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World wide travel insurance provides you with comprehensive and customised insurance package for any kind of emergency situation no matter what your age may be. Cheap travel insurance policies for a range of trip types and travel needs. Travel Insurance companies have a number of levels of travel insurance to suit the different insurance needs of our customers. Annual Multi Trip insurance policy offers cover for those who travel more than once a year, while Single Trip insurance policies can cover travel of up to 365 days.

Certain provisions are to be made in certain instances. In case you decide to extend your overseas stay, the holiday insurance should be able to adjust to your travel needs. Your policy should be flexible enough as well as accommodate for any value that you might add during your holidays while making purchases.

Such travel insurance offers single trip travel insurance cover for 1-12 months for people aged up to 99 years of age , get a quote online. Travel insurance protects you on medical emergencies, flight delay or cancellation, loss of baggage, trip cancellation insurance etc.

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Medical Insurance: covers all your medical and dental expenses. Look out for the procedures of reimbursement of the emergency expenses.

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Comprehensive travel Insurance : covers your airfare, car rentals, tour etc. better deal for travelers with less of the trip prepaid because coverage is the same regardless of the premium paid.

Interruption insurance and trip cancellation insurance - it covers losses you encounter when you cancel a prepaid tour of flight for an acceptable reason. It covers a host of reasons for cancellation from family sickness to weather that doesn't a flight to occur. If you have an accident you'll be flown home.

Trip Cancellation insurance: when you cancel a ticket or miss your flight due to delay, you will incur a loss of your flight charges. It covers a host of reasons for cancellation from family sickness to weather that doesn't a flight to occur. If you have an accident you'll be flown home.

Baggage Insurance: Your baggage insurance insures items such as jewelry, eyewear, electronics and photographic equipments. If the airline checked your baggage, it is covered by the airline not your rider.

Kirthy Shetty, expert author, platinum status

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With the Masses on the Mekong

With the Masses on the Mekong.
By Joshua

The two-day trip down the Mekong River, from Chiang Khong, Thailand, into the very heart of Laos at Luang Prabang, is indeed something to write home about. The greenery passes by almost interrupted, with only a handful of small thatch villages to be seen, including Pram Bek, where we spend the night in a dingy, stained room, under a torn pink mosquito net. During the days, our long wooden boat follows the main current of the khaki-colored river, swerving from bank to bank and gently rocking and creaking with the motion. The air is cool, bordering on cold in the mornings, when mists cling to the riverbanks and rising hills.

And yet, booking passage on the “slow boat,” which we did in Chiang Mai, and dealing with the rest of the logistics (immigration, visa, ferry service, etc.) is way too easy, thus ensuring a boat crowded with yahoos so busy yapping, complaining, and slamming beers that they barely notice where they are—passing through one of the most amazing wildernesses in Asia! I am just as guilty of chatting with my fellow travelers and enjoying a cold, overpriced Beer Lao as anyone, but by the second day, the floating frat party takes on new levels when a cocky Brit blasts bad American music on his radio and the volume of the voices reaches new heights.

It doesn’t help that there are 140 people, nearly all farangs, on a boat meant for 80. At one point, I make my way to the bow to take a few photos, and I note that at least half of the passengers are fiddling with iPods, cameras, or other digital gadgets. Every other person it seems, is smoking cigarettes and flinging their butts into the river; a few dozen people are reading, mostly with their noses buried deep inside their Lonely Planet instruction manuals, and a few lost in novels, oblivious to the scenery passing by: I spy two copies of the Davinci Code, one of On the Road, and one older gentlemen reading When Presidents Lie.

Again, I am the pot calling the kettle black, as I plow through Tom Robbins’ Villa Incognito for a part of the ride, telling myself it’s okay because it takes place in Laos. But why can’t we look around and realize where we are!? We take for granted just how simple it is to get on the boat in one town and get off in Luang Prabang where we are immediately coddled by the classy comforts of this ancient capital.

Sitting in the common space balcony of our guesthouse in Luang Prabang, we meet Heather and Matt, a young couple from Vermont and Massachussetts who, with similar opinions of the slow boat trip as us, decided to create their own adventure of it by disembarking in various villages not on the itinerary; they even purchased a dugout canoe for the second half of the trip, but sold it back to the family when they realize the danger and rashness of this plan. Instead, they ended up on “Noah’s Ark,” as they called it, where human passengers were outnumbered by water buffalos, goats, and chickens.

