Temples of Angkor
30.05.2008 - 04.06.2008 35 °C
The 7 hour bus journey from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh was surprisingly comfortable! It only took us 2 hrs to get to the border where we got our Cambodian visas no problem. Once we crossed the border from Vietnam to Cambodia the place looked noticably poorer. The countryside was really scenic with big paddy fields, palm trees and lots of water buffalo.
We were wrecked when we arrived in Phnom Penh and after a lot of looking around we found a relatively safe and clean place to stay by the lakeside. We were assured when we checked in that there were no rats in the guesthouse even though I didnt believe her it was too late to go anywhere else!
Phnom Penh is really nice in the city centre by the riverfront where the Royal Palace is located but as you probably know the city has a very chilling past. We met up with a lovely tuk tuk driver called Wayne ( I dont think that was his real name doesnt sound very Cambodian!) and he took around Phnom Penh for the day. We visited the killing fields, Tuol Seng, the Royal Palace and the local market.
I had read a few books on Pol Pol and the Khmer Rouge to psych myself up for the killing fields and Tuol Seng museum (a former secondary school which Pol Pol converted into a major torture centre for victims of the Khmer Rouge. They called them the Khmer Rouge because they wore red scarves around their necks). It was horrible to imagine how all those poor innocent Cambodians suffered under Pol Pots leadership. Around 2 million Cambodians died between 1975-1979. It was interesting to learn all about the Khmer rouge but horrified by what they had done to so many innocent people.
Enough depressing stuff, even though Cambodia has a very turbulent past it still is a fascinating country to visit just be careful not to wander off the beaten path because there are still hundreds of thousands of landmines left around the countryside since the civil war.
After a few days in Phnom Penh we got another bus to Siam Riep. The bus took around 6 hrs and the road was after an upgrade so not too many bumps along the way. We met a lovely Irish couple from Dublin on the bus and shared a tuk tuk into Siam Riep. When we got off the bus there were so many tuk tuk drivers scouting for business. It only costs a dollar for a spin into the city centre but they were hounding the place like a spin was worth $50. To be honest I got a fright when I saw them so hungry for business. One of them grabbed on to me but I just ran after Ben, Ciara and Steve as fast as I could and jumped into their tuk tuk!
Siam Riep is all geared towards the most magnificent Temples of Angkor! The following day we got up at 4.15 to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat. I know it was crazy getting up so early but it really was well worth it! We booked Mr. Tino for the day, the tuk tuk driver that collected us at the bus stop. Thats why the bus stop was so crazy because it the tuk tuk driver collects you at the bus stop chances are you ll book him the next day to drive you around the temples! The poor fellow went to sleep in his tuk tuk outside our guesthouse incase we would be stolen by another driver. We woke him up and he took us around for the day. He was only 22 so wasnt born when Pol Pot was in power but he told us about his parents and how they worked from sunrise to sunset in the fields as slave labours with very little food.
Even if you travel all the way to Cambodia and only see one thing make sure its Angkor! Angkor was the capital of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire. The place is full of beautiful temples and little kids who try hard and sell things to tourists. Ben had one little girl hanging off him to buy a bracelet! She was only around 5 "buy one for $1 and 2 for $2" not a very good sales technique but it worked. They would try so hard to sell anything. A Cambodian kid was trying to flog me cold drinks and I didnt want to be encouraging him. He asked me where I was from and I said Ireland. "Oh I know Ireland I know Dublin"! He put a bamboo bracelet on my wrist and said it was my free Cambodian souvenir. I felt so guilty then I went back to his shop and bought a can of coke for our tuk tuk driver Mr. Tino. I gave $1 for the coke and he was so proud and gave it straight to his mother. Then his mother was running after me to flog me a few t-shirts! Your heart would be broke from saying no thanks!
My favourite temple was Ta Prohm where Tomb Raider was filmed. It was really cool to see all the huge tree roots growing through the temple and it was still standing! We started at 4.15 and were wrecked by12.00 so finished up for the day. We had seen all the big ones at that stage so it was time to get out of the hot sun. It was so hot in Cambodia similiar to the dead heat in Laos with no sea breeze to cool us down! After all those temples we cooled down with a few Angkor beers with Ciara and Steve!
We spent less than a week in Cambodia. It was too hot and we were eager to push on to Thailand so from Siam Riep we got another dreaded bus to Bangkok!