Day 7: Siem Reap (Angkor Wat II)

All templed out, as Jem’s dad put it, temple-itis. we visited about 15 temples all up, four of which we covered today. The first 3 looked exactly the friggen same, literally! We saved the best till last though, Angkor Wat was AWESOME – definately in my top 3! It is no wonder this place is a wonder of the world. We decided (stupidly) to visit Angkor Wat between 12-2, stupid decision, the sun was blazing on to us and I’ve got tan lines worse than the ones I got at Pacific Palms. But the weather couldnt dampen the beauty of this place. After visiting all the temples, my top 3 were:

* Angkor Wat – self explanatory
* Ta Prohm – Tomb Raider was shot here, it’s in the middle of a jungle and the tree root systems go through the ruins
* Bayon – temples with millions of heads carved into the stone heads

These were truly magical temples.

After being templed out, we got back to the guesthouse and freshened up with a shower and some lunch. We met up with the aussies we had met the day before (Pete, Becky, Eliza and Laura) and we decided to go to a traditional Khmer Shadow Puppet show, apparently we were supposed to pay but we ended up getting some spring roles to make it as if we were eating at the restaurant this show was being played at. The puppet show was run by kids and it was really good!

We ended the night at World Bar and had some $1.50 cocktails (Mojito’s for me) before we headed off home for another early morning

Day 6: Siem Reap (Angkor Wat I)

Today was my first day exploring the world heritage listed, wonder of the world, Angkor Wat. We began the day waking up at 4:30am in an attempt to catch the early morning sunrise (as per the advice from Rob), it was ammmaaazing! But! The biggest gripe I had about this place was the friggen tourists, Japanese and Korean in particular. Sure enough I am a tourist, but the bus loads of people couldnt shut the fuck up. Sitting there I was trying to catch a few snaps and absorb the experience, yet I was interupted by the banter of no less than 600 Japanese/Korean tourists. I did get a few nice pics but I’m still fiddling around with my camera (Ixus 65) and working out how to get the best configuration for different types of images.

We moved on to Bayon, one of my favourite temples which has the faces of either the king or a buddha of some sort – one of my fave temples. We spent around 2 hours in that temple alone, got some great pics there. Then, we made our way into Angkor Thom, the biggest temple in angkor wat. The climbs to the top were very steep, making the trip down even worse. We got some spectaclar views and some cool breezes to freshen up the 35+ degree temps here.

We moved on to Ta Prohm, the jungle temple, which had scenes from tomb raider in the movie. This was really specatuclar. There were trees that had root systems in and around the temple walls and grounds. We did heaps of temples that day and I dont think i cbf going through all of them. Some interesting things things to note though.
* There are a shitload of beggers in the temple, the temple costs $US20 p/day to get into, and there are around 3000 visitors a day – you’d think that they could help these people.
* I told some Japanese tourists to fuck off and wait in line, man they’re so inconsiderate to everyone. One jap guy dropped something, I was telling him and calling out to him heaps of times, and he ignored me, I knew he could hear me. Then he kissed my ass when I handed it to him.
* Met some backpackers on the top of some random temple, we were just chilling and they were telling us about how vulgar aussies are, apparently one of them got attacked by a cub bear in laos, suck shit.
* Got to know some aussies in our guesthouse bar, we headed off to Cambodian Bbq together (yes, like Korean bbq, its all you can eat for $US3), they told us a few tips and tricks! If you go to a third world country and dont want to get hassled by kids, bring those soapy bubble things, you can bring their innocence back when theyre hassling you by blowing bubbles in the air!!
* One horror travel story, one of the Aussies was sleeping-gasssed in thailand on a bus and got robbed, they were nice enough to just take cash though – considerate thieves with morals, who would of thought!

Day 5: Battambang and Siem Reap

Today was a HECTIC day of just travel, I was really really tired! We started the day early to catch a ‘speed boat’ which ended up being a rickety piece of shit, but according to Lonley Planet, it was one of the must do boat trips in SE Asia, and it was! We went through some floating villages with some great views of the rice paddy fields. Interestingly, THERE WAS MOBILE RECEPTION! in the middle of woop woop, probably due to the fact that there were these shocking mobile phone towers in the middle of the water. The 6 hr boat ride had a stop off at some floating market made of a hull from an old boat. There were pigs and chickens around, but when we got into the place, it had a MONSTER stereo system, tv, vcr and dvd, wtf! On the boat we got to know some other travellers, from Italy and Switzerland, they were half way on their holiday around the world trip . Something that has surprised me is the collegiality of the backpacker community, sharing tips, tricks, places to go and not to go, medication to take. Even here in this net cafe someone is trying to organise a trip to Laos, and fellow packers are offering advice on Visa’s, etc.

