Published: February 29th 2008February 22nd 2008
We flew out of Mumbia and into Bangkok for one night, landing at 5.30am, we dropped our bags off at Grand Watergate Hotel, watched them setup the markets to fill in time, and then straight into Burger King at 7am. If we had remembered it was 24x7 we would have been there at 6! We totally missed the breakfast menu so we launched straight into burger and chips!
Our next stop was Cambodia flying Air Asia, a great budget airline, which has a “grab a seat” policy, meaning ‘run for it if you want to sit together’. We pay an extra $10 and get Express Boarding allowing us to get first on and first off. Its worth it in places like Cambodia where you have to get your Visa on entry, you don’t want to be at the end of that queue.
We were very surprised when we ventured out of the airport along this big wide, tar sealed road with paved footpaths. Beside the motorbikes were just as many cars; Lexus, BMW, Landcruiser and Pajero. Shops had glass frontages, there were supermarkets even, small casinos flashing bright lights, clean streets, and all the locals dressed
Clothing working its way out of the ground
in western attire. US$ is the preferred currency here, only using their local money for small change.
There is a street that runs parallel to the river where tourism have taken up about 400 metres and filled it with cafes, bars, restaurants and guest houses. Some of these have very modern décor with large comfy cane chairs and heaps of western food choices, and of course the normal French legacy - the baguette. Unfortunately we found their local food as tasteless as Vietnams. Tuk tuks line the street frontage and constantly yell at you “tuk tuk” and Carl also gets a whisper in the ear “smoke” “cocaine” “good drugs”. (Obviously looks like a hippy, it’ll be that handbag).
Behind this street is another that runs parallel and that is where their local market is, about 5 foot high, tarpaulin roof held up by poles, like alley ways around stalls, food, fruit, veges, hairdressers, household, cosmetic, everything, like their own mall. There was also a tourist market further back, and a 5 storied mall. Supermarkets reminded us of home having Magnums, salada crackers, snax, familiar stuff we had not seen for months. You could buy a 1 litre vodka,
The dents are where the mass graves have been dug up
bicardi, gin each for US$5, the real stuff too, not the cheap stuff. 42 below was like NZ$16, I have on idea how they got this shippedto Cambodia and sold so cheaply. Baileys and Contreau were US$11, we picked up a bottle of French bubbles for $5! Down one end of the tourist area is the Royal Palace and the area around is beautiful, they are doing up so many areas, paving and planting, the place is looking great. We were really surprised, it had such a prosperous and optimistic feel about it.
Cambodia food is cheap like Vietnam but had the best value accommodation, plus cheapest drinks and cocktails. It was disappointing though to note that although their alcohol was extremely cheap in the shops, the drinks purchased in the bars were extremely weak. The service was very very slow, once they got you in the door, they promptly forgot about you, so much money lost in leaving people for ages with empty glasses. It was great though to be able to afford some French red wine for a change. We spent a lot of time dining in the Kiwi Café, run by a couple who had lived
in NZ for many years.
As we ventured out to the sights over the next few days, passing the local suburbs, the paved footpaths turned into dirt footpaths, the houses turned into tin and wooden shacks, the water infrastructure was replaced with wells, a few cows wandered the streets, shops turned into stalls and rubbish lined the roads and creeks. When we drove from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap in the bus, we got to see the rural lifestyle where they lived in small wooden houses raised up on stilts for monsoon. The grass areas on the side of the roads were dug out to collect water, at this time of year they were dry or had a few inches of muddy brown water. People were digging in the water, digging up the mud with their hands, looking for something. Two boys were dragging a net across their little muddy pool - maybe digging for dinner! Street side stalls were selling dried crickets, apparently they also eat cockroaches and many other treats as well. With no local buses, truck owners ferry people around from town to town or around the city, they pack them in the back, sit them
on the roof and they hang onto the sides.
We tanned up nicely form our 4 weeks on Indian beaches and we were very proud of our golden skin. I was sitting in a café and the waitress comes up to me and strokes my arm and asks
“What’s wrong with your skin?”
“What do you mean?"
“Why your skin brown”
“Oh" proudy "Its my tan"
“Brown not good skin"
"Yes, I worked hard at this"
"No only white skin good, brown skin no good”
I had to buy baby lotion the other day because I could not find any body lotion that did not have whitening in it! You see females on motorbikes riding along holding umbrellas up to keep their out of the sun. Sights
Pol Pot devastated this country during his genocidal rule from 1975 to 1979 killing over 2 million of his own people; men, woman and children. They were tortured, executed or beaten to death, or died of malnutrition or mistreatment. Sadly after he was over thrown by the Vietnamese and the horror ended, a famine killed hundreds of thousands more as crops wilted when survivors set out to
find missing relatives.
Killing Fields - We visited this site where they would bring the people in trucks, kill them and throw them into mass graves. Some graves have been dug up, but not all, skulls are housed in a glass case on display. They would beat them to death to save bullets, they had a tree where they would pick the children up by the leg, hanging upside down and smash them against the tree until they died. There is cloth everywhere half sticking out of the ground, around trees, pieces of clothing they were buried in still under the ground.
