The House that Michael Jackson built
Trip Start Mar 29, 2004
55Trip End Jul 26, 2005
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Where I stayed
The Hello Guesthouse
I'm In Hat Yai at the moment about 45km's north of the border with Malaysia where I am heading this afternoon, in the meantime I have some time to kill so I will try and remember what i have done since I last put in an entry four/five days ago.
yes, the journey over was a nightmare as I said but I awoke the next morning smiling about the whole thing, I survived and that's what's important. I was ready to do soem serious sightseeing and I wasn't to be dissapointed. As I said at the end of the last posty I intended to fly bck to Bangkok depending on how cheap it was. I even ummed and ahhed about lying straight to Kuala Lumpur but had to check it all out
Tuesday morning I had arranged to meet a couple who I had travelled over with to head out to the temples. Tally and Danny (uncanny resemblance to my cousin Daniel) were from Ireland and on their way home. They seemd like a bit of a laugh and it was cheaper to go as a three than alone. We arranged to meet at 9am, so i raced down stairs at 9:40 only to find the restraunt empty. Missed them I thought but no. It turned out that 9:30 was a bit too adventerous for us all and they eventually surfaced about 10am.
The Hello guest house was owned and run by a family, the grandmother was the head of the family (that will come later) and her son and his wife were next. The Son was a man in his mid-late 40's Suram, not to be confused with Saruman, of LOTR fame. he was freindlybut we were all still a bit suspicious of being ripped off so when he offered to 'take us for a ride' we weren't sure.
The currency in Cambodia is the Reil, however it's so virtually worthless that they use the good old U S Dollar. Anyway, for 20 dollars a day between the three of us he would take us around the sites of the various temples. A steal.
The whole complex covers 100's of square km's so you really need a driver to see it all and Suram's air conned. Toyota Camry, was the lap of luxury. On top of this it costs you 40 USD's for a three day pass, again cheap at half the price.
We set off around 11
Most of the Khymer temples were built between the 8th and 13th century but most of them have only been rediscovered in the last 150-200 years. several attempts have been are still being made to restore them to former glories, however wars have often innterupted efforts and many ornament s and artifacts have been either stolen for foreign collectors or simly removed to safe sorage to stop them being stolen. Some sights such as Angkor Wat itself are in much better condition than others such as Ta Phrom, are. This doesn't mean to say they are not worth visiting as hopefully some of my Photo's will show.
So we spent most of the afternoon wandering around 'The Bayon' with all it's faces and carvings, the temple didn't seem to be in such great condition but as we drove by on the third day, I think I appreciated it more. Everything is so big and as with other such sites across the world, you can't begin to imagine how they were costructed. After this we visited the smaller temple of 'Thommanon' just outside the gates of The Bayon, which were also impressive, the bridges across the moat were lined with Statues of Deomons and Gods, all pulling on the body of a serpant
After this and before we headed to Angkor we visited 'Ta Keo'. The temple here rose above the treetops and to a certain extent as with the Pyramids, the wonder of this place was the size of the stones placed in the roof of the four towers so high above the canopy. It gave great views, but was steep to climb, well worth it though.
We finished the day with a visit to Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples in the area. The one you are most likely to have seen, unless of course you managed to sit through Tomb Raider in which case you will ahve seen 'ta Phrom' too. It's one of the level's on 'Pang' too if you have ever played the computer game.
Angkor Wat is about 1.5 by 2 km's and is surrounded by a moat over 500 metres wide. It's big. And best of all it's in great condition although there is still extensive restoration work going on as we witnessed. The Idea was we arrived around 3:30pm looked around and then stayed to watch the sun set at which point the buildings were supposed to change colour, not literally, the light gave the impression of a colour change and not to black either, a colour change ok?
