Updates from South East Asia!
Hey people, we have arrived in semi-reasonable condition in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The trip here was ridiculous. Ridiculously cheap, but ridiculously uncomfortable and l-o-n-g. From Khao San (Bangkok) we got a taxi to Hualamphong train station at 5:30am (after 3.5 hours sleep) to try to find a train leaving for the Cambodian border Aranya Prathet. Luckily there was one leaving at 5:55am so we jumped on that and endured 7 hours of the world's worst railway track. It was still far more comfotable than a coach though so we were happy. Once we arrived we caught a tuktuk to the border with Poipet (Cambodia) and then came the bus... We were told (admittedly by a bus company employee-biased?surely not) that a taxi was $50 and due to it being unable to pass through the mud and being closer to the potholed ground it was actually more uncomfortable than the bus (which was $10) and was only half an hour quicker. "Right you are" we thought (mugs, honestly...) and headed for the bus station. The "four hour" bus journey actually took eight. That's double. Well, obviously but just to reiterate. That's eight long hours on the infamous worst roads in Cambodia (and trust me that's saying something). Unbelievably, the Cambodian airlines actually pay the government (bribe) not to improve the roads as they are so uncomfortable people prefer to fly thereby increasing the airline profits. Tsk, tsk, corruption. We might fly back actually...seriously the road is shocking, there is more pothole than there is road surface easily and we all had headaches by the end due to having our brains violently shaken around in our heads for eight hours (and yes I believe that is the technical medical explanation). Had we been warned we were in for the arse-tenderizing of a lifetime (honestly if they'd forced us all to bend over and whacked our behinds repeatedly with a mallet for eight hours it would've had a similar effect). Plus, the story about the taxis was a LIE-they were zooming passed us, flying over the potholes and disappearing in a cloud of dust beyond the horizon. We'll probably get a taxi I think as the flight is $90 and as it cost us under 7 quid to get all the way from Bangkok to our guesthouse in Siem Reap on principle I don't want to pay more than six times as much and cater to their corrupt assumptions. Gits. Anyway, on a more positive note Siem Reap is a lovely little place and the temples of Angkhor are stunning. Admittedly, it was only our first day visiting the temples today so we haven't seen the main Angkhor Wat yet (that's tomorrow, can't wait!) but the ones we saw today were really amazing. The temples were all built between 800 and 1300 A.D. (pretty old and crumbly) and are really really beautiful. We've got two really lovely English speaking brothers to take us around the temples in their tuktuk over the next few days. Luck studied English at school for a year and is spot on with his pronunciation whilst his younger brother Lom knows the basics but is currently learning from his older brother. The only downside to the temples is the hundreds of little Cambodian kids hanging around outside begging you for money and food, trying to sell you postcards of the temples and bracelets they've made. It's really sad to see their defeated little selves slink off once they give up on you giving them any money. One little boy today was obviously completely exhausted in the heat and clearly had to work there all day long, trying to sell to uninterested tourists. He was pleading with us to give him a dollar and when we said no and walked off we could see him sit dejectedly down in the shade and lay his head in his arms. He looked so pitiful we went back and coughed up for postcards we didn't want. Then an even smaller girl began to beg us to buy her postcards...its just relentless, you have to walk away. In this respect, there is definately a bit of a culture shock arriving in Cambodia. Even at the border there are filthy children in ragged and dirty clothing begging and pleading with you to give them some food. I grabbed a fistful of crackers to distribute but before I had a chance, they were immediately snatched from my hand by a little boy who ran off, gleeful with his prize whilst even more children swarmed around me begging for a similar allowance with increasing desperation. The roadside villages along the way to Siem Reap were similarly disheartening as we watched adults and children washing and doing their teeth in muddy, polluted streams, kids working in the paddy fields, and no-one in the one primary school we saw in the entire eight hours. Travelling is definately an education at times like these. There were some happier sights too though as all the children smiled and waved at us as we passed and yelled "Hello! What is name?" after the bus. They played bowls with flip flops, climbed trees, rode bikes and played on the roadside too. Anyway, enough about Cambodian kids, hope everyone is well and we'll see you all really soon. Nooo...I don't want to go home yet! You can't make me, I won't do it. Well, ok then. It'll be nice to be back in my bed and to have a hot shower and to sit on a sofa... mmmn sofas...Ahem, see you soon Jx