Published: April 8th 2008April 7th 2008
Shot from a moving Tuk Tuk near Siem Reap
Welcome to the Cambodia installment...
From Bangkok we boarded a bus to Siem Reap. it was only too obvious at the border that we had entered a different country. Paved roads turned to dusty mounds of speed bumps unintended to slow down vehicles. From a big aircon bus we changed to a run-down school bus, non shock absorbent type. traveling at a breakneck pace, we sqinted our eyes and covered our nose and mouth in order to endure the dirt and bugs now protruding through the buses interior. Scanning the scenery with one eye closed, the distant scene now revealed flat landscape, wooden huts, naked children, and poverty of a different type to that of rural Thailand.
Cambodia is a country only recently recovering from too many decades of brutal bloodshed of the Khmer Rouge, and Viet Cong. War has left this country with a population primarily under thirty years old and striving to make ends meet. This said, desperation to make money faces tourists with scams left and right of a sincere nature, they will tell you ANYTHING to seperate you from your cash. For instance, at the border over a two hour period,
Bridge outside of the south Gate
we were slowly conned into exchanging money for a terrible rate. Several young men working together promised that we would not be able to obtain Reil, "Cambodia's only acceptable currency", upon arrival in Siem Reap. Nor were there any ATMs or proper banks set up for these transactions. Resistant for the first hour and a half, we were won over by a very sincere sentiment of how they felt horrible about the corruption in thier country aimed at tourists. They said that it only hurt thier economy because it made people less likely to visit and spend money. Long story short, we lost aproximately $90 USD. Point blank, do not exchange money at the border, just like it said in graffiti on the back of the bus seat after the fact. In hind sight most major currencies are accepted and available there. In fact, ATMs only dispense USDs.
We could have stayed less time due to the mistrust and bad taste in our mouths from the get go, however upon arrival at our guest house ($6 USD a night) we met an old man whom owned the place. Over breakfast we had an heartfelt conversation, he shared in
Paul the Driver
This Tuk Tuk was our transportation for three days of temple exploring.
emotional detail what it was it was like living through the Khmer Rouge. Educated as an agricultural engineer, he would have been killed as all the educated were. Instead he posed as a simple farmer to survive. Still scared for his life, and the future of Cambodia, he views the young as having a good life for now... " They more happy now. They no remember the Khmer Rouge" Some of the secondary players in the KR are still active in the government today.
Over the next four days we hired Paul the driver to motor us around the temples of Ankor Wat, about eight hours a day! It was simply amazing, to many pictures to post. It was like stepping back in time to wander those temples. An almost incomprehensible number of temples in such close proximity. A wonderful time to be had!
Next we headed off to Phnom Pehn, the largest city in Cambodia. We took a bus there from Siem reap, and having opted for the ticket that was a dollar cheaper we realized that we on the local bus, wow, we were the only Westerners on the bus. It was a wonderful
ride though, stopping at regular bus stops instead of tourist oriented resturants, laughing with the locals and thier children. However the mosquitos that were hiding uder the seats had thier way with our legs... aaaarrrrrgh. Arriving in town and haggling with the usual crowd of tuk tuk drivers for a fair price, we eventually found ourselves seated on a beautiful deck overlooking the lake where a good portion of the budget guesthouses were located. Fantastic sunsets!!!! Fhe following day found us riding three on a scooter to see the Killing Fields and S21, two major monuments to the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. We also visited an orphanage, bearing gifts of a case of coloring pen sets and cute childrens mechanical pencils. Time spent playing with the children felt entirely too short. It is definately on the agenda to continue helping them in any way possible in the future. They are completely funded by donations, and do a wonderful job taking care of the 74 children that live there, all of whom live in the two dorm buildings with a grand total of eight large room and tripple high bunk beds. We asked how many children sleep in each bed...
the answer was" I really don't know" This was the hardest thing to see. A new building can probably be built for around $12,000, seems cheap......Posibilities abound in that realm :)
The following day found us on another bus headed for Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, having decided to spend the pittance more this bus was a nice comfortable air-con model, speeding down a very nice highway to the next country on our grand adventure. So stay tuned boys and girls...Same bat time, same bat channel, for the next adventure of where are the now... :)
There are more photos below