A Travellerspoint blog

A short stop in the civilization / Zastavka v civilizacii

Singapore & Malaysia in two weeks. / Singapur & Malajzia za dva tyzdne.

semi-overcast 32 °C
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By ZZ

Singapore, a small insular state on the tip of the Malay peninsula with a population of 5 million inhabitants, is the most expensive city in the world. And probably the cleanest, too. An ultra-modern oasis in the middle of Southeast Asia. But there is much more to Singapore than that. It's an amazing melange of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European culture. It all started at the end of 18th century when Sir Stamford Raffles established the port of Singapore. It became the most important stop on the trade route between India and China and therefore grew increasingly richer. The wealth is now hidden in the trade banks of the financial district.

We enjoyed Singapore to the fullest. The city represents a shining example of how to preserve green gardens in the middle of a concrete jungle. On the very first night we made our way to the Night Safari zoo, a great exhibition of animals which are active mostly in the dark. You can either take a tram with a guided tour or walk along one of the 4 trails. We did both. There are in fact no fences... (or they're almost invisible). Fancy a lion roar at midnight?! The next morning we followed the example of the locals and went jogging to the Marina bay. The first 2k were great, but then it started pouring cats and dogs. After hiding at a bus stop for the better of an hour we returned to our hostel with no dry spot on our body. Anyway...we dedicated the rest of the day to cultural exploration and visited the Arab street and Little India. We kept the best for the evening: Gardens by the bay. These futuristic gardens were opened to the public in 2011 and every night people gather to listen to the "singing trees". A stunning theatre! On our last day we walked through the beautifully preserved colonial quarter and visited the Asian civilizations museum. It was one of the best we've seen and the impression was multiplied by the museum's guide who led us through the expositions. The museum does free guided tours every day and you get so much more out of it going on one.

Only 6 hours bus drive and we were in another capital: Kuala Lumpur. Basically it's a huge building site and a display of Malaysian effort to become the regional leader in trade and tourism. The well-known campaign "Truly Asia - Malaysia" brought many interesting activities like free walking tours or the "Mud" musical about the city history. Of course we couldn't miss a picture in front of the highest building in the world - the famous Petronas towers :) We tasted also the delicious Peranakan cuisine, a fusion of Chinese cooking style with Malay spices and ingredients. In Malaysia we wanted to visit 2 more places, the first being the Cameron highlands. This famous tee plantation was unfortunately packed with tourists and did not have much authenticity left. We enjoyed a few hikes in the forest and left for our next destination. Penang. A beautiful multicultural city on an island full of beaches, jungle and the best food we thought Malaysia has to offer. Every evening we tasted local specialities at the night market - seafood, sushi, curries, soups and rice. Yummy! We spent our days strolling around the streets of Chinatown taking pictures of the local street art and drinking coffee in the unique coffee shops. We would recommend a day trip to the Penang national park. After a two-hour jungle trek we entered a virgin beach where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. When a storm broke out, we hid in the turtle sanctuary and fell asleep next to the small sea turtles :)

2 weeks on the Malay peninsula offered an interesting insight into the two richest countries in the region. It was pleasant to be in a place where traffic rules exist, plus one can pay by card and buy some chocolate ice cream ;) We can say that we tasted some of the best food here, and literally on every corner! The cultural diversity gives these countries their exotic flair and fantastic atmosphere!

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Singapur, maly ostrovny stat na cipe malajskeho polostrova s populaciou 5 milionov obyvatelov, je najdrahsie mesto sveta. A zaroven pravdepodobne najcistejsie. Supermoderna oaza uprostred juhovychodnej Azie. Nie je to vsak len pozlatko na povrchu. Singapur je uzasny mix cinskej, indickej, malajskej a europskej kultury. Vsetko to zacalo koncom 18.storocia ked Sir Stamford Raffles zalozil pristav, ktory sa postupne stal najdolezitejsim obchodnym uzlom medzi Indiou, Cinou a Indoneziou. Dnes je toto bohatstvo vidiet hlavne na bankach vo financnej stvrti.

V Singapure sme sa citili skvele. Toto mesto je ziarivy priklad, ako zachovat zelen aj uprostred betonovej dzungle. Hned prvy vecer sme navstivili nadherne nocne safari, kde sme si az do polnoci pozerali zvierata aktivne hlavne za tmy. Su dva sposoby, ako sa po parku pohybovat - vlacikom s vykladom sprievodcu alebo pesi po znacenych chodnikoch. My sme skusili oboje. Kedze v parku nie su ziadne ploty (alebo ich nie je vidno), je celkom sranda nacuvat revu levov v totalnej tme... Na dalsi den sme sa po vzore domacich vybrali behat do Marina bay. Trochu mrholilo, ale aspon nas to trochu schladilo. Asi po 2 kilometroch z toho bol taky lejak, ze sme as museli schovat na autobusovu zastavku, ale aj tak sme naspat bezali premoknuti do nikty. Poobede sme sa vydali preskumat kulturu v Little India a Arab street, nekonecnej spleti uliciek, obchodikov a stankov s vybornym jedlom. Na vecer sme si nechali perlicku - Gardens by the bay. Tieto futuristicke zahrady boli otvorene v roku 2011 a kazdy vecer sa tu ludia zhromadzuju pocuvat "spievajuce stromy". Nezabudnutelne divadlo! Na posledny den sme si nechali prechadzku po kolonialnej stvrti a prehliadku Muzea azijskych civilizacii - jedna s najkrajsich zbierok, ake sme videli. Celym okruhom nas previedla jedna zo zamestnankyn a vysvetlila nam vsetky pribehy okolo pamiatok - velmi poucne!

