda possible I must admit though that we had pretty much had our fill of temples and statues! Onto the Russian market for the obligatory 3rd world shopping experience – stands full of fake Rolex’s, North Face gear, Polo shirts etc.

We spent the evening in our air conditioned room before heading out to a local restuarant. The menu included roast frog which we didn’t go for instead we had beef volcano which is not as exciting as it sounds. You have a gas camping stove in the middle of the table and a cast iron skillet on it. They give you plates of veg, beef slices with an egg on top, oil, butter and rice and you cook the meal yourself. Our server was a very nice young guy who was trying very hard to explain how to eat our meal in his rudimentary English. I think he was amazed at how tidy we were as we stacked our empty plates at the end of the table unlike the locals around us. We then had the soup which again you cook at the table. The broth comes in an earthenware pan with some suspect looking meat floating in it. We didn’t think it was beef like our server told us. Neither Annabelle nor I were adventurous enough to eat the meat sticking instead to the vegetables and noodles.

Tomorrow we are off to Hong Kong where Annabelle stays for the Hong Kong Sevens. I have the evening there and then back to San Francisco where I have a few clients waiting for some work on their boats. I will be helping out a little on Hugh’s X40 catamaran project which is in the Bay for corporate entertainment.

Phomn Penh

March 23, 2008   

23rd – Last night we went to the Red Piano and then the night market in Siem Reap. As usual we had kids begging for a $1. I asked the boy – are you hungry – he said yes so I said come with me. He came with me and then got shy and hid so I went back to the group and again he came asking for a dollar. I said no dollar but if you are hungry I will feed you. This time he decided he was bold enough to follow me to a street vendor. The lady packed him a large carton of fried rice and some soup and I gave her a dollar. He said thank you and ran away with his package of food happy. It is hard to ignore all the kids and turn a blind eye. Many have asked us for water and Annabelle and I have been handing over our half drunk water bottles. It is sad when you see them collecting water bottles and collecting the remaining drips.

For 3 nights we had walked past a family living on the street next to the night shop. The lady had two babies and an empty bottle she asked for milk for the baby. So I went into the store and got her a large container of powdered milk – it was expensive. I told the check out guy not to let her sell it back to him. This is becoming an expensive holiday….

 We got the early bus to Phnom Penh this morning and it broke down about 3km from the city center after a 6 hour ride in a very hot bus. The company sent another bus to pick us all up. It was pretty comical and everyone was laughing – there we were in the center of the main bridge that goes over the Tonle Sap stopping all the traffic. We had to coast back off the bridge in reverse – typical Asia no one batted an eyelid of sounded their horns.

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 This afternoon we spent going around the Royal Palace. I was amazed there was so much undamaged by the civil war. We went on to have a nice dinner at the Boddi Tree. Home for early bed as we are all tired and hot – it was 40C today.

Unusual activities

March 22, 2008   

22nd – Annabelle and I didn’t get back from the bar until 1:30am this morning so my idea of going to Battabang City on the 7am boat got given the thumbs down. Instead it was a late up and then brunch at the Blue Pumpkin which is an expensive pastry shop that looks like it should be in London or San Francisco. Followed by a body massage by blind people while dressed in blue scrubs for $5 for an hour and then onto manicures and pedicures. All very unusual things for me to do and I was very fidgety Annabelle and Jessie kept on looking at me and laughing at my unease. So now I have very clean nails but no color on them. Annabelle I reckon is getting a kick back from my mum as she is on my case about skirts and dresses. I asked if she wanted me to leave her in Cambodia on her own!

More temples – a beautiful moon rise

March 21, 2008

 21st – A leisurly start to the day. The driver picked us up at 9am and we went out to a temple 1 1/2 hours away. It was the most intricatly carved one that we have been to. Then onto the Landmine museum that is run by Aki Ra see

A sombering visit.

A few more temples the favourite of mine was Ta Prohm as it has been mostly untouched and feels like a movie set for Indian Jones.

We finished the day watching the full moon rise over Angkor Wat with the image reflecting beautifully in the moat surrounding the temple.

The below picture was given to us by one of the kids selling trinkets in Siem Reap.

Siem Reap – Angkor Wat

March 20, 2008   

20th – Bleary eyed we awoke at 4am to be picked up at 5am by our remorque (a chariot type trailer that attaches to a motorbike) driver. We sped through the surprisingly busy streets of Siem Reap in the dark and stopped at the entrance to Ankor Wat to purchase a 3 day ticket armed with our passport photos that we were told we needed – not anymore. They take a picture of you looking your 5am best with a camera and it is printed onto your ticket. 50 yards down the road is the first ticket checkpoint you have to show it at every temple.

