So I skipped out a bit of Thailand and will just join it up in another post with our other visits there (as we have been going back and forth!)
20th Feb – 9th March is when we were in Cambodia. It looks like this will be a long post but hey, it’s free entertainment and you might learn something and it’ll keep you out of mischief.
From Bangkok, we travelled overland by a mixture of train, tuk tuk and taxi to Siem Reap. Considering that we travelled across the Poipet land border – infamous for scam after scam, we came out of it pretty well. No one tried to hassle us to get our Cambodian visas at an ‘official consulate’ for an inflated cost or help us with filling forms for a ‘small fee’and even though the Cambodian visa official tried to extract some ‘processing fee’ (scribbled on a bit of paper) from us, we politely declined and kept pointing at the official Cambodian visa cost – $30 on a big sign over the visa window and he gave up (probably because it was early in the morning and we were in no rush – we read that they tend to play the waiting game with you in the afternoon as they know you’re rushing for a bus to Siem Reap).
Picture of the border crossing.
There’s a massive taxi monopoly here and everyone (including police) gets a cut so you end up being followed down the road by the middle men selling seats in a taxi! We decided to get a taxi for $10 each to share with 2 other passengers (a bus/minivan would have been cheaper but they tend not to leave until it’s full and there wasn’t a lot of tourists around). The middle man did lie to us as there were 3 Cambodian passengers already in the taxi and wanted me to sit in the back with 3 other people…we said we’ll do it if they gave us a discount and rather than giving us a discount they moved 2 people to the front passenger seat. I shit you not. Here’s a picture. It was like this for 2 hours.
It was actually a nice ride all the way to Siem Reap apart from the lady on our left being car sick – Chris gave his water bottle to her and we realised it was the one I labelled douchebag… oops. Our taxi driver even phoned our guesthouse to find out exactly where it was so he could drop us off there.
First impressions of Cambodia so far was pretty good, although super hot. The sticky humidity hot where you want a shower all the time and stay in an A/C all the time. In our first couple of days, we found a Japanese shaved ice place ‘Fresh Fruit Factory’. It was amazing and the shaved ice is made with condensed milk giving you that super melt in the mouth feeling.
Considering it was the dry season we had a thunderstorm…and this hostel/cafe that we were having lunch in got flooded!
It’s not in this picture but we had to wade through a junction (luckily we were in our flip flops) and the water was up to our ankles but seriously god knows what kind of shit was in the water…
We visited the famous Pub Street, and it wasn’t that great. Just super touristy, lots of expensive restaurants (for our budget) and crap being sold.
Anyways, one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) that people come to Siem Reap is because it’s the gateway to Angkor Wat and the other Wats (Wat meaning temple). We did debate on whether to visit the Wat because prices had only just increased in Feb from $20 for a day’s ticket to $37! Bad timing. We decided to go because it’s Angkor Wat, we’re here now and the prices may increase again in the future.
There’s a lot of Wats and we chose to do the Little circuit which includes Angkor Wat. We got a tuk tuk driver for the day for $15, another cheaper other option is to cycle but let’s face it’s too hot to contemplate that! Plus our tuk tuk driver Chen was really cool. If you’re ever staying at the Sweet Home guesthouse, Street 26 ask them to get you Chen to take you around (it also helps him pay for his language lessons).
Here are some pictures, Angkor Wat is more like a little town than just a temple. I didn’t realise how big it was.
Our first glimpse of Angkor Wat (east entrance). I overheard from a guide that back in the day, there were no trees around or anything.
It’s a massive complex and (below picture) here we are in the heart of it, at the top. Angkor Wat is different from other temples as it has never been abandoned and has been in use since it was built. Also it faces west instead of east unlike the other temples. The carvings are based upon the Hindu mythology, and I believe the Buddhist additions came many many many years later.
Some helpful signs within.
Some carvings, I think this one depicts a war with demons.
Another temple! To be honest even though Angkor Wat is the most famous, there’s actually other temples that are just as good or even better because it’s less busy.
This is a carving of an apsara, which can be found everywhere. Asparas are celestial nymphs.
Some guide told us it’s a carving of a dinosaur in the bottom of the below picture. I highly doubt this.