6 hodin cesty autobusom je vzdialene malajske hlavne mesto Kuala Lumpur. Je to jedno velke stavenisko a vykladna skrina malajskej snahy stat sa ekonomickym a turistickym lidrom regionu. Obrovska kampan "Truly Asia - Malaysia" priniesla super aktivity ako prehliadku mesta so sprievodcom zdarma alebo muzikal Mud o historii mesta. Samozrejme sme nemohli vynechat fotku pri znamych Petronas towers. Ochutnali sme tu aj vyhlasenu Perenakansku kuchynu, cinsky styl varenia s malajskymi prisadami a koreniami. Vynikajuce! V Malajzii nas este cakali Cameron highlands, zname cajove plantaze severne z Kuala Lumpuru. Mozno to bolo hlavnou sezonou, ale tato oblast bola preplnena turistami a to nas trosku odradilo. Pozreli sme si vyrobnu caju, spravili sme si turu po lese a vyrazili sme dalej. Penang. Nadherne multikulturne mesto na ostrove s plazami, dzunglou a najlepsim jedlom! Kazdy vecer sme ochutnavali speciality na nocnom trhu - morske prisery, sushi, curry, polievky, ryzu. Okrem toho sme si uzivali prechadzky po uzkych ulickach, fotili sme miestne slavne graffiti a posedavali v jedinecnych kaviarnach. Za celodenny vylet urcite stoji Penangsky narodny park. Po dvojhodinovej ture dzunglou sme sa dostali na panensku plaz, kde sme videli morske korytnacky. Ked sa spustila strasna burka, schovali sme sa do chovnej stanice a zaspali vedla malych korytnaciek :)

2 tyzdne na malajskom polostrove boli zaujimavym pohladom na dva najbohatsie staty regionu. Bolo fajn zase byt niekde, kde sa dodrziavaju dopravne predpisy, plati sa kartou a da sa kupit cokoladova zmrzlina. Zaroven tu bolo zatial najlepsie jedlo, a to doslova na kazdom rohu! Zmes roznych kultur stale dava tymto krajinam exoticky nadych a fantasticku atmosferu.

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Posted by zuzana.zav 21:53 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

The time stopped in Burma 2 / V Barme sa zastavil cas 2

Continuation of our Burmese adventure / Pokracovanie naseho barmskeho dobrodrustva

sunny 34 °C
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By ZZ

In Burma we finally experienced the full power of the southwestern monsoon that brings rain from May to September to Southeast Asia. Up until now we had only laughed upon the infamous rainy season but only experienced minor swift showers. The south of the country was desperately covered with heavy thick clouds and we had to change our plans. Burma has a dry zone from Mandalay to Pyay and we went to try our luck there.

From Inle lake we took a bus...and here comes the first bus story. Burmese people are not quite used to traveling by bus. Therefore an essential equipment for any journey is a sick bag. As soon as the road got a bit wiggly, women started taking out the bags. At the end of the journey, 3/4 of the bags were used and esthetically hung on the seats. The pale faces of our fellow travelers had a nice shade of green. But back to the topic. If we had mixed feelings about Burma until this moment, Bagan would change it. One always knows what to expect from a destination, but there are no words that can express the beauty of Bagan. It's a magical place full of red brick pagodas and golden Buddhas, set into a beautiful landscape of palm trees, mountains and the Irrawaddy river. Sunset in the rain, with a rainbow and a dramatic sky is definitely one of our top 3 experiences so far! Bagan none the less held an unexpected unpleasant trip for us. Mt.Popa is something like the Burmese Olympus where locals worship the traditional animistic deity, the Nats (natural spirits). What we found was a dirty hill full of beggars and monkeys being fed by the visitors. Yes, the view was nice and yes, there was a pagoda on the top. But we escaped as soon as possible. It was an eye-opener in a way...we estimated that at one of the altars people donate about 400 $ each day. That's 12 000 $ monthly and 144 000 $ yearly! Imagine how many books, how much medicine and food they could buy for it. In Bagan our transformation was completed when I painted my face with the traditional thanakha - tree bark mixed with water. Women have been using it for centuries as a decoration as well as sun protection.

We couldn't miss the famous city Mandalay. We soaked in the atmosphere of this hot, dusty city while listening to the tones of Frank Sinatra. It used to be a Burmese tradition to establish a new capital city with every new king. And so it happened that there are three of them around Mandalay: after Bagan came Ava, Amarapura and Sagaing. The junta picked up this tradition and moved the capital from Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005. We squeezed the sights around Mandalay into one busy day. A highlight was certainly a common meal of Buddhist monks at the Maha Ganayon Kyaung monastery. Every Burmese man is expected to take up a temporary monastic residence twice in his life: as a novice monk between the ages of 10 and 20, and once again sometimes after the age of 20. Even though it's just for a few weeks, it illustrates the importance of spiritual education. Momo, our guide from Kalaw, was thinking of becoming a monk for the third time, "for the peace in mind". Foreigners can apply for a 3-months meditation visa and enter one of countless meditation centers across the country. We didn't feel ready for that :) In our Mandalay homestay Yoe Yoe Lay, we had interesting company. Apart from other travelers, there were two German medicine students volunteering at a local hospital. They spent their days assisting the best surgeons in the country and then drinking with them at karaoke bars. Unfortunately all the fun stops at 10 pm because of a curfew.

Just like the British officers back then, we escaped the heat of Mandalay and decided to spend the last couple of days in Pyin Oo Lwin. What an oasis of cool climate and peaceful atmosphere! The old governors house, English church and the spectacular botanical garden were all well worth the visit. Our safety standards sank a few levels when we ordered a mototaxi the next day. One for the both of us plus the driver. And we felt all right driving to the nearby waterfall, Tobi in the middle without a helmet, me in the back with our backpack on. It was a nice hike before the looong 700 km night bus drive back to Yangon. The so called VIP buses (otherwise very comfy) have one big drawback - they can either turn the AC on to a "freezer" mode, or turn it off. We had a good laugh observing our bus mates in winter coats and wool hats. The favorite TV programs on Burmese buses are: Buddhist mantras (repeated at least 100 times), local music channel (Gangnam style Burmese edition) and Burmese soap operas. You choose! We went to the airport right after our early morning arrival. We flew from one of the poorest countries straight to the most expensive city in the world - Sinagpore! Is there a bigger contrast than that?

