A Virgin Arrives……..

Thursday 12th November
Just a little update – so we’ve moved into our new flat, and it’s absolutely magnificent! Overlooking the Stray, and within hopping distance of many pubs! Admittedly, there are 47 steps up to our front door, meaning that moving-in day was a bit of an ordeal, but at least it means we’ll get good daily exercise! It’s a very warm cosy flat, and I’m happy just watching life go by below us. Not sure about our neighbours though – there’s a couple by the name of Rachael and Nigel who live 2 doors away who bring the tone down a little…… still, the adjoining house is up for sale for £2 million, so maybe we’ll get some class moving into there (although at that price it’s most likely to be a drug dealer).
Last week was my 46th birthday, which I was meant to celebrate on a beach in Bali! Oh well, never mind, we probably wouldn’t have liked Bali anyway, far too sunny and sandy for us….. So I’m another year older, and certainly another year wiser! Next week is my dear friend Peter Hopkins’ 66th birthday, and as has become tradition we are having our annual day out next Thursday in which we quaff as much champagne as possible. And then we drink some more! Peter has spent his life in the wine trade, and I used to work for him at The Tannin Level Wine Bar. Very happy days! Going for a drink with Peter is always an education in fine wine!
Speaking of drinking, I seem to have changed my drinking habits!!!! The P and P is no longer my first choice!! Instead, we make the 20 second hike to The Coach and Horses which we have discovered to be lovely and warm and welcoming. And 33 different types of gin. 70 different whiskies!! Due to our new custom they’ve been able to take on an extra 56 staff and make plans to renovate into next door!
We’re still struggling to find a home to accept mum. My daily life usually starts with a visit to a couple of nursing homes, which is never the best start to the day. Earlier this year I devised a TV game show which saw the contestants doing battle with the South American postal system. Now I’ve come up with the sequel – four couples fight to be first to house one of their parents in a suitable place. The criteria for “a suitable place” are
1. A residence that you’d actually be happy to put your dog in, let alone a parent
2. A residence that may have a bed available within the next 8 decades
3. A residence that costs less than £2000 per week
Believe me, to hit these three criteria on the same residence is not easy! I’m not even sure it’s possible! But it’s a fun game that all the family can play, if they so choose.
Dad came to visit our new place today and liked it very much. Now, Dad has a terrible memory for names. Of people, places, and things. So in every sentence there’s a lot of “doodahs”, “whatsits” and “thingummys”. But I’ve discovered today that I have a bizarre talent for being able to translate this! For example, when he talked of “whatsit from whatsit” today, I immediately said “Peter from Harrogate?” Correct. And shortly after, trying to describe a famous person (and I immediately apologise for the language here, but he is 78 years old!) as “doodah, Yorkshireman, poofter!” I said “Alan Bennett?”. Correct. This is a great skill I have! Is there a living to be made from it????
I had a strange text from Charlotte today while I was walking in town. It simply said “Virgin here X”. Of course I rushed home to find out more about this miracle! Imagine my surprise to find a 40 odd year old, moustached Geordie (haha, the description so far could still be a female!) It was of course a Virgin Media engineer, so finally we have a television, but more importantly broadband. I’ve really not missed television one little bit (who needs telly when The Coach is 20 seconds walk away?). Broadband however is very missable, and it’s a pleasure to have it back.
We had a lovely walk this afternoon, and met Lydia’s mum, Rags, which was very nice. And then we went to the new Italian bakery/cake shop, La Bella Bottega on Kings Road, which is owned by our lovely friend Daniella and her brother’s family. Absolutely fantastic! I urge you to try it, not just because they’re our friends, but because it is genuinely a wonderful shop with amazing cakes! Her brother Rafel has been a baker in southern Italy for the past 30 years, and they’ve just moved here to give it a try. Another thought occurred to us – Rafel and his family are obviously classed as immigrants. Immigrants generally get a bad name in the press. But they, like many others, have come here to work hard, and contribute to the economy. In fact I’m sure he works far harder than most of us (he starts baking the bread at 3am…..) I doubt whether the Daily Mail will report this though…… Anyway, visit the shop, and check out their Facebook.
I’ve got very much back in to my running, and am loving it again! Tomorrow I’m running with our neighbour Rachael. I suppose I’ll have to show her how it’s done…… 😊 Following that it’s over to visit mum at The Mount in Leeds, and then on for a “small shandy” with members of my old team! Can’t wait!!!!

