Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Phnom Penh. Too expensive! April 15, 2010

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 2:58 AM

We arrived in phnom penh just after 6 pm and shortly after made it to our guest house – Me Mates Place. From the short tuk tuk ride from the bus station to our guest house we quickly realized this city was far more expensive than our beloved siem reap – and locals were not afraid to rip us off. We were warned that phnom penh was pricier so we sucked up the expensive guesthouse and settled down for dinner. It was upon meeting the outgoing bar and wait staff – Tony Montana – who was sporting a hat similar to my own that I realized in my eager attempt to get off the bus to rescue my bag I saw being carried away from the bus by a stranger that I had left my hat and my new paintings on the bus!!!! Quickly upon realization we hopped into a tuk tuk, overcharged again, and headed back to the bus station. After a few phone calls I was told that the bus was across the river at the depot. Relieved, we hopped in another tuk tuk and drove to the depot and picked up my belongings! It was this tuk tuk driver that we deemed a lifesaver and decided to hire him for our time in the city.

Our two nights in the city consisted of hanging out in the restaraunt of our guest house – too afraid to venture out after dark as we heard stories of travellers being mugged – so we hung out with the staff and other guests playing games.

During the day we visited the genocide museum – S 21 – which was a high school coverted into a torture prison during the civil war in 1975. It was really heartbreaking as it really makes everything seem so real. We were however lucky enough to meet one of the 7 survivors of the S21 prison and upon meeting him I was somewhat star struck in the sense that I was at a loss for words. As I tried to wrap my head around all that he went through and experienced in his life it really made me feel almost selfish for the life I’ve had and the luxuries within it to see a man stand before me in the prison, freed of his shakles but not of the vivid memories and pain that went with them. It was a truly remarkable experience and one I will not soon forget.

After S21 we went to the killing fields which again was a mind numbing experience. Walking around the killing fields you could actually see reminents of clothing and bones of the victims protruding through the ground. And in the monument in which they constructed housed the hundreds of skulls of the women, men and children that they discovered in the pits of the killing fields. It certainly made it seem real to me and again it left me with an uneasy feeling of confusion as to how my life and the lives of those who endured this montrosity could be so different. It was an unsettling experience but definitely one that put things in perspective for me.

During our stay in Phnom Penh it was the Khmer new year which meant a lot of businesses were closed which left us with little to do (which is probably a good thing considering the higher costs of things. )

This morning we packed up, said farewell to our friends at Me Mates Place and headed for the airport. We are now into the second and final lag of our flight to Bali!!!!!

 

Angkor What!? April 13, 2010

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 12:17 AM

We arrived in Siem Reap a couple hours later than expected and to our amazement we had a tuk tuk waiting for us sent by our guesthouse – The Happy Guesthouse. We arrived late in the night but were still greeted with smiling faces and great service.

The next morning we borrowed some bikes from our guesthouse and rode into town to the markets and shops. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. From the moment we arrived in Cambodia I have just felt this deep connection to the country and it’s people. Both pride and compassion for the people and place.

Our second day here we were picked up at 5 am to start the first of three days of temple trekking Angkor Wat and more. We were blown away by the sheer volume of temples that sprinkle the countryside surrounding Siem Reap. The first day we explored Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom which had us out and about from 5 am to noon. We easily could have spent far more time at each place but with the temperature increasing and our energy decreasing we decided to call it a day. The second day we explored the temples on the bigger circuit and the third day consisted of a 45 minute tuk tuk ride in the hot breeze to the furthest temple. Maria and I both seemed to have an interest moreso in the temples that lacked preservation and rather remained in their natural state so we didn’t fully appreciate the temples on the last day. After three days of temple trekking we were templed out and exhausted from the heat. Our friends that stayed at the same guesthouse did three full days – 8 am to 6 pm – so needless to say, they were exhausted.

Our evenings included trips into town to the night markets and then back to the happy guesthouse to watch a movie or call it a night.

