Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – getting the most out of wildlife in this stunning corner of South East Asia

Despite an unerring (some would say worrying) devotion to the BBC’s endlessly wholesome Springwatch and a penchant for lengthy country walks, my wildlife spotting skills are distinctly average. I try to put it down to bad eyesight, but the fact is I’m just not properly clued in on birds and other fauna to be able to tell a cuckoo from a chiff chaff at one hundred paces.

That’s not to say this isn’t something I’ve been desperate to remedy for a long time. And fortunately, in Malaysia’s gorgeous Cameron Highlands, I was afforded the opportunity to do so courtesy of some lush rainforest and guides with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area’s plant and bird life. Continue reading

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Biking to Beng Melea – off the beaten track in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Turning off the main road out of Siem Reap, our bikes crunch across wet gravel towards one of the many small local villages that surround Cambodia’s biggest tourist town. Turning around, our guide Samnang points to four uniformed men and a white Land Rover in the adjacent field. ‘Training to clear land mines,’ he says. ‘They’ve already cleared many temple sites, but there’s much work left to do.’

It’s a stark reminder that this area, and this country, are still suffering the horrific after effects of the Khmer Rouge’s brief but brutal rule. We’re on the road to Beng Melea, an ancient temple site that sits over 50km north of the main attractions of Angkor. Our ride though, which has only just begun, will cover 75km, through lush paddy fields, arid landscapes and tiny villages, as we get off the beaten track and try to find the real Cambodia. Continue reading

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The ‘speed boat’ from Battambang to Siem Reap

Gazing out across the vast expanse of Tonle Sap lake, the glittering water dotted with locals flicking fishing nets high into the sky and birds swooping merrily in our wake, I was quietly contemplating the imminent end of our eight hour schlep from Battambang to Siem Reap. The journey had been an eventful one. It was then the catfish jumped on board. This huge monster of a fish flew directly across my field of vision, soaking me and the woman in front, before writhing like mad on deck. With a nonchalant grab behind the gills, one of the crew threw him back into the expanse.

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Mekong Delta tour – how to do it yourself in Vietnam’s rice bowl

Finding a Mekong Delta tour is the least challenging thing a backpacker can do in Saigon. Operators from Sinh Tourist to Hanh Cafe offer similar variations on a theme.  A bleary-eyed 5am start on day one, visits to handicraft stores and various local industries and a whistle stop trip around a floating market. This is largely repeated on days two (and three), with the hours punctuated by hotel meals and little chance to interact with the locals that make the area tick.

Continue reading

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