The view from our flat, taken during the 7 minutes that the sun appeared this week!

The view from our flat, taken during the 7 minutes that the sun appeared this week!

Our nice cosy lounge

Our nice cosy lounge

There's no reason to stop beer of the day!!!

There’s no reason to stop beer of the day!!!

Good head!

Good head!

Seamus and his family are in town. Do not be surprised if your car is on bricks in the morning...

Seamus and his family are in town. Do not be surprised if your car is on bricks in the morning…

One I forgot to post……

Sunday 1st November
As I wake up in fog-bound Leeds, the harsh reality kicks in that our sailing course starts in Langkawi today!!!! Maybe we should go to Pugneys in Wakefield instead???
Already, after only a week, our dream trip is becoming just distant memories. We keep being told “Welcome back to real life”, but I don’t get that. Surely the acceptance that poor weather, inflated prices, the 9-5 slog of work, has to be the norm is the acceptance of a defeated attitude? I can’t for the life of me come up with a single reason why this should be the norm???? Yes, we’ll have to work and earn money, but there is absolutely nothing to stop us from doing jobs we enjoy, in a country we want to be in, with weather to suit! My two new priorities in life have become
1. To be able to walk to walk (I’ve just done 12 years of 2 hrs commute a day)
2. To only need two pairs of shoes – flip flops for everyday use, and trainers to run in. OK, obviously a pair of cycling shoes too…so three pairs.
Although, the above two criteria don’t necessarily fit in with the greatest place in the world…..
Right, moving on, time for a bit of a wrap up of the last year –
The Best Place We’ve Visited:
This is our most oft asked question, and it’s not so easy to answer. Every single country we’ve been to has been amazing, each with its own attributes – the beaches, history, people, culture of South America , the life in south east Asia….. After much thought I’ve come up with these three
3. Peru – beautiful, cultural, cheap, friendly. Macchu Pichu and Colca Canyon alone would make this country worth visiting. A UNESCO site every half mile!
2. Brazil – our first destination, and what an incredible place. The greatest people, the most beautiful ladies!!, unbelievable beaches, a constant carnival atmosphere
1. New Zealand – the most stunning country I’ve ever been to. Beaches, mountains, wildlife, very few people but very nice people, sun and snow! proper seasons, and a brilliant attitude towards outdoor life. An outlook on life of “Yes, that’s probably possible, give it a try!” rather than here “No,that’ll never work!”. Queenstown and Lake Wanaka would be number one choices for us in any future move abroad, which is something we’ll aim for. Yes, it’s expensive compared to most other places, but without a doubt worth paying for! I would move there for the stunning cycling routes alone! Honestly, neither of us can speak highly enough of NZ. A proper gem.
Ok, more when I can be bothered to write..

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Just another Brazilian beach……

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Plan A fails……… bring on Plan B.

Well, the blonde-hair-insanity plan didn’t work. But that was mainly because the person I was dealing with was one of those people who never actually looks at you. Only at the ground. Perhaps I should have worn some 2 foot long clowns shoes instead. My interview lasted approximately 68 seconds, and consisted of me handing over various documents and forms and then asking “Any idea what you’re going to do with me?”, to be answered “No, I don’t deal with that, and the lady that does isn’t here”. Leaving me thinking “So why exactly did you ask me to come here today????????”. Next step apparently is to be assessed by the occupational health dept!!! Oooops! Now that could cause problems!!!! So I’m back on the e-cigarette (until the pub tonight…..).
Two weeks ago I envisaged spending today on a beach in Thailand with my lovely mate Aidy and his family (see how I’ve calmed Aidy! No mention of fatness!). As it transpired, I spent the rest of the day on a grand tour of nursing/dementia homes of North Leeds. Somewhat different from plans. Never let it be said that I’m not flexible.
Visiting these homes is fairly sobering (I’ve actually had only 3 beers this week!! Outrageous!!) and I take my hat off to each and every person who works in them. I know I certainly couldn’t do it.
It did make me think though – the homes are always playing piped music, usually crooners from the 50s, quite rightly aimed at their customers. The dementia issue is only going to increase as time goes by, and it made me wonder what it’d be like in 40 years time. We’ll have nursing homes playing Blur, Oasis and The Happy Mondays! That’ll be brilliant with the drugs they hand out there!! Instead of showing musicals on the telly, they’ll be playing DVDs of One Direction, Take That and Miley Cyrus! No bingo, twerking sessions instead!!! It’s almost worth looking forward to!
I’m working on a final blog – BAFTAS of the Year. Watch this space…….

