Goodbye Thailand. ...hello Tomb raider
Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
85Trip End Ongoing
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I left Bangkok at 9 am and it is going to be a long day before we get to Siem Reap in Cambodia. A pleasant bus journey passing through the flat countryside. Lots of water everywhere after the rains so I guess the rice is doing well. We eventually get to the border post and it is relatively hassle free. We all get of the bus and walk through both border controls and the bus is waiting at the other side. Both sides of the street are lined with casinos as they are illegal in Thailand. Once back on the bus I realise that we are now driving on the right hand side and our driver has nơ became possessed by some demon. From normal driving in Thailand he now swerves past traffic at high speeds and he is constantly hooting at everyone and anything. Maybe it is the Cambodian way. The road has deteriorated and there are huge potholes. I think some of them caused by the rain
There is even more water around and all along the side òf the road locals are either fishing or casting nets. In some places they are standing chest deep in the water. The landscape is very flat and the water and rice paddies go on for ever. The sunset is spectacular and it is a pity we can't stop to take photos. We eventually arrive in Siem Reap at about 7 pm. The bus company informs us that we get a free tuk tuk to our hotel. This is a first. But I soon realise that this is just so they can try and convince you to use them for tours around the ruins. I have planned to hire a bicycle so decline their services which doesn't make them happy.
Cambodia uses 2 currency, the US Dollar and Cambodian Riel. The Riel can only be used in the country and you can't exchange it once you leave. Most things are priced in Dollars and you can pay in either currency or a mix of both. If you pay in dollars you will get Riel as change. At first this is very confusing but you soon get used to it.
The next morning I hired a bike for US$ 1 per day. There is not much choice as most are old, sit up and beg type with only one speed (no gears). The main ruins of Angkor are spread over a huge area
Siem Reap is basically geared up for tourists coming to visit the ruins. The main section òf town revolves around Pub Street. This is a section of roads and lanes that consists of restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, street side massages and street vendors. At night a few of the streets are closed to traffic and they become a heaving mass of people. As the night progresses more and more drunks appear, the noise levels rise as each establishment vies for more custom and then the hookers and drug dealers join in looking for clients. I am constantly approached with offers for Hash and or Boom Boom! There is a great vibe and very entertaining to watch while sitting at one of the pavement cafes. There are about 4 markets around where once again you can buy just about anything you want. I particularly enjoy the local markets to see the strange things and bright colours on díplay. The street food is good and one of the weirdest things is snake on a stick.
It's a reasonably early start in the morning as I head out to see the ruins. The roads are all flat and in reasonable condition. At the ticket office I decide to get a 3 day pass which costs US$ 40. Once past this area it is a pleasant cycle along the jungle lined road. Every one waves and smiles as I trundle along. The first temple I get to is the famous Angkor Wat. It is surrounded by a large moat and hundreds of tourists. Even so it is an impressive sight. Once again I am in awe of how these ancient buildings were constructed and the beautiful and intricate carvings and sculptures. It is also amazing how well preserved some of these are. The whole area is huge so I have decided to explore the main Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the surrounding sites. There are some awesome temples and I am glad I'm doing my own thing by bike. There are so many tourists being hustledd along in large groups. At least I can sit down and just enjoy the sights at my own pace. I am particularly impressed with Angkor Thom and its huge carved faces. It is like a maze wandering about and as I walk around each corner I see something fascinating and awe inspiring. Did the bring huge blocks of stone and build these massive structures and then carve in the intricate detail or was it carved first and then built. No one seems to know. After a brief stop for lunch in an overpriced tourist spot (there was no other option) I spend the rest of the day exploring. It has been an awesome day and I have been impressed
By the time I get back to my hotel I calculate that I have peddled about 30kms. My legs are aching but it has been a great day. After a shower I head into town to try and find a sports bar to watch the rugby but they only have football on.
As I go down to breakfast the next morning a German lady in a wheelchair asks me to help up a step. No problem but as I lift the wheelchair I feel my back twinge and I am in agony. So much for doing good deeds. My back is so sore I spend most of the day relaxing but at least it gives my aching muscles in my legs a break as well. Fortunately my 3 day ticket is valid for a week.
The next day I decide to change hotels as the one I am in is a bit far from the town centre and really not that good. I found a really great place for less money and in a great location
As my legs are stilla bit sore and it is very hot today I have decided to use the services of the hotels brother and his Tuk Tuk to explore some of the sights located further away. He is great guy and drives me where ever I want, He then sleeps in the Tuk Tuk while I explore at my leisure. He is in no rush so doesn't bother how long I take. I do miss my bicycle.
I spend a few more days in Siem Reap and have really enjoyed myself. Great food, Happy people and amazing Angkor Wat. Two unusual things in Siem Reap...... There are no post boxes to post letters/postcards. This is unusual as most places in Asia you can buy stamps with the postcards and there are postboxes every where. In Cambodia every one sells postcards but no one can tell you where to buy stamps and where to post them. Eventually after a 2 hour walk I did find a post office and after purchasing stamps and affixing them the post mistress then proceeded to beat them with a large hammer that she used for franking.
The second unusual thing about Siem Reap and other cities in Cambodia is Happy Pizzas. These are quite common and openly advertised. When you order a pizza they will, at no extra cost, or maybe it is already included, sprinkle a generous portion of Marijuana over the pizza. I think this is brilliant as it sorts out the issue of having the Munchies,