Cambodia


Cambodia is a land of contrasts. From the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary city of Angkor to the country’s recent history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is a mixture of triumph and tragedy. The country has emerged from the dark shadows of the past and is rapidly developing into a modern, vibrant society that stands side by side with magnificent edifices and artifacts. Few visitors to Cambodia leave without being somehow touched by the warmth of the Cambodian people, its rich culture and history, and stories laced with sobering realities. Its diverse land stretches from pristine beaches and wetlands along the Gulf of Thailand to the rolling Cardamom and Annamite mountains. Nestled in between is one of Southeast Asia’s largest wildernesses. Those looking for a fun, fascinating and unforgettable journey should spend time in Cambodia.

More About Cambodia

Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia

Heading to the Coast (National Highway 4)

Driving the Coast (National Highway 48)

The Cambodian Wilderness

Koh Kong

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat

2012_12_30 Cambodia Silver Pagoda

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

2012_12_31 Cambodia Tatai River

Map picture

Cross-posted from MGEdwards. Visit MGEdwards for more great travelogues, photos, and video from around the world.

Happy Chinese New Year!


新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Wooden Horse or the Year of the Green Horse. Why a wooden or green horse? The Horse is one of twelve animals representing a twelve-year cycle in the Chinese lunar calendar. Combined with the five elements in the Chinese Zodiac, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, the calendar goes through a 60-year cycle where each animal is associated with a different element every 12 years. Visit HanBan for a great summary of the Year of the (Wooden) Horse. Click here for more information about the elements.

This year may bode well for those born in the Year of the Horse with some promising personality traits such as being outgoing, energetic, active, friendly, trustworthy, and popular with friends, family, and acquaintances. The same may hold true for all of us during the Year of the Horse if the Green Horse appears this year and proves auspicious. However, as Wood can burn Red with flame, 2014 may also bring turmoil and crises. Who’s to say which Horse will cross the chronological plain this year. 没关系 (méi guānxi). No problem. Party on! It’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year!

How do the Chinese celebrate the New Year? Well, it starts with days of shopping for and buying any and all things red, gold, and (this year) green to make the holiday more festive. Shoppers stock up on food, drink and treats for Chinese New Year dinners, fireworks to blow off at stroke of midnight, and hongbao (红包 or red envelopes) to fill with money for the children.

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Shopping IMG_3096

Chinese New Year is a time for families to celebrate the holiday together. Families who stay home and host festoon their houses with New Year decorations and prepare huge meals for extended family who join them for an evening…or often longer. It’s a time to enjoy great food and holiday delicacies, to catch up with family you might not have seen for a while, and to give hongbao to the children. If you’re lucky, your child will bow before you and promise to be behave as they ask for their red envelope.

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Family IMG_2885

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Family IMG_2887

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Family IMG_2997

Going home to visit family by train, plane, or bus is a holiday tradition not often mentioned. The week-long lunar celebration triggers the world’s largest annual mass migration with an estimated 3.6 billion trips made, including 225 million Chinese who traveled overseas for Chinese New Year.

After dinner, many Chinese families relax and watch the annual New Year Show on Chinese Central Television (CCTV). Part variety show, part music concert, the event is watched by an estimated 750 million people.

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year TV IMG_2998

Just before midnight, millions of Chinese take to the streets, rooftops, or any open window to blow off fireworks to usher in the New Year. The spectacle is unbelievably loud and beautiful. The fireworks during the 2012 Year of the Dragon celebration in Shanghai were incredible! Click on the video below to watch.

2012 Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fireworks IMG_3086

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fireworks IMG_3041

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fireworks IMG_3091

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fireworks IMG_3015

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fireworks IMG_3020

The next day, many Chinese families venture out to enjoy local public festivities. They may go shopping, watch New Year parades, or tour old, familiar places. The Lunar New Year is a time to remember family, friends, and ancestors, and many visit places that have been an important part of their families’ lives. These photos were taken in 2012, at the Temple of the Town Gods in Shanghai.