We arrived in Siem Reap mid afternoon and got a tuk tuk to drive us around looking for some accomodation – 4 guest houses later, we ended up at the first one we went to (Popular Guesthouse), the round city trip cost us 25cents! After checking in we went to Khmer Kitchen on Bar St (yes, the name is a desciption of everything on that street!), apparently Mick Jagger had eaten there once. Food was okay, I had ‘morning glory’, heh – Gareth, you still getting your Morning Glory’s??

We walked around Psa Char markets in central Siem Reap, was pretty ordinary and im trying to find a cheap silk sleeping bag. We headed back to the guest house to grab some dinner before we had an early night for the Angkor Wat sunrise.

The mrs called and I had to see what was wrong, called her back and heard that Rat stuffed up the night by slipping on his own vomit, HAHAHA. I hope you still had fun bub. I think that talking to you had made things harder, I wanted to be there!

Day 4: Battambang

Okay, so this is going to be the general rule, I will be about one day behind with my blogs, pretty much i’ll be writing in past tense becuase i will be writing about yesterday’s events (since i havent been able to get internet everyday). I bought a travel diary in Singapore – becuase of this I have been able to jot down notes about things I have been doing.

Executive Summary: Battambang, Day Moto Tour, Killing Caves, temples, bats and bamboo train. If this doesn’t interest you, move on =)

Battambang is the second biggest city in Cambodia, but it is a big small town. There are a lot of tourists there because it is the closest major city from Thailand. Our second day was a packed day tour of Battambang and all it has to offer. We hired moto’s and rode around the country side, weaving in and out of villages whilst watching little kids on the country side scream out “hi” and “bye”.

On our way to the first destination we rode on dirt tracks that cut through rice paddy and pineapple fields. The first stop was “Phnom Sampeau”, here, the locals are sculpting another huge Buddha on the cliff face, which looks to be a 7 year project. We began with a huge trek up this mountain which took around 30 minutes,but it felt like forever since the scorching 35+ degree heat burnt my arms. At the summit it was absolutely gorgeous. Also at this site was the Killing Caves, a stunning reminder of the bleak history behind this hill. There were 3 caves our tour guide took us to. A specific cave and method of death for professionals, teenagers and kids. It was really moving, especially when our guide told us his grandfather had been murdered at one of these caves. The silence was eery since there was nobody around, and we were in shock more than anything else. We made our way down and i stepped on a rock incorrectly, rolling my ankle. Not as bad as I have done it in bball, but painful none the less.

After the caves we went to see Wat Banan, it’s 25km north of Battabang and i believed to be the inspiration of Angkor Wat. The hardest thing was the 359 steps up a huge mountain to get up there, my ankle wasn’t doing me any favours either. We got to the top, sweaty and gross, but the view was absolutely gorgeous. We came across some kids who were just like the ones described in Lonely Planet – they ask you where you are from, then they can tell you the capital, population and prime minister (which always ends with a ‘bad man’, heh) – then they ask for money.

After Wat Banan we headed off to see some fruit bats, some was an understatement, there were literally hundreds! They flew around and some had even collided with each other!

We ended the day at the Bamboo Train – essentially the train system in Cambodia is non existent, destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. So, people have taken advantage of this and have built trains made of Bamboo, they travel faster than the trains that used to exist. Our first real haggle came off very well here. We began at 40,000 riels (~$US10, and we got down to 10,000 riels $US2.50). Heh, got some glorious photos here.

We got home soon enough and couldn’t wat to get into the shower. totally grossed out from the red dirt roads, washing my hair turned the water black!

We had dinner at The Riverside Balcony – BURGERS AND CHIPS!! Yeah baby! Sick of asian already and it had only ben 4 days! Sat back and sipped on some Beer Lao heading back to the hotel for another early morning start (catching a boat to Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat)

Day 3: Phnom Penh

Spent another day at Phnom Penh to finish off the things that we hadn’t dont as per Lonley Planet. We started the day off bright and early with an omlette that had mushroom, tomato and cheese – turns out the cheese was a bega slice slapped on the top and then melted – lol, it was still square. The day was divided into two parts, the emotional sight-seeing, and then the road to Battambang.

We hired a moto driver to take us to the two sights that we were yet to see, the Killing Fields (CHOEUNG EK genocidal centre) and Tuol Sleng (former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison/Genocide museum). Essentially, the sites were used as murderous grounds for the Khmer Rouge ‘combatants’ to kill innocent civilians – yes, there were a few aussies in the images of death aswell. At the Killing Fields I was astounded how people were taking photos of the remains of the fallen (namely, skulls and clothing). After the fields we went to the museum, an old High School turned murdering ground of thousands of people. It was a very moving place to be, seeing toture equipment and the methods and rules in which the ‘combatants’conducted their unheard of activities. Interestingly, I was reading a memorial book which said “…and yet this still happens everyday in Dafur, how we never learn”.
After going to these two sites we were rushed to the bus to Battambang, 5 hour journey across the country. They were playing some funky Khmer DVD which turned into some bollywood script, I couldnt contain myself! The woman next to me was breastfeeding for literally 4 of the 5 hours, I couldn’t help tell Jem, he didn’t find it funny =/

5 hours later we arrived in Cambodia’s 2nd biggest city – Battambang. It was just before sunset and we checked into a really nice place (Asia Hotel) complete with Aircon, Bathroom and cold water (having cold water is better than hot in the oven of SE asia).

