Crazy Cambodia

Trip Start Jun 22, 2011
1
Trip End Jul 06, 2011


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Huge casino's in no man’s land, gecko's drinking beer, pigs on motorbikes, cows on motorbikes, mattresses, fridges and tv's on motorbikes, fish spa's, bamboo train, school teachers for the day, happy shakes, fire shows, eating bugs, weird sleeper buses, families living in the garden while guests use the house - it all goes on in Cambodia! 
 
We finally reached the border using a variety of transport continued from leaving Koh Tao in Thailand hours before.  The first mode of transport being a supped up golf buggy with a driver that was acting more like a DJ - still we had fun and he was obviously having fun.  Unfortunately we soon realised we were part of a bus scam which happens at the border all the time and is actually very hard to avoid or to get out of once in.  We therefore had to pay an extortionate rate (well in Cambodia) for a taxi to Siem Reap, a bus was no longer an option.  We weren't the only ones to get caught out though, so we were able to share a taxi for a few hours with a Dutch couple.  It was then onto yet another tuk-tuk before we finally made it to the guest house where the family lived in the garden on bamboo platforms, while guests used the big house - strange but not uncommon in Cambodia.
 
The countryside, on the way to Siem Reap, was so beautiful, miles and miles of flat farm land and rice paddies shining bright green, made even more beautiful by the bruised coloured sky which grew blacker by the minute until it poured, something we soon realised happened pretty much daily.
 
Cambodia is an amazing country, made more so by the people who are so welcoming and friendly (minus the very few that set out to scam you) but this is no wonder considering how poor most of the population are.  A huge amount of children and beggars work the streets and beach which can be hard to watch, particularly when you see the adults waiting to take the money off the children.  This is a cycle that many charities are trying to break by getting the children to attend school, some even pay the parents a dollar a day so they earn more money from the children attending school.
 
Around Siem Reap we visited the day and night markets, went on bike rides which was hilarious, avoiding all the people and traffic as there are no rules on the roads.  It is every man for himself, therefore if it’s quicker and easier to go up the road the wrong way or to go round the round-a-bout the wrong way then do it - why not!  We soon got into this on the bikes, I particularly enjoyed cutting corners and roads by nipping the wrong way round the round-a-bouts!  We also had our feet nibbled in the fish spa's - a funny feeling to start with, had a massage by blind masseurs, which were the best ones yet and we gave blood in the children's hospital as they are desperately short of blood.  That in itself was an experience for me and I couldn't have been more scared, not liking blood/needles etc and having never done it before, I was close to passing out but very glad I managed to pull myself together in time to help.  Andy managed it all in a breeze!
 
Then of course we went to Ankor Wat, the main reason for being in Siem Reap.  It was stunning and on a level quite unbelievable.  It was so hot so we hired a tuk-tuk to drive us around between some of the temples for the day. 
 
Next stop the capital Phnom Penh.  It was manic here and we thought the roads in Siem Reap were busy but they were nothing compared to here.  Crossing the road requires you to walk out in front of the cars and bikes and they have a weave type system whereby they just weave around you and all the other vehicles, stopping makes it harder for everyone.  We never saw an accident in all the time we were in Cambodia or any road rage which is really quite remarkable!  The roads however are in very poor condition so we got violently shaken about when travelling on tuk-tuks and buses outside the cities. 

 

We didn't have the best time in Phnom Penh, everything seemed to go wrong; the visa offices were closed, we didn’t have enough money to go into the Royal Palace after walking all the way there, we got rained on a lot…….  However we did manage to check out many of the markets some of which were full of locals and were crazy and interesting to view.  We ate at some street stands which often cook the nicest food, but also in some nice restaurants that support local charities (where the food was amazing) oh and Phnom Penh was also where we ate some bugs whilst sheltering in a lovely mans tuk-tuk from the rain.  The bugs were fried, crunchy and tasted a bit fishy, but overall not so bad.  The markets here contained some interesting animals, both dead and alive, the yellow plastic looking joke chickens you get at home, were real.  The markets therefore give off a rather pungent smell, nose holding defiantly required!
 
The streets like many others in Asia have shop after shop of the same thing.  You therefore get a street which we could quite easily call; wicker street, motorbike street, motorbike helmet street, bicycle street, cuddly toy street, fruit street, carpet street, tile street, DIY street.....no idea how any of them make any money - they are all identical!  Everyone copies each other.

 

After a few days here we were ready to escape the city and headed to the countryside of Kampot.  Stepping off the bus in the small town we were ambushed with offers of guest houses and hotels, circled by men shouting and waving information about their hotel being the best.  After a while all we could do was to laugh, it was ridiculous, even they started laughing with us! Having settled on a hotel we spent the day in the countryside being entertained by the passing livestock strapped to motorbikes - it is truly amazing what these guys get on a motorbike here, they literally move house and farm with them!  Entertainment for hours!  We also visited a pepper plantation, some caves, got soaked through to our pants on the tuk-tuk due to the daily torrential rain and went on a sunset cruise which involved the boy from the hotel rowing a tiny filthy boat with 2 pieces of wood as ores for a couple of hours down the river.  Still it was a laugh and we got to see lots of fisherman at work and passed all the little fishing boats heading out to sea for the night.

 

Next stop the coast.  We spent 2 weeks there as we had missed the sun and sand and were fairly lucky with the weather considering it was rainy season!  We stayed in an English run guest house; the guy was last living in Guildford - small world.  Here we did nothing much but lay on the beach, eat baby lobster for lunch and drink in the small guest house bar which was full of older English, American and Aussie couples/guys which provided us great entertainment.  We also met up with our friends Sarah and Richard whom we had met in Borneo and visited the local VIP cinema on a couple of occasions to catch up on the latest illegal downloads!  The guest house had its very own special resident, well 2 actually, one was a scorpion that seemed to live along the bottom of the wall, but the main attraction was the gecko’s that used to come up onto the drip tray and actually lick the beer.  They didn't even move when a pint was being poured.

 

The last stop was in the north, in Battambang, where we went bike riding into the countryside (and got a bit lost) saw a tiny bamboo train (a bamboo platform on wheels) which the locals use in the country to transport goods and we were school teachers for the day at an orphanage.  Teaching was an interesting experience as the class ranged in age from 5 - 12 (quite a difference between 5 & 12) and were extremely noisy and excitable!  We weren't really aware we had to take the entire class from beginning to end, we thought we might just be helping the teacher, so we had to get our thinking heads on quick, although not sure they were all so impressed as one little boy stood at the front and pointed his toy gun at Andy at one point!  Still it was fun and nice to be able to help with their English.

 

And that was Cambodia.  It was such a great experience for us and our favourite country in Asia to date, despite its poverty; it had such an amazing feel to it.

 

Then it was back to the border and onto Bangkok.......

 
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