Published: July 21st 2009July 21st 2009
yet again people i have neglected to keep up with these little entries of my life... but fear not! for i am on full steam ahead and within the next couple of days i will be up to date like you would never have expected!
let the blogging commence!
so after thailand was done and dusted and the bucket blanket had just about cleared from our heads (well, we had only stopped drinking them about 4 hours before our flight but thats neither here nor there, and in actual fact 4 hours of not drinking is considered t total in thailand!) we boarded our plane to phnom penn, the capital of cambodia. i dont have a lot to say about the 10th flight of the trip, save to say that kates boyfriend had instilled the fear of god in me after his tales of plane crashing doom so for the first time ever i was a little anxious and kept thinking we were crashing at every available opportunity. we didnt, of course, and all was well.
touch down in phnom penn and taxied our way through the bustling throng of the city center to the backpacker land by
'the lake'. immediately one can deduce that cambodia is far from the economic weath of thailand for the streets were paved with... well, they werent really paved at all, but they're at least working on it! so we were recommended a guest house called number 9 run by richard, with an eclectic accent of gobbled cambodian and english, which he happened to speak very well. the guest house was on a lake, for this part the lonely planet is correct. what it neglects to mention is that the lake is really a big brown cest pool filled with god knows what but a murky liquid emitted night and day from some sort of machinery in the far embankment closely resembling a work site. lovely! hammocks were in abundance however as was the pungent smell of the holy rasta grass, a mellow environment to escape from the hectic city beyond. but not from the heat. man it was swelteringly humid, i had taken to showering 5 times a day in thailand, if only to feel that sense of clean for 30 seconds after. but here, no point. there was a slight breeze it had to be said when zeus decided to
take a holiday from mount olympus and wreak havock with the climate on evening, providing the thunderstorm that highlighted the impending rainy season. but the shards of lightening (so close and bright that kate almost insisted we turn the film off incase we were struck... a commonsensical comment of the highest seeing as pretty much every building in sight was equiped with at least one aerial!) and the thunderous noises subsided after a couple of hours and we were left to enjoy our cambodian curry in peace.
next morning we were up bright and early for our day of cultural enlightenment... the killing fields and s21 museum. having negociated our tuktuk driver for the day we headed 15kms outside the city and to the sombre district of pol pots genocide massacres. here was where the kymer rouge transported thousands of mainly innocent victims of the regime or minor offencees to their end, more often than not with severe tourcher and killed using hammers, axe heads, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks to then be tossed into the mass graves dug out within a 2km radius. today the main monument of this area is choueng ek, the column in the center
which houses 9000 excavated skulls, bones of mainly women and children and all the clothing found in the graves. aside from a few boards explaining where you were standing there is little else in the way of evidence as to the horrific scenes that occured there. the graves now appear as grassy bumps, the trees (which had in the past been used to rig up loud speakers to play music that drowned out the screams of the perishing) bare few scars and most of the excavations have been covered over. there is one subtlety that alludes and still haunts this place that is often overlooked but on realisation sends shivers down ones back... if you actually watch where you're walking, pick up your feet and have a look at the dirt pathways, you'll see flecks of hard white sticking out, and now and again you will happen across a fragment of jaw, so brutal were these murders and so high the piles of bones left behind that some will remain in the earth forever, condemed to a life of tourist shoes in their final resting place.
so, after fighting off the child urchins that surround such areas we made
our way back into town to Tuol Sleng Genocide museum aka S21. formerly a school it was taken over by the kymer rouge and turned into a notorious security prision 'S21'. it was the prison where people were taken for interrigation, horrific torture and then to the killing fields, if they hadnt already died in the cells. it consists of 5 blocks, many of the rooms within had been bricked up to create cells only big enough to stand and squat in, with no light. today, the blocks and rooms make up a series of stories and photographs of the victims and the guards and any the reformations that have gone on within the country since the regime ended. its a sparce musuem but the images and the lingering heavy air, along with its resident bat colony makes for an impressive atmosphere.
cultural enhancement over we went to the river for a bite to eat and pondered our next destination. aside from the affore mentioned sites of historical interest phnom penh has little else to offer the fleeting backpacker. i have to say the city didnt really hit the spot for me, i found it a bit too hot
and clustered with not a lot to do. i know there are some out there who would disagree, this is typical of everywhere in the world, but i think the majority would probably be on my side.we went back to number 9, which by now was on its third repeat of MJ's greatest hits album - yes, he reached all corners of the earth! and the next day headed out and up to siem reap, the next destination on cambodias 'to do' list.
cambodia is flat, it is probably the flatest country i have every been to. because of this you can get to anywhere in cambodia (or laos/thailand/vietnam) from phnom penh on a direct straight road which have all just been tarmaced in the last 6 years. this is all very dandy and accessable. slight hitch, when i say one road i mean i road fits all, no double lanes or fast lanes or any of that business. all forms of transport from the cow and cart to the vast international trucks have to use it, the mopeds scoot from every direction and its a miracle if you manage to cross the road in one piece (i have
a distinct suspicion that there are several villages where le boeuf has suddenly become frequent the meal of the day!).