It took them five days to reach Luang Prabang. Respect. This is what is meant by “slow travel.” Matt and Heather also spent time in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, and the four of us wax nostalgic over momos, the steamed Tibetan dumplings that we all loved in northern India. After sharing our favorite momo stories, we take a few meals together, including spicy noodles and Beerlaos at a beach on the river for sunset..

Tourism is a recent phenomenon in Laos, just like in Nicaragua; but like Nicaragua, the majority of visitors stick to only a couple of relatively easy (and totally worthy, beautiful) sites. Our plan is to break from this trail, for at least a part of the 12 days remaining on our visas.

But first, calm and languid Luang Prabang.

Dancing With Whales

Dancing With Whales.
By David Stanley

We've all heard about whalewatching from boats or shore, and a few companies are now offering the possibility of actually swimming and snorkeling with whales in the wild. Is this a good thing?

Some whalewatching operators in the Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific islands, advertise the possibility of swimming and snorkeling with humpback whales during the cetacean's annual migration from July to October. This activity sounds appealing, yet there are a number of things to consider.
To drop clients off within snorkeling distance of a whale, the swim boats must come closer than the 30 meters laid down in Tongan government guidelines in 1997. Engine noise from a maneuvering boat can startle a whale, and repeated disturbances can lead to the animals changing their behaviour and even abandoning their traditional habitat. The nursing and resting routines of the pods can be disrupted, potentially threatening the health of the whales.

This high-risk activity is not covered by most travel insurance policies. The humpback whales of Tonga are wild animals with powerful fins, and swimming near one always involves some risk. The movements of these huge creatures can be fatal to a human swimmer, either accidentally or if the beast feels threatened, and a nursing mother with calf can be especially unpredictable. Swimming into the path of a whale greatly increases the danger.

In Tonga, sharks are known to frequent areas where there are whales, especially calves, and at least one shark attack on a Tongan guide swimming with whales has been recorded. A tragic accident involving tourists seems to be only a matter of time.

Most whale encounters occur in deep waters where unperceived currents and wave action can soon tire a snorkeler and possibly lead to panic. For these reasons, responsible whalewatching companies like Whales Discoveries do not offer snorkeling with whales.

Of course, the demand is there, and pressure has come to bear on the Tongan Government to revise its guidelines to allow boats to come within 10 meters of a whale. Several new whalewatching licenses have been issued recently, raising the number of commercial operators in this small area to about a dozen, and vessels often have to queue to drop off swimmers. Cases have been observed of boats approaching to within five meters of whale pods, and of mother humpbacks and calves being pursued out to sea.

Visitors should be aware that by purchasing such an excursion, they could be adversely affecting the noble creatures they came to see. It's a good idea to discuss these matters with the operator before booking your trip, and to avoid those who seem most interested in maximizing their own profits at the expense of the whales.

Even if you decide to book such a tour, be aware that only 10 percent of swim-with attempts are successful and there are no refunds. These concerns only apply to attempts to actually swim with whales, and whalewatching from a boat at a safe distance is no problem.

Biking Solo from Maine to Pennsylvania

Biking Solo from Maine to Pennsylvania.
by Bob Neubauer

For two weeks I pedaled alone through New England, meeting people, getting invited into their homes and learning about their lives.

North Barnstead, N.H.--The pickup truck rumbled past me on the pebble-strewn dirt road, kicking up a thick, brown cloud in its wake.

Grimacing, I ducked my head against the dust storm and peered down at my feet on the pedals and at my tires spinning in the loose dirt. My balance wavered and I threw down a leg to keep myself, my bike and my 50 pounds of gear from toppling into the thick, thorny underbrush at the road's edge.

And this was supposed to be my vacation?

I was five days into a two-week, 800-mile solo bicycle trek from Maine to Pennsylvania--and things were not going as planned. I had anticipated an idyllic romp through fragrant meadows and small villages. I hadn't counted on sweltering heat, bugs and dirt roads that seemed to have no end.

So much for idealism.

I approached a small cottage at a dirt crossroads, surprising an elderly woman out watering her garden. She gaped at me, a tall, unshaven, sunburned 27-year-old on a ridiculously overloaded bicycle, bumping along a dirt road in the woods.

"How far to the nearest paved road?" I asked.

"About seven miles," she yelled back.

