All posts by Karen

It’s been a long long time since we posted here…’s been a year since my son, Kyle, died on his motorbike….and time for me to rejoin the living!  

The past few weeks I’ve felt a pull to try and learn to ride for myself again…this time with a more suited bike and a better instructor/shadow….my husband! If I can’t do it this time, then I shall have to accept it really is that I’m just not a rider. But Vince assures me I can do it….absolute beginner and baby steps….and you know me, I’ll give it my best shot! Who knows BABYCAKES may just make it to South America for our next big trip (date unknown due to money and time at the moment).

I bought him on 21.2.2017 but he had to be lowered, due to me being vertically challenged, so we collected him yesterday. He is a little 2015 Kawasaki Z250SL, only 7 months on the road with 2900k on the clock…and in pristine condition, a steal at just $3900 plus $150 for the lowering links (New is $6099). He looks brand new and I have no intention of dropping him and messing up his beautiful Candy Burnt Orange paintwork!

Vince rode him down the road to our friends, Tam and Zander, at Overlander Adventure Equipment, as I wanted to see if he could be kitted out for long distance travel, and of course he can be! But that’s down the track, I have to crawl before I walk before I run. But Vince did buy me the little tank bag to start off….and who knows I have a birthday next month….Hmmmmm. LOL

I had told the ANIMAL about her little brother before we left to collect him, like most siblings, she didn’t seem too impressed and was strangely quiet. But later in the day, at my first lesson in the school carpark, when she saw her Mummy struggling and scared, she softened and has taken her little brother under her wing now! It was a bit of a harrowing experience, but I managed to stay upright, not drop the bike and to ride it the length of the car park and stop. And so the adventure begins..

If I do get my license, it doesn’t mean that I won’t still ride two up on the ANIMAL, her pillion seat is mine alone and always calls me! She will always be our first born, the realisation of our dreams, our home for 10 months on the road and even my ambulance in Thailand when I broke my arm. Our big girl will always be our baby too!

What a fantastic weekend of old friends, new friends and inspirational overland travellers. I now can’t wait to get back on the road again asap…..South America here we come…….well maybe in a little bit!

I am always impressed and amazed at the wonderful camaraderie between bikers and overland travellers…it is a beautiful community Vince and I are privileged to be part of.

Many thanks to the organisers for all their dedication and handwork in putting together this excellent meeting.

A very special thanks to the incredible generosity of a number of sponsors who provided both major and door prizes – so many that all 110 in attendance received something. These included an all expense paid trip to the Philippines by “Bikes Abroad”, a Trek II Sleeping bag from Tam and Xander from “Overland Adventure Equipment”, Backpacks filled with merchandise by Aaron Zinsli from “South Pacific Motorcycle Tours (NZ)”, Coffee Table books from “Steve Fraser Photography” (National Geo and Ducati), 2 First Aid Course places by Janine from “Rider Down”, a Handmade African Mat from Alfa of “Africa on Two Wheels”, other sponsors included “Horizons Unlimited”, “Nevermind Tours” and “Overland Adventure Equipment”. Sorry, if I have missed anyone….thanks to ALL the generous sponsors.

It was a great opportunity for Vince and I to finally share some of our 10 month overseas trip with others and I dedicated my presentation to my son, Kyle, who I know will continue to ride with us in Spirit wherever we go.

Sorry…..It’s been a long time since we visited…but as many of you would know it’s been a really tragic year for our family…..first my son Kyle died abruptly ending our travels, then back home in Australia, both our fathers (John in Perth and Jock in Darwin) have been gravely ill (mine in ICU on life support after falling through a roof). Vince’s Mother, Christine, died quite suddenly and whilst he was with her in Perth I was with my Father in Darwin. As if all that was not enough, my daughter, Christina, also had an ectopic pregnancy and my deceased son’s baby, Cash, arrived… I’m sure you will understand when I say we have been otherwise occupied!
But we wanted to let you (our loyal blog and website followers) know that we are finally starting to work on our trip “stuff” and will both be presenting at the Horizons Unlimited Perth Western Australia Meeting next month…..we hope to see you all there……please come up and say hello as we would love to catch up.

Karen and Vince


We had planned to move on from Bangkok, into Malaysia and into KL where we had intended to fly the ANIMAL to Darwin, Australia. From there we would ride down to Uluru and then across to Southern Cross and meet our friends from Perth Motorbike and Sidecar Riders to escort us back into our home town of Perth around mid March…..that was the plan!