This one is our favourite temple – Bayon in Angkor Thom. It’s less busy than Angkor Wat and more of a rundown feeling to it and it’s filled with massive sculptures of heads.
Carvings depicting fishing.
I overheard a guide say that the long earlobes show that these are Khmer people.
You know how I said long earlobes = Khmer people? Well squinty eyes and small earlobes are the Chinese as in the picture below (at war). Hah. They know us so well.
On our last day in Siem Reap, we visited a silk worm farm. It was pretty interesting but sad to know that silk is made from boiling the poor bastards in order to get the raw and inner silk (2 types of silk) from their cocoons.
The buildings that the silk worms are grown in are protected by a moat of water around each column to stop the ants from getting in and eating them.
Here are the cocoons.
Here are the poor bastards being boiled for their silk.
Well there you go.
Our next brief stop is in Phnom Penh and we went to the S21 museum to learn about the Khmer Rouge. 20,000-30,000 people were tortured and killed here at what once used to be a a school. The regime was insane. People with glasses were a sign of the enemy, all the doctors were killed so the regime ended up training their own medics and they practiced by injecting pillows. That’s only some of the things we learnt. If you ever go, I recommend getting the audio guide because there’s no written down information.
Also, I don’t know if you know but the Cambodian currency is a mixture of US dollars and riel (anything smaller than a dollar as coins aren’t used).There’s 4000 riel to the dollar. So if something cost $1.50 then you pay $1 and 2000 riel. It was quite weird thinking in 2 currencies although you get used to it quickly. And I think I read somewhere that it was like this because the Khmer Rouge abolished money so the economy was severely disrupted.
We had a nice break watching some people do some aerobics. Full points go to this dude on the right who had his own rhythm and style and put more effort into it compared to other half assed gits.
We head onto Kampot.
It’s a place well known for durian and also for peppercorns! They also have a lot of salt farms too.
So famous for durian, that there’s a massive sculpture of a durian. Unsurprisingly its known as the Durian roundabout.
We went cycling around the countryside and it was pretty interesting.
We came across some school kids who just came across the river by boat to go to school on this side and have a cheeky sugar cane drink (then they lobbed the plastic cup into the river behind them without a thought). They liked football and Ronaldo.
It’s bloody hard work manually lifting 2 baskets of salt saturated with water (about 10 kilos?) We were told by our guesthouse hosts that these workers earn between 2-5 dollars per day…
From Kampot, we head to Koh Rong where we arranged to hang out with our Swiss friends. Koh Rong is a Cambodian Island and we chose to stay at Sons of Beaches. It’s a pretty nice place, we were about 1-1.5 hours walk from the main beach (thank god) and there was no wifi except at the next beach along (maybe 10 minutes walk). The sand is really squeaky to walk on – as in imagine that you’re walking on fresh snow.
It was very much a chill out place, which was very nice and I read a lot and played a lot of card games. We also ate a lot of fries.
Nice eh? Until you see all the junk and plastic bottles that get washed up on the beach.
We decide to walk to the main beach where there’s a high concentration of shops and restaurants and come across a dude motorcycling across Cambodia. We gave him a helping hand (I just conveniently watched as my knee graze was still healing).
Main beach. It was horrible, stuffed with shops, stalls, bars playing loud music and raw sewage being pumped out onto the beach into the water (sadly there are lots of business owners only thinking short-term) and people wonder why they get ill… Why would anyone come here?!? Why would you sunbathe or swim in the water?!? We weren’t impressed. Don’t come here.
Back again at our own little quiet beach.
Whoop, it was Fynn’s birthday! He passed 22 birthday riddles/puzzles that we set up for him and here is his ultimate reward – pancakes with Nutella.
Goodbye island! It won’t be the same in a few years as there’s so much development going on, which is sad.
We had to carry our bags on our heads (well the short asses like me) and wade through the water onto the little boat (in the background below) because the big speedboat couldn’t come to the pier because of the height of the waves.
We had a cheeky ice cream dessert when we stopped at a town near the border with Thailand.
Goodbye Cambodia and hello Thailand.
If you’ve read this far, here’s a treat for you. I call him Yoda because of his ears.
Thanks for bearing with me and I hope you learnt something from this post, Cambodia is a very interesting country and we met a lot of nice locals. (Ps we’re still in Penang).