My heart stopped. Seven miles! I'd die of heatstroke!

"Awful hot to be doing that, isn't it?" she chastised.

"Well, I've come this far," I countered. "I'm sort of committed now."

"If you don't watch out you will be committed," she muttered.

At that moment, the security of the rubber room would have been a welcome relief. That was where most people thought I belonged anyway for undertaking this little excursion.

Iberian Road Trip – A Scary Story

Iberian Road Trip – A Scary Story
by Christophe Rosseel

When I walked out of Spanish class, it wasn't the poster advertising an organised trip to Toledo that caught my eye. It was the Canadian girls standing around the don Quijote message board hollering 'roaaad triiiip!' Although a coach ride from Salamanca to Toledo and back could technically be considered a road trip, I was hoping for something more exciting. So I decided to organise my own.
I had no doubt that the good people at don Quijote, my Spanish school here in Salamanca, would organise a well laid out tour, and while I do like my Spanish classes well-organised, I prefer my road trips unforeseen and lawless. Coach trips are just a bit too middle of the road for me. Plus coaches make me nauseous (the tour guide yapping away in the microphone doesn't help much either).
I don't want to pass judgment though. Few people annoy me more than those horribly contemptuous, 'authentic' backpackers telling you how you should travel, belittling you for owning a guidebook or washing your hair. Not me. Nor will I force local delicacies down my fellow travellers' throats when they really feel like eating Chinese food or Burger King. Want to take a picture of you holding up the Tower of Pisa? Be my guest.
We all have our favourite way of travelling but it really isn't necessary to bother other people with it. Nevertheless, I would like to impose my travel mantra on you: road tripping – the real deal. All you need is a car, music and sunglasses…
The quintessential road trip vehicle is obviously a minivan. Preferably one with a big-ass spoiler and a knob on the wheel. Unfortunately, I do not yet own a black 1983 G-series GMC (uhuh, the A-team van). So my friend and I went to a car rental place instead. Alas, no flower-power Volkswagens were available either, so we eventually settled for a less charismatic yet practical new Renault.
Music is at least as important as the car. Do not, and I cannot stress this enough, embark on a road trip in Southern Europe relying on local radio to entertain you. Bring CDs, and plenty of 'em, or you'll go stark raving mad. You'll want to keep the entire car happy so don't be selfish. Think mainstream.
Our playlist went a little something like this. Plenty of guitars and classic rock for on the highway: Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and the like. I always bring some acid jazz or other lounge tunes for serious chilling. Saint-Germain always does the trick. For dead moments it's nice to have a couple of lame sing-alongs that are so bad they actually become funny. I particularly love to hate Yes sir, I can Boogie, Do you really want to hurt me, So lonely, Papa Chico or anything by Vanilla Ice.
Don't forget some cool music for cruising by the beachside. Picture it: one driver's tanned arm out the window, shades on your nose and Don Omar's Dale con dale cranked to the max. By the way, here's a tip to make traffic jams more interesting. When no cars are moving, open all windows. Everybody but the driver get out of the car. Put on some loud party music (my personal favorite in this case: Vitalic's Poney part 2). Get on the roof of your van (what do you care, it's a rental...) and start partying like it's 2999. Try and get the commuters to join you. The look on their faces is priceless.
Now you're good to go. You could make an itinerary first if you want to... I prefer just asking around on where to go. Planning simply creates expectations the actual experience has to live up to. Chance adventures are that much easier to enjoy.
Friday finally arrived and my partner in crime Sebastian and I picked up our fellow trippers (Fabienne from Antwerp, Belgium and Jessica from New Haven, Connecticut) in our brand-new MPV. After the all too obvious multi-purpose-vehicle jokes it was time to decide where we'd go. We didn't have to talk for long about a destination. Clearly we would drive off into the sunset, i.e. in the direction of Portugal. The first couple of days were random but very enjoyable. Good food, mediocre alcohol, uncalled-for dancing etc. During daytime we didn't avoid the cultural sights although we probably spent more time at the beaches to shake off our hangovers. The scenery in Portugal was breathtaking. Ironically, the many forest fires seem to have made the Portuguese landscape even more attractive, at least from a distance. The withered trees ranged in colour from gold red to pitch black, contrasting with the bright green of new growth.

