After our amazingly tranquil time in the jungle we were on the move again, on our way to Cambodia and it was only going to take us 24 hours to get there! Ohh the joy, this is not what you want when you coccyx still gives you hell every time you sit down for long the 20 minutes. Ohh well head phones in, book out, inflatable cushion inflated and we’re off.
The train journey passed quickly enough however the minibus that was meant to leave 20 mins after we arrived in Bangkok ended up being about 3 hours late, this time was spent stuck in a travel agents office, foodless and waterless at a time in the morning when everybody should be allowed to be in bed. I think at one point Scott tried to fall asleep on the ohh so comfortable tiled floor, we even stole some little bottles of water out of the fridge (in our defence this was a matter of survival).
I’d heard loads of stories about people being taken to what appeared to be a boarder crossing between Thailand and Cambodia, paying money for their visa and then finding out it was one big scam. Luckily the amount of people queuing when we arrived made me pretty confident it was the right place, we were told it could take another three hours to get through the queue. Our minibus driver came up with another solution and suggested if we put $10 inside our passport and gave it to a policeman we would be though within 10 mins. I was a bit wary at the time but looking back it was probably the best $10 I’ve spent.
We were through and in Cambodia within no time; the first thing we noticed was that there were children everywhere, running around and begging with no shoes and dirty little bits of clothing. I could already tell I was going to find it difficult ignoring these VERY persistent kids but everything you read and hear tells you not to give them any money, there are gangs running the whole thing and the money will not go to help the kids at all. But feeling little kids pulling on your clothes, staring up at you with big sad eyes is hard to walk away from. A lot of the children are brought up, learning how to play tourist to get as much out of them as possible, its so sad to experience but it’s reality in a country like Cambodia where they are still recovering form the effects of the past 30 or so years (I’ll come back to this later).
After another 3 hour car journey and close to 30 hours since we left Khao Sok we arrived in Siem Reap. We checked into a random hostel and made plans with our tuktuk driver to pick us up bright and early the next morning ready to visit Angkor Wat. We then spent the evening on Pub St tasting the new local beer; I still think my favourite is Beer Saigon in Vietnam but I had to have a few just to make sure. Again there were children everywhere asking for money but what were even more upsetting were the mothers carrying around young babies well after midnight asking you to go and buy milk from the shop to feed their baby. Apparently if you do this, the shop charge a ridiculous price for the milk, you are guilt tripped into buying it and then the mother later sells it back to the shop for cash. These women also seemed to get very angry and on a couple of occasions when I refused to buy milk, I was told to f*** off, they also seemed to have an area of the street and if another woman came into their area, there would be little scrap, babies in hand!
The next day we went to visit the Ancient Temples of Angkor Wat, this was a very hot, hard day but spectacular all the same. Angkor Wat is just one of many temples in the area but it is the largest and most famous, we had a tuktuk driver that took us between the temples and we saw about 8 in total. I wanted to see pictures of people building the temples because it is so difficult to imagine how it must have been but considering they were built between the 9th and 15th century there wasn’t much chance of this happening. Apart from Angkor Wat the other famous temple is the one from Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm. Here the natural world has over taken the ancient world, with trees growing over the temple; it was so interesting to see.
We spent the day doing a lot of walking, up through and under temples and taking a lot of photographs. Unfortunately at the time we visited work was being carried out on the front on Angkor Wat and so all our picture are ruined by a big green canvas covering up the front of the building! There soooo many Chinese tourist it was crazy and I swear every single one of them had a very expensive camera and pulled the peace sign pose for every picture.
Since we hadn’t wanted to get up at 4am to watch the sunrise we decided to stay and watch the sun set, our tuktuk driver took us to the temple with the best view, which was on top of quite a steep hill. We set off trekking up the hill, a couple of beers in hand to drink whilst we watched the sunset (unfortunately it was too hot to save them so we had to drink them on the way up/we really needed a beer). Once we got to the top of the hill we realised just how many people had exactly the same idea and at the same moment our camera battery died, winner! After waiting around for a while we realised we were far too worn out to and couldn’t really be bothered so asked our tuk tuk driver to take us back.
Walking around the temples had been very dirty, sweaty work and I think everyone who visits leaves desperately needing a shower, however Scott’s feet were something else entirely, I think he must have been rolling around in the dust and dirt when I wasn’t looking.
That evening we paid a visit to one of the many ‘happy’ pizza shops in Siem Reap, I had a large pizza with pepperoni, blue cheese and plenty of ‘happiness’. Our pizza’s were served and it looked as if someone has been sprinkling Italian herbs on it when the lid had fallen off ending up with Italian herbs everywhere, only these obviously weren’t Italian herbs. The pizza was actually really tasty; in fact I wish all Pizza’s were this happy errrmm sorry I mean tasty. After two months of not buying ourselves anything (well hardly anything) we went a bit crazy that evening on the night market, buying sunglasses, fake Birkenstocks (that lasted a total of 5 days) and other lovely little bits and bobs.
The time had come to travel south to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh which was our last penultimate stop off before Oz!