But a phone call this morning put an end to all of that…..I have worked through being diagnosed with an aggressive squamous cell carcinoma which needed surgery 5 days before we left to begin in London, chemo therapy on the road and adverse burns as a result needing to be under the hospital burns unit in Scotland,  a second lump in Iran that needed surgery, a breast lump that had to be surgically removed in India, and two broken bones that need surgery for titanium implants in Thailand……….it has been a challenging time…..but giving up and going home early was never an option for me……but today I have been flattened beyond belief…I have no fight left in me……I got the call every parent dreads…..last night (24.1.16) my son, Kyle, tragically passed away after hitting a pothole in the road on his motorbike and colliding with a tree…..three friends were with him and witnessed it but no one could do anything….his de facto is due to give birth in 7 weeks to his first child (a little boy) and now my son will never get to see his son…..I can’t accept it……I’m completely and utterly shattered…..Vince and I are going home to lay our son to rest. NO PARENT SHOULD HAVE TO DO THAT.

With help from Ivan at Bikes Abroad, the ANIMAL will get taken care of in Bangkok and sent home by sea now, to Perth. We are booked on the red eye, but direct flight, tomorrow night and we will be home by Wed 27th Jan morning……….the Adventure is abruptly over….family is more important and precious…..hug yours now!

Photos are from 26th Jan leaving Bangkok….

Today we tried to get breakfast at a local cafe which opened at 7.00am….but the owner informed us thats just when staff arrive there is no food until 7.30am…and we were due to be collected by our Tour Guide and Driver from Chang Thai Travel at 7.30am from our hotel….Bugger… quick thinking saw us round the corner for McDonalds!

Back at the hotel our Driver, Mr Ken, was already waiting for us and we were on our way….collecting our Guide, Miss Katie on the road. Our half day tour included air-conditioned private vehicle transport for the duration as well as pick up and drop off at our hotel.

We drove past rice paddies and salt fields along they way and we stopped off at the Maeklong Station Train Markets (Nicknamed: Talad Rom Hub which means the “umbrella pulldown market”). It is one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand, and is centred on the Maeklong Railway’s track. Whenever a train approaches, the awnings and shop fronts are moved back from the rails, to be replaced once the train has passed, this happens around 6 times each day. However, since May 2015 the station is closed for track renovations….they were due to be completed in Dec 2015 but are running behind schedule!

Next we stopped off at a “farmhouse” (quite touristy) where we saw how they make coconut brown sugar and coconut oil….quite and amazing process….the milk and oil come from inside the coconut whilst the sugar comes from the syrup that is made from the Coconut Flower before it fruits.
For a mere 3600THB in total, our trip took us to the 150 year old traditional, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market at klong Damnern Saduak in Ratchaburi province, about two hour drive from Bangkok. We had an exhilarating 30min ride in a narrow long-tailed speed boat through the marshes and stilt houses of the village where the locals still live (love our Ondansetron so we don’t get motion sickness!).

At this unique market we saw Thai style canoes laden with colourful, succulent fruits, vegetables, sweets and meats and we watched as the occupants gently ply their way through the canals. With the help of our Guide, Miss Katie, we even managed to partake of Chicken Noodle Soup, Fresh Coconut Juice and the No 1 must have Thai Dessert…..Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk and Mango….YUM! You could hire a paddle canoe for around 500THB but we decided to see the market by walking.

Whist walking we came across a guy with some snakes…..Vince was brave enough for 100THB to drape it around his neck….I was not convinced so I watched from a safe distance….but was eventually coerced into standing next to him for a photo and they made me hold it’s tale… face says it all….terrified! There was also a lady with a cute little thing that looked like a possum…but she said it was a kind of monkey….that’s much more my style!

We got dropped off at our hotel around 1.30pm…and we gave Miss Katie a tip (as she was so helpful in so many ways). We chilled for the afternoon doing chores such as photos, blogging and chasing up info on crating the ANIMAL home before heading out for some dinner at Terminal 21 Food Court.

This evening we had Gold Seats for the 8.00pm performance of Siam Niramit….an “ xtravaganza” with over 150 dancers and 500 costumes. There were three acts…

1 Journey in History…….The North (Ancient Kingdom of Lanna), The South Seas (Traders from OS), The Northeast – Issan (Heritage of the Khmer Civilisation) and the Central Plains (Ayutthaya the Mighty Capital).

2 Journey beyond Imagination (The three Worlds)…Fiery Hell, Mystical Himapaan, Blissful Heaven.

3 Journey through Joyous Festivals…Loy Krathong and Joyous Festivals such as Songkran and the Phitakhon Ghost Parade.

Whilst we are glad we went it certainly wasn’t in the realm of other shows we’ve seen in London. We also had to content with an Indian family behind us who had brought their children…who continually talked…..cried ……and kicked the back of my seat!

But on the up side I did get to feed an elephant named Tum Lah, she was gorgeous….and appeared later in the show. Vince got picked out of the audience in the last act to come and put a candle cake into the water to float away….quite special….my husband the STAR!

