Santa Is Not Just A Fat Man In A Red Suit

Road Trip! Raelene and I blast out of Anaheim and hit the road, or should I say we rather sluggishly weave our way through peak hour traffic on the Los Angeles freeways.

An issue with the car hire company, Alamo, has us taking a side trip via LAX to try and sort out double charging of my credit card.  Very frustrating, obviously the customer service girls don’t give a hoot about the issue and the extra $1,200 charged to my credit card won’t be resolved until we return the car.  Inconveniently this means that I am short the same amount of money on my card.  Cheaper doesn’t always mean best option.  Mind you the Nissan Altima we are driving is really comfy.

We swing by Santa Monica and more importantly we take a stroll along Santa Monica Pier with its red and yellow Ferris wheel towering above hundreds of tourists.  The Pier has a full on amusement park with plenty of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.   There are magnificent views of Malibu and the South Bay and of course it’s the “end of the line for Route 66”.

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Santa Monica Beach

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Santa Monica Pier

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“End Of The Line” Route 66 – Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica Pier

On the road again and we headed towards Santa Barbara, (we’ve seen signs to Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Santa Ana) we decided to wing it and roll into town without booked accommodation and we discover a little gem right on the waterfront, Casa Del Mar.

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Casa Del Mar – Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara Foreshore

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Santa Barbara Beach

A wander along the waterfront and we find a pizza restaurant called Rusty’s for dinner and a couple of Bud Lites … pepperoni pizza American style.

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Bud Lites … yes please!

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Pepperoni …. Thanks Rusty

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A Well Earned Thirst

 

 

 

Slow Shoe Shuffle

Day Two of the Disneyland / California Adventure park hopping experience.

You will be proud of us today we actually arrived at the park early to get there on 9 am opening.  However, we were greeted with thousands of other folks with the same idea.  Bag checks, waiting, waiting, and all those prams … hundreds of prams.

We finally make our way through the gates and walk briskly towards Cars Land to get our fast passes and perhaps a not so long wait for Radiator Springs Racers.  Alas we came to an abrupt holt with a throng of surging people and park attendants telling us there was filming in progress … how rude, then we find out that it was probably Chanel 7’s Morning Show with Larry Emdur and co. who might have been the cause … more rude!

Off to Starbucks for my new favourite Caramel Machiatto (and yes of course I want it hot) whilst we wait for the park to properly open.

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Caramel Machiatto

Now we are off and running or shuffling as my feet and ankles are still sore from the past two days of constant walking.

Radiator Springs Racers, Rooting Tooting Shooting Gallery (I beat Raels on this one), Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railway all accomplished.  Mind you there were so many rides closed for repair or refurbishment that it was disappointing.

So I’ve been to Disneyland twice now and Raelene has been four times and we don’t think we would go again as we struggle with the crowds and the waiting times. That doesn’t seem to deter the Americans as you can see them with their lanyards with a pin for each year that they come to Disneyland, they seem to be obsessed with their pins, lanyards, hats and matching t-shirts.

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Butte Gas Anyone?

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Another Great Day At Disneyland

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Where’s Harry?

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Harry Potter World

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This OWL Needs To Send Some Mail

Park Hoppers, Heart Stoppers!

Still recovering from jet lag and a huge day enjoying the sights and sounds of Universal Studios, Raelene and I buy a two day Disneyland and Calfornia Adventure Park Hopper.   We had great intentions of making a huge day of it but slept in and arrived at California Adventure around 11 am and made our way straight to Cars Land.  I couldn’t help crack a smile as we wandered through the streets of Radiator Springs.  If you are a “Cars” fan you will know what I mean with every detail taken into consideration.

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Cars Land – Radiator Springs

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Cars Land – Radiator Springs

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Cars Land – “Red” The Fire Truck

For big and little kids alike we are all there to ride the Radiator Springs Racers.  Raels and I got our fast pass for later in the day … 6:30 pm and at that point we had great expectations of using it (so optimistic of us).  Not to be halted we decided to go single rider which is basically us filling the car of some random stranger, in my case an Asian couple who giggled through the whole ride.

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Single Rider … Radiator Springs Racers

If you want to avoid the long wait for this ride try the single rider option, so much quicker and let’s face it, f you can’t enjoy it on your own there’s something wrong with you … I love it, and it’s best ride in the park.

Not to be beaten we had lunch in an Mexican inspired restaurant and enjoyed another huge American lunch.