My natural hair colour. Honest.

My natural hair colour. Honest.

Leeds.

Leeds.

Not Leeds.

Not Leeds.

The Last Night In Bangkok!!!!!!i

Wednesday 28th October
Last time I wrote, I was sat at the pool on the 37th floor of the Intercontinental Hotel in Bangkok. Now I’m sitting on my dad’s sofa in Leeds. Its very disturbing.
However, still got things to report!
Our last afternoon in Bangkok was spent at the Chatuchak Market, which is the biggest one we’ve seen this year. Bloody huge! And it was incredibly hot! After a couple of hours of wandering around, and the terrible realisation that, in company with three women, I was facing another couple of hours shopping, I begged and pleaded (for the sake of my sanity) to be cut loose and left to my own devices. Permission granted! Yes, hang out the bunting!!!!! I ran at full pelt to the safety and sanctuary of the Viva 8 bar which I’d earlier spotted, and started glugging beers as fast as possible in fear that the girls would curtail their marathon retail session before I’d “calmed” down. And what a bar it turned out to be! Run by a fat Spanish chef, within the market area but very much open air, what a place! Absolutely buzzing! There was a young English lad DJing, and the music was just sublime even though it was only 3pm! Magnificent! Eventually the ladies joined me, and we kept putting off our departure, and saying “we’ll go after this next beer…” Then, at one stage Sarah and I wandered off to the bathroom, leaving the already-fairly-tipsy Charlotte and Shelley. On our return, we discovered that the two giggling school girls had ordered a 76 pint jug of margarita……. And it just went downhill from there!!! What a great night! The music just got better and better and we had such a laugh! Brilliant! Then, drunkenly we headed off for the Skytrain back into town and to Soi Cowboy (on the way, Charlotte was given some intense CROP training, which basically meant she had to wee in a bush…..). Hmmmm. Soi Cowboy. A street of seedy girly bars. Obviously we were there in a purely research based environment. There is a story to tell, but I’ll leave it there….. all I’ll say is that somewhere in Bangkok is a poor English lad wandering around in a daze having been well and truly lambasted by a couple of feisty Geordie/Canadian girls………..
Amazingly we got back to the hotel (without being violently savaged by irate pimps and madams), and very drunkenly at 11pm it was time to say goodnight and goodbye to our lovely beautiful friends, who had to get up at 3.45am to get to the airport!!!!!!!! Haha! Thank you girls for giving us a superb last few days of our trip! We love you!!
Monday saw us back at Bangkok airport too, (for about the 8th time in a couple of months!) and facing the depressing and sad journey home. In an attempt to cheer ourselves we upgraded to premium economy, and got stuck into the prosecco. All in all, it was a good flight, interspersed with wine and gin.
And then, there we were. Manchester, and good old Joshy there to meet us at the airport! And the end of the greatest ten months of our lives. How incredibly lucky we’ve been. What an experience!
And I do understand it when people tell me that England isn’t actually all that bad.
I understand that the very very basic hotel in Manchester, at £85 a night with no breakfast, £4.50 for a bottle of beer, isn’t actually that bad.
I understand that the thick, unrelenting fog between Manchester and Leeds isn’t actually that bad.
I understand that the over pricing of everything, for the sake of mass profits, isn’t actually that bad.
Honest! I understand!!! 😉
Last night we suffered the effects of jet lag for the first time this year! Went to bed at 8pm shattered, then up at 2am unable to get back to sleep!!! Aaaaargh! We’ve had a long day sorting things out, and visiting mum at the Hotel California….she’s actually much improved from when I last saw her, looking healthier, and no longer wanting to fight everyone on sight! The drugs must be great! However, she still talks mainly gibberish and hallucinates, so I suspect she’s still hoping for a posting to our Senior Management Team…… Right, it’s 7.15pm and its bed time!! Haha! Sleeping tablets tonight!
For anyone who’s interested, my new mobile no. is 07492882221. If you’re not interested, my new mobile no. is 07453288976.
Cheers! Maybe a couple more blogs to come……..