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fest IMG_3174

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fest IMG_3195

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fest IMG_3220

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fest IMG_3226

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Fest IMG_3230

新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy New Year to you and yours!

Map of China

Map picture

mge-kili-cover-front-thumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant, and Zoe the Zebra, three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, and a 3-in-1 collection featuring all three. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2014 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia


Here is a list of top ten things to do if you visit Cambodia, a country in Southeast Asia. This list is based on my travels in Cambodia from December 2012 to January 2013. It’s generally ordered by proximity to the country’s premier tourist destination, Angkor.

The destinations and activities below will give you a taste of what this incredible country has to offer. A study in contrasts, from the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary Angkor to the country’s recent tragic history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is unique. It is a wonder to behold. These are some of the best places where you can experience what Cambodia has to offer, although this is by no means a complete list.

1. Angkor: The capital of the Khmer Empire from 802 A.D. until its conquest by the Thais in 1351 A.D., Angkor today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northwest Cambodia near the city of Siem Reap. Hailed as one of the world’s most spectacular ancient historical sites, Angkor is a large complex that includes the former palace of Angkor Thom and dozens of Hindu and Buddhist temples scattered across an area more than 1,000 square kilometers (390 square miles) where as many as one million people once lived. Today more than two million tourists flock annually to this remarkable place to see the timeworn temples, buildings, and points of interest that coexist with contemporary Cambodia. Angkor is by far the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia, and its highlights would easily fill their own top ten list. The site is so far flung that it has inner and outer roads to take you to take you near and wide around Siem Reap.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Pre Rup

2012_12_27 Cambodia Countryside

2012_12_27 Cambodia Siem Reap Traffic

2012_12_28 Cambodia Countryside

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Sunset

Angkor Wat: A Hindu temple built between 1113 and 1150 A.D., majestic Angkor Wat overshadows the Angkor complex and is by far its most popular attraction. It is splendidly beautiful. No visit to Cambodia would be complete without spending time in Angkor Wat. Walk around the gardens, admire the reflecting pools, and climb up to the main courtyard where you can see an amazing 360-degree view of the horizon.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat (4)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat (3)

Moonrise Kingdom

Angkor Thom: The former Khmer capital in the epicenter of Angkor is surrounded by a wall with preserved gates you can drive through in a car or tuk tuk. Several important sites are located inside its walls, including the Bayon, Baphuon, and Terrace of the Leper King.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Thom Gate

Angkor Thom

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Thom

Bayon: The state temple of the Khmer kings, the Bayon is a Buddhist shrine built in the late 12th Century or early 13th Century. The out-of-this-world mystical site is filled with towers graced with faces carved into the stone, giving the impression that the temple guardians are watching you. The walls also features impressive bas-reliefs.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (3)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (4)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (2)

Baphuon: A Hindu temple built in the 11th Century, the Baphuon lies northwest of the Bayon and just south of the royal palace. The collapsed temple was rebuilt in the last half of the 20th Century and now offers a great view of Angkor Thom from the top. The back of the temple features one of the world’s largest Reclining Buddhas. Can you spot him in the picture below?

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Baphuon (2)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Baphuon Reclining Buddha

Terrace of the Leper King: The semi-submerged structure at the center of Angkor Thom winds through a hillside like a snake, its walls adorned with images from Hindu lore. The site was reportedly used for cremation ceremonies and named after an Angkor king who had leprosy.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Leper King Terrace

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Leper King Terrace (2)

Ta Prohm: A Buddhist monastery located to the east of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm is the second most popular of the many temples and monasteries after Angkor Wat. Much of it has been left its natural state, although some efforts have been made to preserve the site and keep it from being gradually torn apart by the roots of the tetrameles nudiflora trees growing on its walls. The site is otherworldly – a scene from the movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed at Ta Prohm. One hopes that it won’t fall to ruin from the very trees that make it more awe-inspiring than computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (5)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (2)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (4)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm