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Tacos … don’t mind if I do

So in true park hopper form we hop ourselves over to Disneyland (the happiest place on earth) … that is until we encounter the sea of prams and screaming kids, there was no respite from the constant push, shove and waiting for everything.   Perhaps my patience was wearing thin like my stamina.

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Disneyland … overcast and overcrowded

We give up and head back to the hotel for much needed rest and to recharged for part two of our Disneyland adventure.

Universal Language … Fun!

They say the early bird gets the worm and ignoring all well meaning advice on how important it is to arrive early to any theme park we arrived at Universal Studios at midday.  But traveling across time zones, sleeping in new places, shaking off jet lag and the thought of fighting morning peak-hour traffic, had these old birds taking it easy today.  We took a slight detour via Walmart to get the all important Tom Tom for all our LA driving pleasure and of course some traveller’s essentials.

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Universal Studios

We decided to pay $30 for parking instead of the $20 option.  It was the best $10 spent all day as my feet, ankles, knees and hips thanked me for not having to endure the ridiculously long walk back to that distant cheapskate carpark.

We had a great day, Universal Studios is amazing it has something for everyone.  Thrilling rides for the adventurous, and a chance to see where movies and TV shows are made.

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We Are Ready For An Ice Cold Duff!

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We Had A Krusty Burger For Lunch

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Two Lisa’s and a Bart

The best part of my day and a MUST do is the Universal Studios Lot Tour?  You will notice so many recognisable behind-the-scenes TV and movie sets and buildings like:

  • The plane crash from War of the Worlds,
  • Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives,
  • Bates Motel from Psycho, and
  • good old Jaws pops up to say hi

It’s an hour long tour and perfect way to sit down and be entertained after walking around so much and probably my favourite part of the day.

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Universal Studios Lot Tour

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Universal Studios Lot Tour

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Universal Studios Lot Tour

Make sure you have comfortable shoes because you’ll need them, my Sketchers best purchase ever!

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A Familiar Scene From Jaws

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War Of The Worlds Plane Crash Scene

United States of Whatever

The Crimson Koala is off on another adventure, this time with travel companion, Raelene.

Sunday 7th May we embarked on our 18 day USA California / Nevada road trip and adventure.  Leaving Melbourne at 12:30 pm we take of on our Air New Zealand flight bound for Los Angeles via Auckland.  First time flying Air New Zealand and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Ground crew – extremely helpful. Onboard crew – really pleasant and professional.  We decided to try the “sky couch” … Three seats, two fat ladies (that’s us) four new release movies, one screaming child and approx five hours sleep.  The extra room was great but not sure I would go this option next time, I think I would save some more coin for Premium Economy.

Auckland’s short stop had Raels and I enjoying the local brew Speights in a packed airport bar with travellers passing through. Hello and goodbye New Zealand.

Flight NZ6 flew us to our final destination … LAX (Los Angeles). We made it through customs relatively unscathed:  e-passport scan (facial and finger printing); customs check (facial scan and finger printing for Raelene only), baggage pickup, and final airport check before they let us through the final door … California we are here!

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Melbourne Airport

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Auckland Airport … Speights Refreshment

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We pickup a hire car and Anaheim beckons with a shower and some much need sleep.

“Suspect” Shuttle to Siem Reap and Sunset

We leave French Colonial enspired Battambang today for the excitement and anticipation of Siem Reap.  Boarding a minibus / shuttle we try to cram our cases in the back amongst what appears to be bags of wheat or corn.  A non-English speaking driver tries to explain to us what the bags are, we nod and still have no idea.

French Inspired Architecture

French Inspired Architecture

Typical French Inspired Buildings

Typical French Inspired Buildings

Battambang and Siem Reap are only 77 km apart but the trip can take up to four hours as there is not direct road and trying to explain the required toilet stop falls on deaf ears so we cross our legs and hope for the best.  We make a bizarre side stop to drop of the bag of unknown origin and continue with the journey.

Roadside Stop

Roadside Stop

On the outskirts of Siem Reap it becomes obvious that the driver has no idea where we are going and what hotel we are to be dropped off at.  There is nervous laughter and “yes, yes” as we drive aimlessly around Siem Reap.  A phone call to our previous hotel, some rough translation has us finally going in the right direction.

We arrive at the Royal Crown Hotel our lodging for the next six days.

