Journey to Cambodia
Unfortuantely the wisdom of my years has not taught me to read things properly, so in our haste to book bus tickets to Cambodia, I neglected to read the small print and believing our journey to consist of 1 x 12hr overnight bus to Siem Reap, was irritated to learn that actually it was 2 x12 hr buses and a change in, of all places Bangkok. What was further to our woe was the the Bus journey from Bangkok to Cambodia is one of the most notorious among the SE Asian travel network in terms of ripping travellers off. The main scam is driving the bus so very slowly that you reach your destination at some ungodly hour, way past check in, so the only option is to stay at the guesthouse of their choice - one which is sure enough to earn them plenty of commission. It was certainly one journey I had strove to avoid so I was pretty pissed off when I discovered we had absentmindedly booked onto it!
It was however too late to do anything about it. 24hrs on a bus. Great. I ended up being back on the Khao San Road at 4.30am (the first bus was early in its arrival), waiting for another one! Suspicious from the start of the second journey, it became obvious that it was going to be a long and laborious affair as we approached the border and stopped to sort out visas (which we already had). Lots of faffing later, we were in Cambodia in Poipet, a hole of a town, known for its gambling favoured by the Thais as said activity is banned in the motherland. The road from Poipet to Siem Reap is unbelievable - as the only trade route to the border, it is beyond belief that it hasn't been resurfaced. Apparently, Bangkok airways bribe the Cambodian government to keep it in such a state of disrepair! To add to this, our 'bus' wasnt exactly deluxe and would definitely fail an MOT in blighty! Soon enough, the fun and games started as our 'tour guide' being to mention his 'Uncles' guesthouse in Siem Reap. I was having none of it and insisted he ring our guesthouse to tell them to pick us up. Toour relief, we actually arrived by about 8pm and got to our accomm safe and sound, though exhausted. Fortunately our hosts were lovely and I was glad we had made our case and not ended up in 'Uncles GH.' We tucked into some traditional Amok cusine which is absolutely delicious and felt instantly better.
Our trip to Siem Reap is chiefly to see the pride of Cambodia, the magnificent Angkor Wat temples. But the following day we decided to chill out and check out the town by hiring bicycles. I also had to go to the clinic to get my ear sorted out as had been bothering me for a while and it needs to be sorted for diving! I saw a very nice doctor who gave me god knows what medication but hopefully it will do the trick! After that we visited the Land Mine museum, an incredible place en route to Angkor Wat whose curator has basically devoted his life to searching out minefields and making them safe. He also looks after about 20 child victims of mines and sends them to school. It really is quite unbelievable how many people are injured by these mines - you see many maimed people on the street here. The guy was trained as a child to walk in front of the soldiers in the mine fields and now goes out with nothing but a stick to track them down and defuse them. Quite incredible.
That night we went to a traditional Khmer restaurant, one that apparently Mick Jagger had visited!
Ambitious as it was to cover the temples in only 1 day, we did it properly by getting up at half four to arrive for sunrise. AW is one of several temple complexes just outside Siem Reap built by past Buddhist and Hindu Kings spanning from the 8th-14th century. Unbelievably the sites were pretty much abandoned until the French rediscovered the temples in the 18th century though Angkor Wat itself remained inhabited as a monastery. This period of abandonment meant jungle enveloped much of the area and one of the temples today (Ta Prohm) has been left with the jungle parts still intact. This happened to be my favourite one as well as the one featured in Tomb Raider! See the photos for the wierdness of the place as trees envelope the temple walls. Angkor Thom was also superb with its 'smiley' faces carved into the rocks! All in all a great day if a little disappointed with the sunrise and sunset - sunset on the boat in Phi phi was far superior. Some of the steps up and down in the temples would certainly fail a health and safety test in England!