Published: August 12th 2007August 12th 2007
Well I finally left Australia after 7 months and some tearful goodbyes. The flight to Bangkok was delayed by a couple of hours but it was more then made up for by the fact that I had a whole row of seats to myself - bliss! I had a typical day of tuk tuk rides and seeing lots of temples and buddhas in Bangkok. The emerald buddja in the Grand Palace was by far the most impressive. In the evening I had a meal on a quiet side road to Kao San but then went for a wander down the famous street and soaked in the sites and sounds (and smells!). The city is huge and vey polluted but the people seem very friendly and definitely less pushy than in South America.
The next day I shopped (bought some obligatory fisherman trousers!) and chilled with my book before meeting with my Intrepid Group at 6. There are 12 of us and we are all in our twenties. There are 2 Aussies one Swiss and the rest are Brits. Everyone seems great so far and 6 of us are doing the entire 38 days, we lose the others along the way. Our tour leader for the Cambodian leg of the trip is a Cambodian guy called Yong and he is very proud to be showing us his home country and teaching us about it turbulent history.
I am now in Siem Reap, the major tourist town as it is close to Ankor Wat. The journey here was 7 hours on a very bumpy unsealed road past some of the worst poverty I've seen, way worse tha Bolivia and up there with Africa. The wars this country has been through have all but destroyed i. Land mines are still the biggest killer in this country. Then you arrive in Siem Reap where there are loads of 5 star hotels, including a Raffles and Prada, Lois Vuitton etc shops, it's sick. I imagine most tourists who just fly here to see Angkor Wat and then leave Cambodia must think it's quite a rich country, which couldn't be further from the truth. In Siem Reap only 10% of the vast amounts of money generated from tourism stays in the country. Most hotels, restaurants etc are foreign owned. One of the best things about Intrepid so far is that they only stay in locally owned hotels and only eat in locally owned restaurants, so you know that your money is doing good things for the people who need it.
yesterday we went to Angkor Wat, it's very very impressive! It is just one of over 200 temples in the Angkor comlex but of course the most famous. I think the photos will have to describe this, I will upload as soon as I get somewhere with internet faster than snail's pace! After Angkor Wat we went to another temple which was used in the filming of Tomb Raider. This is in a poor state of repair and nature has started to take over with massive trees growing from the roofs and send roots down, swallowing entire sections of the building, it was a beautiful site, again, photos to come...!
Today we went to a floating village on a large fresh water lake, the lake grows in size in the wet season when the Mekong floods, and shrinks in the dry so the people living on the boats move several times a year. Several people live crammed on each small wooden boat with bamboo rooves in such poverty. Foreign charities have recently built a school, library, poole hall and basketball court, all on boats floating in the lake!
Last night a few of us ended up in a private Kareoke room, one of the funniest things I've ever done!
Tonight should be very special, Our tour leader's mum is cooking for us all at his family house as a surprise for a girl on our trip whose birthday it is! It's the first time he's ever done it!
Tomorrow we head for Kompong Cham where we will be cycling over the Mekong to some islands to explore, if the bamboo bridge is still there, it is rebuilt several times a year due to flooding!
The last thing I need to mention is the heat and humidity, it's unbelieveable. I know people say this all the time but it really actually like being in a sauna, especially when you walk from air conditioning into it. We are all getting used to sweating together!
Will try to blog again soon
Amy x x x