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V Barme sme naozaj v plnej sile pocitili silu juhozapadneho monzunu, ktory prinasa do juhovuchodnej Azie obdobie dazdov od maja do septembra. Ak sme sa v predchadzajucich destinaciach smiali, ze jedna "sprcha" za den je to slavne obdobie dazdov, tu sme sa naplno presvedcili o opaku. Juh Barmy bol uplne beznadejny a museli sme nase povodne plany trochu pozmenit. Takzvana sucha zona Barmy sa taha od Mandalay k mestu Pyay, a tak sme tu hladali utocisko.

Od jazera Inle sme sa vydali autobusom...a tu je prva z autobusovych historiek. Barmanci nie su velmi zvyknuti cestovat motorovymi vozidlami, a tak k povinnej vybave patri igelitovy sacik. Akonahle sa cesta zacne trochu klukatit, zeny zacnu sacky vytahovat. Na konci cesty boli asi 3/4 sackov pouzite a tvare a nasich spolucestovatelov mali pekny odtien zelenej. No ale k veci. Ak sme zatial mali z Barmy zmiesane pocity, nasledujuca destinacia nam vyrazila dych. Bagan. Clovek vie, co od ktoreho miesta cakat z roznych fotiek a clankov...ale krasa Baganu sa slovami opisat neda. Je to magicke miesto s obrovskou koncentraciou tehlovocervenych pagod a zlatych Buddhov, zasadene do nadhernej panoramy s palmami, horami a riekou Irrawady v pozadi. Zapad slnka s dazdom, duhou a dramatickou oblohou sme okamzite zaradili do nasich top 3 zazitkov. V Bagane sme mali aj jeden kontroverzny moment, ked sme vyrazili na vylet k Mt.Popa. Je to taky barmsky Olymp, posvatna hora povodnych animistickych nabozenstiev. Co sme nasli, bol preludneny, spinavy kopec, kde ludia len pytali "dary bozstvam" a krmili opice. Ano, vyhlad bol pekny a na samom vrchu bola...ano, uhadli ste, pagoda. Cely tento obrazok nam ale otvoril oci. Podla nasich vypoctov len pri jednom "oltari" putnici nechaju denne asi 400 $. To je 12 000 $ mesacne a 144 000 $ rocne. Za tie peniaze by vela rodin mohlo nakupit lieky, knihy, jedlo. Ale oni zatial dufaju, ze nadpozemske bytosti to vyriesia za nich. V Bagane sme sa uz naplno prisposobili tunajsim zvykom a Zuzka sa pomalovala tanakou, nastruhanou korou stromu zmiesanou s vodou. Zeny sa tu takto kraslia uz po starocia. Okrem estetickej funkcie ma tanaka aj prakticky ucinok, ako ochrana proti slnku.

V Barme sme nemohli vynechat Mandalay. S Frankom Sinatrom v usiach sme nasavali atmosferu tohoto horuceho, prasneho mesta. Tradiciou novych panovnikov bolo postavit si nove hlavne mesto, a tak su tu v okoli hned 3 - po Bagane prisla Ava, Amarapura a Sagaing. Tato tradicia pokracuje dodnes, v roku 2005 sucasna vlada presunula hlavne mesto z kolonialneho Yangonu (Rangunu) do novo vybudovaneho Nay Pyi Taw. My sme dali pamiatky okolo Mandalay za jeden narocny den. Zazitkom bolo spolocne jedlo stoviek mnichov v klastore Maha Ganayon Kyaung. Kazdy muz v Barme aspon 2-krat za zivot vstupi do klastora, medzi 10. a 20.rokom zivota ako novic a neskor po dovrseni 20 rokov. I ked je to len na par dni ci tyzdnov, ukazuje to dolezitost duchovneho zivota celej krajiny. Momo, nas sprievodca z Kalaw, rozmyslal o mnisskom zivote aj treti krat, vraj kvoli kludu a usporiadaniu myslienok. Zahranicni zaujemci mozu poziadat o 3-mesacne meditacne viza a vstupit do jedneho z desiatok meditacnych centier. My sme sa na to uplne necitili ;) V mandalayskom hosteli Yo Yo Lay sme mali zaujimavu spolocnost, okrem cestovatelov aj 2 nemeckych studentov mediciny, ktori tu dobrovolne pracovali v nemocnici. Boli v spolocnosti najlepsich chirurgov krajiny a po veceroch s nimi chodili do karaoke barov :) O 10 vsak zabava v meste konci a junta zatvara vsetky podniky.

Posledne dni sme utiekli, tak ako svojej doby britski vojaci a uradnici, do prijemneho chladku Pyin Oo Lwin. A dobre sme urobili: nadherny kolonialny dom guvernera, anglikansky kostol a botanicka zahrada boli ako oaza po ruchu velkomesta. Skonstatovali sme, ze nase bezpecnostne standardy znacne klesli, ked sme si na dalsi den zavolali mototaxi - jeden pre oboch. V trojici (Tobi v strede bez prilby) sme sa zaviezli k nedalekemu vodopadu. Bola to pekna prechadzka pred 700 km dlhou nocnou cestou do Yangonu. Tzv. VIP autobusy ale maju jednu chybu, klimatizacia bud funguje na teplote "mraznicka" alebo vobec. Dost sme sa nasmiali, ked sme videli spolucestujucich v bundach a capiciach z ovcej vlny. Oblubenymi televiznymi programami v autobusoch su: odriekavanie budhistickych mantier (asi 100-krat po sebe), barmske MTV (Gangnam style v barmskom podani) a barmske telenovely. Vyber si. Po rannom prichode sme sa vydali hned na letisko. Z jednej z najchudobnejsich krajin sveta sme odleteli do najdrahsieho mesta na svete - Singapuru. Vacsi kontrast snad uz ani neexistuje!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 03:43 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