Today we planned to visit a couple of places, including the Sanctuary of Truth (Prasat Sut Ja Tum) which is a carved teak wood construction spanning some 105 metres high, one of a kind in the world. It is a strange fusion of religion, philosophy, art and culture……not a temple or palace even though it looks like one. The info I have read tells me the elaborate sculptures and cravings are a reflection of the Ancient Vision of Earth, Ancient Knowledge and Eastern Philosophy………..the seven creators man cannot be born and exist without: Heaven, Earth, Father, Mother, Moon, Sun and Stars. Deeply embedded into all of this are ancient Buddhist, Hindu, Brahman and other spiritual and philosophical elements. We can see it from the balcony of our hotel room.

But after we had an interesting breakfast of plain toast, coffee and “Milk Tea” ( a teacup filled with frothy milk, a small jug with hot water and an espresso cup with red tea – obviously not what I was expecting!) at The Little Duck Cafe, we decided to skip it as I was not feeling 100%. The owner/baker of the shop didn’t want us to go …offering for her to “present my cake”….made of Taro….I really didn’t feel like eating it but we didn’t want to offend so we sat back down and tried some….it was too die for! The most delicious cake I think I have ever had in my life…the sponge was perfect…so light and fluffy…and the filling so light and creamy…unbelievable!

After walking back, we chatted with the the hotel owner and her adult son for a while, as he had studied in Australia and Switzerland, before they helped us organise a taxi (150 THB) from our hotel to take us the 6km journey into Pattaya City and visit an unusual Art Gallery

Art in Paradise, is the first interactive art gallery in Thailand, by allowing visitors to be more than just a viewer, but become an art object themselves. You can actually be part of the art works. The place displays over 100 3D paintings in 10 different themed zones. Every painting looks so real that you have to move closer to see if they are actually painted on the flat surface and each piece allows visitors to interact creatively and pose for photos.

It cost us 400THB (A$20) each to get in. At the entrance we had to remove our shoes and this became clear as to why later when we started interacting with the art work. It was an amazing place…..Vince and I had such fun and hammed it up big time…..we easily spent about two hours and it was a very unique opportunity and experience. We found out later they have these also in Chaing Mai and Bangkok. We had a great time!

We left Art in Paradise, passing some of the “girly entertainment” places as we went to find somewhere for lunch….my tummy had really started playing up in the gallery…… resulting in two rushed visits to the ladies, so I wanted to try to play it safe….Vince spotted Burger King….. not proud of it but that’s where we ended up.

We caught a taxi bus (200THB) back to our hotel for a rest from the heat and more toilet visits for me…. before heading back to The Little Duck Cafe for another piece of  THAT cake…but she had sold out of the Taro so Vince tried the Chocolate Fudge and I had the Coconut Sponge…….OMG…..both to die for! This woman is an amazing baker, we have never tasted anything so good before….it was so good it even made me temporarily forget about the fruitcake I have been craving since our non event of a Christmas!

Unfortunately, it was almost a RUN back to our hotel for me…then into what must be the slowest lift on the planet up to our room on the 12th floor….it was excruciating…but luckily I just made it! Travelling in 3rd world countries has its price and my digestive tract has taken a severe beating off and on since Turkey! Cast Iron Vince remains unaffected by this latest bout….. so I don’t know what it was that’s set it off…..not fun!

So unable to be too far from the toilet it will be a quiet night in for me tonight and luckily it’s not a long ride to Bangkok tomorrow! Hope this passes soon, I feel like crap….literally!

We started with a quiet morning, breakfast at our new find Paddy Rice (Irish Pub), picking up my laundry from a local business and then waiting for pick up at the Lance Court Hotel (No42-44, Street 136, Sangkat Phsar Kandal I, Khan Duan Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ph (+855) 23 22 99 61 ) to go on our half-day Silk Island Lunch Cruise and Tour departing the wharf.

For US$22 each we got an all-you-can-eat lunch prepared fresh on board in stainless steel kitchens…including drinks, as we cruised the mighty Mekong River. We also sailed through the Tonle Sap.

Our English speaking tour guide took us to visit Silk Farms to see silk production from larvae to finished products, a modern temple (pagoda) that is a working monastery, and stroll by plantations.

We were collected by tuk tuk at 11.40am and once on board we were given a special cocktail for free. After departure, at 12:10pm, lunch was made from fresh, local, organic food prepare and served directly from the boats stainless steel kitchens…….never on land hours before, and definitely not on a rusty charcoal grill. No food is frozen or foreign. No fish from the river is served, ever! Safety and hygiene are paramount……lunch was delicious…..fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce and salad, followed by BBQ chicken and pork with fried rice and kebabs! They also provided a full bar service to Western Standards…so Vince had a beers and I had a cocktail!

