fun race in Bangkok while i was leaving on Friday morning
and to think I was struggling to walk and most of these people were running or jogging....good on them!
Well provided you can zone out all the waving & calling out of "Hello Lady, want Tuk Tuk?" or "Madam, Tuk Tuk?" or "Hello, where are you going?" which are the main greetings you get inandated with at every street corner by the numerous Tuk Tuk drivers desperate for a passenger. After a while you get immune to it and then you realise they don't get humour, which was a pity....my waving back to them and saying "No, thank you" most likely pissed them off...ah well.
My initial impression of Cambodia via the border at Poi Pet was that it was several decades behind Thailand in terms of infrastructure and technology...there is a bit of truth in this, however a real charm about it also.
Below is a recount of my journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap, which can only be compared to a roller coaster ride. The only way to describe our Thai driver was as a "kamicazi", he spoke hardly any English and only addressed us at the petrol station stops as "now get out of bus" no indication for how long or where the departure point would be. He certainly opened my eyes with his overtaking
skills....he used all 4 lanes of the motorway to zig zag round the traffic as if we were not all going in the same direction! When he would get stuck, he would make his way to the layby lane and start using this to make some progress. This was all well and entertaining, until he decided to cut off a black Toyota Camry on a couple of occassions, the driver and passenger were not impressed, so they managed to force our vehicle off the motorway and they both jumped out of their car and made a bee line for our van...our driver very wisely did not put his window down as they insisted he do and apologised profusely, at which point the passenger of the car just whacked the van window, displaying absolute road rage (just proving that even the placid South Asian's are only human)...thank goodness for extra strong windows we managed to get away unscathed. In order to make up for lost time once we got through the tolls, our driver then proceeded to overtake every vehicle it encountered like a bat out of hell...after the third "almost" head on collision, i stopped keeping track. In retrospect he
very cunnilly put on the elevator type Asian music, to set everyone to sleep, so we could not witness all the above, but i am not one to fall sleep in a moving vehicle so i got the chance to marvel at all of the above!
Just before the border we were told once again to get out of the van and take our belongings, thankfully another man appeared who was able to speak abit of English and informed us, that they would organise our visa's to Cambodia while we had some lunch...what he ommitted to say was that they were going to charge us almost double the visa fee for the privilage. But then again what option do you have in those circumstances...even when i challenged the price, the rest of the group who were all alot younger and less outraged did not say anything, so i complied and paid the originally quoted price (because he did try and increase it later on). So to make my point of defiance i did not eat lunch in his establishment and proceeded to point out at the actual border that we were indeed overcharged when the actual price was displayed...ah
yes there was a thunder storm
but the thunder and lighting were too fast for me
well, in future i will just have to be more organised and get my visa's in the UK before departure.
Well despite having obtained our overprised visa's it still took us aprox 1hr queueing at the Cambodian border, before we got our photo taken and all our finger prints logged on their system. The later one totally puzzled me as to what they would use those for, but then the daunting thought of body identification came to mind...so i quickly erased that thought and put my focus on the driving skills of our Cambodian van driver.
The next portion of the journey entailed an older version of a mini van, surprisingly the seats were more comfortable, however no seatbelts were included. There was no motorway just a single carriageway, thankfully tarmaced! This driver was more interested in texting and talking on the phone, rather than driving at breakneck speed. However his ability to sit in the half lotus possition while driving was a real sight, i tried to capture this discreetly in a photo but i am not convinced it really shows it.
Well after a long day travelling we finally arrived in Siem Reap and despite
the river via Siem Reap
would you willingly eat anything caught here?
the thunderstorm we witnessed a few kilometters back, it was still roasting hot. I should not have been surprised when we were dumped in front of a hotel and told that we would have to get a Tuk Tuk to our accommodation, and the fact that we were naively told we would be dropped off at free of charge. That is when my stubborness kicked in and I refused to pay the $2, so i proceeded to walk for 500 metters in the right direction, to then be told to go in the wrong direction for another 1.5km and then thankfully was given the correct direction at which point i swallowed my pride and accepted the next passing by Tuk Tuk. However due to the vast number of accommodation on offer and the similarly sounding names, we required the assistance of my drivers friends to be on our way. Then due to the bad singage of the hostel it took us a further 15 mins to locate the actual place. At this point I was convinced we had used the full tank of petrol in the Tuk Tuk i gave the driver $10 (yes 5 times more than the originally
quoted price...that is the price of stubborness & stupidity all rolled together!).