The time stopped in Burma / V Barme sa zastavil cas

We followed the steps of Rudyard Kiplings' poem from the 1890s and made our way on the road to Mandalay. / Ako Rudyard Kipling napisal pred 120 rokmi, aj my sme sa vydali na cestu do Mandalay.

rain 28 °C
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by ZZ

Burma, officially The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, was one of our top destinations. 50 years of military dictatorship and international embargo isolated the country from western influence. The result is authenticity rare to find even in Asia. Maybe our expectations were too romantic and we forgot that the junta also caused famine and poverty, and that Burma is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Surprisingly our bank cards worked well and we were able to withdraw money in Bagan as well as in Mandalay.

There aren't many countries where one sees at the airport already that something's different. When landing, we didn't see any lights. Just trees, rice fields, swamps. "Is this really Yangon, the commercial heart of the country with 4 million inhabitants?" In the arrivals, we only see men in long skirts called "longhi" with bloody red mouths. One of them smooches at us, he's got a piece of paper with my name on it. We get on his car. It has the steering wheel on the right side but also drives on the right side of the road. A look around reveals that this is a standard here. Alright, this is going to be a lot of fun...

It's raining in Yangon. Our hostel room is stylishly decorated with tiles and we feel like in a bathroom. The roof glitters like a disco ball. It doesn't matter, we tell ourselves, we'll be out all day anyway. It's raining the next day again. As soon as it stops, we set off for a walking tour around the colonial area. Little changed since the British left the city, indeed. The buildings are worn off, there's no one to repair them. Some side lanes are covered with rubbish and we try not to upset any of the street dogs. After a while we find shelter in the legendary Strand hotel, that once hosted names like George Orwell or Rudyard Kipling. It starts raining again and we run to our hostel. When it stops, we take a taxi to the most important religious site of the country, Shwedagon paya. And THAT takes our breath away. The golden 'zedi', almost 100 meters high and surrounded by countless smaller shrines, transmits an otherworldly atmosphere. We sit down to soak in the spirituality of the place and to observe the golden glamour at sunset. It starts raining again and doesn't stop until noon the next day. We are happy that we're leaving for Kalaw that night. For lunch we order simple fried noodles with chicken. We're sick all night long on the bus. At 3 am, the bus doesn't stop in Kalaw and continues driving. After a sign language explanation the driver turns around and drives us back to Kalaw. Hooray!

The cultural shock faded away and we got used to the Burmese way of things. After two relaxing days in the British hill station we recovered our strength and started a 3-day, 64 km-long trek to Inle lake. Momo, our 24-year old guide, was a cool guy and like he said, "enjoying single life". We were happy to have some company, the group counted 7 members: Paul from the UK, Dutch friends Steijn & Steijn and American-Canadian couple Denis and Maxime. From Kalaw we first climbed to 1500 meters above sea level, where we admired spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The path continued through orange plantations and rice paddies, on train tracks and around water buffaloes. We spent the 2 nights in small villages with local families, we slept on the hard floor, 7 of us next to each other. Nobody complained, we were so tired that we didn't even mind the 10 pm curfew. But no sleeping with your feet pointing at Buddha and please do not get undressed in front of him either. At noon of day 3 we were done walking and embarked on a boat that brought us to the other side of Inle lake.

The days go by slowly at the lake and we're not in a hurry either. We spend our time just wandering around, relaxing, reading books. One day we go for a boat trip with Denis & Maxime, our friends from the trek. It's amazing to see the breathtaking scenery again: lake surrounded by mountains, fishermen rowing with their legs (!), floating villages. We enjoy the 5-day rotating market where the people come to swap their produce for clothes, medicine, newspapers and other necessities. To our disappointment, at the "jumping cats monastery" the cats don't jump anymore...but there are still loads of them! We did a nice bike tour the other day and enjoyed yet another boat ride. We saw a luxury spa they built at the natural hot springs but didn't enter for a 10 $ entrance fee. However, we tried the local wine (probably the only one in Burma) at the Red Mountain vineyard, beautifully located above the lake. It was better than we expected! The journey back was quite funny, though :) We finished off with round 2 of food poisoning and some bedbugs in our room. By this time it cannot bother us any more. The standard for a "good accommodation" in Burma is a few levels lower than in other countries we visited so far, and of course for a higher price.

This country is so overwhelming we decided to split it into two articles. Stay tuned for part 2 :)

...

Barma, dnes oficialne Mjanmarska zvazova republika, bola od zaciatku jedna z nasich top destinacii. Tesili sme sa na krajinu nedotknutu zapadom, kde 50 rokov vojenskej diktatury a izolacie zapricinilo autenticitu aku v Azii nenajdete. Mozno boli nase predstavy az prilis romanticke a zabudli sme na fakt, ze junta ludom nedala prilis priestoru na rozvoj. Vedeli sme, ze kvoli embargu bude nas roaming nefunkcny. Na nase prekvapenie ale fungovali bankove karty a peniaze sme bez problemov vybrali v Bagane aj v Mandalay.

Je malo krajin, kde uz na letisku clovek zbystri, ze tu je nieco inak. Pri pristavani sme nevideli ziadne svetla, cesty. Sama zelen, ryzove polia, mociare. Toto ma byt stvormilionova metropola Yangon (po starom Rangun), obchodne srdce Barmy? V priletovej hale cakaju muzi v dlhych sukniach "longhi", usta maju krvavo cervene ako po bitke. Cmuka na nas chlap s cedulkou s mojim menom, nasadame do auta. Volant ma vpravo a ide po pravej strane cesty. Hodim pohlad na ostatne auta a ano, vsetci takto jazdia. Od tazkeho smogu v uliciach kasleme. Toto bude sranda...

