Well, we left you hanging as to whether we would get to Cambodia, or if we had been royally ripped off. I'm sure you've all been waiting with baited breath to hear what happened to us....WE MADE IT! Ok, the transport wasn't quite the "VIP"coach we had been promised, and after the border crossing our minibus no longer even had air conditioning, but we made it safe and sound. Our planning ahead and getting an E-visa didn't speed up out border crossing at all, since there was just a crowd of tourists around 2 immigration officers at desks. However, it did mean we had got a bargin price of $12 for our visa, whilst others were forced to pay around double that at the Poi Pet border crossing. Our crossing was further delayed by having 2 Bangladeshi men in our travel group as they had trouble getting visas for Cambodia. According to the guide with our group "muslims cause many problems", which seemed a bit of a sweeping statement. On the topic of the Bangldeshi men, one of them put the border crossing as Pol Pot instead of Poipet - big no no!
Having made it to Siem Reap we spent our first day relaxing and visiting the market (James bought a bag at this point, as Zoe was tired of being the pack horse). The following day we made the necessary pilgrimage to Angkor Wat, and impressed ourselves with our ability to be entertained with exploring old buildings - James mainly enjoyng the challenge of climbing them, and Zoe mainly enjoying the trees.
We trekked into town from our guesthouse on 9th February to catch our 7:30am coach to Phnom Penh. We arrived 15mins early, but our coach was there and about to leave. In hindsight I think we'd just got the earlier 7am bus as Cambodian buses seem to run late, rather than early! In Phnom Penh we found ourselves a guesthouse looking out onto the lake and decided to take it easy with the sightseeing.
Our plan had been to head straight to the Laos embassy and sort out our visa, but James realised it was Saturday and the embassy was unlikely to be open until Monday. On Sunday we decided to have a jolly day and went to the Tuol Sleung Museum, where the Khmer Rouge set up Security Office 21 (S21) a prison, where thousands of people (mainly Cambodians) were held and tortured. Some died there, otheres were taken to the Killing Fields to be disposed of. The site of S21 was previously a school and from the outside looks fairly normal, but once you step into the old classrooms you see the rooms used for torture or split into many cells. It was a haunting place. Not least because the Khmer Rouge took mugshot photos of the prisoners on arrival and these are displayed throughout the museum. Photos of men, women and even children, nearly all of who died during Pol Pot's Regime. If any of you happen to be in Phnom Penh, definitely visit Tuol Sleung.
On Monday we sorted outour visa at the Laos embassy and decided to visit the Royal Palace. I don't know if we'd had our fill of gawping at things after The Grand Palace in Bangkok, but neither of us really enjoyed the trip, and somehow we managed to walk through the Silver Pagoda (big highlight of the Palace apparently_) without realising what it was until we were at the exit and thought we must have missed it! Our final day in the capital saw us visiting The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek. Not quite as harrowing an experience as Tuol Sleung, but not far behind. The most disturbing part was that walking around the fields you could still see the remnants of victims clothing in and around the mass graves that had been dug.
A sore point of the day was we were ripped off for the tuk tuk to and from the killing fields. The driver told us it was $6 there and $8 back. We thought this meant you got a discouted rate for using the same tuk tuk driver there and back. Apparently though these were the 2 separate costs for each journey. Why on earth did it cost more to get back?? James was deeply offended with this, especially as this was a tuk tuk driver who was associated with our hostel, so we thought it would be a good deal. He was rather a grumpy man in general (the tuk tuk driver, not James).
We are now nearing the end of our leg in Cambodia. We arrived in Kratie today and hope to see some dolphins and a waterfall tomorrow. Then we plan to head to Laos involving another border crossing. Fingers crossed we can make it on the first attempt this time!