We didn't have enough time to see it all, the vast carved galleries around the exterior walls depicting mythical and actual battles in the end probably took us a couple of hours to wander round. This was before we even thought of climing to the towers and checking out the views they afforded us. We abandoned the galelries halfway around andm headed up top to look at the sunset
As it turned out someone else had decided it wasn't safe to be climing around after dark, either that or the fact there was no lights meant it would be hard to round people up afterwards meant we had to climb down and watch the sun set from the safety of the grounds. We did and it was great, not that great though and I couldn't help thinking I had seen much better sunset's out of the kitched indow back home. Oh well, I bought postcards with the good sunsets on. It wasn't really the right season to be seeing great subsets I suppose. Damn good weather!!
We headed back to hello and after dinner and a can of 'Angkor' I went to the internetb cfe and then bed ready for the 5am start to see sunrise over the temple. Hear that people I was getting up before some of you were going to bed.
Suram knowcked on my door at about ten too
I realise I'm going on a little but I have to get it all down.
We headed north next for about 30 km's gave me a chance to have a bi of a kip although the road surface here wasn't so condusive to sleeping (although still better from the border). Suram did tell us at one point though that his wife and son took no salary from the guest house as it all went to pay for the car. This bloke was pretty genuine I decided and he works bloody hard, but then so does everyone here. Apart from the border police!! Having said that apparently the wage for a police officere here is on 25 USD a month. You have to expect corruption I suppose. Suram also made me smile, but not so he could noticed, when he mentioned there were very few landmines now thanks to 'Queen' Diana Spencer, oh how I wish 'Liz' had been a fly on the windscreen, sorry did I ay 'on' the windscreen I meant in the car...
North was a tiny temple, 'the Citadel of women' it was quite big, just everyuthing was tiny and intricate. Alot of excvation was prevalent here. It was also here that the 'Mister want to buy postcard' 'Want to buy T-shirt' strted to get annoying. I had purchased postcards and a hat that fitted(!!) on day one and we were being harassed every time we stepped from the car. No thankyou simply wasn't taken seriously and I think we were all getting a bit narked. Apparently alot of people have moved here in the last few years expecting there to be lots of money to be made. Maybe in a couple of years when the literally dozens of luxury hotels have been completed but at the moment, especially out of season there is not. If had had given a dollar to everyone who had asked (they are all children) I would of given out 100 dollars a day. If you don't want to buy they would just ask for a dollar. pretty depressing.
Wes topped by a couple more temples on the way back, but by this time we were really knackered and i could of just gone home but it was probably only about 9:30 and Suram had plans for us. he was such a nice fella. he was dissapointed if we didn't want to go somewhere as he thought we would be missing out. It was no skin off his nose either as he would get paid the 20 either way.
We headed to Ta Phrom apparently used as one of the setings for Tomb raider. this place was special too. Other than some minor structural work to make it safe to enter Ta Phrom had been left to the jungle and would of looked simular to the way alot of the surrounding tmpoles would have appeared when the French wandered in here 150 years ago
We were really lucky in that alot of the places we went were really tranquil with no one around but when you get to the big places and Ta Phrom was one, you can't help wishing you had visited 10 years ago.
After this we had to retire to the guest house. It was around 2pm and after a quick snack I fell into bed for a couple of hours. Slept soundly.
At 4pm we went out to the market and to try and buy a flight back to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. I got the flight to Bangkok,KL too expensive and then Suram dropped us off at the market. He would pick us up at 6:30 to go and see a free film detailing the horrors of the civil war starring Gerrard Depardieu, they speak French over here, it used to be a French Colony. Good Bread too.
At market I burned memory card to CD and bought a Tshirt and a book. I forgot to mention that as part of the border crossing my pack got absoloulty soaked and most of the books I was carrying got, if not ruined then beyond resale back in Bangkok. Damn the border!! I also got accosted buy a couple of amputees begging. I gave them a little of what I had but of course then I was suddenly surrounded by more and again, I'm not ignorant to these people's plight but it does make for a pretty intimadating atmosphere. In the car on the way to the film we asked if the victims of land mines got any kind of pension from the govt. Suram 'didn't know' which I'm not sure how to tke as I'm sure he did know, he just didn't want us to know.
