We started Cambodia trip in Siem Reap near the temples of Angkor, as we drove into town in a tuk tuk we immediately realised Cambodia was different to anywhere we've been before. The countryside and the people are beautiful, and so friendly, especially the kids who all wave hello as you go past (and usually try to sell you something but in a nice way!).
We saw the sunset on our first day from Bakheng mountain, a temple on a hill with steep steps up to the top. It wasn't the spiritual moment we'd imagined as there were a million people there but it was good to see. The next day we took a tuk tuk to Angkor Wat for sunrise and that was really amazing. We were the first people to arrive and we watched in awe as the temple's towers slowly appeared with a perfect reflection in the lake. We saw lots of temples that day including Bayon with its 56 giant heads and Ta Prohm where the jungle and temple co-exist, huge trees grow out of the stone, part of Tomb Raider was filmed there too. We hired a guide who turned out to be very new and didn't speak great English, the best fact he gave us was that it took 3 thousand billion people to build Angkor Wat! We stuck to asking him about his family instead.
We went to a few temples that were a bit further out which was good as we got to see more local life on the journeys and the temples were more atmospheric. Beng Mealea was amazing as the jungle has really taken over so you have to climb over stones and through half collapsed doorways. We stopped at the Landmine museum on the way, set up by a guy who's parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was 5. He went on to lay mines for them and then to lay mines for the Vietnamese when he was captured. He later joined the UN to defuse mines and even after the UN left he continued on his own and taught other local people how to help. He has defused over 50 thousand mines and has adopted 20 kids with limbs missing from mines, amazing story.
Siem Reap was a nice town, we didn't spend that much time there but we did make it to happy hour at a couple of nice bars and we had some very nice cheap meals!
From Siem Reap we got into the back of a truck piled up with about 15 tourists and lots of luggage, we objected when they tried to put an old man on top on the bags and the driver grabbed Sean's arm and tried to pull him out, luckily he was buried by bags so the driver left us alone and squeezed the old man into the cab. After that we sat on the roof of a boat for 7 hours to get to Battambang, the inside was cramped and smelt of petrol, the roof had a much better view too. It was a fascinating journey through floating villages and water plants. We watched local people fishing and tiny kids driving boats. Some parts were not so nice, we saw a lady pooing into the water and a guy further down drinking from the river. Where we had to go to the bathroom straight into the water there was a guy next door washing his hair, not good.
We spent a couple of days in Battambang, we saw even more poverty there, groups of kids were sniffing glue and every time we left the hotel we were asked for money. We went on a trip into the countryside and saw some more temples, we also saw the killing caves used by the Khmer Rouge, most of the bones have been removed but there are still enough there to make you feel quite ill. To cheer the afternoon up we went on a crazy ride on a bamboo train, and got very wet in the rain on the journey too, it was like a fairground ride.
Yesterday we arrived in Phnom Penh, it's a crazy city, we were the only westerners on the bus so when we got off we were swamped by drivers trying to take our bags and take us to random hotels. Every time you walk out the door that happens but we're kind of used to it now. It's extra busy as there's a water festival this weekend. We had a bit of a long accomodation search but we have somewhere now and we're going to stay for the first part of the festival before we fly to Laos on Saturday.
Tomorrow we're going to the killing fields which I'm not looking forward to but I think it's important to see. It makes you realise how resilient the people are, they've experienced so much horror but they still continue life with a smile!
I'll try and put some photos on here soon, keep in touch and feel free to leave us messages on here.
Lots of Love Vicky xx