Common as muck these three......

Common as muck these three……

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Quick! Drink fast while they're shopping!

Quick! Drink fast while they’re shopping!

The fat Spanish chef!

The fat Spanish chef!

It's all going to go horribly wrong.......

It’s all going to go horribly wrong…….

Think she just missed me with that punch!

Think she just missed me with that punch!

The Australian And Newcastle Cultural Ambassadors on a fact finding mission in Bangkok.....

The Canadian And Newcastle Cultural Ambassadors on a fact finding mission in Bangkok…..

Brilliant!

Brilliant! And Shelley doesn’t yet look as if she’s wet herself!

The proudest police chief I've ever seen!

The proudest police chief I’ve ever seen!

Joined by a lady DJ!

Joined by a lady DJ!

The terrible after effects of 63 gallons of margarita......

The terrible after effects of 63 gallons of margarita……

Bangkok Laughs!!

Sunday 25th October
Well, our week at the Naked Villa was just incredible. Pure luxury and decadence, a complete and utter rest! I could get very used to having a maid to cook for us and clean up after us! In fact she was so good that Bruce and Tik have offered her a job as their maid! It was with a very sad heart that we left there. However, we still had one last big event before our homeward trip – meeting Shelley and Sarah!!!! Our two lovely friends were stopping off en route to Bali to spend three days with us! How brilliant is that??!!!! So, when we flew into Bangkok from Samui we only had a couple of hours to wait for their flight. Great planning!!
It was so good to see them! They always make us laugh! And then we went to the hotel that Sarah had booked us into – The Intercontinental, Bangkok. My God! This is the poshest hotel I’ve ever stayed in! How absolutely magnificent!! It’s a far cry from some of our hostels over the year!!
We’ve had a great time together yesterday . Plenty of beers, canal trip (amazing!), Wat Pho, Koe Sang Road, plenty of beers…. Some brilliantly funny times too – Sarah wasn’t allowed into the temple until she’d covered her arms and legs with a borrowed skirt and shawl that made her look like an Amish woman. Shelley, despite the solemnity of the surroundings, was giggling uncontrollably like a small child on acid!! Then later, at lunch, we realised that Shelley (classy as ever) had sweated through her shorts, making it look as though she’d wet herself. You can take the girl out of Geordie land….. Not to forget her snorting with laughter on the tuk tuk…..😅
And last night we met up with Bruce, Tik and Katy for a superb meal in a beautiful restaurant on the river. As always, we let Tik order all the food, and plate after plate kept arriving. And a tower of beer!!! And then more beer! What a dining experience! In England, I would have expected the bill to be about £300 for the seven of us, but here, just a fraction of that! (For the very last time, please can someone give us a reason why we live in England????? I personally have no idea. Self-punishment???) and before people start shouting at me, I do love where we live, most of the time, but I’ve not yet been somewhere this year that hasn’t beaten it!
To spend our last days over here with our amazing friends has been an absolute privilege, so Thank You chaps!!!!
We’re currently relaxing at the roof top pool, then heading to the markets this afternoon, and maybe a small shandy somewhere…
And then!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tomorrow starts the journey home!!! Haha! But we’ve got two months til work, so we’re going to continue our adventure in England. Plenty of places we haven’t been there yet, and we might even squeeze a few more days days of winter sun in foreign climes……. Nothing is impossible!!! Looking forward to moving into the new flat, cycling again, running, getting fit, and even mildly entertained by wondering where on earth my work is going to put me????? They actually have no idea what to do with me! Every department is being told to make cuts! Funny!

Lovely!

Lovely!

32 years of friendship! Probably the only person in the world I've never fallen out with!!!

32 years of friendship! Probably the only person in the world I’ve never fallen out with!!!

