Swimming

One thing which has been really lovely this summer, is seeing each child making progress in something. We thought when we went to Cambodia we would have lots of opportunities to swim, but many of the pools or hotels charge $3-5 per person which makes it a treat rather than a regular activity. Our mandate for holiday was to find a hotel or guest house with a pool for each of the stop overs we had so we could make the most of the opportunity to swim.(also it helps relieve the stress of a long bus trip!!!)
When we left England Ewan was terrified of the water and clug to me in the pool screaming if he thought he was going out of his depth.( Liz and Lisa can confirm this having seen him in action!) Over this year I have been working with him to help him gain confidence in the pool and we had got to the stage where he would attenpt to swim across the baby pool on his own.

When we came to the Juniper Tree I thought here we have a good length of time I am going to give him a crash course in swimming and try to get him to swim under water but he was just freaking out. then I remembered Jamie was the same way when we were at Dophin Bay over Christmas and Liz Teo had given him goggles and he was away.

I tried the same trick with Ewan and suddenly he realised he could swim underwater and bob underwater by himself. I still have to stay with him to help him come up for air but now he is swimming across the pool in short little bursts and is SO proud of himself. It is lovely to see him making such rapid progress and suddenly getting it.

I am also doing the same thing with Lucia and although she is a little less confindent she is making fantastic progress too. She does this cute little panic swim like she is about to sink but is so pleased with herself.
She is now jumping in and getting her face wet which is a major achievement as she didnt like to get water in her ears.

Phoebe is hoping to improve her swimming and be part of the school swim squad next year, so Iam working on her strokes. Thank you to Nessa and Andy who invested so much time into Phoebes swimming in England, she is making great progress and you would be very proud of her. She is confident with the breast stroke and is working on her front crawl. Her favourite is swimming underwater. She also likes to help Lucia.

Jamie has come on leaps and bounds since Christmas when Lizzie worked her magic on him. He is beccoming more confident in areas out of his depth and now needs to learn some of his strokes. He loves swimming underwater and jumping making dive bombs to splash everyone.
So this years goal is to find a good place in Phnom Penh we can swim. We do have a pool next to the school which is not too pricey so I think we will be visiting it a bit more often if we can!

Colin said he thinks he needs to come to my swimming school before all his children can swim better than him!
Today we are just relaxing and taking it easy…swimming, reading, blogging, playing with other kids and Colin is happy because he is sorting out a computer problem! It is nice to be able to give back to the Juniper Tree as it is not run on a profit but it is a ministry in itself providing excellent R&R for an affordable price for christian workers. The people running it are funded by their church in England and it  relies on gifts to help with improvements and additions. We are feeling very blessed to be here.

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Elephant Park

 We wanted to go on one trip out while we were here and heard of this great Elephant Park where you got to go on Elephant rides, rarft downa river and a ride on an ox cart and then a beautiful buffet lunch! Unfortunatley Ewan woke up and did not feel well and threw up so Colin stayed behind with him ( he was totally cool about it) Fortunatley there were three other people from the Juniper Tree going so there was plenty of adults. These are some of the things we did…..

This elephant was amazing with the painting she was so careful and  deliberate. 
This was the week old baby elephant just above my knee!
It was a very memorable day!!

Tesco Lotus

On Thursday we decided we had had enough sun and needed some air-con and retail therapy so we headed off to one of two massive Tesco Lotus ( as big as Camberley)

Apart from the signs in Thai it looks like England!!! Same layout and some of the same labels are the same like F&F clothes (maybe some subtle differences) It was so lovely to shop in a clean, air-con shop where all the prices were on the products and if you were being ripped off you were innocent to the fact. Normally if I get clothes I have to brave the stifling heat of the Russian market, trawl through endless little stalls and haggle for every thing I want. This was bliss!!!
 We ended by passing a Dunkin Dounuts…well we are on holiday!!!

I was able the get the kids a set of PJ’s each and an outfit or T-shirt which was great…..they wanted to ttry on their new things (except Ewan!! )

Then it was lunch and a relax in the pool and Colin was able to watch the football on the big flat screen TV.

Juniper Tree

The Juniper Tree is this lovely guesthouse with the rooms in these Thai style bungalows, for people who are working in Christian ministires around this part of Asia. I love it because there is a pool and gardens for the children to run around and quiet places for me to hide and read my book! It is full board with laundry done as well. So for me it is a place of real rest. There are always lots of other children for our children to play with and they have loved playing games like hide and seek or capture the flag…things they cant do in Phnom Penh as there are so few gardens.

The first day we crashed out and went in the pool and then slept so well after our sleepless night on the train!
On Wednesday the owners were taking all their staff out for a thank you meal ( something they do every year) So there was no lunch provided so we headed into town to a Mexican restaurant.