Ruluos: A cluster of Hindu temples in Angkor about 15 kilometers southeast of Siem Reap, the site is dominated by the Bakong and Preah Ko temples. Built in the 9th Century, they were among the first shrines built by the Khmer kings.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Roluos

Ruluos

2. Siem Reap: Cambodia’s tourist hub is a fun city of about 200,000 located near some of Angkor’s most stunning sites. Stay in the center and enjoy the town in the evening after a long day touring Angkor. Siem Reap has several markets, including a night market, and its lively evening atmosphere makes it a great destination for food, shopping, and entertainment.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Siem Reap Nightlife (2)

3. Kompong Phluk Stilt Village/Tonle Sap Lake: Kompong Phluk Stilt Village is located about 25 kilometers southeast of Siem Reap off National Highway 6; the entrance is just past the road to Ruluos. During the dry season when it’s not flooding, villagers who make a living fishing on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia’s largest, live in stilt houses that rise more than five meters (15 feet) off the ground. The town offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of local fishermen and looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Wooden boats take tourists downriver past the town on a brief cruise through a semi-submerged mangrove forest and along the shore of Tonle Sap Lake. It’s a great daytrip combined with a visit to Ruluos. Those who don’t have a car can take a tuk tuk or taxi from Siem Reap for a reasonable price.

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Kompong Phluk (2)

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Kompong Phluk

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Mangrove Forest

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Lake

4. Koh Ker: Briefly Angkor’s capital from 928 to 944 A.D., Koh Ker lies about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Siem Reap in a remote area of Cambodia. The seven-tiered pyramid is the most famous of several historical sites in Koh Ker. Perhaps most significantly, Koh Ker is a nice get away from the throngs of tourists who congregate around Siem Reap.

Koh Ker

5. Preah Vihear: An ancient Hindu temple built in the 9th Century on the edge of what was once Angkor, Preah Vihear sits atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains of Cambodia overlooking a plain in Thailand. The temple is beautiful and the view spectacular. A 140-kilometer trip from Siem Reap, the temple sits on the Cambodian-Thai border. Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand over access to the location and instances of violence has made the area somewhat volatile, although the situation has been quiet as of late.

Preah Vihear

6. Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital is a study in contrasts. It is fast emerging as a dynamic engine of growth for development with the opening of a new stock exchange and financial center. And yet, it can’t escape its brutal past under the Khmer Rouge regime that captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and decimated the city and its people until its overthrow in 1979. A walking tour of the center, from Wat Phnom Penh temple to the markets near the waterfront for shopping and a meal, to glimpses of historic sites such as the French architecture along Monivong Boulevard and the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, are reminders of Phnom Penh’s past and present. Try some Cambodian food with French coffee and dessert at one of Phnom Penh’s many eateries.

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Skyline (2)

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Monivong Blvd

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Waterfront

2012_12_28 Cambodia Phnom Penh Japanese Bridge

7. Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: Cambodia’s Royal Palace and famed Silver Pagoda – named for the silver tiles on the temple floor covered by carpet – are among the most beautiful sites in Phnom Penh. Much of the palace of the Cambodian king is closed to the public, but it still offers a taste of Cambodia’s rich culture and heritage.

IMG_8939

8. Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison: This former high school in a quiet Phnom Penh neighborhood was once the site of unspeakable horrors. An estimated 20,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge were interred, interrogated, tortured, and killed at Security Prison 21 (S-21) or transferred to the Killing Fields to be executed. Only 12 known survivors escaped death here. Today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum serves as a poignant reminder of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. It is a sobering look at the darker side of Cambodian history and the tragedy of genocide.