Being with good friends. Priceless.

Being with good friends. Priceless.

Beautiful ladies!!!!!!

Beautiful ladies!!!!!!

More beautiful ladies!!!!!

More beautiful ladies!!!!!

The utterly incredible Reclining Buddha

The utterly incredible Reclining Buddha

The Grand Palace from the river

The Grand Palace from the river

Incredible houses

Incredible houses

More memories of James Bond!

More memories of James Bond!

A fantastic restaurant and market in the canals

A fantastic restaurant and market in the canals

On the long tail boat in the Bangkok canals

On the long tail boat in the Bangkok canals

After leaving the temple, Sarah was taking the pony and trap into town to thresh some corn.....

After leaving the temple, Sarah was taking the pony and trap into town to thresh some corn…..

More fashion tips from our mental friends!

More fashion tips from our mental friends!

Shelley, showing all her class and elegance....

Shelley, showing all her class and elegance….

Paradise!!!!

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Monday 19th October
What a way to spend our last week away!!! Here we are, at The Naked House, Koh Samui. It’s bloody magnificent! Built on three levels on the hillside with views over the southern coast, it’s like nowhere we’ve ever stayed before! It’s hotter than hot, and we’re having a very lazy week – life revolves around the infinity pool, the loungers, lunch, dinner and the odd small beer here and there.
Our huge bedroom has an ensuite which fully opens up so we can lay in the bath watching the sea! Spoilt rotten! It’s all so easy! Especially as the maid is cooking lunch for us today! I could get very used to this, and for this week I’m being a mixture of Robert Plant, Keith Richards and Oliver Reed!
I did go out for a run a couple of days ago but it nearly killed me! Not only the heat, but the return to the villa is up an incline of 30%! Today I’m going to do circuits up and down the steps outside the house……
We have a frog (Fred, obviously) that visits us each evening. As you can imagine, Charlotte’s relationship with frogs isn’t a good one, and this led to a brilliantly entertaining stand-off between Charlotte and Fred when he was sat on the steps leading down to our bedroom. Neither would move!!! Had Fred not been gently “persuaded ” to move (using Bruce’s foot) then they’d both still be there…..
Yes, life is very chilled, and a far cry from plodding the beat in Bradford!!

A toast to Captain Swallow!!!!

Thursday 15th October
We have had a magnificent few days in Cambodia, the highlight of which was a day at the temples at Siem Reap. In fact, one of the highlights of the entire year. Almost on a par with Macchu Pichu. The scale of the temples is difficult to believe, and the overall site is 400 square kilometres. Angkor Wat is probably the most famous, but my favourite was Ta Prohm, where the trees have become an integral part of the buildings themselves (apparently this is the one featured in The Tomb Raider movie). Absolutely staggering. Difficult for me to do any justice to them here, but the pictures below may help.
We were on an organised tour, and had some really nice people with us – Americans, Spanish, Philippinos, and a Scottish guy. The Scottish guy was Brian, a hugely obese specimen travelling on his own who in my cynical mind was the very stereotype of a paedophile! No surprise then to find out he worked with vulnerable children! And when I learnt that his email address was “briansecretagent@*********.com” my suspicions were only heightened. However, I’m sure I’m doing him a huge disservice………
Siem Reap is a huge town/city, but with a lovely waterfront along the river. We were staying just 10 minutes walk from the centre but in a really quiet area, in a beautifully maintained villa. This was owned by two guys from Paris, Pascale and Florian, who had quit their jobs to run this place. It was absolutely fantastic, immaculately presented and furnished, and with a beautiful pool. The guys themselves were extremely friendly, and made us very welcome. So, for anyone going to Siem Reap, Villa b. Maison Boutique is definitely the place to stay!!
The town itself has a hugely touristy area, Pub Street, which is as it sounds! But full of life and colour! Brilliant!! Cambodia is an amazing place, and we’ll definitely be back here before too long!!!
Yesterday we flew back to Bangkok, as Charlotte has a hair appointment there today! (Yes, Charlotte has reached that stage in life where she flies to the hairdressers……) We arrived quite late, but still had time to explore the nearby Soi Cowboy – an infamous street full of girly bars and barely dressed young girls! Charlotte didn’t let me hang around for long……
And today is quite a special day too – finally, after years of procrastination, denial and deceit, we have been paid our long overdue expenses!!!! Champagne tonight!!!!! Captain Swallow, if you’re reading this, I take my hat off to you and suggest that each and everyone of us owes you a huge amount of thanks, if not beer!!! On my return I shall take you out for a small celebratory lemonade…..
Speaking of returning, it is now imminent! We’re cutting our trip short by a few weeks due to mum’s illness, so will be home end of October! Aaaaarggghh! I’m not fit for normal life!!!!!! 😁😁😁😁😁😁😁 No, seriously, it’ll be good to be back, and gives us time to plan our next trip! We’ve had to cancel our sailing course, so that’s one of the priorities for next year, as that’s a big part of future plans……
Anyway, we look forward to our holiday tomorrow! A week away with my best mate Bruce and his lovely family, in a luxury villa in Koh Samui! And after that we’ve got our beautiful friends Sarah and Shelley for three days in Bangkok, so we’ve got some great times ahead of us! Life is full of pleasure!!!!!! Cheers!!

