Ancient Side: Visiting from Alanya

I just can’t get enough of ancient ruins. So it’s lucky that Turkey has so many of them.

The freezing, rainy conditions of the day before had been swept out to sea leaving a glorious sunny Sunday, and almost wishing I’d worn shorts for our trip to the ancient seaside town of Side.

Walking through Side from where the bus dropped us on the highway, it seemed like a peaceful little town with a slow pace of life (at least in January). Soon, the stones of ancient Side started cropping up in the parks and along the sides of the streets, as though the modern town exits within the old.

We came across the Collonaded Street, blissfully deserted on this sunny January Sunday (counting my blessings not to be here in the height of the summer). Badly ruined after thousands of years.


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Artisans d’Angkor – Angkor Silk Farm, Siem Reap

I usually choose silk yarn when I crochet hats, scarves and gloves but I never though much about how the yarn itself is made. So I spent an hour one morning riding my bike out to the Angkor Silk Farm, part of an initiative to revive Cambodian skills and art following the Khmer Rouge civil war.

It was International Children’s Day so the farm was really quiet with many staff having taken the day off but there was still someone on hand to show me the process of growing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing and weaving silk.

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Virachey National Park Eco-Trek

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Trekking is a big draw in Ratanakiri and the main thing that brought me there. It was also a lot more expensive because I was travelling solo. It seemed that every person I met in Ban Lung was just coming back from a trek or heading to Laos.

So headed to the government office of Virachey National Park Eco-Tourism Information Centre. The national park guides employed by this office are the only ones allowed to run treks into the national park, although there is more forest and jungle outside the official boundaries. The Centre’s two day trek was the cheapest was to go solo at the ‘bargain’ price of $123. Still, it was why I was in Ratanakiri in the first place. My guide and I also agreed that we would walk the three day distances (the first day of the three day trek involves no walking whatsoever on Day One so I figured I could handle it), spending the first night by the river in the jungle (rather than a homestay) and walking to a waterfall the next day before returning to the village.

Oh, how disappointed I was going to be.

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Minivan from Siem Reap to Ban Lung direct

I never thought I’d look forward to a nine hour car journey but that’s exactly what happened.

After much debate, I decided to head to Ratanakiri for my King’s birthday break from school (six glorious days sure beats Queen Elizabeth’s birthday holiday!).

Unfortunately, Ratanakiri is on the other side of the country, a 14 bus ride away. Fortunately, my friends (Emily and Ethan again are my guides and fountains of knowledge) used to live in Ratanakiri and knew of a bus or minivan which made the trip between Ban Lung and Siem Reap using a newly paved road, via Stung Treng, slicing off at least 5 hours.

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The Costs – A Week in Laos

I thought it might be useful to give a breakdown on what we’re spending our money on so that you can plan and save for your own travels. We’re on a pretty tight budget and watching the pennies so you can easily spend more than this. We’re travelling as a couple so things like accommodation can be cheaper than travelling alone. We do, however, require our hotels to have halfway descent wifi and a working space. We’re also working on the road so we’re not necessarily having as many of the ‘tourist experiences’ as others might.

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