Cruising along the Phnom Penh riverfront we enjoyed the view from the upper deck passing the Royal Palace, we saw the junction of the Tonle Sap, Mekong, and Bassac rivers. Up the Mekong River we saw floating villages and fishing families living on their boats.

It took us about an hour to get to Silk Island and it was just a short ride (we were hoping for Ox cart but had to settle for a tuk tuk) to the silk farms. Along the way we took in the views of plantations and village life. We also passed through a modern pagoda which is also an active monastery. Our tour was very basic but we did get a good overview from silk worm to finished product….we had seen similar in Myanmar…so I guess some of the impact was lost.

On the 1 hour ride back to Phnom Penh we were served fresh fruit and we ordered some drinks. There were only 5 passengers…Ken (an Indian who lives in Chicargo), Manu (also Indian who lives in Laos) and Claudette (French Canadian living in Quebec)…..everyone was very friendly…it was like we were on a private boat.

The Cambo Cruise boat has 75 seats with a wooden Traditional Cambodian design with modern touches. With two commercial quality kitchens, men’s and women’s toilets, running water from fresh water tanks, and a water filtration system for clean, purified drinking water. Hygiene, safety, and guest satisfaction are their priority. We felt safe knowing that the boat is licensed, inspected, and has staff that are well trained in safety and first-aid procedures, with flotation devices, safety equipment, and fire extinguishers onboard.

We had a lovely, relaxing day. In the evening we walked to the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace Gardens to see the sunset…..lots of people were out and about enjoying the evening. Walking back to our hotel we stopped in at the Pizza Company for dinner.

To start to understand Cambodia and appreciate the delicacy of the situation, you have to look at its history. Pol Pot (Saloth Sar), a former school teacher, led what was then called Democratic Kampuchea. The majority of people in the world recognise Cambodia as an underdeveloped country just like any other, what they often don’t realise are the atrocities that Cambodians experienced in the 70s, when the Khmer Rouge was at it’s height of savagery.

Tuol Sleng (S-21), was a high school that was turned into a secret prison for torturing, interrogating, and depriving those who were accused of illegal activities and accused of being traitors…..most of whom were completely innocent …..but made confessions because they wanted the torture to stop….and it did…by being sent for execution! The Khmer Rouge acted like savage animals with no conscience…..most of the soldiers were children under 15…..incomprehensible. The Khmer Rouge had turned the peaceful and beautiful Cheung Ek village into the infamous killing fields….we’re men, women and children were killed in the most abhorrent ways.

In the years that the Khmer Rouge was in power (around 5 years), almost 1/3 of the country’s men, women, children were killed. Many were tortured for long periods of time, sometimes for more than 3 years. For years there was mass-murder in progress and the world didn’t even know about it until it was almost too late. Much of what happened was depicted in the movie “The Killing Fields.” (Vince and I saw this at the local cinema, The Empire, run by Kevin, a Yorkshireman on the evening of 15th Jan)

The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which an estimated 1.7 million people lost their lives (approximately 21% of the country’s population), was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. The Khmer Rouge, combined extremist ideology, ethnic animosity, and a disregard for human life to carry murder on a massive scale.

Vince and I visited S21, Toul Sleng on 15th Jan, we had an English speaking guide who took us through and it was very confronting. Of over 20,000 prisoners only 7 men and 4 children survived on the day the Vietnamese Army over through the Khmer Rouge on Phnom Penh….we got to meet one of the survivors ….Mr Chum Mey, a mechanic, who was singled out to repair the typewriters that his torturers used to record their forced confessions. We bought his book and DVD, both of which he signed and offered to pose for a photo. We had seen his cell on the tour and we felt quite humble and honoured to meet a man who had survived against such odds.

We visited the Killing Fields on 16th Jan….and although sad and somber….it didn’t have the same shock impact upon me that S21 had….there were no frills….Block A cells still have torture implements in them along with the basic bed and a toilet box with a photo on the wall of a victim in the room. Block B had classrooms that were divided up into smaller cells….brick on ground level, wood on the second level and the top floor was one big room housing up to 50 prisoners who were all kept silent.

There are several rooms in block C with displays of photos of victims when they first arrived and were counted and then after they were tortured or died. This was very sad viewing and included women and children….even babies!

D block houses a museum of torture implements along with very graphic paintings of how these were used. The paintings were done by a survivor, Bou Meng, who has wriiten a book about his experience.

Both experiences were very moving, and although not pleasant, I think Westerners should see the horror of what Cambodians had to endure. A warning though it’s not for the faint hearted….I had nightmares about it!