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Life gets harder……..

Friday 9th October
The Secret Garden, Otres Beach. What can I say??? Little short of perfect! Probably the best hotel yet this year! It’s on the beach 5 miles outside of Sihanoukville, and is just bloody brilliant for a few days of rest (we’ve been very busy, ok????!!!!) The service is impeccable, the food amazing, the rooms great, and the beach just perfect! It’s slightly dearer than most places, but comparatively is still cheap. The food in the restaurant on the beach is just some of the best we’ve had this year, a really nice combination of western and Asian cuisine. And being in a pricey place, it’s still only $6-8 for a huge main course! All the guests are more in our age group, so no up-your-arse young backpackers! It’s all I can do to lift myself off my sun lounger! Mind you, I did manage a very pathetic 3 mile run along the beach yesterday. The heat nearly killed me! Not good boding for our proposed 95 mile run next year!! Even jumping in the sea after didn’t help as it’s warmer than any bath I’ve ever had!
Everything we eat/drink (and cigarettes!) are going on the room bill! One of the bar maids is fascinated with my capacity for beer, and just brings me a fresh one every time I finish my glass (0.75 cents for 300ml!) Needless to say, this is very dangerous. I’ve just confused her by moving on to Gin and Tonic! But, I think we are coping……
Today we hired a moped and had a few hours zooming around. Absolutely brilliant fun! And I even managed with the chaotic traffic in the nearby town! Never again will I feel the need to stop at a junction, it just isn’t necessary! I even ran over a snake at one point! The town, Sihanoukville, is one of their main coast resorts, but it’s not very pretty. Need I only say that it’s Gary Glitter’s old haunt…… And there’s many other similar potential candidates around….. But here at Otres Beach, it’s paradise. There’s a group of lovely ladies offering massages and beauty treatments. Charlotte succumbed to 90 minutes of leg threading (to be fair, I was on the point of calling in the Forestry Commission to deal with it…..) and I had a nice massage today. Purely in the interest of research, obviously.
Highly recommended for anyone who just wants to rest, sunbathe, eat, drink and chill for a week without moving!!

I like it here!!

I like it here!!

My running track yesterday!

My running track yesterday!

Shouldn't you be doing something?????

Shouldn’t you be doing something?????

The ladies plucked enough hair to make 34 mohair jumpers.....

The ladies plucked enough hair to make 34 mohair jumpers…..

Life's a struggle at times....

Life’s a struggle at times….

Jolly nice grub!!!!

Jolly nice grub!!!!

A terrible view from my sun lounger

A terrible view from my sun lounger

The sun? Or Saturn??

The sun? Or Saturn??

Barry Sheene rides again!!

Barry Sheene rides again!!

Massage while sporting my

Massage while sporting my “Buster Bloodvessel” belly!!!