V Yangone prsi. Ubytujeme sa v Cherry guesthouse, izba za 30 $ (takto draho sme snad este nespali), velmi stylovo vykachlickovana, pachnuca vlhkostou a plesnou. Citime sa ako v sprchovom kute. Strop sa leskne ako diskogula. Nevadi, ved aj tak budeme cely den chodit po meste a tu len prespime. 2 noci prezijeme. Na druhy den prsi. Ked o 11:30 prestane, vyrazame na prechadzku po kolonialnej stvrti. Vskutku sa tu od cias Britskej okupacie prilis nezmenilo, budovy su osarpane, nikto sa o nic nestara. Brodime sa odpadkami v uliciach a vyhybame sa tulavym psom. Utocisko najdeme v legendarnom hoteli Strand, kde byvali osobnosti ako Rudyard Kipling ci George Orwell. Zase prsi, v dazdi utekame do hostelu. Navecer vyrazame k najposvatnejsiemu miestu v krajine, Shwedagon paya. A ta nam vyrazi dych. Takmer 100 metrov vysoky zlaty kolos je obklopeny nespocetnymi dalsimi mensimi svatynami a cely areal vyzaruje kludnu, spiritualnu atmosferu. Pozorujeme zapad slnka a zlate odlesky pagody. Zase prsi... Dazd neprestava ani na dalsi den a my sme radi, ze poobede odchadzame nocnym autobusom do Kalaw. Dame si obed, obycajne ryzove cestoviny s kuracim masom. Je nam z nich zle celu noc v autobuse. O 3 rano nam autobus v Kalaw nezastavi, pokracuje dalej cez mesto. Rukami nohami mu vysvetlujeme, ze sa musi otocit a vysadit nas na zastavke. Uspesne.

Po tomto nie uplne dobrom starte ale nasledovalo vyrazne zlepsenie. V Kalaw sme sa za 2 dni zotavili a vyrazili na trojdnovu turu k jazeru Inle. Nas vodca Momo bol sympatak na prvy pohlad, 24-rocny a ako on hovoril "enjoying single life". Nasa skupinka mala 7 clenov, okrem nas este Anglican Paul, dvaja Holandania Steijn & Steijn a americko-kanadsky par Denis a Maxime. Z Kalaw vo vyske 1300 m.n.m. sme najskor cez dzunglu vystupali do 1500 m.n.m., odkial sme mali nadherny vyhlad na okolite vrchy. Pokracovali sme cez sady pomarancov, ryzove a cajove polia, po kolajniciach a okolo vodnych buvolov. S kazdym sme pokecali o cestovani, Barme, dalsich planoch. Vecer sme zniceni sadli k veceri a pivu, zahrali karty a o 10 boli mrtvi v posteli. Spali sme 2 noci v malych dedinach u rodin v hostovskej izbe. 7 ludi vedla seba na zemi a oltarik s Buddhom nad nami. Ale pozor, nespat nohami k Buddhovi a pred Buddhom sa neprezliekat! Malebne 3 dni sme zakoncili plavbou cez jazero Inle obklopene vrchmi, z ktorych sme prave zisli.

Pri jazere Inle sme si dalsich par dni oddychli a popozerali zaujimave miesta. Dohodli sme sa s Denisom a Maxime, kamaratmi z tury na spolocnom vylete lodkou po jazere. Tie pohlady na prekrasnu sceneriu neomrzeli ani po celom dni. Na jazere sa kazdy den kona trh v inej dedine, a aj napriek tomu, ze tam vyrazaju vsetky skupiny turistov, da sa tam najst to autenticke. Stanky s tofu, tabakom, kokosom, rybami, korenim, krajcir co zasije vsetko na pockanie, ci dokonca drogeria s indickym Garnierom :) Domaci pridu nieco predat i kupit, a ked zacne prsat, schovavame sa vsetci spolu pod male drevene pristresky. Na dalsi den poziciavame bicykle a ideme k horucim pramenom, pri ktorych medzicasom vybudovali na barmske pomery luxusne kupele. Za 10 $ vstupne podakujeme, otocime sa a slapeme dalej :) Ked dorazime k vinohradu Red Mountain, hikame nadsenim - krasne vyhlady na jazero a dokonca ani to vino nie je az take zle! Medzitym sa vonku spusti ukrutny lejak a tak sme radi, ze sme dorazili prave vcas. Pri jazere plynu dni pomaly a my sa tiez nikam neponahlame, bezcielne sa prechadzame, vecer zajdeme na tradicne babkove divadlo, na dobru veceru. Cele to zakoncime este jednym kolom zaludocnych problemom a blchami v posteli, ale to uz nas nemoze rozhodit. Ubytovaci standard uz sme o par stupnom znizili, uvidime, ako to pojde dalej.

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Posted by zuzana.zav 07:49 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

Krung Thep: the city of angels / mesto anjelov

Luxurious backpackers' life in Bangkok / Luxusny zivot backpackerov v Bangkoku

semi-overcast 33 °C
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Since we left China we have not seen a larger city filled with shopping malls, metros, cinemas and good restaurants. We used to live in Prague for the past 6 years and quiet frankly the "city life" full of abundance and everything at your finger tips can be quiet comfortable. We left Prague for a "short break" from the city life but after 3 month without it we already realized that we kind of miss it, too. This is why we decided to "sneak peak" into Bangkok for 10 days before flying to Burma. Bangkok the city of pleasure (or the Thai translation - city of angels).

We anticipated that Bangkok is not the city of many sights but the city of consume. So we took it as such...we tried to absorb as much energy as possible from this vibrant city. As I put it, it was the week "of the luxurious backpacker" life. We went to cinema, slurped cocktails in sky bars, swam in the so called 'infinity pool' on a skyscraper and tasted cheap and not so cheap Thai food. The Thai are big football fans and once they figured that I'm German they congratulated me to the World Cup win. I know...I did a great job ;) We also took the opportunity and worked out daily at a nearby CrossFit gym.

