-- purple haze - cambodia day 1 ...

Trip Start Dec 07, 1999
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3
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Trip End Jan 07, 2000


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Where I stayed
Eclipse Hostel

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, December 15, 1999

-- "Purple haze - Cambodia day 1"

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** I included alot of pics but they are low resolution, the high res pics will come later when I get back.
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Add a little Jimi Hendrix and the thud of a chopper and you have a Vietnam war flic. Flying into Cambodia, looking out the window, the rice fields and cattle are reminiscent of Platoon or Full metal jacket. Cambodia here I come...

The plane screeeeches down...

skid right...
skid left...

I exchange a quick worried glance with a few other passengers, is this normal? Not sure we all look a little worried, including the flight attendant...

Thud!
Ahhhhhh... fewph...

The momentum of the plane halts and we all breath a nice long sigh of relief... we survived the flight :)

I landed in the town of Siem Rep, a town which exists more or less for its neighbouring temples in Angkor. The airport is tiny, you land on the tarmac and walk out to a tiny little building to get your luggage and pay for your visa. I haven't seen my luggage since Ottawa... I am a little worried that it didn't make it... sure enough, there it is being hauled out of a the tiny plane we fell out of the sky in.

I play it cool and strut over to pick up my slighten beaten ruck sack.

Hordes of Hotel Touts await us, as they pull and prod one of the tourists ahead we make arrangements for a ride to our hotel. A Guest house which was recommended to us, the Eclipse.

--

I say "us" because the on the flight in, Nicky, a hardened traveller who sat next to me in the Bangkok airport, has tagged along to ease the pressure of travelling solo. She has been to Asia and has a huge amount of helpful info to help me out of trouble, Thank God :) she saved my Jet Lagged butt countless times already...

--

The guest house is great, 10$ US for a room with Air Con, a fan, 2 beds and a bath room. can't ask for more.

The sign in my room reads the rules of the guests... Rule Number 8 reads:

"Leave explosive at front"

Lovely :)

--

We head out to check the city of Siem Rep out. Its small, not much here. We walk into a monastery. No tourists here, the monks are sent here to live for a few years when they reach 20 I believe. The monks point, laugh and stare at us. Who can blame them, it's not a tourist attraction its a monastery. We ask the monks if we can walk around and take photos, no one speaks english but a quick point to the camera and we are in. Click Click... victory!

"Cambodia watch your step"

You do see many one legged amputees. 1 in 254 Cambodian are mine victims. The Khmer Rouge planted mines all over the country side to demoralize the people in an effort to bring the government down. The result is that Cambodia is that most mined country in the world. We stay on the beaten path ...

What you don't see here is a certain age group. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge killed most of the middle aged, educated men and it shows in the fact that you can't see anyone from that age group on the streets.

"Jet Lag... time to sleep"

With only a few hours of sleep ( 3 to be exact ) under my belt after 48 hours I start to see stars, I feel very faint. I am going to sleep like a baby tonight I think to myself...

But, I lay there, terribly Jet Lagged starring at the ceiling... I managed to squeeze in 5 hours of sleep. Awoken from my peaceful slumber by a Cockroach crawling on my forehead. Needless to say I didn't sleep from 2am on.

--

I have to say that the best thing I like about Cambodia, Siem Rep specifically, is that there are very... very... little tourists here. Walking down the street is an experience in itself. Cambodia is a Third World country, and it shows.

The US dollar is gold here, although the Cambodian Riel is the official currency I only get 20$ US exchanged into Riel for my entire stay. The Riel I do get is falling apart. The Riel is very dirty, I swear there was blood on some of my bills. I'll stick to the US currency, thanks.

"Angkor - An Authentic Cambodia Experience"

We arrive by motor bike at Angkor Thom at 6am. No one in sight. We stumble around the temples as the sun rises, monks and nuns stare at us like we are mad demons invading their sacred home. I felt like I was the first one to see these temples in centuries. The solitude of this place made us feel as though we shouldn't be there, like some sacred place. As the sun came up and tourists arrived, the illusions faded slightly but the mystical feeling made the Bayon at Angkor Thom remain my favourite temple.

The temples here are just now being turned into a tourist attraction. With the violent past Cambodia has had, the tourism which Angkor can bring is just what they need. But much work is needed. I think that if I were to come back in 2 years the experience would have been much different. It was so authentic and real, no tourist signs and warnings, ... this comes with some danger. The temples are falling apart and you can see that rocks and boulder fall daily here, just watch your step in the temples and heads up! But that's what makes it special and very real...