Genocide

Tuesday 6th October
Well, Phnom Penh is a complete surprise to us. Not really sure what we expected, but the city itself is a beautiful place, lots of open spaces, incredible temples everywhere you look, superb restaurants and nice people! It’s also strange just dealing in US dollars. They have their own currency, but really don’t like it!
As always we’ve done lots of sight seeing, and much of it here is centred on the recent Khmer Rouge atrocities. Between 1975-1979, under the “rule” of Pol Pot, the genocide saw the death of 25% of the entire population, two million people. In just 3hrs the KR completely emptied the city of Phnom Penh and put everyone to work in the countryside. Their policy was to kill anyone who was seen to be educated, and then the rest of the family. Educated people were deemed to be a danger to the KR regime. Deaths were brutal, generally involving the beating of people to death with crude weapons, following days/weeks of torture.
Yesterday we took a Tik tuk to one of the Killing Fields sites. This was a fascinating 30 minute journey taking us through areas of abject poverty, the likes of which we hadn’t really seen since El Alto in Bolivia. Following this, we had an hour touring around the area on quad bikes which was great fun. And then it was into the Genocidal Museum. We walked around while listening to an audio tour on headphones, and it was harrowing to say the least. 20,000 were killed at this site alone. It brought back memories of my visit to Auschwitz, but I actually found this to be even more sickening. A very moving tour, and one that should be made by anyone who can get here. Pol Pot died in 1998 without ever having been brought to justice, and I still don’t know why that was. I’m trying to find out. However, his henchman are still being brought to trial even now.
In the evening we went to the Foreign Correspondents Club, an infamous bar/restaurant in a beautiful colonial building over looking the river. Very nice!
Today we started with a visit to Tuol Sleng S-21 prison not far from our hotel. This was one of many interrogation centres used by the KR. Prisoners would be tortured until they confessed to crimes of being agents for the CIA or KGB. Of course, none of them actually were, but they all admitted their “crimes” after days of horrific torture. They were then taken to the Killing Fields for execution. Of the 17,000 taken to that one prison, only SEVEN people survived! And we were lucky enough to meet one of them, an 85 year old man who now works at the prison (it’s a museum now) raising money for the poverty stricken in Cambodia. A very humbling experience. If there’s one thing that I’ll come away from Cambodia with, it’s that we should appreciate every little thing we have, and that our problems are small indeed.
After that, we’ve had a few hours walking around the city. My haggling skills have become excellent, and I’ve got some good bargains! I’ve even bartered down the price of cigarettes! Nothing has a price here, merely a value to the prospective buyer!
We’re having a dip in the pool now, and going to visit the Zeppelin Bar later, a homage to rock music which houses the biggest collection of rock vinyl in Cambodia! I’m very easily pleased!
Tomorrow we move on to the beach resort of Sihanoukville. A bizarre story – a couple of months ago, Ali, Charlotte’s sister, was on a train from London to Salisbury when she got chatting to a couple of women. They shared a bottle of wine together. It turned out these ladies own a hotel in Cambodia, and they were just visiting England. Anyway, we’re staying in their hotel, The Secret Garden at Otres Beach, for four nights! It’s a small world!

I’ve finally finished reading the Ken Follett “Century” trilogy, and would massively recommend it. I’ve now got a much better knowledge of the last hundred years’ history, particularly the struggle between capitalism and communism, and the fight for racial equality in America in the ’60s. Brilliant stuff. Now reading “First They Killed My Father” about the Khmer Rouge years. Brutal.

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The Independence Memorial

Quad biking! Is someone taking the piss with my helmet???

Quad biking! Is someone taking the piss with my helmet???

Near the Killing Fields

Near the Killing Fields

Charlotte, quad biking' s very own Hell's Angel!

Charlotte, quad biking’ s very own Hell’s Angel!

The Killing Tree. This was used to kill children and babies, literally by swinging them by their legs into the tree. One of the most barbaric things I've ever heard of.

The Killing Tree. This was used to kill children and babies, literally by swinging them by their legs into the tree. One of the most barbaric things I’ve ever heard of.

This is on the wall at the entrance to our hotel! Don't know what it's meant to mean!!

This is on the wall at the entrance to our hotel! Don’t know what it’s meant to mean!!

The translated rules of Tuol Sleng

The translated rules of Tuol Sleng

Us with Mr Chung Mey, one of only seven survivors, now 85 years old.