We did not want to leave it at that and decided that some culture would enrich our stay. We enjoyed seeing the Grand Palace, the pagodas Wat Phnom and Wat Arun. The Chatuchak weekend market was spectacular and guidebooks talk about 8000 to 12000 market stalls. One can literally buy everything, reaching from toothpaste to sex toys over guinea picks and small puppies. Funny enough is that most things are available for as little as one dollar. Worth mentioning is the futuristic skytrain which goes through the whole of modern Bangkok.

Sex tourism is most likely one of the biggest markets in Bangkok and one has a hard time not thinking stereotypically if in literally every corner of the city are brothels and mostly fat white elderly looking man holding hands with at least one if not two beautiful Thai women. We stayed in a relatively nice hotel in the middle of the city, but even in this little street was "the shag-bar", "secret paradise" and a masage salon (notice - massage just with one s ;) You can also look for ping pong show (look it up online ;) if you are interested in this sort of "cultural experience".
Most taxi drivers and vendors tried to screw us over and one taxi driver was even trying to drive circles down town. We simply had to be cautious not to step into tourist traps. The city transformed itself during the night time into a big flourishing market.

Just take Bangkok as it is and dive into its lifestyle. If you do that than you have as we did a fantastic experience!

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Odkedy sme opustili Cinu, pohybovali sme sa viacmenej v mensich alebo nie uplne modernych mestach. Rozhodne nie v mestach s metrom, kinami, nakupnymi centrami a zabavnym priemyslom vsetkeho druhu. Mestsky zivot nam uz zacal chybat, predsa len sme poslednych par rokov stravili v Prahe. A kedze zostavalo este 10 dni do odletu do Barmy, rozhodli sme sa ich stravit v meste pozitkov: Bangkoku.

Uz ked sme navstevu Bangkoku planovali, bolo nam jasne, ze tam nejdeme kvoli pamiatkam, ale kvoli nekonecnej energii, ktorou toto mesto pulzuje. Nechali sme sa unasat vsetkymi vydobytkami dnesnej konzumnej spolocnosti. Tobi tych 10 dni nazval "luxusny zivot backpackerov" ;) Chodili sme do kina, davali si koktejly vo vyhlasenom skybare a kupali sa v jednom z najluxusnejsich bangkokskych hotelov. Skusali sme lacne aj menej lacne varianty vybornej thajskej kuchyne, ale dopriali sme si aj pizzu, sushi ci bavorsku klobasu. Restauracia Bei Otto hned vedla nasho ubytka bola nasou volbou prvy vecer v Bangkoku. Bolo to zrovna po vitaznom finale Majstrovstiev sveta vo futbale. Ked skupinka Thajcov pri vedlajsom stole zistila, ze Tobi je Nemec, zacali mu tlieskat a gratulovat k titulu. A sranda je, ze tato situacia sa opakovala niekolko krat pocas tyzdna - na ulici, v restauracii, v obchode. Velmi sme sa tesili aj na navstevu dalsieho azijskeho CrossFitu, kazdy den sme si spestrili vytuzenym workoutom.

Aby sa nepovedalo, dali sme si trosku aj z turistickeho Bangkoku. Velmi pekna je plavba lodou popri pamiatkach ako kralovsky palac, Wat Phnom ci Wat Arun. Vikendovy trh Chatuchak je neuveritelny zazitok. Publikacie sa nezhoduju v tom, kolko je tu stankov (niekde medzi 8000 a 12000), ale dojem na cloveka urobi velky! V podstate sa tu da kupit vsetko od prazenych chrobakov cez sexualne hracky az po steniatka. My sme vyuzili prilezitost a trosku sme si osviezili garderobu, aspon v ramci moznosti nasich ruksakov. Vsetko samozrejme sa smiesne ceny. Pozreli sme si aj posvatny Erawan Shrine, kulturne a umelecke centrum a niekolko peknych parkov. Atrakciou by sa dal nazvat aj futuristicky skytrain, ktory premava modernym Bangkokom a je dobrym sposobom ako vidiet mesto.

Co sme si nemohli nevsimnut, je vyhlaseny sexualny priemysel. Po ulici chodi nespocetne vela pupkatych starych belochov s mladymi peknymi Thajkami. Bary a masaze su na kazdom rohu. Na turistoch sa tu zarabaju velke peniaze a taxikari radi vyuziju kazdu prilezitost cloveka osmeknut. Ale ako vsade inde, ked si clovek dava pozor a nenaleti na typicke turisticke pasce, vsetko je v poriadku. Nocny zivot pulzuje vsetkymi ulicami, po zotmeni sa vynoria tisice stankov s jedlom a "rozlicnym tovarom". Cele mesto sa meni na jeden obrovsky trh.

Tip pre vsetkych navstevnikov: nesnazte sa uniknut lakadlam Bangkoku, skratka im podlahnite a uzite si jedinecny mix azijskych a svetovych vydobytkov modernej doby. My sme si Bangkok zamilovali!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 06:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Cambodia:the country of contrast/Kambodza:krajina kontrastov

semi-overcast 34 °C
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Our expectations of Cambodia were fairly high as we have only heard and read good things about the country. We were looking forward to a new experience. To understand the country and it's people one probably has to look back into history: Cambodia reached its peek in the 9. to 13. century and the Khmer empire was as big as today's Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam combined. Art, culture and architecture reached its absolute summit and the charm of Angkor represents till this very day one of the most visited sights in Southeast Asia. The years between 1863 and the second WW were arguably the most influential for Cambodia and the French occupation and colonization shaped the face of many buildings in most cities. The years between 1970 - 1974 were times of distraction and suffering when the Khmer Rouge with Pol Pot as it's leader eradicated 2 million people for his radical communistic ideals. These times set the country back for centuries and Cambodia has to fight poverty, hunger, lack of healthcare and schools until today.

