Hello there!!! Steve again with another wonderful blog for you all to read and enjoy! So stop what your doing, get your cup of tea brewed, and have a giggle at Steve and Holly's misadventure!
We join our trepid travellers on a bus, Laos disappearing into the dust cloud behind our bus. The first thing that strikes me about Cambodia is the eerieness of it all. The country seems to have a cloud hanging over it, a cloud of forboding, the country licking its still fresh wounds from its recent torrid past. So with our breaths held we head deep into Cambodia, to Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap is a great town. There is a chilled out atmosphere, a good mix of tourists and backpackers. The main river running through the middle of the town is a bit scummy, but we weren't going to swim in it, so that worked out okay! Our first day was spent relaxing, walking around town. It was here that I had my first (of many, sadly) encounter with a Landmine victim. It threw me to say the least. I didn't know where to look, a reaction they must get all the time. But he seemed happy enough, working his specially constructed bike off down the road. Like I say, first of many, and we saw others less fortunate than him. At least he had a wide selection of books to sell, others just come and stare at you, tugging at your heart strings, until you give up some money.
We stayed in Siem Reap a few days longer than we thought we would because Holly fell ill. Nothing life threatening, although she would disagree with that, some dodgy chicken that played havoc with her system. But whilst she was ill in bed, I played pool and drank beer. So I'm now a hotshot pool player. That makes me seem quite heartless, I did really look after her, honest!
So finally, a couple days after we had anticipated, we got to Angkor Wat, one of the many places in the world that I really wanted to see. And it didn't let me down. We found a great tuk tuk driver for the day, and at ten in the morning, off we went. Our first stop was a temple Banteay Kdai, a lesser visited temple. Already we were awestruck. The architecture was beautiful. We were pressed for time, so flew through this temple and visited the Landmine Museum. This was set up by a former Khmer Rouge Child Soldier, that was forced to lay landmines. As a form of penance, in his mind, he now clears landmines, having cleared anywhere between 50,000 to 60,000, using just a stick to find them. His story is remarkable, as are most of the facts and figures in the museum. For instance, it takes $1,000 to clear a landmine safley, but just $1 to make one. There is something very wrong with these figures. After this we went to a temple called Banteay Srey, which is further out than most. There is a sandy coloured stone used in this temple, and again, some of the most intricate carvings I've ever seen. Quite amazing. From here we went to my favourite temple, Ta Prohm. The temple of the trees, because trees are actually growing within the temples themselves! It's breathtaking to see. Also, Lara Croft was filmed here. Little fact for you there. But it was fun to explore all the little walkways, and wonder what actually went on here those thousands of years ago. After visiting a few more temples, we got to one called the Bayon. Temple of the faces. Faces about 1.5-2 metres cut out of the rocks. Everywhere you turned another face. A bit disconcerting, felt like someone was watching me the entire time. (In fact someone was, a guard, I had leant on a bit of rock I wasn't supposed to, whilst taking a picture of a monk. Naughty Naughty!) And then, finally, to Angkor Wat itself. Walking across a massive moat they loom out of the distance. Three spires, red and majestic in the setting sun. It was here that we had a really bad picture taken of us, all you could see was Holly and I, not Angkor Wat. Who wants to see us really, when this superb structure stands behind us. So there ended our trip to Angkor Wat, standing near one of the oldest wonders of the world, and in my eyes, one of the best.