Tuol Sleng

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (3)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (2)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (4)

9. Cheong Ek Memorial / Killing Fields: Cheong Ek, better known as the Killing Fields, is a former Chinese graveyard and orchard used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and execute thousands of victims in a horrific act of genocide. Mass graves with the remains of 8,895 out of an estimated one million victims of the Khmer Rouge were discovered at the site. Today it is a memorial with a stupa (tower) filled with the skulls of more than 5,000 victims and a walking tour of the grounds that will leave you in tears. The graphic photos and depictions of torture and execution at Tuol Sleng and Cheong Ek are not for young children or those faint of heart but a necessary reminder of the country’s past. It’s important to focus on all that is good about Cambodia during your visit, but these sites should not be overlooked.

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Killing Fields (2)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Killing Fields

Cheong Ek

10. Cambodian Coast / Sihanoukville: The Cambodian Coast is a generally unspoiled region waiting to be enjoyed by those who like great beaches, national parks, tropical forests, mountains, and nature hikes. A stopover in Cambodia’s largest seaside city, Sihanoukville, is a great starting point for travel along the coast. See my recent series on the Cambodian Coast for more information about the Cambodian Coast.

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (2)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (3)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (6)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (8)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (9)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Tatai River (2)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (5)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast Sunset

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong

Map picture

clip_image0013[3]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Elephant Polo!


This is the final article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy this and other travelogues about the Hua Hin area.

Elephant polo is a fascinating sport to watch. A variant of equestrian polo, elephant polo originated in Meghauli, Nepal and is played in Nepal, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. Teams from England and Scotland also participate in organized tournaments. The sport is governed worldwide by the Kathmandu, Nepal-based World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) and in Thailand by the Thailand Elephant Polo Association.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (9)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (5)

The sport features Asian elephants ridden by a polo player and a mahout who steers the elephant. Players hit polo balls into goals with a mallet attached to the end of a long stick. Goal posts are located at either end of a pitch that’s three quarters the size of an equestrian polo field. Teams of four players, mahouts and elephants square off for two ten-minute “chukkers” (time periods) with a 15-minute time out (“interval”). The team with the most goals at the end of the second chukker wins the match. A full list of elephant polo rules is available here.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (10)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (11)

Thailand-based luxury resort and spa company Anantara Resorts hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament in Hua Hin. Military marching grounds south of Hua Hin Town make an ideal pitch for a week’s worth of elephant polo matches. Dozens of sponsors set up pavilions on the sidelines that cater to visitors and polo players who come from around the world to watch or participate in the games. My family and I watched the 2012 championship match on the final day of competition; other spectators spent the entire week at the event.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (1)

While the sport has come under some scrutiny for the use and treatment of elephants, the elephants participating in the King’s Cup seemed content on the sidelines and competitive on the field. They appeared as engaged and eager to participate as the human players. Elephant Polo in Nepal and Thailand is played under the auspices of the WEPA, which enforces strict rules on elephant welfare and game play. To my knowledge, no instances of alleged mistreatment of elephants related to elephant polo have been reported in Thailand.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (3)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (4)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (6)

We enjoyed mingling with the elephants on the sidelines where the polo teams waited to saddle up. Several elephants huddled near the edge of the pen watching the matches and munching on feed like popcorn. They didn’t seemed to mind the spectators who gathered around them for photos. It was all part of their duties as star athletes. We enjoyed taking photos with a jovial pachyderm who inspired the character Ellie the Elephant in my book. This elephant was doing what Ellie aspired to do – play competitive elephant polo.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (7)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (8)

The mahouts tended to the animals, feeding them, saddling them up, and guiding them on the pitch. They appeared to have experience working with the animals, while the skill of the players varied according to their familiarity with elephant polo. One replacement player took the field for the first time and had trouble handling the cumbersome mallet taller than an elephant’s shoulders. Watching the elephants, mahouts, and polo players work in tandem was mesmerizing. When a player missed hitting the ball, the elephant would back up so they could try again.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (12)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (13)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (14)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (15)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (16)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (17)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (18)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (20)

All the teams we watched did a splendid job. While only one won the King’s Cup, every team took home a trophy in the shape of an elephant’s head. The tournament was competitive and fun with all the excitement you would expect at any sporting event. There were scrimmages, breakaways, and the occasional error – all in the name of fun.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (21)

If Ellie the Elephant were at the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament, she would have enjoyed playing or watching from the sidelines.