We started our journey in the city of Kampot. The city looks like a typical French colonial retreat with charming villas and boardwalks along the river. We also visited Bokor hill, which was in its thriving time a vivid French area with loads of casinos and resorts. Today it is merely a ghost town but the beautiful catholic church and the country side is definitely worth a visit. In the evening we took a romantic cruise ride on a typical local boat along the river.

Since the beginning I wanted to find a deserted island with a beautiful beach. So we embarked on this mission to make my wish come true. We took a motorboat from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem where we were the only passengers (of approximately 100 tourists on the boat) who would get of. We had to fight our way through the jungle full of apes, termites and lizards when we finally arrived on the other side at "Lazy beach". This was indeed the perfect destination with only 10 bungalows and a 1 km long beach. We had the perfect 4 days in paradise. We filled our days with reading, playing Scrabble, snorkeling and perfect sunsets.

Refilled with energy we visited the capital (or in other words - bigger village) Phnom Penh. The city in itself is in our opinion not very attractive as poverty is ever present and garbage is piling up along the dusty roads. The city is developing fast but with no infrastructure, which results into constant traffic jams due to lack of streets and too many cars. There are however a few things which make it worth paying a visit to the city. We saw the killing fields Choeung Ek and the prison S21. These sights depict perfectly the horrific scenery of the times of Khmer Rouge and one has the feeling that the air is still filled with a slight scent of death. The brutality of the red Khmer was terrifying. The history is explained with audio guides which saddened and upset most visitors and ourselves while strolling over the fields listening to individual stories. However these harsh sights are a witness to history and should not be forgotten. People, local and foreign should be reminded of this senseless suffering so history will not repeat itself. The next day we visited the royal palace, the national history museum, the Wat Phnom pagoda and the market hall. We enjoyed the tuk tuk rides around the city. At one point we were coughing strong enough due to the heavy dust that the tuk tuk driver would buy mouth masks for us. At the third day we decided that we had enough of the city and departed (with a 7:1 win against Brazil...schlaaand ;) to Siem reap.

The biggest cultural highlight was next, the temples of Angkor. We stayed in a nice little pension named Schein, which is led by a German. He told us many stories and his view on things based on living in Siem reap. Corruption is one of the biggest issues for the country to tackle and most wealth is distributed only among a few families and the police. We felt that the lack of education holds many unsurmountable obstacles for Cambodia. Humanitarian aid from foreign countries is huge but this leads also to dependency and a passive approach to self-sustainability. Children are often as little as two hours at school before going into the streets to beg. Kids often followed us to sell anything and everything. Siem reap is very young and we had the feeling that it's sole purpose is to host tourist for the Angkor temples. If we were to recommend anything other than the before mentioned sights than it would be the Phare circus. We enjoyed an evening show with highly talented artists. The circus is a project supported by a Cambodian charity organization who look after children in need, it was a spectacular show...

The temples of Angkor deserve their own paragraph... ;) We bought a three day pass for 40 $ and went every day to see different temples. After the third day cycling we saw so many different temples that we dreamed of Buddha figures and temples. Needless to say that many of them were simply beautiful and emitted a special aura. Zuzka always said that it reminded her of the jungle book. Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm (the one from the movie Tomb raider) are the ones who stood out most for us. The heat and jungle humidity forced us to stop every other hour to have a delicious mango or coconut juice.

Cambodia is a land of contrasts. It left us with mixed feelings and many emotions. The nature is breathtaking and the people are very friendly. The admiration of beautiful sights was always accompanied with sad facts about at least in parts a horrific history. We would however recommend to see the country as many of the most memorable moments are not always the most comfortable ones. The neighboring countries are far more developed, but this leaves Cambodia often charming and authentic. With Cambodia ended also the World Cup for us. Now we only have to figure out what to do at 2 or 3 am in the morning ;). Next stop: Bangkok.

...

Ked sa cestovatelov v juhovychodnej Azii opytate, ktora krajina sa im najviac pacila, velka vacsina z nich odpovie: Kambodza. A tak aj my sme sa sem velmi tesili a nase ocakavania boli vysoke. Aby clovek dobre porozumel, treba na zaciatok povedat par slov o kontroverznych dejinach. V 9.-13.storoci dosiahla Khmerska risa najvacsieho rozsahu a rozkladala sa na zemi dnesnej Kambodze, Thajska, Vietnamu a Laosu. Umenie, kultura a architektura boli na absolutnom vrchole a dodnes su chramy v Angkore najmajestatnejsou pamiatkou regionu. Dolezitym milnikom historie je kolonialna era, Francuzi ovladali toto uzemie od roku 1863 do konca 2.svetovej vojny. Posilnili poziciu krala, zasluzili sa o rozvoj skolstva a zdravotnictva a ziskali naspat uzemie Angkoru a Battambangu od Thajskeho kralovstva. Zo sokujucich rokov 1970-74 sa spamatava krajina dodnes. Rezim Cervenych Khmerov pod vedenim Pol Pota, ktory vystudoval pedagogiku v Parizi, vyhladil 2 miliony obyvatelov - vsetkych vzdelanych ludi, rebelov, mestske obyvatelstvo. V snahe vybudovat idealnu komunisticku krajinu v rekordnom case (navrat k rolnictvu a zivotu na vidieku) vratil Kambodzu do doby kamennej. Dnes, 40 rokov po tragickych udalostiach krajina stale bojuje s hladom, chudobou, s nedostatkom zdravotnej starostlivosti a skol.