 The food was so yummy and we had to keep ordering extra tortillas!
We then wandered around that part of Chaingmai to get a feel for the city. Our restaurant was along the city moat so we followed that to the ancient city gated and the children chased pigeons.
Old Gate
Starbucks and Boots
Temple Entrance
Ping River
Too much walking for some!!!

Bangkok-Chaing Mai

 KFC photo from this informative blog

We arrived at the station and had some food at the KFC at the main station called Hualumphong (Colin calls it the umpa lumpa station) ….the main area was packed with people sitting on the floor and on the few chairs availiable all looking up to the enormous screen showing the world cup. The Thais love their football and avidly follow all the matches. as I walked through there was a collective gasp as the goal missed.
I couldn’t use my camera as the batteries were dead but have scoured the web to give you some photos of what it was like on the journey. (Thankfully I have a second chance on the way back for some of the shots so will make sure my batteries are fully charged up!!!)

 Bangkok Station sourced from here
Watching the World Cup looked like this…sourced from here
Getting on the night train here
Inside the train before the bunks are made up here
 The track I don’t see in the night!!! here
This website has some cool pictures of the train. I love the title
“Everything is Dirty”
 View in the morning here
Arriving in Chaingmai Train Station here
There is something special about the Night Train, I used to travel on it as a child with my parents, as my dad much prefered the train to the bus and I agree. There is the excitement and adrenaline of rushing through Bangkok traffic (or rather stressing because you are stuck in traffic) to get to the train on time. Then arriving with time to spare and looking in all the snack shops and buying snacks for the journey. Going throught the ticket door into the big open space of the station platforms to find the sleeper car you are in. Getting on and finding your seat settleing down with snacks, toys or a book waiting for the train to leave. Meeting your sleeper car attendant and working out when you want breakfast in the morning and what time you want your bed made up. Different people from the train staff walk up and down with drinks or fruit to sell. They all want to say hello and find out where you are from. Meeting the other passengers on the train and wondering if they will snore!!! Finally about 9pm the  sleeper attendant makes up the bed and you dare to use the toilet and brush your teeth (toilets are interesting!!) pull the curtains and snuggle under the blanket and try to sleep. The beds are surprisingly comfotable but the train tends to jerk and jolt which means sleep is a bit difficult to come by…..but in the morning the views are stunning…misty mountains and if you are up early enough or on the right train deep mountain gorges. It is an experience which always brings back fond memories and one I definitely wanted all my children and Colin to experience.
What did they think….they felt the same. our attendant was so funny trying to nick their teddies and teasing them. They loved having their own bed. ewan and Lucia looked so cute curled up together in the morning.
It was definitely worth doing even thought none of us slept that well……it was a memorable experience not to be missed.
Our next stop is a great family place called the Juniper Tree.

Bangkok

Although we live in a capital city, Phnom Penh feels rather provincial compared to the polished neighbouring Bangkok, with its massive malls and slick sky train.
We had planned to go to a water park as the water park in Phnom Penh looks like it should be condemned and still they let people go on it!! However after our epic journey the day before it was  unannimously decided that we would lie-in, then go in the pool and then go and see a mall…..oh which to choose!!!! We decided to go to the biggest one called MBK..so after the lady at the hotel reception suggested we got a taxi so we thought we would make life a bit easier and relax in a taxi….so  we hopped in …it was about 11:30 …half an hour later our taxi diver said…oh traffic is bad I take you to sky train…quick quick you get to MBK me in taxi slow slow!!!

So we got on the sky train and had to make one change before we got to MBK and looked out and saw Paragon Mall with IMAX and Ocean World and Pizza World…so we decided we were very hungry and would stop for lunch…..

We went to Pizza World and enjoyed this amazing view from the window….on one side the sky train went right past the window and the other side we looked over the square in front of Paragon Mall.  Unfortunately because we had to catch a night train later in the day to ChaingMai we missed out on seeing Shrek 4 at the IMAX cinema in at the top of this Mall 😦 So we went bowling instead which was great fun. It was such a cool bowling alley!It even had a Karaoke Room! (we didnt use it!)

 This is the bootom floor of the Siam Center shopping mall where Pizza World was. On every level they had these funky seats to sit on which were surprisingly comfy even though they were made of plastic. The kids loved sitting on them and I would have taken some pictures except I spotted a sign which said no photos fine 2,000b and my batteries ran out (again!)
After bowling and wandering roung the enormous toy section we spilt up and Colin went back with Jamie and Phoebe to retreive our bags from the guesthouse and I sat and watched Ewan and Lucia play in a ballpool…in the aircon…but without a coffee so it was nearly bliss.
Our next leg of the journey started at 7:35 on the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chaingmai…

Trat -Bangkok

A long endless 5 and a half hours later we arrive in Bangkok. We still needed to get to our guest house and by this time it was 5:30 and we had been travelling since 8:30 with no proper food breaks.
Bangkok traffic is notirious and the simplest thing would have been to get a taxi but it would have taken forever. Our only option was the Sky Train much to the childrens delight!
I was really impressed with the Sky Train it was clean quick and not too expensive although for us it added up as there was no childs fare.Lots of people use it and it was very busy. It was fun seeing Bankok from so high up but it made the shops below like some sort of underworld…very dark and gloomy.

