Well, Phnom Penh was a good 2 days/3 nights stay, I enjoyed what i saw but i'm glad to be away from there now. The people trying to sell you things; 'you wanna buy Mr.........Mr you wanna buy?' are more aggressive with it than the Vietnamese and after a while it becomes tiresome. Not the nicest thing to say i know but after a while you develop a wall to it all, due to facing the same questions every day.
Met a girl called Anna, from Israel and ended up spending my time in Phnom Penh alongside her. We booked ourselves a tour the following day, came to $6 each for the tuk-tuk driver and we were set to visit S21, the killing fields and the Russian market. So that was the next day planned and that night was spent having a few drinks with a couple we met from Irelan, Martin and Martina.
The next day, it was into the tuk-tuk with our driver Sopheak and onto a marvlously depressing day. We started the day at S21, the genocide museum and form Khmer Rouge torture prison. It was orignally a school and to this day (from the outside) looks to be a school. It isn't until you step foot inside the buildings that its horrific history hits you. Photos of former Khmer prisoners, stories from relatives and former prisoners, photos of prisoners during/after torture al there to serve as a remnider of Cambodia's not-to-distant past. 30 years ago for God's sake! Details of each prisoner were taken in a Hitler-esque fashion; photo, DOB, address etc etc. Seven Eureopeans and children as young as eight were held captive and tortured. All adding to the overall surreal and depressing feel of the place. A stark contrast to the feeling outside of the schools walls.
The next stop was the killing-fields, that's know as the Genocidal Centre today. Again, more eery, depressing feelings washed over me. The site is full of large trenches dug into the earth, the sites of mass-graves where upto 300 people were thrown into the same grave/pit. In its centre is a memorial full of skulls and bones from the bodies that were dug up. It was after an hour of walking along the paths with my eyes on the floor, that i noticed ol clothing pertruding through the dirt all around me. Clothing of those killed and thrown to one side, is now starting to be unearthed as more and more people tred the paths around the graves. Adding strength to the feeling inside me at the time, two horrid places but places needing a visit.
We then went for lunch with Sopheak and tallked to him about his studies and family. The middle child of nine and reading Economics. He briefly mentioned about a $20 book his was saving for to aid his study. He'd been superb to us both during the day, a really honest fella (bit of a rarity out here) who never stopped smiling. Sopheak found it especially funny that i'd eat anything and lots of it, to which a small gathering of women and young girls came to see 'this white man' lapping up and loving what they had just cooked. At the end of it all, Anna and I decided to give Sopheak the $20 he needed for his book. He didn't want it but we gave it to him and made him promise it would be spent on the book. Tears filled his eyes and he hugged us both. A moving end to a moving day.
The trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was a pretty easy one considering how some bus journeys go. And after six hours i'd arrived in the home of the Temples Of Angkor and especially that of Angkor Wat. Booked myself into a good little guesthouse ($5/night) and headed for some drinks in town. A semi-early night was had after a few drinks with some blokes from Longthorpe (Nick's town), who knew of the LAundy's through Y2SK8.
The next day was fairly low-key one of getting my bearings around town and sorting prices out for my entry into Angkor. Went to a superb restaurant called The Deadfish, sat on pillows at different levels within the openplan building, plus the food is cheap and superb. Then watched another 'inspiring' Liverpool draw before heading to bed.
The following two days were spent at the temples and i'd decided to rent a bicycle for the journey's and getting around. By no means a mistake but a sweaty hard slog to get from place to place. With an 8km trip to get there, around 10km of cycling whilst there and the 8km trip back, I was a sweaty sopping mess half an hour into each trip and stayed that way until the shower when i returned. But it's got to be the best way to see them, at your own pace and in the order you want to. Plenty of people laughing at you as they fly by in their truk-tuks and one smart ass (at a cafe) who pointed out 'If it's such sweaty hard work mate, why you smoking?'. Well a fair point that i could only answer with a raised eyebrow, [email protected]@K OFF, smile.
The first day was spent at Angkor Wat and the temples within Angkor Thom. Angkor Wat was amazing, one of the mos beautiful buildings i've ever seen and it's easy to see why it's one of (if not the) most famous temples in SE Asia. As is shown by the sheer number of photos i took whilst there. Angkor Thom was superb also and the temples and ruins inside, a testament to Khmer people, in particular Bayon. The day ended with wathcing the sunset atop Phom Bakheng. The place was rife with people holding the same idea but watching the Sun drop beyond the horizon was a beautiful site.
The next day was a bloody early start at 4.30am but i had to get to Angkor Wat for sunrise, so it was back on the awful bike seat for the ride. One thing of note is how I (well more my backside) felt during and after the days ride. Solid seats and the most pot-holed roads around, don't equate to fun for a scrawny backside like mine! Sitting down three hours after getting off the thing was painful.
But the sunrise was great and well worth the early start for the orange/red backdrop to Angkor Wat. On a seperate note, just a had the fella next to me ask 'How do you spell Cambodia?'.........bloody idiot! The rest of the day was spent seeing the temples i didn't get to the first time around. One of particular note is Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed, with massive trees bursting through the rock and vine covered walls all around.
The only downside was thepeople tryng to sell everything to everyone. I'm used to it by now but i think therein lies the problem. Being used to it creates the notion of nuisance and when they persistantly try as hard as they do (and fair play to them, they do go on and on and on like a Duracell battery) that's what it becomes, if only to a certain extent.
Anyway onto Laos tomorrow for another whistle-stop tour before heading into Thailand. Some favourite lines from out here:
"Mr Mr, you wanna buy? Good price Mr, best in Angkor! What price you want Mr, you tell me?"
"Where you from Mr?" "England" "England capitOl London. Manchester United number one!" They won't have it about Liverpool, they ask why we're number one when United finish higher?
"Mr, if i guess where you from you buy me somthing?" "Yeh ok" Ready to say Scotland or even Jamaica. "You from your mumy's tummy"