My sme zacali nasu dvojtyzdennu cestu na juhovychode v mestecku Kampot. Je to prototyp francuzskeho kolonialneho letoviska s pekne zachovanymi vilami a promenadou pri rieke. V podstate tu skapal pes, ale atmosfera je velmi romanticka :) Spravili sme si vylet do vrchov Bokor, kde si Francuzi vybudovali svojho casu luxusny rezort s kasinom, hotelom a vilami pre vyvolenych. Dnes je to take mesto duchov, ale stary katolicky kostolik rozhodne stoji sa navstevu. Vecer sme si sprijemnili plavbou na lodicke a pozorovali krasny zapad slnka.

Od zaciatku cesty snival Tobi o "opustenej plazi na ostrove", a tak sme sa ju vydali hladat. Presunuli sme sa do Sihanoukville, kde sme hned nasadli na motorovy cln a zaviezli sa na ostrov Koh Rong Samloem. Z asi 100-clennej posadky sme tam vystupili jedini. Dobry start. Aby sme sa dostali do nasho ciela, Lazy Beach, cakala nas este polhodinova tura dzunglou na druhu stranu ostrova. Opice, termitiska a jasterice nam sprijemnili cestu a v cieli nas naozaj cakala asi kilometrova opustena plaz s 10 bungalovmi. Lazy Beach bola zatial jednoznacne najkrajsia plaz a najlepsie miesto na oddych. Neuveritelne zapady slnka, snorchlovanie, voda fosforeskujuca v tme a absolutna pohoda...to boli nase 4 dni v raji (samozrejme bez internetu a bez signalu).

Plni energie sme sa teda vydali do hlavneho mesta (alebo hlavnej dediny, podla toho ako definujete mesto) Phnom Penh. Ako som uz naznacila, vela krasy toto mesto nepobralo. Prasne ulice, kopy odpadu a chudoba. Par veci tu ale stoji za to vidiet, my sme si ich rozdelili na 2 dni. Killing fields Choeung Ek a vazenie S21 su len pre silne zaludky, ukazuju totiz brutalitu rezimu Cervenych Khmerov a po ich prehliadke sme toho vela nenahovorili. V Kambodzi ale maju pravdu, tieto udalosti je treba ukazat a hovorit o nich, aby sa uz nikdy viac nezopakovali. Na dalsi den sme si pozreli kralovsky palac, historicke muzeum, pagodu Wat Phnom a obrovsku trznicu. Celkom sme si uzivali jazdu po meste na tuk tuku, aj ked nam od prachu tak skripali zuby, ze nam jeden tuk tukar kupil rusky na usta :) Na treti den sme sa rozhodli, ze uz stacilo a semifinalovu vyhru Nemecka 7:1 nad Braziliou sme oslavili odchodom do Siem Reap.

Cakal nas teda kulturny vrchol, chramy Angkoru. Ubytovali sme sa vo velmi sympatickom penzione Schein, ktory vlastni Nemec Reinhard. Porozpraval nam vela zaujimavosti zo zivota v Kambodzi. Korupcia je najvacsim problemom krajiny, vacsinu majetku ovlada 10 najbohatsich rodin a bohuzial najlepsie ziveni ludia su policajti. Slovo cistota tu ma uplne iny zmysel a odpad sa volne povaluje po domoch a uliciach. Krajina sice dostava vela humanitarnej pomoci, ale bohuzial sa na nu niekedy az prilis spolieha. Najhorsi je nedostatok ucitelov a celkovy stav skolstva - deti su v skole 2 hodiny denne a potom predavaju turistom suveniry na ulici. To sa v plnej krase ukazalo prave pri chramoch, kde nas neustale nahanali zobrajuce alebo predavajuce deti. Siem Reap je mesto bez duse, sluziace jedinemu ucelu - ist sa pozriet na chramy Angkoru. Jeden vecer ale Tobi zbadal cirkus a tak sme vyrazili. Bol to neuveritelny zazitok. Artisti pochadzaju z nadacie Phare Ponleu Selpak, ktora v meste Battambang pomaha detom z chudobnych rodin, poskytuje im vzdelanie, a to aj umelecke. Z nadacie vzisli hudobnici, cirkusanti, maliari a sperkari. V Siem Reape si to urcite nenechajte ujst!

No a aby som sa dostala k tym chramom... Rozhodli sme sa kupit si trojdnovu permanentku za 40 $, dalsia varianta je sedemdnova, na to by sme uz asi nemali trpezlivost. A naozaj, za tri dni sme videli tolko chramov, ze sme sa fakt museli sustredit, aby sme ich vedeli ocenit. Prvy den sme zvolili aktivnejsi sposob dopravy, bicykel, a presli sme si takzvany Petit Circuit, najznamejsie stavby ako Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom a Ta Prohm (to je ten zarasteny stromami z filmu Tomb raider). Druhy a treti den sme vyrazili na oblubenom tuk tuku a navstivili sme vzdialenejsie pamiatky. Najviac sa nam pacili chram Pre Rup osvetleny rannym slnkom, ruzova nadherne zdobena hinduisticka svatyna Banteay Srei a umelo vytvoreny ostrov Neak Pean. Kazdy den sme horucavu museli prekladat mangovym dzusom, kombinacia ostreho slnka s vlhkostou v dzungli bola moc uz aj pre nas ostrielanych cestovatelov ;)

Kambodza je krajina kontrastov. Co ale zanecha su emocie. Obdiv nadhernych pamiatok z cias rozkvetu a smutok z neludskych zlocinov, ktore na Khmeroch boli spachane. Este bude dlho trvat, kym sa dostane na uroven bohatsich susedov Vietnamu alebo Thajska. Rozhodne ale treba prekonat pohodlie a vyrazit, najsilnejsie zazitky nie su vzdy len tie prijemne. S poslednym dnom v Kambodzi skoncili aj Majstrovstva sveta vo futbale (k Tobiho velkej radosti, aj ked sme pri finale obidvaja zaspali), budeme si musiet najst novu zabavu na 2.hodinu v noci :)

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Posted by zuzana.zav 05:01 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

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