Fall was catching up with us so we turned our back on the beaches and headed inland towards the mountains. We ended up in the strangest of mountain towns: Bragança. Although not at all a tourist hot spot, it does have an awe-inspiring, 13th-century fortress. That's not why I'll remember it, though. Bragança was the spitting image of Royston Vasey, the English village from the comedy series The League of Gentlemen where ugly, inbred locals molest and eventually kill innocent passers-by.
We asked the first local we saw for directions to our hostel. A big smile appeared on his face, he opened the door, squeezed his burly body into the back of the car and insisted on showing us the castle first. Scruffy-looking and reeking of liquor (among other things) he introduced himself as Ramiro, owner of the castle. He promised to give us an amazing tour. He seemed harmless enough; with his placid smile and doglike eyes he almost looked like the village idiot.
He apparently wasn't. When we arrived at the castle Ramiro pulled out a set of keys and opened the gate. 'No problem, maybe he's the janitor', we said to ourselves while we set out on our tour. The guy we had figured for a well-intentioned simpleton was now lecturing us on European history. He momentarily disrupted his discourse to take a colossal sword from the wall. Gazing at the blade as if it were a woman, he told us it was a 15th century bastard-sword and then proceeded to wield it with amazing agility. Maybe it was just the sight of the castle at dusk but suddenly, Ramiro's smile didn't seem so placid anymore ... When our guide, still carrying the huge sword, insisted we'd follow him below to the fortress' dungeons, we simultaneously started muttering protests while backing away from the stairs: 'Desculpe Ramiro, we are all getting really hungry...' 'Besides, we have to arrive at the hostel before eight...' 'Thank you so much for the tour, though.' 'We'll be back tomorrow, for sure!' We practically ran out of the place.
It may have been our heightened self-consciousness but we felt like the entire village was staring and pointing at us. We did our best to ignore the glares and continued to the only hostel in town, where the chills did not cease. By now we were psyched up and seeing ghosts everywhere.
'You are not locals' the clerk stated. Clearly, there was no fooling this guy. We slowly explained him that, not being locals, we had come to this pension looking for a place to stay the night. He nodded understanding. When we offered him our passports, he shook his head and smilingly said: 'Don't worry about it, I'll get them later.' I heard Fabienne break into sobs behind me. 'We are not Americans...' I began in a misguided attempt to fraternise with the clerk. No reaction. 'Can you recommend a good restaurant?' I tried. 'Yes, we have an excellent restaurant right here,' was all he said. Somehow nobody felt like eating at the hostel so Sebastian and I ran for take-out pizza and Porto while the girls barricaded themselves in the rooms. Seb, as always looking at the bright side of life, laid out the game plan for the night. After all, the whole thing had provided us with an excellent excuse to keep the girls company.
We did feel stupid though, waking up the next morning. No one had been poisoned or stabbed to death. Bragança was no Royston Vasey. Like little kids, we had let ourselves be frightened by some eccentric castle owner. And of course the villagers had been staring; they had just seen four flustered tourists dashing out of their castle at nightfall. Word of the weird gringos had probably spread to the pension before we even arrived. You are not locals, indeed.
And so, shamefaced and tired, we got in our car and headed back to Salamanca, contemplating our road trip. On the stereo Lynard Skynyrd were giving their best. Sweet home Salamanca!

Diving With Elephants

Diving With Elephants

Diving With Elephants

When I e-mailed some friends a few days ago with the subject "Diving with Elephants" it certainly caught their attention. They all know that underwater I've seen sharks, turtles, manta rays and many other species of marine life but elephants? What is that all about? After reading the first few lines all became clear as the story of Phuket's new marine park unfolded.

Amazing Thailand

It was the third dive of the day and our boat, the Greta, had moved from the fantastic dive sites of Racha Noi island to it's bigger brother, Racha Yai. Unfortunately that day we hadn't seen the big stuff we were hoping for a.k.a. mantas and sharks, but were far from disappointed after a couple of superb dives with excellent visibility. With the sun starting to drop it was time to decide where to end the day's trip.
With me on the boat was my sister-in-law and current divemaster in training, Oor (picture left) who came up with the brilliant idea of visiting Phuket's latest underwater attraction, the Phuket Diving Park. I had dived the park a week earlier and had since been telling everyone what a bizarre experience I had had. With the tour leader , Owen, more than happy with the suggestion we pointed the captain in the right direction and off we went.
The park itself is located just on the edge of Siam Bay on the northern end of Racha Yai island. Its creation came about on the suggestion of the Thai government as a way of attracting divers back to Thailand after the tsunami. With some reefs suffering bad damage from the giant waves four new underwater parks were created around Thai diving hot spots including Phuket. The park consists of a number of concrete,fibre glass and metal structures placed on a clear sand patch at a depth of 18 metres, the perfect depth for certified divers and those on the last dives of their open water courses. With a mooring marking the site descents are easy - just pull yourself down the line and there is the park right in front of you.