Us with Mr Chung Mey, one of only seven survivors, now 85 years old. He signed his book for us.

Part of Tuol Sleng prison, which prior to that was a high school.

Part of Tuol Sleng prison, which prior to that was a high school.

Wat Phnom Buddhist temple

Wat Phnom Buddhist temple

A monkey at Wat Phnom

A monkey at Wat Phnom

Stunning temples everywhere

Stunning temples everywhere

Beer of the day!

Beer of the day!

Smuggling into Cambodia!

Sunday 4th October
We’re in a new country!! Today, Cambodia! So, new currency (although the U.S. $ is King here), new cigarettes, and new beer!!!! Our six hour bus journey saw us across the border ok. However, as usual, a very dodgy bus company, and the rear 2/3 of the bus were ram packed with goods from Vietnam that the drivers were bringing back, so only the first 1/3 of seats available! And it was blatantly obvious at the border that the drivers paid the border staff not to search the bus!! So far we’ve only been to our hotel in Phnom Penh, and we’re relaxing at the rooftop pool for a couple of hours before we go and explore.
The second day of the Mekong Delta trip was also brilliant, including a good bike ride to see an old VC stronghold, and an incredible market selling everything possible! Most of it still alive!
We met some great people on the trip, especially our two new lovely Israeli friends Li-Or and Liraz, two sisters travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam. And also a father and son from Holland. The father had just retired and they were having a trip together. He was a really interesting guy, cool as anything, and had spent his life as a music composer and arranger having qualified from the Conservatoire! I had a really nice talk with him about Big Band stuff, which I used to play in. Heady stuff!!
Yesterday we did another trip, to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the tunnel system used by the Viet Cong during the war. Absolutely amazing. The tunnels stretched for hundreds of miles, but were so incredibly tiny it was awful. We managed to do a 20m stretch before having to get out. Many people couldn’t even fit in! In the afternoon we visited the Independent Palace, and the War Remnants Museum which fully depicted the horror of the war. It’s fair to say that I came away from there with an even lower opinion of American Politics than I already had…… How a country can claim to be the “police force” of the world, when only 40 years ago they covered an entire country with Agent Orange chemical weapons is beyond me. The effects of those chemicals are still being felt now, with an abnormally high rate of children born with severe deformities. I know war is war, but the USA just seems a tad hypocritical to me…..
Last night we had a great night out drinking with Li-Or and Liraz. Lovely girls, a lot of fun! They’d told their mum about us, and she was worried about us and our decision to sell up and travel!! It just seems like a way of life to us now, and we’ve no doubt whatsoever that it’s not going to be our last time! As usual we had a brilliant time out for less than a fiver! On the way back to our hotel we stopped off at Crazy Girl to say goodbye to Jonnie and Sanne. All nice people! And it made my day when the receptionist girl at the hotel insisted on carrying Charlotte’s bag for her saying, “But I am young!”, meaning Charlotte isn’t!!! Very funny!
So, our time in Vietnam is over, sadly. It’s been a superb time for us, and one of the highlights of our trip. The people there are incredibly friendly, and to me (maybe in ignorant bliss) it’s seemed one of the safest places we’ve visited. We wouldn’t hesitate to return.
Let’s see what Cambodia brings…….

Finally, huge congratulations to our beautiful friend Shelley, who yesterday ran the 35 mile Ripon Round event. Brilliant work Shell! Well done! Find us another long one to do together next year!!

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Charlie pops out of a tunnel!

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Us and a Huey on top of the Independance Palace

The communists are coming!

The communists are coming!

A Tiger cage used for keeping prisoners in. Tiny, and brutal.

A Tiger cage used for keeping prisoners in. Tiny, and brutal.

Snakes were put on the BBQ still alive....

Snakes were put on the BBQ still alive….

Ah yes, that's rat at the front!

Ah yes, that’s rat at the front!

The ducks were waiting to be selected.....

The ducks were waiting to be selected…..

Our new lovely friends!!!!

Our new lovely friends!!!!

Beer of the Day! Angkor!!! 5.0%! No idea what it costs yet as I'm just putting it on the room bill!

Beer of the Day! Angkor!!! 5.0%! No idea what it costs yet as I’m just putting it on the room bill!