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Published: January 2nd 2020
I'm gunna combine three days into one (30th - 1st) as the first day consisted of 11hrs Travel, the third was just -just relaxing - so generating an entry on its own to say "The wheels on the van go round and round" isn't exactly the most riveting. Not that i'm suggesting for a second these blogs are, but YOLO.
6am Start. we break off into two mini vans (why they didn't arrange a 13 seater is beyond me but hey). Our first free Intrepid meal - is just from the hotel we're staying at and consists of a Sandwhich with something I can't eat, two childrens juices (which, incidentally were delicious) and a dogshit coleslaw. Yeah - was going to to be a long hungry drive. Thankfully, I had a suspicion there'd be nothing to eat, so stocked up on snacks in advance - which I ate all of by 9am.
Somehow I wound up in the van with the 4 Strayanz. We chatted briefly for the first 30mins or so, then they all fell asleep or just couldn't be bothered talking. They're all the couples on this trip, so they don't really feel the inclination to talk as much, but they're lovely none the less. Matt and Jacqui who I went to the Sky Bar with the night before seem like the two I'll get along with best.
The first test of my trip was about to commence. Leaving Thailand and ensuring my Cambodian Visa was legit. Because we left so early, we get to the boarder and there's very little people compared to usual - or so our guide Vanny told us. We jumped out of our vans and walked into the Thailand boarder exit then walked over to the Cambodian boarder entry. There were 3 lines there, I jumped into what wound up being the fastest - whereas the one next to me was incredibly slow. Like, I got to the front of the queue before people who were like 2 or 3 people back from the front of theirs. Gave them my passport - stood there nervously wondering whether l'd actually filled out my Visa info correctly, then got waved through.
While I was standing there waiting, I noticed something odd. A Cambodian Boarder Control Officer turned up with what tlooked like 20 passports, gave them to the guy serving me, then he gave them to the guy next to him. My guy walked through the back door, came back and slotted some money in his back pocket. I then realised, what was happening is the middle line was moving so slowly because the middle Boarder Control officer was skimming money off the passports and stamping them without checking. He was just going through piles of them, then flagging one person from the middle row to come forward. My first view of Cambodian corruption.
Going through the boarder was interesting. You could see the difference between the two countries immediately. There's rubbish and plastic everywhere. Vanny was saying there was a huge push in Cambodia to stop using single use plastic as it's predominantly the tourists who use it.
We get on the bus and Vanny introduces our driver "
Wang which means "Long" - I burst into laughter and explain what the word means in English.
Given the poverty in Cambodia and the growth the country is going through, there's been a huge investment from foreign countries, namely China - which has a lot of resentment from Cambodians. the gap between the rich and the poor is vast and you can see that going through the country side, where you have enormous new houses, next to predominantly run down shacks.
In the mid 1970s, Cambodia had a harsh Prime Minister by the name of Pol Pot. He committed mass genocide, killing circa 2 million of his own people, with another million dying of starvation, leaving a population of around 4 million people. There'll be more about this later, but the population of Cambodia is now around 16m.
I asked Vanny our tour guide how the population grew so quickly, he responded "No TV" hahaha.
Vanny kept repeating that the country was growing day by day, given the significant impact of their recent history.
Kids go to school for only 4hrs a day - either in the morning or the evening, their classes rotate. Depending on the family, they'll spend the rest of the day at private tuition, the temple or working.
We didn't end up stopping for lunch until like 1:30pm. I managed to get a vegetable Amok - which is basically a Cambodian green curry. It was lovely.
Cambodia has two main beers they brew. Angkor & Cambodia - both are decent, Angkor is by far my favourite though. It's better than a lot of kiwi beers.
We arrive in Siem Raep or Angkor as it was originally known around 5pm. The city feels very different to what I expected. Given the Angkor temples close by, the city is quite prosperous and not that dissimilar to Thailand.
We have a quick wonder around town, see a few markets and go to dinner. We then head towards the aptly named "Pub street" - which is full of places you can well, get drunk. What'd you expect, a circus? Although l guess drunk people act like clowns.
