However despite the welcome we fell in love with Cambodia and upon arrival in Siem Reap warmed to our surroundings straight away
. We stayed at the Ancient Angkor Inn which was a steal at $15 a night for a really plush hotel room in the city centre. Having met an American/Canadian couple on our border crossing ordeal we met back up with them and their friends from Toronto to go and watch the sun set over the much famed Angkor Wat temple. We plumped for the 3 day $40 pass to Angkor Wat & the numerous surrounding temples & returned the next morning (setting off on bike at 5am riding 7km to the temples) to watch the sun rise over the temple Bayon which was absolutely amazing despite it being cloudy! We then spent the rest of the morning riding round the small circuit looking at all the different ancient temples, my favourite being Wat Ta Phrom where they filmed Tomb Raider mainly because the ruins were interspersed with enormous ancient trees wrapped around them metres thick and roots above ground. We had totted up about 30km by about 2pm and rode home somewhat wearily in the heat, visiting a charity run English school in a village near the temples and exchanging details with a promise to keep in touch. That night we had an enormous night out on Siem Reap's 'Pub Street' and managed to be up for nearly 24hours straight. Needless to say the next day was spent nursing a hangover and, for James at least, in bed until hunger won out.
We returned reinvigorated the next day to Angkor Wat to do the Grand Circuit but this time by tuk-tuk with Mr
. Polo our driver and we watched the sun set over the temples which was just beautiful. We treated ourselves to some beauty treatments afterwards (James has become quite the fan) and ate again at one of the really good restaurants in Siem Reap. On the way home we were overcome by street children desperately begging and grabbing on to us, the whole time in Cambodia the poverty was astonishing. It was desperate in some areas with huge proportions of people begging with limbs missing from land mine accidents and the overwhelming majority of people selling on the streets were children, some as young as 2 or 3. It is difficult to know which is the best way to help, whether buying food or giving money or just giving to charity. So we made decisions as we went and did the best we thought in each situation.
Our final day in Cambodia was spent on Horses trekking through the Cambodian countryside and rural villages where we were greeted with huge welcomes and children screaming "Hallooooo" at us everywhere we went. My horse Sabai gave me a bit a of a run for my money blatantly ignoring my intentions and refused to let anybody be in front of him as soon as we cantered! James was very at home on his horse and managed to gallop along behind me trotting along slowly. It was a fun few hours and the guy who ran the Happy Ranch was a local celebrity with his ray bans, cowboy hat and Harley pulling our tuk-tuk home.
After one more super cheap beauty treatment each, a manicure on my part and a foot scrub for James (which took the poor woman 1hr 10mins to complete as his feet were so black) we caught a night bus, which was somewhat like a human battery farm chock full of minuscule beds to Koh Kong where we crossed the border, thankfully hassle-free, into a Thailand which was finally no longer forbidden to travel to after the violent protests.
To pick up from where we left off - penniless and with no money for our visa into Cambodia our much needed promise of an ATM never materialised. We reached the border and were essentially left in no-mans land between countries with no money - but with extremely corrupt Cambodian border officials demanding $3 here and there for various stamps and $25 dollars for a $20 visa. After many an argument with our travel company and with the border officials, who with no trace of embarrassment had a bulging suitcase of money of all currencies sitting behind them from their 'charges', we managed to negotiate an exchange using James' spare Australian Dollars for an abysmal rate into US Dollars and make it half way over the border. To cut a long story short we walked away with not a penny left in any currency to get into Cambodia whilst the 'Police' sat behind their desks counting money which they promptly pocketed. Welcome to Cambodia indeed.