So much for me learning from the above lesson but the next day, a young girl approached me while i was exploring the old market and asked for some milk for her very young sister she was cradling....the mug that I am, instead of giving her a few dollars I told her to take me to the shop for me to buy the milk, so 10 mins later we arrrived at a pharmacy where she proceeds to go for the most expensive brand of milk formula at $22 a can and she wants 3 of them, as you would expect i said no she could only have 1 (i know i should have walked away) so then she switched brands and ended up getting all 3 she wanted for $36 and then had the gaull to say i want a juice too...so $37 lighter i walked away, baffled at my absolute stupidity yet again...hopefully this is the point that i finally learn to be less gullible and just walk away.
As I mentioned earlier, Siem Reap has a real charm about the place, despite the constant
over charging and attempts to wear you down in to accepting the lift or buying the scarf...
The food is fantastic, less spicy than Thai and I finally found my favourite dish of fresh spring rolls, so much for me thinking i would have to wait until i got to Vietnam to sample the real thing! The food at my second hostel is absolutely brilliant and so cheap! It is a good job that it is so hot that despite my willingness to eat everything on the menu the reality is that i am full after one course...probably a good thing otherwise i would be seriously putting on a lot of weight!! So i guess the heat is a blessing in disguise....
Accommodation wise i have opted to stay in 2 rather than just one low budget hotels, the first one was rather palacial in size but located aprox 1.5km away from the main part of town and the second is litterally 5 mins away and in comparison smaller in size but feels much friendlier and their restaurant is amazing!
It has been great to get a chance to walk around abit and see real life....kids playing
a Rusty look alike
mum I think he would be so grateful for a hair cut!!!
by the river (despite it being absolutely filthy in colour...they were having an absolute blast...it reminded me of my summers in Drama, Greee)...i certainly will not be eating seafood anymore while i stay here, just in case they plan to serve anything they catch from it....
There has been a very small drop in temparature compared to Bangkok which is rather welcoming, however the humitidy is much higher, so still sweeting bucket lots. Therefore I have taken the opportunity to just take things abit slower this past few days and decided to give the capital Phnom Penh a miss since it would be mainly about the civil war history, that i am not interested in.
However I did sample, a Khmer massage that was definitely a once in a life time experience for me...i could hardly believe this tiny young lady could possibly inflict so much pain...i have got brushes doted round my whole body....so much for me getting a 1 hour foot massage...i got the whole body torture experience instead....that serves me right for trying things on blind faith....it certainly made the Thai neck and back massages feel like being stroked by a feather (for those of
you have sampled this, you know exactly what i mean).
My second hotel offered a free 20 min foot massage that I have politely declined, since I can't face any further pain! So much for it being good for you....
The temples at Angkor Wat (finally have got the correct spelling for this in this blog).....
There were 4 of us in the tour, which was a great relief since the tour guide's limited knowledge and constant repetition of obvious or pointless facts were rather annoying. So it was great having some others to chat to and have a laugh. It was a hard going day, started at 8:30am and finished for 5:30pm after we opted to give the last mountain visit a miss, since we were all exhausted from the humidity. Temperature wise it was cooler today but the humidity was much higher making walking up and down steps rather energy sapping. And yes the saying once you have seen one temple you have seen them all, still holds true. We visited Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Angkor Thom & Bayon. Obviously I did not have a second day at the temples, one day was
more than enough for me.
I am heading to Vietnam tomorrow, taking a bus from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) by passing Pnohm Penh altogether...I have really enjoyed Cambodia however I am desperate for cooler weather so want to make my way up north in Vietnam as soon as possible. So I am staying 2 nights in HCMC in order to get a chance to see the place in a day before heading back on the road up to Hoi An and then onto Hanoi.
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