Cover 4

And you would have too! Here’s a video clip of elephant polo in action.

Elephant Polo in Thailand

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers! Get your copy today!

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

The Countryside near Hua Hin

Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin

Wat Khao Takiap Temple in Hua Hin

map-ddaf71d935e422[2][2]

 

clip_image0023222[2]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Wat Khao Takiap in Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the fifth article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about Wat Khao Takiap in Hua Hin Town. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this fascinating area of Thailand.

Wat Khao Takiap is a Buddhist temple complex on “Chopsticks Hill” (Khao Takiap) south of Hua Hin Town center. One of the most recognizable temples in Hua Hin, it straddles a 272-meter (890 feet) tall hill that juts out into the Gulf of Thailand and is visible from beaches to the north and south.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (3)

A shrine shaped like a blooming white lotus flower sits halfway up the hillside. Although the 80 or so steps to it are a quick workout, one can drive to a parking lot part way up Chopsticks Hill. The view from the shrine and the shrine itself are both picturesque.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (4)

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (5)

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (8)

The parking lot area is even more interesting with an eclectic mix of Buddhist statues, including a Hungry Buddha and many-headed Buddha, dinosaur statues (seriously!), a prayer pagoda, souvenir and snack shops, and…

…monkeys! Hundreds, maybe thousands, of macaque monkeys live on the temple grounds. They are the inspiration for Monk the Monkey, one of the characters in my book Ellie the Elephant. People who work at the temple are the protectors of the macaques, who like to get too close to human comfort in their tireless search for food and drink. Tourists need to be careful because the monkeys target and steal bags, bottles, and anything else that looks like an easy meal. They’re not prone to bite but can become aggressive when the food runs out.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (19)

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (20)

Here’s a picture of Monk the Monkey featured in Ellie the Elephant.

monk

The chickens that wander freely around the parking lot don’t seem bothered by the monkeys. Why should they? Some are larger than a mid-sized macaque and mean serious business in their hunt for chicken feed.

This rooster did not consider it a laughing manner when he crossed the road.

At the base of Chopsticks Hill is a large Golden Buddha standing 20 meters tall who looks out on the Gulf of Thailand with his arms outstretched. While he gave his blessing to the fishermen trolling the waters off the coast, we were blessed with delicious Thai food served by the outdoor restaurant at the base of the hill.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (25)

If you visit Wat Khao Takiap, don’t forget to give a donation. It could bring you good luck. Just leave it on this painted concrete block and someone will pick it up.

You’re in luck because Ellie the Elephant’s school, the Pachyderm School, is not far from Wat Khao Takiap. Stop by for an incredible adventure with Ellie!

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers! Get your copy today!

Cover 5

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

The Countryside near Hua Hin

Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin

map-ddaf71d935e422[2]

 

clip_image0023222M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the fourth article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin Town. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this fascinating area of Thailand.