We hired our man for the 26km long trip around the complex. Starting with sunrise over Angkor Wat which was  shared with a few thousand Korean tourists on a tour group and unfortunately wasn’t a great one due to the cloud cover. Angkor Wat really does blow the mind with its pure scale. Next up was Angkor Thom a walled city that held an estimated 1 million inhabitants. The Bayon at the geographical center was Jessie’s (a girl from Quebec who is being a tourist with us) favorite I have to admit that  the King’s face on each side of the ‘towers’ was amazing but I really liked the second to last one we went to which has elephants at all corners. Annabelle’s favorite was a very simple temple that had a smiley face carved over the entrance, some cute kids (once they stopped trying to sell to us) and a large tree with it’s roots entwined with the entrance archway.

 Something happened to blow my mind – at one of the temples I was about to take a picture of Annabelle when a nice older lady and gentleman were passing and she asked if we would like her husband to take a picture of us together. The gentleman took the picture, she asked where we were from. Annabelle said UK but told her that I am living in San Francisco and her in NZ. We reciprocated with a question of where they were from – they said US – that was obvious! Where in the US – Michigan – where in Michigan – Grosse Pointe. Oh I said I knew Grosse Pointe I knew a family there. Who? Well it turns out the gentleman has dinner monthly with the older gentleman that I know! Pretty amazing coincidence.

So basically a very long and hot day climbing up and down temple complexes and trying to sound polite when we wanted to scream at the various vendors.  The temples are indeed an amazing and awe inspiring site tomorrow we are going to take in the sunset in the complex hopefully we will find one not crawling with tourists!

This evening we walked along bar street and then down one of the alleys that had lots of resturants spilling onto the pavement. We picked a place to eat that was expensive but looked nice. It was the most expensive meal we have had in Asia (besides Hong Kong) and we were all disappointed. The presentation was beautiful and Annabelle took a picture of her Amok (khmer specialty) which is fish in banana leaves.

A land mine victim tugged at Annabelle and my heart strings and we ended up buying two books from him for three times what we could have got them for in the store. We bargained him down to $12 for two but didn’t have the heart to go further. So we will read the books and exchange them. It really is still a good deal 🙂

We than celebrated easter by going to Blue Pumpkin an expensive pastry shop and had an ice cream that is home made at there shop. Very tasty. Next stop the night market where Annabelle told me she wasn’t to by anything and if she looked like she might remind her she had a backpack to carry – so I did – to her annoyance.

Si Phan Don

March 18, 2008   

17th – We both struggled up in the morning not feeling shit hot and got on a long boat to Don Det an island further south towards the cambodian border. The river is deceptively wide however, there is a narrow well marked channel which our boat stayed in as shallows were prevalent along with many small islands. We walked 4 km which was ill advised in the heat of the sun both not feeling great for the boat ramp at Don Det across the French built railway bridge with our heavy bags to Don Kon and found a bungalow not on the river but set back a little for 40,000k. Both of us have a case of upset stomachs must have been the ice and are feeling unwell so the day was spent lying overheating in our hammocks without a fan as the island runs generators for 4 hours each day. We slept and read and generally felt sorry for ourselves though I am sure no one else would! The island was palm tree fringed and beautiful but we were only seeing the bad side of life and having a sense of humor failure. We didn’t see the dolphins as it was $10 and we were sure with the poor water quality we would only see fins from a long distance away. We wanted to kill the cockeral that was insistent under the bungalow and we had a theory of how great it would be to be able to go back to western civilisation for a few hours.

 Annabelle wants a bunch of diggers to turn up and create a clean cool swimming pool and is very happy she is travelling with a tea totaller as she couldn’t think of anything worse than having a hang over in this heat.


We luckily ended up in a bungalow with a traditional bamboo roof rather than the metal ones which make you feel like you are in a tin can. We seem to have the wildlife of Laos in our shack not only 2 frogs, some spiders but a rather large lizard about 12 inches long and quite big with snake like eyes. As we attempt to have dinner as we really need to eat something we start discussing snakes and travel insurance. I ask Annabelle if she has checked on the evacuation policy on her insurance as it would be really pricey to get us off this island! She says if it didn’t cover it ‘screw Lucy’s wedding, mum and dad can pay for the airlift’!!

A bike ride

March 17, 2008   

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March 16, 2008   

15th – A 3 hour layover in Pakse southern bus station is not the funnest of things. The place is a dump and they don’t have many westerners travelling through – the usual signs in english are missing.

We loaded with 40 other people into a well packed pick up. The women in charge seemed to think it was a guiness book of records challenge to see how many people and bags she could get on the back of a pick up. The usual street sellers crowded around but this time it was machetes (what would we westerners want with a machete – come on man (Annabelle’s reaction) and turnip looking things.

 Annabelle as usual can sleep anywhere and promptly fell asleep but got woken up by a Loas man who was concerned by her head movements. He was sure she would head butt the baby in a mothers arms across from us. She asked in an accusatory tone why I hadn’t woken her! I was enjoying watching the locals expressions too much to spoil the fun. You have to get some amusement on these trips from somewhere.

