We spent the whole of Sunday travelling to Cambodia. The border crossing was interseting to say the least. It is definately a place you do not want to stay stay any longer than you have to. We were told to grip our bags tight and watch our pockets because there are so many thieves about. The place was full of people begging, especially children. We got through the border quite quickly, but we still all dying in the heat. The rest of the day was spent on the 'dancing road' to Siem Reap. Why dancing? Well, it is the worst road in Cambodia, full of holes and really just a very long dirt track that the bus dances along for about five hours. We finally got to Siem Reap and headed into town by tuk tuk for dinner. I had a traditional dish of Amok, which is fish or chicken in coconut sauce, steamed in a banana leaf, it was so good.
Monday was 'Temple Day'. We left the guest house at 7 to go to our first temple, Angkor Wat. This is the biggest and most impressive of them all. There was so much to see we could have stayed all day. Next up was Bayon. The temple has towers with faces engraved on them, they all looked different and they all had very serene expressions. The third temple, Taprom is the one featured in the Tomb Raider film. The temple was lost in the jungle for hundreds of years and when they found and cleared it, they found that some of the trees had grown on top of and into parts of the temples. Now it is too unsafe to remove them. The fourth temple was Banteaysrey. This one was quite different to the others because it was made out of pink sandstone. I will put pictures up of the temples to see, I took so many photos that I have had to buy a new memory card for my camera.
Mum, I have bought you a brilliant book on all the temples, it's full of pictures, history and architecture details. I will post it to you sometime when I get a chance.
In the afternoon we went to the Landmine Museum. The name doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs but I gave it a go. The things I read in there were quite horrifying. There has been a huge operation to clear landmines from Cambodia but there are still an estimated 2-3 million unexploded landmines in the ground. The museum was set up by a man who used to lay mines for a living as a soldier in the Khymer Rouge. He later defected to the French Army and started his personal mission of clearing landmines by himself. He thinks that he has personally clearsed around 100,000 landmines. He also trains others to deactivate mines and Uxo's. So far in ever place we have been you can see the effects the landmines have had on the people. Nearly every street has a beggar missing an arm or leg. We have even seen young children missing limbs. (That's my Angelina Jolie moment over with)
Before we went back we visited one more temple, Pre Rub, to watch the sunset. We had to climb lots of very steep steps to reach the top. It was amazing to watch the sun go down, but the actual sunset was hidden by a cloud, shame.
That evening after dinner we headed to a local 'western' bar called Angkor What? (see what they did there... Wat/What?). It was full of tourists and was brill. Everything is really cheap here, you can easily live off 10 pounds a day, and thats three huge meals and a couple of drinks! I think I have eaten curry every day so far.
Tuesday morning we had some time to sleep off the alcohol consumed the night before and in the afternon we went to a floating village. Cambodia has one of the largest lakes in the world, but because it is dry season at the moment it is not at it's full size. We got in a boat that took us out onto the lake. After a while we began to see lots of boats/shops that are anchored in the lake. We stopped at one and went inside. They kept crocodiles to sell and even had a python, so everyone got their photos taken with it. On our way back to land, two little children selling bananas magically appeared on our boat and we couldn't work out where they had come from. Until, someone looked over the side of the boat and saw a smaller boat alongside ours. The kids had jumped from that boat onto ours! And when no one bought anything they jumped right back. Very strange. We also saw how high the lake gets in monsoon season by looking at the trees and seeing plastic bags right at the top where they had got caught in the last wet season.
On the way home we stopped at a hammock bar for a cold drink and some light refreshment, which was snake! It was ok, it would have tasted better if it was a fatter snake. It was a bit well cooked and some of it tasted like pork crackling and a bit like fish.
In the evening we went to a restaurant called the Red Piano. It is housed in a french colonial building and it's where Angelina Jolie ate when she visited Cambodia. They have pictures to prove it and have even named a cocktail after her.