Park and Ride

As it happened Oor was taking her Diver Propulsion Vehicle specialty so we grabbed our underwater scooters and off we went to explore. As we reached the line the first thing we came across were a bunch of hollow concrete cubic frames, absolutely perfect for buoyancy practice and even more perfect for us to motor in and out of on our scooters. We could tell already that this was going to be a great dive. After half a dozen loop-the-loops we then spotted a rather bizarre silhouette about 10 metres off to the south. Off we zoomed directly towards one of the strangest thing I have ever seen under water, a three metre high elephant!
Round and round we went and then Oor broke off and motored straight underneath it between the elephant's legs obviously being careful with her buoyancy to ensure that she didn't touch it. Later on I asked why she had done this and she explained that in Thai culture it is considered good luck to pass underneath an elephant. I guess you would have to be pretty lucky to pass underneath an elephant without getting squashed! At least the probabilities were on our side here as this elephant's feet were securely moored to the ground!
Further to the south we saw another elephant, this one with its trunk raised giving a photo opportunity too good to miss. Off Oor went, DPV in hand, ready to pose. Unfortunately with the sun dropping late afternoon the light was not the best for photography but it's amazing what can be done nowadays with a little bit of photo editing!

The next main attraction was a Thai sala, a traditional pavilion like structure used country wide as a resting place for workers and visitors alike. This building had the perfect design to enable us to practice yet another swim-through experience on our scooters!
The final main attraction is a replication of the entrance to a temple with a couple of yaks standing guard. Yaks are a class of nature ghosts or demons, originally from Hindu mythology, that are often found at the entrances to Buddhist temples. Their role is to protect the temple from evil spirits or anyone in general wanting to carry out bad deeds within the temple itself.

Back To Reef-ality

Having had great entertainment from the underwater statues we ended the dive by heading over sand for a short distance to the main reef. Consisting almost entirely of staghorn, blue and lobe pore corals we saw a surprising amount of interesting marine species. In the sand you can see blue-spotted stingrays often with just eyes and tail protruding up. We also came across one of my favourite types of pipefish, the bent stick pipefish, a curious looking creature that really does resemble a bent stick! As we swam over the reef itself we were joined by a large school of Forster's barracuda, a smaller species of barracuda than the norm, but very curious. It was a good ten minutes before they got bored of us and swam off in another direction. Ending the dive in the shallowest part of the reef at about 5 metres deep we spent the safety stop with a group of sergeant majors, a colourful damsel fish with yellow, blue and white markings all over their bodies.
Back on the boat, having packed away the gear, we spent the journey home relaxing in the sun and eating pancakes! This is an added bonus of the boat that we were on that day, the Greta, who supply their special pancakes on all three dive days. Then it was back to the pier, a smooth journey home eager to view the day's photos and looking forward to the next chance to going diving with elephants!

