Cambodia Shakes My Brain

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August 29th 2003
Published: February 27th 2008
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Ta PhromTa PhromTa Phrom

An Angkor temple complex that has been left to nature
I am in Cambodia, which is a change from the diving island paradise of Ko Tao. I arrived in Siam Reap at about 9pm last night. Have got a styley guesthouse for $5US for both of us.

The night in Bangkok before we travelled here was excellent, five of us bought some big decorated north-Thailand-hilltribe-women’s' hats and went on a bender. Even got a cheer from half of Gulliver’s (a pub in Khao San Rd) when five of us walked/danced in with the hats on. Standard stuff for Ponsonby Rd but it was received very well here. Stupid kiwis... I was working on the principle that if I got one hours sleep the 13 hour trip would pass quicker due to crashing on the bus. It worked for the Ko Tao - Bangkok trip a day before. It did not, however, work once we hit the Cambodian roads, with my hungover brain being bounced thoroughly to bits for 9 hours. That will learn me.

The people here are very poor. It’s hard to have a four year old girl ask for money as she carries her baby brother. Their history has been atrocious, but they are wonderful. Positive, cheeky,
Old text at Bantay SreiOld text at Bantay SreiOld text at Bantay Srei

Seeing this was one of the coolest things for me for some reason
and kind.

I just spent a day looking at some of the Angkor temples (there are 500 of them). Am saving Angkor Wat till tomorrow, but the ones I saw were stunning fantastic, awesome, amazing, ancient, beautiful, intricate, huge, interesting. I need to improve my vocabluerar... number of words I know. Photos will not do them justice. In its prime the area was home to 1,000,000 Khmer people (London had 50,000). Mind blowing to think of the temples in their full splendour. A brilliant day. Have bought a three day pass, so have another couple of days to look around. I am stuffed though after walking around in 38 degs for the day...

Am going now for a massage from a blind person, should be interesting.

30th August
Today we went to a small temple complex called Bantay Srei. It had the most amazing carvings. 800 years old and still so intricate. We also went to the oldest temples in the area (9th century). Because tourism is fairly new, they let everyone walk/climb around most areas of the temples. This is amazing, but it must slightly damage them. In the future they will rope off
Bantay SreiBantay SreiBantay Srei

The carvings at this temple complex were amazing
parts of it I'm sure. Very lucky to be here now. It is a great experience to be in a country that has not been open to the western world for very long. Bit of a wild west. You walk down the street and someone will ride up to you and say "I got big sticky joint in my pocket, you want?" wink wink...

You can not self drive here so we used motorbike fullas. The motorbike I was with got two punctures (the second was in a brand new tyre) too many curries in Mat's belly...

Food is not quite as good as Thailand, but still OK.

The blind massage was good, if somewhat vicious, some parts of it were fantastic, totally different from the Thai massage.

I'm off for a happy pizza now. Another Cambodia experience.

1st September
Today we travelled to Phnom Penh, which only took 9 hours, part of the road was even sealed!

Again we followed our somewhat dubious theory of having a big night before travel. We went to the Angkor What? pub in Siem Reap, but it was a little boring (although it was funny to
I am at the topI am at the topI am at the top

You can kind of make out how steep the steps are.
hear AC/DC and Rage against the Machine in Cambodia after spending the day at Angkor Wat). Speaking of which, Angkor Wat was amazing, huge, breath-taking. The steps are insanely steep to represent the difficult path to enlightenment. If you slipped near the top you would be toast. I was as high as 7 steps, and they were about the width of my foot! We decided on taking bicycles for the day and ended up biking about 35km. Nice little combination of ancient temples and exercise. The Cambodians though I was ridiculous riding around on a bike that was too small for me. Lots of smiles. We hung on to a pickup truck with 20 or so people in/on it, and they thought we were most amusing.

Anyway after the Angkor What? we went to a place playing loud Asian dance music. We were the only westerners there, very silly. Once that closed we went to a larger version of the first bar. Dancing amongst 100 Cambodians to dodgy eastern beats was very funny. I was about a foot taller than everyone and had a great view of the crowd. The Cambodian guys were very keen to bust a move
On the raod to Phnom PenhOn the raod to Phnom PenhOn the raod to Phnom Penh

Our bus broke down for a bit
with me, poor fellas, they had no way of knowing that the moves I was showing them were not very cool.

3rd September
I forgot to tell you that I finally bought some postcards of one of the kids at Angkor Wat... and then when I was 20 minutes bike ride away I realised they had stolen them back off me as I left. Funny little dudes.

Today we went for a look around the main tourist sites in Phnom Penh. First up was a visit to the army-run shooting range where I took exception to a fairly innocent but mean-looking paper man. Using an AK47 I managed to hit him a couple of times on semi-automatic, but when I switched to full auto any accuracy went out the window. It was on a stand for firing, but of course this was not enough for me and I had to pick it up and use on auto. All this achieved was me putting about 4 bullets into the ceiling after a burst of 10 or so, and freaking Jesse and the Cambodian guy out. God knows why they wouldn't let me throw a grenade...

In the
The Killing FieldsThe Killing FieldsThe Killing Fields

Kymer Rouge victims. You can see the killing blows from axes and hammers which were used to minimise the costs of bullets.
afternoon we went to the killing fields where 20,000 victims of Democratic Kampuchea were "liquidated". The memorial had about 9000 skulls in it, and walking around the place we saw human bones, clothes, and teeth on the ground. There was even a tree where they swung kids against to kill them (bullets cost money you see). After that we went to S21, a school that was turned into a concentration camp, and torture/interrogation centre. Out of an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, there were only twelve known survivors. I still feel sick and heavy hearted from these places. How can humans do this to one another? It was in my lifetime too. Can't really say much more about it. The contrast between the beauty and magnificence of the Angkor temples, and the Kymer Rouge's activities is absurd.

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 26


Bantay SreiBantay Srei
Bantay Srei

The carvings at this temple complex were amazing
Bantay SreiBantay Srei
Bantay Srei

The carvings at this temple complex were amazing
The hellish steps of Angkor WatThe hellish steps of Angkor Wat
The hellish steps of Angkor Wat

They were designed like this as a representation of the difficulty of reaching Nirvana (or the Hindu equivalent).

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