We went to this place called White Rose (courtesy of LP) which was really nice and cheap asian! We ordered Vietnamese sour soup with Prawns, double deep fried sweet and sour pork (mladen would of LUUURVED it) and Pepper Beef – was Yummo and was $5US all up!

Went to a hotel to grab a few beers – BEER LAO is the BEST beer i’ve EVER had!

The night was just about over….

Day 2: Phnom Penh

Today was a crazy, crazy day! I got up at 4:50 this morning to grab an Air Asia flight to Phom Penh (from Bangkok). Think Jetstar, but worse!! We waited in the check in queue for about an hour and then waited in a bus that took us to the plane – because the plane was so far from the terminal!

Anyhow, the plane ride was smooth and didn’t do much because it was only an hour from BKK to Phnom Penh. When we arrived we were greeted with something straightout of Lonely Planet, literally 20 people hassling us to take their ride into the city! We took the cheaper/more adventurous option of grabbing a moto – a motorbike where you cling to the back of a ‘safe’ driver. It was a great way to get into the city and see things from a cool perspective – as the stifling heat made rob’s sweat patches look like the norm. The weather is very humid and heavily polluted, I was a bit apprehensive about the drivers wearing helmets and face masks, leaving the passengers with nothing at all!

we arrived Lake Side, which is a backpacker haven filled convienience stores, hostels and laundry mats – pretty good for us since we didn’t have an idea of where to get things. Our first point of getting ripped off was from the moto driver, initially saying that the airport->lakeside trip would be $US2, but then upping it to $US3 on arrival, how we have learnt! Got ripped off again for breaky, got some mi-goreng and Pepsi for $US2, WTF

We checked into a steaming room (it was only 9:30am) and we were bracing ourselves, only fans and two beds for Jem and myself. We st everything down and then walked around in the city (not much of a city mind you). Some regular tourist attractions got us going, we caught moto’s and tuk tuk’s everywhere of course.

The sightseeing began at Phnom Wat, which was the main temple in Phnom Penh, just some really cool pics taken of this temple. There were a HEAP of beggers here, many amputees and impairments – probably from the land mines that were around the area since the time of Pol Pot. Afterward, we caught a tuk tuk to the Grand Palace, but the place was closed – they have a siesta like time at lunch time, so we went across to another lake where there were heaps of tourist dedicated restaurants, pubs and clubs. We sat at a pub and just chilled out over some Lao Beer (GREAT BEER!!) and I had a Chilli Chicken with Rice (yes babe, always a safe option!). Again, we were greeted with many beggers, a disabled woman, many kids and heaps of tuk tuk drivers. The disabled kid moved me the most, I was pretty saddened that he had to beg, but I thought back to some lonely planet readings – apparenty parents train their kids to beg. He asked me for money for water, instead I gave him a bottle of water I had bought earlier – he was quite thankful.

We made our way across to the national museum to see some authentic artefacts (as I got to the entrance a guy said “g’day mate! tuk tuk? i was quite taken back!), got to understand some of the history and then chilled out in the courtyard.

We headed off to the Grand Palace and Silver Pagoda (where the king lives I presume) and we came across heaps of cool stuff, like a temple that was tiled with SILVER! and in that temple, a statue of a buddha that had 2000+ diamonds on it, the 2 biggest being 20ct and 25ct! It was quite a site,we then moved to the Central Markets, you think that paddy’s is big, think 5 times the size, litearlly! You could get a fake anything, from a oral-B toothbrush, to a Apple iPod! Some delicacies didn’t hit my palate though, crickets, cockaroaches etc, pretty gross if you ask me, especially with the shitload of flies around it. So I left it there. Following the markets we found ourselves in a shopping centre, well, a giant supermarket (with aircon!!!) it was pretty cool, Sprite tastes VERY different here than it does to Sydney, not something good.

After the markets we got back to the hostel (#9 lakeside) and had a quick shower when we headed out to dinner – at the Lazy Gecko, and yes, there are Gecko’s running around on the walls (babe, you would of luuurved it!) 5 beers later and here I am!

Be back tomorrow with an update! Killing Fields, Museum’s and Battambang are on the cards…