Thursday, 6 December 2012

Hello Cambodia! Angkor What Now?

I take back anything negative I said about SE Asia... Cambodia is amazing (currently judging on one town). We flew to Siem Reap for our first stop, beautiful airport, getting visa and bag back was a breeze and the friendly tuktuk drivers didn't pounce, but were there ready to take us to town for exactly the price mentioned in the book. I mean it is hotter than anywhere else on earth with no breeze and a million mozzies, but it's pretty, it's sunny and the people are, dare I say so early on, really nice!

After checking in at a very cheap guest house (no a/c = steamy old night) we went exploring the delightful town of Siem Reap with its bustling night markets that actually have nice things in (don't get me wrong, there is still endless tat and the 'you buy something laydeeeeee' is still ever there) but it was just nicer.

Having decided a sunrise is a sunrise and our cameras are all so average that googling photos would show it in a far better light we opted to go to the Temples of Angkor for the more sociable time of around 9am. We had planned to cycle there and around as the roads are flat but Siem Reap is the hottest and stickiest place in the world and we were beading before we'd even left the guesthouse so we opted for tuktuk, which in hindsight was a most excellent decision. Our driver, Sinat, was very sweet - clueless on any facts - but very sweet and took us on a great route. There's a lot of walking/climbing around at Angkor and it did not take long before our clothes were stuck to us as we melted in the entirely still air.
Now, we all know I'm not a temple person, but Angkor Wat is one of those you-can't-go-to-Cambodia-and-not-see-it things that we felt we had to do and I can see why. It really is something, especially when you think about how on earth they built these things all those years ago. Although saying that as we were driving there was a
'I think that's Angkor Wat'
'No, it's not impressive enough to be Angkor Wat'
'Yeah, mist be one of the smaller ones'
exchange. It did turn out to be Angkor Wat and while it was very large, we preferred the other ones. They are very well kept and you can explore every nook and cranny.

We spent the day navigating the ruins in the sweltering heat and although it we really enjoyed it, one day was definitely enough...I can't think what you'd do with a week long pass.

With Bryony's boyfriend flying in for a few days 3 shortly became 2. We waved Bryony onto her bus, explored a bit more in the morning and by lunchtime a river of sweat was starting to gush down our backs. The only thing for it was to find a pool and not leave it until the sun had gone down. And what a pool we found! Nestled on top of a plush Hotel for a mere $5 we got a free drink and the afternoon around a gloriously cool pool. It was another 'backpacking is tough' moment as the barman came round to offer us a 'fruit skewer?'. Bliss.

That evening, after a Cambodian BBQ (what you need in the heat is an additional heat source on the table with which to cook your own meat - I tried kangaroo!), we decided to see what the nightlife had to offer. We headed to the aptly named 'Pub Street'. Hideous, grubby, drunk tourists was the answer. Angkor What? Was more Angkor What on earth are you thinking? Obviously we joined in but it was very much a laugh at not laugh with kind of a night. I mean some of these people were horrendous. We ended up being Gretta and Heidi from Bulgaria just in case we ever bumped into anyone again.

So with another culture tick in the box we decided to head down for some beach time at Sihanoukville the following day keeping all our fingers crossed Cambodian transport was a step up from their neighbour's efforts.

In hindsight staying out until 3am the morning before a 6am bus pick up was foolish. We weren't foolish enough to drink heavily but the 5.45am alarm roused us from the very depth of slumber. Also in hindsight trying new things and cooking our own food was a risky little game before a 6hour boat trip but thankfully this didn't have any repercussions. So our lovely guest house owners helped us into a tuktuk with some French toast for the journey. The ride to the 'port' was very bumpy and we arrived a choice shade of orange clutching our lovingly made breakfasts. We boarded our vessel, found two seats and after devouring the lovingly made breakfast attempted to sleep. Unsuccessfully. I had seen some legs disappear up onto the roof where the bags were and we went to investigate. There was a couple up there . Given that the majority of our co-passengers were on some sort of German saga holiday it was pretty much only us and another young couple agile enough to climb up. I can only imagine what this couple thought as we clambered up ungracefully, crawled along on our hands and knees and proceeded to fall deeply, deeply asleep, starfished on the roof. Aside from nipping down for a mid morning snack this is how our journey was spent. The bits we were awake for were very scenic and we passed all sorts of floating fishing villages.

We eventually got to Phnom Pehn and booking an onwards bus to Sihanoukville was remarkably easy and we only had to wait an hour for a bus. Someone once told me to pack a fleece for Asian buses because the temperature is akin to a Siberian winter. I would love to know where this happens because every bus I have been on has been trying to cook me. A combination of the driver moving at a glacial pace, a number of unscheduled repair stops (who doesn't love a bus that breaks down every 20minites) and Cambodian roads meant our 3 hour bus journey took over 8. 18+ hours to travel 200odd miles. I could have flown back to London quicker! This journey also included one of the most terrifying loo stops of my life (not even my mighty bladder can last 18hours) so I made Lauren stand guard as I fended off flying beasties, crawling beasties, jumping beasties and biting beasties over a squat toilet. Ugh. When we eventually arrived we drove around in a tuktuk and after an hour or so eventually found somewhere that wasn't full. It was next to the local club, but it had a bed for us, which given that we had done nothing but sit and nap (and watch House) all day, we were surprisingly pleased to see!

Oh, and one night we had 3 scoops of ice cream. With no regrets.

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