So, next stop was the seaside resort of Sihanoukville. We just wanted to kick back by the sea, and who could blame us. It rained on the first day. Great. So all we could do was play pool whilst the beggar children ran around our legs, moving our balls about on the table. Holly beat this hotshot pool player, a trend which continues throughout Asia apparently. It was here that we bumped into our old Manchester friends Rob and Mark. Randomly, they stayed in the same hotel as us! So to celebrate this fact, we hit the beach in the evening for some bucket fun. Well the buckets we got were a Coke bottle cut in half, a jug, and what looked suspicously like a Potty. Unlucky Mark! The day after we decided to be chav-tastic and hire mopeds and go out cruising for the day. It was great fun! I got the Moped up to 30 K/ph which I thought was really fast, till Holly pointed out it was only about 20m/ph. My bubble burst we went off looking for sights in Sihanoukville, and didn't find many. Wat Leu was painted by a local to be one of the best Temples in Cambodia. It was a dive! Paint peeling, beggar kids running around. Holly and Rob gave them 1000 riel each because they looked so forlorn, and one of them pulled out a wedge bigger than all our money put together!ey know how to play the tourists. Still the view of the city and the sea was amazing. After this we sped off (yes I went at about 45 k/ph) to New Beach, which looked old, and then to Victory Beach. It had a bar with an aeroplane in it! Mental. Then off to the local market which was really was great. But we did find a bakery with cookies the size of our faces, so all was not lost. Incidently, my helmet had DH written on the back of it. Another nickname I have picked up on the trip. The day after was Valentine's Day, so Holly and I went on a really nice boat trip. Bit of snorkelling followed by a BBQ fish lunch on Bamboo Island. All great. Our last stop for a bit of snorkelling, I had to help a rather large German Lady get back on the boat, which was nearly tipping as she got back on. The evening was spent celebrating Ross's birthday. Many buckets, good tunes, and a great crowd of people all drank to Ross back home. Namely because Holly and I kept reminding everyone by saying 'Here's to Ross' with every bucket we sunk. A great birthday, one that I'll sort of remember with great fondness. Happy Birthday Dude!
So with a heavy head the next morning we headed to Phnom Penh, the Capital city. Mopeds everywhere! Our first day we went for a very long walk down the riverside and up to the National Museum. The museum building looked really good, but inside is a collection of looted goods. Mainly from Angkor Wat. But still impressive to see. After this we sweated our way to the Royal Palace. Here, we kept joining random tour groups, so found out some interesting information. Here, we also visited the infamous Silver Pagoda. A temple with a silver floor, very impressive. Holly and I both touched the Silver with our big toes, naughty naughty again! At this rate, we could be expelled from Cambodia.
The day after was quite a hard day emotionally. We visited a place called the Killing Fields, a dark and horrid place. This was were the Khmer Rouge would mercilessly kill anyone against Pol Pot's crazy regime. The field has a heavy air to it. The first structure we came to was a monument of remembrance for the dead. Filled with skulls of the few mass graves they dug up. Thousands upon thousands piled upwards. Some with obvious cracks where they had been bludgeoned to death to save ammunition. It's a very humbling experience. Walking around the fields, boards explain how DDT was poured on the bodies to get rid of the stench, and to kill anyone in the pit that had miraculously survived the ruthless hammering. A tree that soldiers had used to kill babies, by swinging the babies round....well you get the picture. I was shocked by what humans can do, all in the name of what? After here we went to the Tuol Sleng Museum, otherwise known as S21. A school transformed into a place of torture and hate. Classrooms turned into mass prisons. Anyone who entered never was seen again. Some of the torture methods were medieval, but effective for Pol Pot's need for information. Barbed wire blocked people from committing suicide. Mothers giving birth whilst living in these sordid conditions, only for the babies to be taken away never to be seen again. An experience that struck us deeply, and one I'm even finding hard to write about now.
The next two days were spent seeing the rest of what Phnom Penh had to offer. One of our Tuk Tuks broke down in the middle of the road, but the driver sorted it out fairly quickly. Our last night in Cambodia was spent in Asia's most Comfortable bar, which boasted owning over 130 cushions (we counted 60). It wasn't that comfortable, but they had a deal on, buy 2 Long Island Ice Tea's, get a 3rd free. Well, I don't need to tell you what happened. We left Cambodia, heading for Vietnam, again with heavy heads, but also with heavy hearts. Here was a country with such a torrid, violent past, but no matter which corner you walk round, which bar you walk in, which market you shop in, there will always be a smile.