The pick up loaded onto a Loas style car ferry along with a bunch of lorries and after some trouble docking we unloaded the other side of the Mekong to be dropped the otherside of town (Champasak) from the guest houses. Of course right into the arms of a tuk tuk driver who wisked us off to his chosen guesthouse after we told him we wanted to go to the tourist office. The tourist office was indeed like the lonely planet guide says brand new but it was vacant with no signs of life.

After some breakfast and a nap in the hammoks we rented a motorbike with a side car and went to explore the temple ruins. The service at our guest house was Faulty Towers like with the lady coming back 25 minutes after we had ordered to ask us again what we had ordered as she hadn’t written it down. Then 15 minutes later two drinks came out – I think she was actually growing the lemons – and were given to the wrong people! We figured out pretty quickly that this was the norm.

The Wat was a pretty amazing site but it was really really hot. We have now started taking pictures in black and white so that we don’t look hot and flustered and lobster red in all our photos. �

Ban Na – homestay and trekking

March 15, 2008   

14th – We were up with the sunrise as we were meant to be going trekking at 7am however, typical of Asia it was 8:30 before we left! As I had time I did my laundry and hung it on the washing line with the rest of the family. The two girls were sent off to school with a ball of sticky rice each and the older one who was going to a high school some money for the tuk tuk. We had a breakfast of basically Top Ramen – it is all about the carbs here 🙂

We had to hire 2 guides as per the regulations as we were going into Wild Elephant territory. The day of trekking was long about 24km in all. We went through mostly bamboo forest and walked up empty river beds with amazing forms of erosion like large pot holes. It was good to take a break at lunch next to a swimming hole that in the wet season is upstream of a large area of rapids. The water was very cool and it wasn’t too stagnant.

This place is obviously very different in the wet season – as we walked out of town they were building a walkway about 4 feet off the ground that allows them to get out to the fields.

We stopped at the elephant tower had an hour snooze and unfortunately the closest we got to a wild elephant was lots of large piles of dung! There was a very large group of westerners who had just hiked the 4 km to the tower not doing the large hike like us and they had had to run down the path as the guides had heard an elephant nearby. As we left the tower the guide lifted up the steel ladder that allowed access to the platform and padlocked the chain.

I bought some bamboo folders and a sticky rice container then tried to figure out how I was actually going to get the purchases home in one piece. After a bucket bath at the home stay we took off with our backpacks for another 2km walk to the main road to flag down a bus to Pakse – overnight 15 hours. A lady in the village had tried to lift our bags and they were very admiring that we carried them we reciprocated the admiration of their skill with bamboo baskets etc. I did try with their machete to do the stripping into sections the bamboo but was not good at it at all much to their amusement.

As we got to the last 400 yards I heard the sound of the buses horn and decided to make a run for the road so we wouldn’t have to wait 40 minutes for another bus. I ran up to the road waving at the bus hoping it was one going to Pakse. The locals thought this was very amusing. In the middle of basically no where two women foreigners covered in red dust with large backpacks were flagging down the bus like locals. We loaded in and were met by a sea of faces – shit – not a seat in sight. We were in for a ride on the plastic seats in the aisle – for how long we didn’t know. The guy collecting money for tickets wanted 100,000 we explained with diagrams that that was the complete price from Vientienne to Pakse and seeing as we were already 80km towards Pakse and we had already paid 30,000 we were going to only give him 70000. He said he would take 75000 and proceeded to be grumpy as he hadn’t got his cut!

 So off we went in the plastic seats hoping not to be hit by UFO’s and hoping someone would be getting off at the next major town. Which to our luck two did and we scrabbled to the amusement of everyone around for the free seats before the other plastic chair dwellers could get at them.

 Annabelle ended up sitting next to the only lazy, large and slobby Loas we have met and has to elbow some space for herself on the seat. The usual karaoke movies are being shown. They are country and western themed but in Loas! All about breakups, infidelity, unrequited love and sometimes a happy love story. In the attempt at looking western all the male musicians look very effeminent.

We are the only westerners crazy enough to do this overnight trip which in the lonely planet guide says is for the masochistic. At one of the food stops much to the amusement of my Loas seat partner I filled my newly purchased sticky rice basket for 2000k.

At 3:45am I awoke from a fitful nap to look out the window and see the Mekong and a very long fire line. They were burning the fields – this line was about 15miles long extending way up the hill. I have no idea how they control these forest fires that they purposely set but they don’t seem to get out of control.

 The last 20km took 2 hours as unlike the national express bus in the UK these buses seem to take you right to your door! We were up and down dirt roads and using our phrase book when we got to what looked like town we desperately tried to figure out if the bus went to the southern bus station or not.