Miraculously i survived two dodgy buses thanks to a short sprint between getting off one and onto the next, which as it happens was moving when i had to leap onto it. Note to self, in the future book buses with a few hours in between arrival of the first and departure of the second...they are not reliable! The bus novelty is rapidly wearing thin but i was grateful for aircon, a reasonable amount of personal space and a pleasant enough finish guy sitting next to me. When we got to the border and to conform with stereotypes the Vietnamese tried to rip me off for the last time. I was having none of it, when they asked me to pay $25 for my Cambodian Visa i told them where to go and that I would pay $20 to do it myself...to this they responded "we will only wait 15 minutes for you." Well I'm glad i did it myself because I still ended up on the bus in Cambodia waiting to leave $5 better off than the majority. Never trust a Nam. I arrived in Phnom Penh with very little idea of where I was going or what I was doing. Luckily there's always a keen tuk tuk driver ready to find you a hostel and after the bus journey I'd just had I was glad for a nice hostel with a pool and its own restaurant. The people in my dorm were really friendly and gave me loads of advice for the rest of my trip. I ambitiously tried to go out and find food but after half an hour of aimless wandering I admitted defeat and caught a Tuk Tuk. My lonely planet guide began to show it's out datedness when I expected to eat out on only a few dollars and with what I had left over after my Tuk Tuk fiasco I could only afford two fish taco starters and a drink at a substandard Mexican restaurant...oh and of course the tuk tuk home.
The next day it was time to do something cultural.. After playing a few tuk tuk drivers off each other I managed to get a cheap enough fare and set out to the Prison S21 essentially the SE Asian equivalent to Auschwitz. I had obviously haggled too hard because here my driver disserted me having had a better offer. Luckily my highly tuned midland ears picked up too brummy twangs and I started chatting to 2 girls as we walked around the horrifying torture prison that was once a school. There were thousands of headshots of the former prisoners, paintings of the torture methods as well as stories from the few survivors. It was extremely chilling but opened my eyes to what happened only 30 or so years ago on the other side of the world.
After arranging a new tuk tuk I took the journey that the prisoners would have taken to the killing fields where the genocide was actually committed. It was surreal to be walking round an otherwise beautiful piece of land in the scorching sun whilst listening to an audio player describing all of the indescribable cruelties that had been committed there. Dips were in the ground all around where masses of bodies had been buried. The most disturbing part was the killing tree where Khmer Rouge officers had killed mothers and smashed their babies heads against the tree. The mass grave next to it was covered in bracelets and trinkets left on the railings as a token of respect. I added one of mine to the rail. There was a tall building built in memorial to those who died at the hands of communist regime. It contained a glass cabernet filled with skulls and bones of those who died and i bought some flowers and an incense stick which I laid outside the entrance to show my respect.
Needless to say it had been a long and emotionally draining day. My road raged Tuk Tuk driver plaid chicken with every other vehicle on the road to get me back to my hostel in time for yet another bus moving on to Siem Reap.
On this bus I met my 4th Brummy of the day, a very chatty 30 year old bloke named Danny. Needless to say I got no peace for the entire journey. On arriving in Siem Reap, late of course and my Hostel having failed to pick me up I shared a Tuk Tuk with Danny and another English guy Steve, both of who were friendly and looking for somewhere cheap and easy to stay. In the end we split a 3 bed hotel room right on the main strip. For the next few days we shared a tuk tuk everywhere and after having yet another massage the time had finally arrived to head to Angkor Wat, the 8th wonder of the world and experience the sunset in all its glory. Danny who had some aversion to wearing a shirt wasn't allowed in and in the end had to wear our much smaller tuk tuk driver's vest. Looking like a true wife beater we headed off in the direction of the sunset view point. As soon as we arrived children were asking us to buy their drinks and i bought one more out of pity than thirst. We then followed the crowds up to the temple with me power walking and leaving the other two for dust. The sunset was disappointing in some ways, the masses of happy snappers with their cameras and the number of peace signs being put up by Japanese tourists in front of monuments somewhat detracted from its timeless beauty. Even the sunset was mostly masked by cloud and only when there was a break in the cloud could you get a true idea of its magnificence. As people began to leave I found myself one of the last ones there and appreciating the sight the way it it's meant to be.
That night we ate from a tasty BBQ street restaurant. More street children descended immediately trying to flog books, bracelets and postcards. It was truly heart breaking and in the end we bought one child some chicken after speaking to him for a while but still not wishing to buy his book.
The next morning the 5AM start came as a shock to all of our systems and as we drove through the dark and walked through the entrance of Angkor Wat the sky began to lighten. I found myself a nice quiet spot away from the masses and peacefully waited for the sun to come up. At first the sky was not very colourful and we all wondered if it was going to be a similar disappointment to the day before. However as we started to retreat back to the stalls for breakfast the pink sun emerged from behind the temple and made it all worth it. The rest of the morning we walked around the most famous temples, the one with the faces, the one overgrown by trees where tomb raider was filmed and Angkor Wat, the main one. Each was fascinating and the experience was only slightly demeaned by Danny's constant bulls*** about this and that and requests for photos with his arms in the air and fag in his mouth in front of every temple. I made it my mission to stay a few steps ahead of him where possible so as to actually take in my surroundings. I eventually crumbled and bought a few things from the children.
That night i moved on to a different hostel where I was meeting up with Laura, a girl I had previously met and had been trying to catch up with ever since.