At the base of Khao Takiap (Chopsticks Hill) in Hua Hin opposite the Gulf of Thailand lies a colorful and messy fishing village nestled in a small waterway. The organic place looks out of place, and yet, right where it belongs in this area east of Hua Hin Town.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (1)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (2)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (3)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (6)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (4)

Suburban Hua Hin has expanded around it, filling the former wetlands with contemporary high rises and neighborhoods, but this timeless village stands out amidst the surrounding modernity.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (27)

Hundreds of wooden fishing vessels clutter the waterway with a chaotic order that looks artistic but tricky to decipher. Boats with hulls of varying bright colors create a multi-colored menagerie intertwined with a spider’s web of stout wooden masts and booms.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (8)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (9)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (10)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (11)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (12)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (13)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (14)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (16)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (17)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (18)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (19)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (15)

On the rickety wooden walkway that follows the water channel and sways with every movement, villagers prepare daily catches for the market, from fish gutting to drying squid and gathering seashells. It’s quite the sight for seafood lovers to behold. The smell is not overpowering as fresh hauls come in and the remnants are washed into the coffee brown channel. I glanced down into the thick water and shuddered to think what must have been lurking in its bowels.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (20)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (21)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (23)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (24)

Many villagers live on the boats while a few own freestanding homes that strike an interesting contrast to the high-rise resort rising just to the south. Some own seafood markets, restaurants, and souvenir shops just across the street in the shadow of Chopsticks Hill.

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The coin-fed washer and dryer machines in a kiosk along the road indicated that the villagers have ready access to basic necessities. In spite of what looked like poor living conditions when I visited Khao Takiap Village, the villagers seemed to live well with an ocean of seafood waiting to be caught on the leeward side, and to starboard, a sea of tourists waiting to consume whatever they could catch. While a fisherman’s life didn’t look easy, Khao Takiap Village seemed to be a good place to give it a go.

If Ellie the Elephant wanted to be a fisherelephant, she would live in Khao Takiap Village!

Cover 11

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

The Countryside near Hua Hin

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clip_image002322M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Countryside near Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the third article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about the countryside near Hua Hin. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this fascinating area of Thailand.

The drive from Bangkok to Hua Hin takes about two and a half hours as a drunken crow flies and when traffic is light. The scenery on southwest-bound Highway 35 is forgettably suburban Thailand with more and more rice fields and orchards as the cities thin. At little more than the halfway point near the city of Samut Songkhram, the highway merges with Highway 4 and heads south on the Malay Peninsula. Here lies the beautiful countryside of Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces between the Gulf of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).

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Most of the drive to Hua Hin Town passes through Phetchaburi, one of three western Thai provinces that are popular weekend getaways for Bangkok residents looking to escape from the sweltering lowlands of the Chao Phraya River delta. (The other two are Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi.) The highlands of the Tenasserim Mountains offer cooler weather that blows in from the Andaman Sea. Phetchaburi is worth a stop to explore its scenic wonders, but for those on the way to Hua Hin, the province will still reward them with opportunities to enjoy picture-perfect scenery. Rice fields in the lowlands, including one farmed by Ellie the Elephant’s parents, share the land with rolling hills and craggy mountains.

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (1)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (2)

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2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (4)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (5)

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2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (7)

You never know what you’ll discover in the countryside on the way to Hua Hin. During our drive to Hua Hin in November 2012, we spotted a thatched roof lodge at the foot of a mountain reminiscent of a traditional Thai bamboo house with some indigenous elements.

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (8)

Accustomed to seeing rotund statues of the Buddha, I stopped to examine some statues of a malnourished one. The “Fasting” or “Starving” Buddha depicted a time in the life of Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.), the Indian prince who founded Buddhism, when he wandered in the countryside for six years in search of spiritual enlightenment and practiced such an austere lifestyle that it left him skin and bones. Realizing that his asceticism would lead to death, not enlightenment, Siddhartha adopted a middle path between the luxury of his youth and his austerity. The statues on the way to Hua Hin recalled this period in the Buddha’s life.

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (9)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (10)

Ellie the Elephant calls the countryside near Hua Hin home. Along with her parents and brother, she works in the fields when she’s not in class or playing at Pachyderm School. While she doesn’t mind helping out with chores around the farm, what she really wants to do is play elephant polo. Read Ellie the Elephant, her incredible story about following her dream – to play in the Elephant Cup tournament!

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (11)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers!