RCH

After a quick freshening up we all decide to explore the local market and try some of the local cuisine for lunch.  After lunch we visit the John McDermott Gallery to view his well known photography which focused on the temples and cultural heritage sites.

mcdermott-gallery

We take a tuktuk out to Agkor Wat.  It is the most famed of all Cambodia’s temples and was built as a spiritual home for the Hindu god Vishnu.  Apparently the great temples of Cambodia have been hidden in the jungle for centuries and the ruins of Angkor where only discovered in 1861.  Once a “lost civilisation” it certainly has been found now with hundreds and thousands of people visiting these ruins every year.

Angkor Wat Before Sunset

Angkor Wat Before Sunset

We wander around the temple briefly and focus on the sunset this evening.  We will be returning many times over the next few days but every moment counts as this 12th century “temple-mountain” is so vast with its architectural triumphs and bas-relief galleries that line many walls with tales of Cambodian history and legend.

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Exiting Angkor Wat

Exiting Angkor Wat

Battambang, Bamboo Train and Bats

Busy, busy, busy in Battambang today.  We head off early for a full day of adventure.  Whilst driving out of Battambang we come across this huge statue at the entrance to this city … Ta Dumbong.

Ta Dumbong

Ta Dumbong

Apparently, Battambang is named after the legend of a farmer who found a magic stick and used it to usurp the then-king. The king’s son ran off to the woods and became a monk.

In the meantime, Ta Dambong had a dream that a holy man on a white horse would vanquish him, so he decided it would be a good idea to have all the holy men rounded up and put to death.

When the prince, now a practicing monk, heard he was required to go into town a hermit came up and gave him a white horse. When the prince got on the horse he discovered it could fly and he flew into town. Upon seeing this holy man on a flying white horse Ta Dambong realised his dream was coming true, in an attempt to kill the ‘holy man’, he threw his magic stick at him, but seeing this fail he fled the area. Neither he nor the magic stick was ever seen again … I know the story didn’t make sense to me either … it is a nice statue though.

Next stop … The Bamboo Train.  What a journey, the train runs from O Dambong to O Sra Lav via half an hour of clicks and clacks along warped, misaligned rails and old bridges built by the French.

Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori ) – consists of a 3m-long wood frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultra-light bamboo, that rests on two barbell-like bogies, the rear one is connected by fan belts to a little motor.   We pile on and set off to the end of the line, it picks up quite a bit of speed (up to 50km/h) as we hang on.

Bamboo Train

Bamboo Train

What happens on this single-track line when another train comes from the opposite way is genius … one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so the other can pass. The rule is that whichever car has fewer passengers has to give way.

Loading Train On The Tracks

Loading Train On The Tracks

At the end of the line you are bombarded by stall holders who want you to buy there silk scarves, t-shirts, bracelets, etc. I settled for a iced coffee in a can  from a very interesting chap.

This Charming Chap Sold Us Coffee

This Charming Chap Sold Us Coffee

We head back to O Dambong to meet our Tuktuk drivers.

Give Way!

Give Way!

From the Bamboo Train our trusty Tuktuk drivers take us to Phnom Sampov but along the way you just never know what you might see.

Local Farmer Watering His Crops

Local Farmer Watering His Crops

Whilst enjoying some of the sights and sounds of the Battambang our Tuktuk driver made us this stylish hat made from lotus leaves to avoid the suns hot rays … I don’t think this fashion is going to catch on any time soon.

Stylish Headwear

Stylish Headwear

We arrive at Wat Banan, an Angkor era temple.  The 500 steep steps up to the temple are supposedly worth the effort as there are stunning 360 degree panoramic views from the top but my injured knee means this is as far as I got.

Wat Banan Steps

Wat Banan Steps

We have lunch at a local cafe which is surprisingly delicious even though it only costs $1.50.

After lunch we now take the Tuktuk to Phnom Sampov, a striking limestone mountain and important religious site for all Cambodians. It has a Wat and many stupas and shrines.

One Of The Many Stupas

One Of The Many Stupas

Phnom Sampov is also known as the Killing Caves a place of beauty, turned tragedy, turned beauty once more.

Whilst the descent into the cave is quite beautiful with rocks covered in green vegetation and low-hanging vines, once down in the large cave it becomes apparent at what happened there.  At the bottom of the stairway there is a memorial full of human bones.  At the top of the cave is the natural skylight which the Khmer Rouge marched people to, lining them up, then bludgeoning them and letting their bodies fall into the darkness below.

The Killing Cave

The Killing Cave

We finish this huge day by watching the millions of bats making their way out of the “bat cave”.

The Bat Cave

The Bat Cave