Published: March 3rd 2008February 19th 2008
The quick version of what I did in Cambodia, because writing it up has been holding up my blog updates for a month now!! I flew to Siem Reap from Pakse on Christmas Eve, employed a moto driver to take me to the temples for the next 3 days, and then went to Angkor Wat for Christmas morning sunrise. Me and a whole lot of other people, all stumbling about in the dark trying to get the most photogenic position. The temples of Angkor are truly amazing, the thing that I didn't really grasp before I went was how widespread and how many of them there are, they represent a city that was the size of Manhattan, although due to tyhe fact that there is no on site information, a lot of the time you don't have a clue what you're looking at, other than it's a crumbly old temple.
From there I went on a boat journey to Battambang, sold as 6 hours, actually 10 hours, and all of it on top of a boat with no shade from the sun all day long. The journey is across the Tonle Sap lake and then through the waterways where people
The Angkor Challenge
There's nothing like being told you can't do something to make you want to try it
are living in floating villages and on boats. Battambang itself doesn't have much in the way of things to do, but I did a good tour with a moto driver to a Buddhist temple on a hill and an old Angkor temple. New Year's Eve in Battambang was a non event, it's not New Year in Cambodia and as it was a Monday night, I don't think there was even a bar in the town open till midnight.
From Battambang I went to Pnom Penh, which is just a big noisy city, and which I liked - you see lots of crazy sights on motorbikes, and just being driven through the city on the back of a motorbike is exciting in itself, as long as you don't mind your feet getting clipped by a wheel every so often as thousands of bikes compete for pole position at the traffic lights. I stayed by the lakeside in Pnom Penh, which is a nice relaxed backpackers area, and a good escape from the noise of the city. I visited the genocide museum at Tol Sleung where those who were eventually killed were imprisoned and tortured - of 20,000 people who were
imprisoned there, only 7 survived. It had a very powerful atmosphere, as if everyone had only left a few days before, there were still items of torture, leg irons etc attached to the beds. Very strange to think that none of the Khmer Rouge leaders have ever been brought to justice, and the head of Tol Sleung is only now being brought to trial.
Next I went to Kampot ont he coast, which wasn't really that amazing, but I did another tour with a moto driver to some caves and local sights, the highlight of which was bumping over rice fields on the dirt bike.
From Kampot I got a share taxi to Sihanoukville, about 2 hours along the coast. I was the last person to get in, and sat squeezed into the front seat with an old woman. The back seat was also packed with people. I don't know why it took me so long to realise, but about half an hour into the journey I looked round and realised that the driver was sitting on the knee of another passenger! A total of 9 people in the car, 5 in the back seat and 4 in
the front! Sihanoukville is the only beach resort in Cambodia, and it's ok but the beach isn't that great, it's a bit dirty and crowded. Of course, it wasn't until the last day that I found out you can get a moto taxi to a perfect beach just a few miles away, but I suppose I'll know the next time (Otres beach in case you're going)
Then it was back to Pnom Penh to get the bus to Vietnam. Cambodia was interesting, but I was struggling to fill 3 weeks (although in hindsight I should have gone to the northeastern corner where you can do some trekking). Most towns are just market towns, and don't have a lot else to offer in the way of things to do, which I suppose is part of the Khmer Rouge legacy, that a whole layer of life and culture was just destroyed completely. Cambodians are very friendly people, but it's still uminaginable how they deal with the legacy of a quarter of the population being murdered only 30 years ago.
There are more photos below