The Amazing Antarctica

The Amazing Antarctica
by Diane Ross

Antarctica Adventure

My trip to Antarctica did not start out well. I had a couple hour layover in Miami. About a half hour before my flight left Miami I got the stomach flu. Throwing up in an airplane bathroom on an eight hour flight is not a good time. We landed in Buenos Aires early in the morning and I spent the day in the Hotel room. I was feeling better around dinner time (well dinner time here in the states) and went out to find dinner. I found a nice looking restaurant and asked when the would open. They didn't even open until 8 P.M. and it was only around 5 P.M. I ended up eating a very expensive ham sandwich in the hotel bar.
The next day we went to a Gaucho ranch. We got to ride horses on Argentinean saddles. They look like they are made out of lama skin. Extremely soft and comfortable. It is very weird to be able to fell the horse move through the saddle. We were served a bar-b-que dinner and watched some traditional dances afterward. (One of the performers was the ugliest women I have ever seen.)
From Buenos Aires we went to Ushuaia. This is the southern most city in the world (not to be confused with the southernmost town which is a little further south). This is not a place I would want to live. Not because of anything wrong with the city itself, but it was snowing on the first day of summer. Winter must be a real treat.
After a couple days of exploring around Ushuaia we boarded our boat and headed out across the Drake Passage. It takes two days to sail across to Antarctica and 25 foot seas made it anything but enjoyable. Most of the passengers were sea sick including me. My father sailed through just fine. He was in the Canadian Navy during World War II and claims he has never been sea sick. He also believes that sea sickness is more mental than physical. He may be right but my mind can not control my stomach.
Antarctica is beautiful, rugged country. We sailed through one channel that was full of icebergs. I was laying in my bunk and I kept hearing a strange noise. It sounded like we were sailing into chunks of ice. I went up on deck only too discover we were. It was around midnight, but it was still light out. All around us was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. The roll of film I shot there was my favorite of the whole trip. Unfortunately I misplaced it and I haven't been able to find it, though I have looked for it many times. There is really no way to describe what it was like. It is just something you have to experience.
We spent four days going from penguin rookery to penguin rookery. Penguins make nests out of small rocks. You would think from watching them that there was a shortage of rocks. They are constantly stealing rocks from each others nests. Personally I think they just don't want to go very far to get their rocks. There are more than enough to go around but it is easier to grab one from a neighboring nest. They keep their eggs warm by cradling them between their feet and their belly. This is probably the real reason they steal the rocks. They don't want to leave their eggs or chicks unattended.
Penguins also don't go very far to, how shall I put this, relieve themselves. They just raise their posteriors and let fly. As a result their nests tend to look like the spin art you made as a kid. (You know. Where you put a card in a machine that spins it around and you squirt paint on it.) The penguins themselves also get stripped by their neighbors. Speaking of which, penguin rookeries are not the most pleasant smelling places.

In addition to the penguins we also saw numerous sea birds, some seals and a couple whales. I was hoping to see more whales. I had seen many humpbacks in Alaska and thought I would see them here too. As I am writing this I have finally realized why that was unlikely. The water is probably too fresh. All the glaciers and icebergs melting. Even in Alaska you don't see many whales in water surrounded by glaciers.
Two more days back across the Drake Passage. The seas are calmer and I only feel queasy on the way back. Then a long flight home and the trip is over.

The "Fishing Village"

The "Fishing Village"
by Kristina
The Vietnamese fishing village is said to be a good option as a break from "temple overload". The Tonle Sap lake, which is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, rises and falls with the yearly monsoon tides. During the monsoon season (May to October) the Mekong river rises and actually reverses its flow back into the lake, casusing the lake to more than double in size. The lake provides most of the country's fish as well.
The fishing community has it's houses either on top of boat hulls or in the form of small shacks which sit on stilts. As the tide rises, the entire community packs up their homes and moves to higher ground. If they did not, they would be stranded out in the middle of the lake, or under water. As we got closer, we could see many houses, not much more than sticks and boards, literally being moved on the back of a truck, to places further inland due to the rising of the water. Once out on the water, we would also see boats being tugged inland toward the shallower water.