Shopping in Cambodia got the best of me. For some reason I had a hard time holding on to my dollar bills (they use American dollars here!) and it wasn’t just because of my love for shopping but more so for the deep compassion I felt for this country and it’s people. When I could I tried to compensate a cold drink or a snack in replace of the dollar bills but it wasn’t always well recepted. Regardless I walked away feeling good and usually with some sort of souvenier for friends and family and the children or vendors were a couple dollars richer.

The last day of temple trekking we found ourselves with a couple hours to kill so we hung out at one of shop areas alongside the road. It wasn’t long before we had a group of local children around us playing the alphabet game. It was a pretty rewarding experience!

Now a tid bit about the happy guesthouse. For anyone going to Siem Reap I strongly recommend staying here. Although it’s located across the river and few blocks from the city centre it is well worth the one dollar tuk tuk ride to town. The owners are fantastic. Although they don’t speak a lot of English they understand completely, and have enough young locals hanging around that step in to help. They have free wifi and free computers with Internet. They have bikes you can use for free to get to and from the city centre – less than a 10 minute ride. If you want to use the bikes to see the temples it’s about 1 or 2 dollars a day (if you’re brave enough to bike the distance in the scorching heat and hike around temples all day-this is definitely the cheaper way to do things.) They have DVDs and tv and a book swap as well. Our room for two people was 6 USD night which they discounted to $5.40. And on a really hot day they came in and gave us free air con for an hour. They arranged all of our transportation for the temples and our bus to Phnom Penh as well as took care of our laundry and our postage. And the food was delicious and much cheaper than most places in town. I absolutely loved this place!

I am sad to be leavig Siem Reap as we are now on the bus to Phnom Penh. It’s a six hour bus ride which in comparison to some of our previous bus trips, it’s a walk in the park. We will be in capital for two nights, one of which is the Khmer New Year so that will hopefully be a unique experience.

 

A new perspective on the temples of Angkor Wat. April 11, 2010

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 7:46 AM

Temples of Angkor Wat. Traditional Cambodian Scarf. Ray Bans.

Temples of Angkor Wat.
Traditional Cambodian Scarf.
Ray Bans.
Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of my favorite pictures from today!

 

We actually have a plan. Oh no. April 10, 2010

Filed under: Cambodia,travel — esacc @ 6:09 AM

For the first time since Caitlin left us in Bangkok, Maria and I are faced with a time line! Considering we expected to be in Australia April 1st – and we were still in Laos come April 1st – we have had to adjust our plans accordingly. Sooo we have finally booked a flight down to Bali in Indonesia for April 15th and booked a room in Phnom Phen for the 14th – so that means we will be around for the Khmer New Year and the water festival that goes with it! But that also means that our time in Siem Reap is numbered which is heartbreaking because I actually love love love this place more than any of the other countries we’ve been to. But we are making the most of our time here.

We purchased a 3 day Ankor Wat pass so we are using our time to explore the city and the temples enriched within and around it. This morning we were picked up by our driver at 5 AM and we watched the sun rise over the largest temple of Ankor Wat then we strolled in, around and between the nearby temples – including the temple where the movie the Tomb Raider was filmed – until about lunch time. Tomorrow we are being picked up at 10AM and we’ll be visiting some of the temples further out of the city and finishing the day watching the sunset.

It’s been amazing and we have some (lots) great photos!

 

Cambodia April 8, 2010

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 6:39 AM

We departed by boat from Don Det and got into our bus to the Laos Cambodian border. We arrived in good time an everything and everyone with us was processed quickly. However once on the Cambodian side of the border there was some confusion as to what was happening and we ended up having to wait around for two hours for some people from another bus. And unfortunately some people on their bus were causing problems at the border and refusing to pay the extra dollars in “administration fees” and all of is were forced to wait for them. We finally departed and made our way south. We are into our tenth hour of travel time. We won’t be arriving into siem reap until late tonight but from what I have seen of the country and it’s people – I love it!