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

map-ddaf71d935e42

 

Maps courtesy of Google and Bing.

clip_image00232M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Night Market in Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the second article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about the Night Market in Hua Hin Town. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this interesting area of Thailand.

Thailand has many night markets, and the one in Hua Hin is excellent. Located in the center of Hua Hin Town just off Phetkasem Road (Petchkasem or Highway 4), it’s open nightly from 6 p.m. to about 11 p.m. or whenever the vendors close up shop. Most stalls sell food, clothing, or souvenirs. It’s touristy but also frequented by locals. The Hua Hin Night Market covers a four block area packed with vendors. When we visited on a Saturday night in November 2012, it was bustling with shoppers.

Why does Thailand have so many night markets? The average temperature in Thailand is so hot that many people try to avoid doing anything outside until the sun sets and the air cools down. Evenings in Thailand can be hot but are generally cooler than daytimes. Thai markets are known for selling many of the same things – you can find the same souvenirs in stall after stall – but each market has a different flavor. Hua Hin Night Market is no exception. It’s perhaps best known for its good selection of fresh food, especially seafood, and wide range of local products for sale.

The iconic Hua Hin sign at the market’s entrance is a good place to take a photo to tell friends back home that you’re shopping in Thailand.

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Makeshift stalls crowd the pedestrian street that stretches for two blocks between two-story buildings with even more businesses.

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The delicious foods – raw, cooked, or fried – taste as delicious as they look.

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A vendor gave my son a balloon that he enjoyed while my wife and I browsed a stall selling grilled chicken and local wines and spirits.

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The market’s many restaurants and bars offer a mix of Thai and international cuisine. Hua Hin’s location on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand makes it a great place to enjoy fresh seafood.

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We didn’t see Ellie the Elephant shopping at the Hua Hin Night Market. Then again, she probably wouldn’t have fit! She might have enjoyed the some of the yummy tropical fruits on display, but the vendors would not have been happy if she accidentally knocked over their stalls!

Cover 1

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers!

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

map-ddaf71d935e4

clip_image0023M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the first article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this diverse area of Thailand.

Hua Hin is a town in Prachuap Khiri Khan province on the northern edge of the Malay Peninsula that stretches from Thailand to Singapore. Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin is located about 2.5 hours by car southwest of Bangkok. Best known as the site of Wang Klai Kang Won royal palace, Hua Hin is a convenient getaway for city dwellers who want to get out of town or hit the beach. It’s not as touristy, and the beaches aren’t as nice, as more popular destinations such as Phuket or Ko Samui, but Hua Hin has steadily developed as a tourist magnet in its own right. The Venezia, an Italian-style shopping center and Santorini Park, a Greek-themed shopping and entertainment complex in nearby Cha Am, opened recently and have helped put Hua Hin on the map.

Below is a sweeping view of the Hua Hin waterfront from Wat Khao Takiap, one of the city’s prominent Buddhist temples atop Chopsticks Hill (Khao Takiap).

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This is a view of the Gulf of Thailand from the waterfront.

The city’s main street, Phetkasem Road (Highway 4), runs north-south through town past shopping malls, hotels, and a night market. It looks like many busy business districts in Thailand.

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A stone building near the rocky beach below the temple offers great views of the Gulf of Thailand and the city.

The foothills of the Tenasserim Range straddling Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand crowd Hua Hin with worn hills that serve as pedestals for Buddhist sites such as the Wat Khao Krailas temple.

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The traditional architecture contrast with the modern high-rise hotels and condos hugging the Hua Hin waterfront.

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Although the sky was overcast when we visited Hua Hin in November 2012, the air was warm enough to enjoy the beach. Our son enjoyed making sand castles and sculptures. Vendors flocked to this little boy on an almost-empty beach, begging him to go on horse rides and buy souvenirs. He was having too much fun in the sand to pay much attention to them.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin (12)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin (13)

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You never know what you’ll find when you visit Hua Hin. You might stumble upon some delicious Thai food like we did near the waterfront or see a cute cat sleeping on the beach without a care in the world, or…

…Ellie the Elephant playing elephant polo!