Angkor Wat, the temple everyone hears about was a little disappointing to me. It is marvellous but the bayon (Angkor Thom) was something that is hard to beat. The one thing I enjoyed at Angkor Wat was that we sat there for 4 hours. 2 Monks and a security guard gathered next to us and we talk for hours about what it was like living in Cambodia. I was shocked that the goverment employed security personnel was payed only 30$ US a month! Quite a real and sobering discussion, very hard for me to relate but I can now appreciate the state of Cambodia better. A nasty sun burn was my punishment for sitting in the sun for so long with no lotion...

Sun burned, tired, jet lagged and hungry, I trotted for the food stalls where my state of health made it hard to negotiate the price of a Coke. For some reason I was bargaining in the wrong direction, I found myself increasing the price I was trying to pay! Nicky bailed me out here and I wolfed down my Mr. Noodles to gained back my sanity, slightly...

"Parlez vous Francais?"

Cambodia was a french colony before King Sihanouk had that changed in the mid 20th century. The result is many english and french speaking Cambodia, thank god for that!

"Day 2 - Cough Cough..."

Good news, my cold is gone! Bad news, Nicky has my cold! shit shit... off to the pharmacy in Cambodia, this is gonna be fun :)... as we mime out our symptoms the pharmacist which basically is a lady with piles and piles of pills, shows us medication after medication... we settle for what we think looks like cough medicine, congestion medicine and Valium... that should do the trick!

--

Off to the temples... Ta Prohm is something else... The trees here have taken over the temples. Although most of the temples in Angkor were once overrun by the jungle, the archeologists have restored most temples and have removed the trees. This temple was preserved but many trees were left just as they were found. The feeling which result is as if you are stumbling onto an archeological find!

Its wonderful how the trees embrace the temples, supporting the rock. The trees are really holding up the rocks now, take the trees out, and you are left with a pile of rocks on the floor... Reminds you of how powerful mother nature really is...

We visited a slew of other temples and ended at a mountain top to see the sunset over Angkor Wat.

Sleep time...

"Last day in Siem Rep"

Lots of sleep ... I feel great! We head off to Banta Srei... what a disappointment! About 1 hour on extremely rough roads and this miniature temple isn't what it's cracked up to be. It's safe to go now but 4 years ago a tourist was shot dead on the way to this temple. Guards were once needed and bribes to be payed to the Khmer rouge were also needed. Thanks to the decline of the Khmer rouge and the death of Pol Pot, this is no longer a problem. I would recommend going though but not for the temple ... for the countryside.

On the way up you pass tons of Cambodians on the countryside. They live in tiny huts and labour in the field. its quite sad and the conditions are very poor, this would explain why 1 out of 5 children in Cambodia die young.

"Hello Mister!!!"

The Cambodians are the friendliest people I have ever seen in all of my travels. After all they have been through I have yet to find one mean Cambodian. Always a smile ready and always eager to practice their english. Little children run up to you laughing and saying "hello mister, madame!"... Most go to school ... 10$ a month for english courses I am told, in town we also passed computer schools, modern technology, I love it :)

"Fruit and Discos"

We bought a slew of weird fruits but the pics didn't quite come out. It's unbelievable the colours and tastes that you can find at the Cambodian fruit market! After chowing down, the guest house owner takes us to a disco...

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Ahhh! The power just went out! I have to save and continue later before the UPS (power supplies) die...

Great the Internet router wont work... here I am in Cambodia and I find myself trouble shooting an Internet Link!!!!!!!

I am back... phewph...
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The disco was pretty funny ... Cambodian music isn't quite my cup of tea but our slightly horny yet funny guide made it worth the while... the hordes of prostitutes blowing kisses my way was good for a laugh though...

"Goodbyes"

That's it for Siem rep... a speed boat to Phnom Pen and here I am. The boat was nice, the morning sun rise at the tiny port is breathtaking. 25$ to Phnom Pen in 4 hours, can't go wrong.

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Quick Tips:

Internet in Siem Rep: Dont waste your time... it's really expensive
Hotel in Phnom Pen: The Eclipse Guest house.
Angkor getting there: 6$ US for a ride there and back daily
Angkor: get the 3 day pass - 40$ US ( 20 $ a day regular)
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That's it, gotta run, Nikky took a Valium by mistake instead of a Malaria tablet 2 hours ago, I should go peel her off of the floor :)

I'll try to call everyone when I can... 5$ US a minute in Siem Rep was a little too much for me :)

Lea Sun high... that means goodbye :)
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