On the wasy to the film, we passed some strike action which was pretty refreshing. One of the hotels there owned by a Singaporean, I'm still not sure that's a word, charges $1600 a night, yep, one thousand six hundred US dollars a night. The place didn't even look that great. Well anyway, it also charges 10% service charge on things like food, drinks etc. But as it's charging $1600 a night and is probably only taking $1550 of that as profit it doesn't pass the service charge onto the staff. So they have been on strike outside the hotel for a month. Some things here have to change.
Now to the title of the entry, 'The House that Michael Jackson Built', although it's not going to have the same impact as I thought it woul as we headed for teh screening. The film was shown every night of the week for free at a local hospital, The hospital was mostly funded by a $2.5m donation from 'King Michael Jackson' ok, he didn't call him king, the kings Elvis, everyone knows that, but Suram spoke of him as if he were a king. Obvioulsy don't pay too much attention to international news out here. He certainly didn't appreciate the irony of Jacko donating to a childrens hopital anyway. But as I said, little impact as the film people were away in Europe fundrasing. hey, it might be coming to a cinema near you. I shouldn't joke, I did intend to write the name of it down but I gave all my pens away to children around the temples. See I do have a heart.
After that just back for dinner and then bed again. Knackered and had to be out again by ten the following morning.
I'm not going to ven pretend that I can name any of the temples other than finishing at Angkor Wat, we visited on the third day, oh yes I can, Bakong, lot's of Elephant athough they had graffiti on their bottoms. You just can't quite beleive some people. We saw another temple like Ta Phrom, thje temple of the sacred sword, lots of big trees doing damage again and after finishing off what we wanted to see at Angkor Wat we climed a temple on a hill to watch the sunset. Suram had wanted us to go the day before as he had said it wiould be a great sunset but we were tired. Wish we had. After climing all the way up, you could of taken an Elephant (never again) the sun dissapeared behind cloud and there was no sunset at all, again alot of talking and camera clicking
We did the ensible thing and descended the steps, well there were steps theer a 1000 years ago before dark and again headed back for dinner. have to say the food at the guset house was fantastic. After a vreif visit to the internet cafe I downed a few beers and watched the repeat of the UEFA cup final, poor old fabien Barthez eh? More importantly poor old Emile Heskey, forced to play for Steve Bruce next season. Hope he gets a hatfull, not against us of course.
My flight the next day was at 8 so I figured be there for 7, I had to fly to Phnom Penn first. This wasn't as easy as I thought I was donstairs for 6:30 to find Danny arguing over his bill. He had been told six dollars a night and now they were trying to charge him 8. I know it was a principle thing but it only got wiorse when Surams Mother started shouting at us all in camboian. They were so desperte the first night to get u in that everyone was being offerd different rates but no one was telling the boss. At 7:15 we still ahdn't left for the airport. I had been told the previous day it was 30 minutes. After much screaming and shouting from mother dear we settled te bill and were on our way, Presedentil airlines flight 0875, qite good actually, good snacks and drinks.
I madem it back to Bankok at around 11am and immediately looked at getting to Kuala Lumpur. I did breifly think about flying but having in myn own mind 'cheated' coming back from Cambodia so I've just got off the sleeper trauin to the border and I should arrive there first thing tomorrow to spend a couple of days with Laura and Paul, friends of Lucy and Gails.
Bloody hell that was long. Must try and do it more often. Sorry again if you were bored, I wasn't I had a mmorable five days, it would be great to go bck again someday see how all the restoration hjas gone on. Thanks to Suram and his family. To his mum. STOP SHOUTING!!!
John, Have you seen a film called the Butterfly Effect?
Don't forget it's my birthday on the 3rd of June.