We arrived at an area set up just for tourists to take boat rides out onto the lake. There had to be at least 50 empty boats waiting for customers. Since Ponheary set up everything in advance, we did not need to haggle with the many people who wanted our business. Phall brought us directly to the boat, which, as it turned out, we had to ourselves. The boat sat at least 16 in wooden chairs set on the deck. Our fare was $15 total, for the two of us (Phall again staying with his car), and the trip took a little over two hours. This is overpriced according to the LP guidebook, but the book is out of date. Plus, if we'd had more people with us, my guess is that the price would have been the same. The trip was well worth the money.
The boat captain pushed us out of his space in the canal, much like a Venetian gondolier. He had a difficult time maneuvering the large boat through the shallow water and the reeds. The further we got, the deeper the water, and the wider the channel became. I don't know why I had expected the "village" to be out on the lake, but in fact, it lined the sides of a small tributary. He motored slowly along and we had an excellent opportunity to take it all in. We were passed a few times by quicker boats, crowded with more people, but I'm not sure how they could enjoy the scenery while going so fast.
Along the way, we saw all the trappings of a regular, land locked village. There was a school, a billiards hall, markets, agriculture and aquaculture, and many homes, all floating atop variously sized boats. Some of the markets reminded me of the produce trucks that ply the streets of Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles. These were small boats, filled with the basic necessities of life (bottles of fish sauce, produce, plastic baskets, etc.) paddled about from houseboat to houseboat, usually by a solo female proprietor. The farming techniques were quite interesting as well. We could see that some families had planted vegetables on a sort of floating island or in pots on rafts along side their boats. There was also some sort of aquaculture (fish farming) going on in large, cage covered barges.
When we finally reached the mouth of the river, the boat's captain took us out onto the lake and turned off the motor. It was a bit unnerving, since he did not speak English and we weren't sure why we were stopped. Was he going to ask us for more money? Was it a scam? My traveler's paranoia was suddenly in full force. Fortunately, he spoke a bit of French and David was able to determine that this was part of the "tour". To appreciate the vastness of the lake, one had to sit in silence on the calm water.
On our way back in from the lake, the boat made the standard "restaurant/gift shop" stop any good tour makes. Though we weren't really interested, we got out of the boat anyway. At the restaurants on both sides of the river mouth were huge birds, some sort of stork I think, sitting on top of cages with more big birds inside. I'm not sure why they were there, but I think they were fed to keep them there for the benefit of the tourists. Inside the shop I bought a bottle of water and noticed the shop owner had a pet monkey. Forgive me, I do not know what kind of primate it was. Maybe a gibbon? Anyway, I was torn between my horror of someone keeping it as a "pet" (though common here in South East Asia) and wanting to play with it and check it out. He was quite a tiny fellow, not even as big as our cats. I didn't attempt to pick him up (not after what happened to me with the monkey at the Bangkok Zoo back in '98) but I did get a couple of photos.
After our busy morning we stopped in town for lunch at Cafe Kampuccino. While standing outside reading their menu, we met a woman named Kim who said she'd eaten there before and that the food was very good. We invited her to sit with us and like any good travelers, got to hear her life story over lunch. Kim, a Canadian, was in Cambodia with the N.G.O., "Doctors Without Borders". She's stationed in a remote village and was in Siem Reap after spending 10 days traveling in Laos on her own. She was 6 months into a 9 month stay in Cambodia and it seemed like the stress of the job was quite high. Two other doctors that had started with her dropped out after 3 months and she was the only doctor left. Still, she didn't seem to have any regrets. She also confirmed something that Ponheary had told us, that there is no malaria in Siem Reap. Of course, the CDC still recommends the medicine, so, better safe than sorry, we decided to continue taking it, at least until the end of our trip.
In the afternoon we went for a traditional Khmer massage at Angkor Massage. The place is run by the blind and helps to support and give jobs to the blind community in Siem Reap. The cost is $3 per hour per person. We walked in and there were 8 or 10 massage tables set up side by side in a large room. We were asked to change clothes and given pajamas, but I declined as I was already wearing loose clothes. Each of us was assigned a masseuse, who was indeed blind, and asked to lie face down on the table. It was then that the torture began.
Let me begin by saying that I've had many a massage in my time. I've had traditional Thai, Balinese, Swedish, all different types of massage. Never have I had a more painful massage than in Siem Reap. Imagine someone taking their thumb and pressing it into the most tender part of your body, like the inside of your upper arm. This is the type of move that is taught to commandos to incapacitate people. Now, imagine the person taking all their body weight and putting it behind that thumb, again and again. It was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. All of my "ow!" exclamations did not seem to elicit any respite, just the occasional "sorry" and then more of the same. I'm not really sure why I didn't just get up and leave, but I guess I kept hoping it would get better. David, on the other hand, said his massage was excellent, and only hurt a little. Maybe I'm just too "sensitive". Oddly enough, afterward, I felt strangely good, if only a little bruised.

Next, we visited the artist's school, Les Chantiers Ecoles. Here, we saw how students from rural areas learn the ancient arts of stone and wood carving and painting. And of course, at the end was the obligatory visit to the gift shop. The quality was much better than what was available in the central market, but very expensive. Had I the money, I would have loved to purchase a giant stone buddha or angkor era goddess, but these were in the $300-$500 US range.
After a trip back to the market where we bought several more silk scarves and a couple "Danger:Land Mine!" T-shirts (of questionable taste if you ask me) for gifts, we went to the Red Piano, a popular bar/restaurant where we had an early dinner. Tomorrow we're off to Phnom Penh....

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