The traffic here is organised chaos. They're supposed to drive on the right hand side of the road, but they drive wherever they want. There are almost no footpaths either, so you have people walking on the road too. Crossing the road is a logistical nightmare. Vanny just holds up his arm and fucking walks out into oncoming traffic. I'm not even kidding. That's how you cross the road. If you try to wait for them, you'll never cross. There are hardly any crossings. I'll add, while your crossing, people still drive at you or just swerve around you.
Randomly, they're having a large pre-new years street party in town. The streets are full - you literally have to push your way through. They have a gig on with a song going "Captain Leo" - Leo being a Thai beer that sponsored this event. The song is incredibly repetitive. Several people on tour keep singing it and appear to have learnt the dance moves. Seriously, if you want something to get stuck in your head, this is the song.
The next day we leave at 445am to see the Angkor Wat at sunrise. You'd think at that time in the morning there'd be no-one around, but getting to the ticket both it's full of people.
Angkor has 2.6 million people visit every year. The whole complex (there's over 1000 temples in the area) is 1.6million square meters. You can get 3 day passes up explore them all and you'd still probably not see everything.
The Angkor Wat (The main temple visited), is reported to have taken 37 years to build, with 300,000 people and 10,000 Elephants. It's truly spectacular and something to cross of my bucket list.
We had lunch here, I got a vegetable Amok again, but this time it was served in a coconut! Man it was good.
We went and saw a couple of other temples as well. Honestly, the photos do more justice than me rabbiting on about them.
Ta Prohm - The "Tomb Raider" Temple
Bayon - The "Smiling Face" Temple
Somehow despite Monkeys all over the place, I didn't see any 😞
Our temple day was long and hot. Because you're going to temples, out of respect you need to wear shirts that cover your shoulders and trousers that cover your knees.. The weather's 34° though!
Got back to the hotel and went for a swim immediately afterwards. It was New Years Eve, so I found a place close to a Sky Bar for us to go for dinner. Food was average, but cheap, which was a nice, given the places our guide took us were mostly expensive (we went there coz he gets to eat for free if he takes us there).
The 'Sky Bar' - was actually just a shitty rooftop bar. We tried to go in and they told me they were "Full" - which is hilarious as the place was mostly empty and the atmosphere was as enthralling as a sock full of shit. It socks shit. Ba dom dom pish!
We then wondered into town which is just going mental. Everyone's descended on the central city. We decide not to go to Pub Street because you can barely move with that many people. Instead we head to a cocktail bar called "Asana Old Wooden House." Here we all proceed to order $4 - $5 Cocktails to see in the New Year. There's only 4 of us initially, but just when we're about to bar hop, another set of people turn up from the group, so we end up spending the night there. I go and do a recon mission to find somewhere more 'energetic' - but the streets (and bars) are so packed you literally are unable to move.
We remain there until close to New Years and then a handful of us go to the main street for the countdown. We fight our way into the large group of people and yeah. Happy New Years! Balloons drop and the thousands of people we've squished ourselves amongst like Sardines go mental. Everyone's jumping, people from balconies are throwing beer/wine/everything over us. It was an experience.
I got in about 2am - the following day I'd planned some time off, so got breakfast, coffee, had a 2.5hr foot & full body massage for $75US - it was at a REALLY nice place (but so disappointing - given I'd forked out extra money for it), did some writing, went swimming twice, sun bathed - wondered around slowly, so nothing too exciting to report. Oh - I arranged for us to go to a Restaurant called New Leaf - They're a not-for-profit business that donates 20% of their profits to local charities. Food and utensils are locally sourced, no plastic and used cooking oil is donated to make biofuels. Food was great and the progressive nature of the place,made everything more enjoyable.
Toilets in Cambodia are different from what we're used to in NZ. Not all of them are squat toilets, but they all have a hose of water for you to squirt your behind instead of toilet paper, which results in this weird butt shake dance you have to do to 'drip dry.' It's a strange concept, but probably more environmentally friendly?
Anyway, that's me. Until next time!
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