Cover 6

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers!

Map picture

 

clip_image002M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Cambodian Coast–Koh Kong


This is the final article in a four-part series about the Cambodian Coast. This one is about Koh Kong, a coastal city in western Cambodia on the Cambodian-Thai border. Previous articles featured National Highway 4 heading from Phnom Penh to the coast, National Highway 48 along the coast, and the coastal wilderness. This series is intended as a resource for those interested in exploring this intriguing area of Cambodia.

After a long day driving from Phnom Penh through the Cambodian wilderness on New Year’s Eve 2012, we arrived in Koh Kong City at nightfall.

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I wished that we could have stayed in town but had to settle for a rural lodge several kilometers up the road. We stopped for a quick sunset photo on the Koh Kong City waterfront and headed to our hotel. I suddenly fell ill and celebrated the New Year in bed with a fever. What I thought were symptoms of dengue fever turned into a 24-hour flu, and thankfully I felt better in the morning.

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The next day we drove the 7-kilometer long Koh Kong Bridge back to town. Built in 2002, the bridge spans the mouth of the wide but shallow Prek Kaoh (Kah Bpow) River.

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2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (17)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (18)

The capital of Koh Kong Province and largest city in Cambodia’s western coastal region, Koh Kong City has a population of more than 35,000 but looks smaller with its residents scattered across a large area. With no stoplights and little traffic, the city streets resembled a ghost town when we visited. The city has long had a reputation as a “Wild West” frontier town and a haven for smugglers, but recent efforts to improve access via Highway 48 has helped integrate it with the rest of the country. It’s now more of a convenient stopover on the way from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, Thailand than a remote outpost.

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The regional branch of the National Bank of Cambodia, also known as the “Red House,” is one of the more recognizable landmarks in town. It’s more pink than red, but who’s quibbling?

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This lodge in the town center had a uniquely Kampuchean (former Khmer Rouge Cambodia) look to it with an odd melding of Cambodia architecture and communist symbolism.

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Canals and boat moorings crisscrossed the city center, creating picturesque views and great photo opportunities.

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When we visited, the city was in the process of sprucing up the waterfront, paving roads, and laying sidewalks in what looked like a half-hearted attempt to attract tourists, but it seemed like local officials were in no hurry to finish any projects. The place had an unkempt charm and organic look that centralized planning couldn’t duplicate. The tropical scenery just past the city center that gave the town a wild vibe.

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (11)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (12)

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2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (10)

Koh Kong City has both Buddhist and Muslim communities served by the Neang Kok Temple and Al-Mubarak Dubai Mosque. We saw Buddhist statues in a local park and two monks asking a local store for alms.

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2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (14)

After our brief tour of Koh Kong City, we crossed the Koh Kong Bridge again and drove to the Cambodian-Thai border. The Prek Kaoh River looked more like a lake than a river.

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On the way to the Cambodia-Thailand border, we passed a hodgepodge of eclectic architecture, including a Thai-style Buddhist shrine, Khmer-style gate, and the gaudy entrance to the Koh Kong Safari World Resort.

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2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (22)

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The drive from Koh Kong City to the border is about ten kilometers through some pretty countryside punctuated by a few beach resorts and homes. It’s one of the more organized, orderly, and uncrowded border crossings I’ve seen.

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Although crossing into Thailand was somewhat confusing with few English speakers in the Customs and Immigration offices on both sides of the border, we made it through and entered Thailand after sorting out paperwork and communicating in hand signals.

For more information about driving in Cambodia, contact me at me@mgedwards.com.

More About the Cambodian Coast

Heading to the Coast (National Highway 4)

Driving the Coast (National Highway 48)

The Cambodian Wilderness

Map picture

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M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.