S21 Prison - we also visited the prison where they would torture prisoners before they sent them to the Killing Fields. The concrete cells were extremely small. They took photographs of everyone as they entered the prison, they had them on display. All ages, some very young, some confused, some serene, some scared, some bewildered, but all not knowing why.
Royal Palace Museum/Silver Pagoda - the Palace Museum is worth a visit, the silver pagoda is over-rated, the silver floor being covered by mats as it is so worn, but they did have many golden
statues covered in diamonds, the biggest being a 25 carat. The setting is lovely with great Asian architecture. Shawls were not allowed, you must wear a t-shirt. Accommodation
The first 2 nights we stayed in Pacific Hotel which we had booked over the net. More pricey than we would have liked but we were amazed at value for money it was. It was a fabulous hotel, especially after our 10 weeks in India, it was delightful to have a big, clean room with all the luxuries you would normally expect, like TV, soap, bathmat! The décor was very grand English like, and the restaurant had great food. It was NZ$47. The only draw back was that it was on the main road, noisy, and also a few blocks away from the restaurants and bars. So we moved closer to the action and wanted to get something a bit cheaper. Pacific Hotel
Cozyna Hotel -We looked at about 8 hotel rooms and settled on a small but clean room on the river front for only NZ$26. It had everything you needed even a fridge and small TV, they had bigger rooms but this was big enough
Phnom Penh River Front
Road along tourists and palace areas
for 2 nights and a great price in a great location. We wanted a room with a view of the river but that backfired as there were bars over the windows blocking the view and the traffic noise went on all bloody night. But a room further back would have been fine. Definitely recommend. Cozyna Hotel
Siem Reap is a town that on the surface only consists of hotels, guest houses, shops, bars and restaurants - a town built solely for servicing the tourists coming in their millions each year to see Angkor Wat. There are heaps and heaps of hotels/guest houses, a street called “Bar Street” or “Pub Road” that is full of restaurants, cafes and bars all setup for the tourists. You cannot walk a few metres without hearing “Sirrrr, Tuk Tuk”, or passing a shop selling silk shawls and cushion covers, or girls sitting outside a massage parlour wanting to give your feet a rub for a couple of bucks. Its really quite a nice town to walk around, with some nice areas around the expensive hotels.
But you can see off the wide tar sealed roads, very long thin
Tourist Area Apartments
dusty red dirt roads, must be where the locals live, tucked away and totally invisible to the passing tourist. The locals say their town has been moved to the outskirts to allow way for the tourists. They are building blocks and blocks of identical apartment buildings - it cost the locals their sports stadium. So at the cost of invading their privacy and looking very nosey we did not get any insight into the local lifestyle, except one very long queue outside the children’s hospital.
At night we would sit in a restaurant at a table on the pavement watching the Pub street activity, they stopped the traffic at both ends and everyone meandered down the road reviewing menus. Off Pub street was a little alley way filled with restaurants and some real trendy bars. There is a movie screen at one outside bar setup and one night it was playing James Bond. Cambodian boys about 6 years old, were sitting cross legged on the side of the road, arms folded, heads back, intently watching the big screen, fidgeting only when the sex scenes came on - obviously bored! The children amused themselves on the street whilst mum and
Outside inner city
dad worked in the restaurants and bars. We watched 2 boys about the same age armed with their nugget and brush wanting to shine your shoes for US$1. They would sit in the gutter holding these big black shoes, rubbing furiously with the brush, serious faces concentrating, grinning from ear to ear when they got an extra US$1 tip, then running off down the alley way waving their money in hand laughing together. Sights
Tourists visit Siem Reap to see the ancient Angkor Wat temples and Angkor Thom city with ruins dating back as far as 8th century. At one time there were 1 million people living there, being the biggest city in the world. It was abandoned in the 15th century when they moved their city to Phnom Penh. It was in the late 1800’s that is was re-discovered, totally overgrown, covered by a forest. It was pretty amazing and the photos say it all. We hired a tuk tuk driver for US$12 a day to drive us around both circuits, 26km and 17km and it only took like 4 hours per day, but then you can spend like 5 days if you want to see every
Cambodian apartments above restaurants - monkeys on roof
single temple, but we saw the best of the lot and that was enough. Accommodation
Angkor Star Hotel - we loved this place so much we extended our stay from 3 to 6 nights. It had a fantastic swimming pool, really nice very large rooms, and we got an amazing price from wotif of NZ$40 when the normal rate is $100. It was a steal! It even had a casino (discipline prevailed we only visited once in 6 days and only bet $10 - hence we were out of there in a few minutes!). It was only a 5 minute walk to “Bar Street” and the markets. Angkor Star Hotel
So we really enjoyed our stay in Cambodia. They cater extremely well for the tourists providing them all the vacation comforts they can desire at very cheap prices.
Now we are off to Laos. Note there are 2 pages of photos below.
There are more photos below