Bangkok traffic under the Sky Train
Next we went on the MRT which is the underground system, again very clean and efficient with very helpful staff and this time a childs fare….hurrah!!
Then it was only a 10 minute walk to our guest house….mmmmmm or so we had been told. after wandering round for nearly half an hour we gave in and got a taxi. He refused to out on the meter only after we had all got in and then proceeded to charge us four times what it should have been! GRRRR! W finally arrived at the KT guesthous and collapsed in a heap. It was a very tired and very grumpy family that crawled into the restaurant until we had some food in us and then we returned to normal. the only thing that made us laugh was Lucia who kept saying “Where is Katy I want to see Katy” (Katy is her pre-school teacher) No amount of persuading could make her realise it was KT and not Katy! She was just too tired!
The best news was that breakfast was served anytime!!! Woohoo! Lie in time!

Koh Kong-Trat

We woke up had a leisurely breakfast and got a tuk tuk to the boarder of Thailand about 20 minutes from the guest house. On the way we saw these ominous clouds hanging over the sea…hoping we would make before the rain came down.

Arri our tuk tuk driver from Koh Kong

We crossed the border with no delays apart from us having to fill out 12 forms…6 for the Cambodian side and 6 for the Thai side….sigh when the children are old enough to fill out their own forms……:)
We got on a nice smart mini bus (thailand is much more efficiant) but should have taken heed from the sign…..

….about 15 mins up the road we turn off into a small town? or village? and were told everyone out! You get in this mini bus! Oh great the tatty one with bad suspension….an hour and a half trip on a bumpy road and they had put a whole massive bag of dried shrimps in the bag which over time filled tha van with their fishy smell.

Arrived at Trat bus station with 15mins to spare before the next bus so quickly grabbed a couple of pot noodles from the shop (hot water provided with fork too) and huddled round eating as fast as we could before they wanted us to get on the bus.
The bus was….CLEAN!!! (Cambodian buses you don’t even want your shoes to touch the floor sometimes) Much to the kids delight they served us with chocolate wafer bars and coke! (great a sugar rush is all we need)

Koh Kong

 We went to a great restaurant on the riverside which served the most delicious food. The sun was going down and the boats were gently bobbing on the sea. Unfortunately my camera decided that at this precise moment the batteries were going to run out doh!! However it was delightful.

The roads are such a contrast to Phnom Penh.There is hardly any traffic!

 The children have enjoyed putting their travel memories into a diary (part of their summer homework too!)

We woke up to rain in the morning which brought back fond camping memories except this time we were warm and dry!

Phnom Penh – Koh Kong

The first leg of our summer trip started on Friday the 18th at 6:45 am with a trip in a tuk tuk to the bus station. We then took the 6 hour bus journey to Koh Kong which is on the coastal boarder with Thailand. We have been to this part of Cambodia twice before and love its mountains and laid back feel. When you have been living in a busy, crowded noisy city to go to somewhere which is spacious, green and lush is food for the soul!

 We love to stay at a small guest house called Oasis whichis run by this great guy called Jason. The children love coming here as it is a bit like a home from home. There is a pool, lovely open eating area with a massive TV, pool table, two dogs called Honey and Murphy and again the lovely views of the Cardamon Mountain range from the pool! This time of year the place is so green as they get quite a lot of rain.
The first morning we woke up to the sound of rain on our chalet roof and laughed as it reminded us of British summer holidays but there the similarity ended….the sun came out and it was hot!

 Lucia with her friend from Pre-School who was there at the same time
Jumping in the gorgeous blue pool
 Relaxing with a book and a cup of tea (book number 4 now)
Jamie making us laugh with his goggle look!
One thing we are so looking forward to is seeing different places and spending time together as a family….having some good family time. This last semster (Jan-Jun) has been long and especially in the last few months has been very busy. It has also been very hot up to 42 degrees in the day the hottest “summer” in Cambodia (even the locals were complaining of the heat) We as a family have had various niggly illnesses and extra work loads leaving us very tired. We need a break from the city and Cambodia to get refreshed and ready for another year…………..
Our solution is a road trip covering about 60 hours of travelling over 3 and half weeks!!! Don’t worry we have planned in lots of rest time. We could have flown to Thailand in an hour but we did it this way so we could see lots of different places on a low budget. So next stop Trat…..