it was a hair raising ride with many a reeling and squealing of the brakes. and we happened to see some sites on the way. amongst the lowly flat landscape filled with paddy fields and lotus flowers there were multitudes of hanging plastic sheets that seemed to have collection points at the bottom. at first i thought it was for water, but in paddy field land during rainy season theres not much requirement for the aquisition of such. and then we pulled into the side of the road to let some locals off, obviously there was the food sellers in full force, as there is with every asian (and african and south american) road side stop. they had the usual corn on the cob, monkey nuts (soggy every time!) and noddle soup.... and then i saw it! huge mounds of roasted tarantulars and giant locusts! being sold by the baked bean tin full for locals to munch on. eeeeuuugghhhh! so thats what the plastic sheets were for, the capture of mutant arachnids. unfortunately there is a grim rhyme behind
this reason, god damn pol pot and his crew pretty much killed off everything in the country, including the farmers. without the farmers and land now ruled by soldiers who were probably about 10 years old and didnt have a scooby what was going on, all the livestock and the crops died. insects, as we know from such informative tv programs like 'im a celebrity.. but noone gives a s**t' and the not so bad bear gryls 'extreme survival.. but only coz they pay me', are highly nutritious in the protein department and abundant in asia (something else me and kate learnt the hard way when one of these huge spiders decided to announce its presence in our room at number 9 sending us screaming out of the room (im not usually the screaming kind of girl you know, but this thing was HUGE!) and into the bar where upon we (not the spider) pounced upon an unsuspecting dutch boy sending him into battle with nothing but his flip flops... luckily he won, although we may have bad karma on our hands now for the death of the beastly,but more than likely harmless,thing).....
anyway i digress. we got to
siem reap and checked into richard from number 9's best mates hostel 'no problem hotel'. siem reap is internationally famous and one of the most visited places in the whole of south east asia for every range of tourist and traveller you can get. this is due to the fact that it hosts and boasts one of the ancient wonders of the world and the largest religious building in the world... Ankor.....Wat?! (har har.. that is actually also the name of one of the busiest bars in siem reap and many a pun has been had over the name!).
so ankor wat we came to see and ankor wat is wat we did. its not in the town so the best way to do it is to hire yourself a tuktuk man to drive you around for however many days it is you want to go, we got a 2 day pass. so we went about 9 the first day. ankor wat is just one of the buildings that make up the area of ankor all built for various kings at the time. now... this is one of those moments where i could launch into the whole history and
architecture of ankor and all that kind of thing. you know when you get there there isnt any info about any of the temples at all, i guess you're supposed to have done your research before or your driver is supposed to tell you (we'll get on to him in a minute!) or you're supposed to get a guide. we didnt get a guide and the lonely planet only has space for so much. we didnt know there was no information so we mainly walked around the temples ooh ing and ahhh ing and admiring. i suggest that if you want to know about the temples then wikipedia it and thats all i have to say on the matter. we did go to the tomb raider temple (so called because it was featured in the movie and is v cool with lots of ruins and trees growing out of the ruins and nooks and crannies. we went to ankor thom, just as impressive as ankor wat and more detailed in fact. we walked across the old royal ruins and the temple of the elephants. we were going to stay for sunset but it rained but we did get up at
4.30am the next morning and went and saw the sun rise from ankor wat (along with a million other tourists) which was a great experience despite the snapy snap of the japanese with their nikon cameras.
the one thing that maybe let us down was our choice in tuk tuk driver... his name was rambo and to all intensive purposes did not have care in the world. he fell asleep at every available opportunity, even when we said we would only be 10mins and being annoyed when we asked him to politely wake up so we could go to the the next place, he made us eat food when we clearly didnt want to (and very obviously at one of his relations establishments), he was 45mins late to pick us up from one of the temples and, worst of all, he took 2 whole god damn days to tell us a story about a temple that we didnt even go to! every time we stopped he would go back to his story which made so little sense that i cant even recall it for you, he would linger for minutes on a particularly unpoineint detail, whether for supposed dramatic
effect or becuase he himself had no idea where the story was going and was busy making it up in his head. or probably, even more likely is that he had bored himself into silence and was finding the willpower to carry on with the story whilst me and kate were simultaneously trying to telepathically will him to shut the hell up and stop cutting into our temple viewing time and making us even more sleepy that the midday heat was already. in a word he sucked! but we had a good time at the temples anyway and were thoroughly templed out by the end.
we did little else in siem reap, for there is little else to do in siem reap. we went to the indoor market, which was markety and in the evenings we went down the same street every night which is where all the bars and restaurants were, the guide book describes it as the kao san road equivalent but there are no street sellers, its just bars and restaurants and mainly full of japs and families. maybe it was low season. and we went to a nice bakery there which was yummy. and we
had a cambodian massage where me and kate got the giggles and it was highly embarrassing. and i think thats about it for siem reap.
and for this blog.
more to follow as soon as possible... for the end of the travel is looming and there is only so much more to write! intrigued? you will be.
ps... you may notice in one of the photos there is a picture of me with a mirror.. thats because at number 9 there was a huge hole in the wall between our bathroom and the bathroom next door! this is the everyday kind of obsticals we have to deal with in the travelling world! needless to say we didnt want to bunch of youthful gap year boys looking in on us when we were in the shower so we were making attempts to 'fill the gap'.
There are more photos below