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Published: December 24th 2008
Well that was the best bus trip we have ever had, comfortable and cool. The border crossing was so-so i don't know why they bother in some countries but about 45mins in a queue and we are in. We arrive and find all that we were told was rubbish. Cambodia is more expensive, beer is dearer! What is the world coming to! $2 for 640ml beer what a rip! I know that all of you in Oz are packing your bags for the your next trip as you read that line.
Cambodia is a nice place the people are friendly and happy. Off the bus onto a tuk-tuk which we find they had the same name as in Thailand, they are not the same as Thailand but who cares you can carry all our luggage on these than you can on just a bike so it is more economical. "Take us to your $10 hotels" we cry. An almighty roar from the engine and off we go. No bargaining in this town, room $12, but only 1 night available, no good for us we want to stay for 2 so off we go again. lets see the water
front places. Approx $20/night but the people watching is amazing. After settling in and mozying down stairs to the bar for some food and a drink the traffic starts to thicken and soon we see why...an elephant wanders by and the traffic is backed up for about 2k's (Elephant jam).
We stay at the Hope and Anchor hotel. We're off for a brief walk after dinner, all the bars in the adjoining street have names like the 69er and the pussy bar...these seem to be very popular with the local girls and the single tourist guys....Hmmmmm what is going on here! Tomorrow the silver pagoda and the palace. Funnily enough Lynne forgets to wear a sleeved shirt and has to buy one or no admittance. Our guide had no idea what he was in for when he volunteered his services. He took it in his stride even when Lynne asked if the king went out at night cruising for chicks, even though he had dark skin i think i saw him blush as he said "I can't think of the king that way". We pressed on and finally reached the silver pagoda, it is like most other pagodas apart
from the 5000 solid silver tiles on the floor each weighing a little over a kilo. You can't see the bulk of the floor for obvious reasons they do not let you walk directly on the tiles and there is a rather expensive Jade Buddha as well as assorted jewels and of course we can take no pictures. Wars have been fought all around this palace and it has been rebuilt 3 times but all the items inside have been left alone by the aggressors. It is good to see some honour and respect shown to the culture.
We leave the palace and think what to do next. We were told the night before that we could go shooting again and there is a rumour of being able to shoot a rocket launcher and the story goes it would cost about $400 and the Cambodians are so confident you cant handle it that they give you a live cow to aim at! MMMMmmmmm.......BBQ cow pieces. A lot of the drivers want to show you the standard stuff like the killing fields and the genocide museum but we found something a lot better. A driver approached us and asked if
we would like to spend some time at an orphanage. Now we know there is always a cost but in this instance it was a 50kg bag of rice for the kids. I must admit i had some mixed feelings abut this because i didn't know what to expect....poverty in Cambodia is big so what would orphans look like. With a huge surprise we arrive to see that the orphans are happy and healthy and very active they are more healthy than some of the locals we encountered thanks in large to the tuk-tuk drivers bringing visitors to the orphanage and doing it in a way which is not aggressive but fun and heart warming. Lynne played volleyball and i talked to a group and we had the best time this is a happy memory which i will treasure for life. Even now i choke up thinking of the place and the memory. SIEM REAP
We arrive in Siem Reap and expect well not quite knowing what to expect. This place is packed with tourists a lot of the hotels appear to be owned by westerners and are well appointed the hotels are good, prices range from $8-150/night. Casinos
and gaming rooms, night clubs and bars, restaurants by the bucket load. If it is not a restaurant or a bar it is a coffee shop or a massage place with massage from $3/hour and the option for 4 hands and oils, well where to go is a big decision but we have the Angkor temples to see before we do a massage and we book 2 bicycles for tomorrow.
Up early for brekky and we mount our trusty steeds, Lynne reading the map! Oops wrong turn but it is ok, we meet some Japanese girls who are lost too and they join us to to find the ticket counter. Now when you translate some things into English some funny things get said for example: I am buying a 1 day pass Lynne is buying a 3 day pass. Lynne purchases hers from the front and I am told "Please buy ticket from the backside" the girl said as she turns and walks away leaving me standing there looking slightly confused and hugely amused. Now we have a 2 k ride to the main complex! Angkor Wat. These places are HUGE! I did not realize that they were actually
cities I thought they were temples. The pictures we have do not do them justice but you get an idea. This is a huge circuit to cover in a day and by 5 we are tired and heading for home. Light is fading fast and we do not have lights on the bikes. The only way home is via National Highway 3 which is BLOODY BUSY! Scared? Noooooo, not me. Cars and buses buzzing past not to mention 3000 moto's. Obviously we arrive safely and happily with only a bruised bum bone from the seats. Tomorrow a massage to heal the pain. Lynne looks at a place which has 2hr massage for $12 and it was good! I tried the Seeing Hands massage, don't get the wrong idea it is Blind (vision impaired) masseurs making a living for themselves and it too was goooooood.
Tomorrow Lynne is returning to the temples to spend some more time with the carvings and i will have a day off to see the behind the scenes picture. I don't have to travel far to go away from the touristy area about 2 streets back there is a huge decline in the level of
living. like in Vietnam you peel of 2 or 3 layers of city and you see that there is still a huge part of the population which has very little of anything from day to day. We will return to Phnom Penh tomorrow to head for Chau Doc back over the border to briefly explore the Mekong Delta.
We take a boat cruise to cross the border you get the option of, slow boat...8 hours, fast boat.....4 hours, fast boat with a little extra......Hmmmm I hate big decisions? Simple fast boat will do. I like this because you can walk around on the boat to relieve the numb bum trouble which arises. Lynne finds a friend on the boat... a little girl wanders back and forth, she cant speak any English but she tries to show us her Viet-Kemher phrase book, not much help to us! Lynne plays with the girl and shows her some stuff using a piece of string to make shapes....you know...tea cup....rocket etc. The border crossing the other way (Cambodia to Vietnam) is slower because the Vietnamese X-ray the bags and some young kids hanging around the border port assist in moving the
bags on and off the boat then of course walk up to the group and request a tip.....hmmmm! Borders are a good place to rip people off $1US to buy a 300ml water which you pay 2000VND for (20c USD) in town. Like airports I suppose. All good....back on the boat and off to Chau Doc. It is 4pm and we arrive, strangely at a hotel. We opt to look around and find a beautiful hotel overlooking the market and our room is on the corner with a balcony....we go for a feed and grab some beers to sit and watch the night life from our balcony. Hmmmm this is the life. A good night sleep and we look to explore town today to see what this place has to offer. It looks like the only real thing worth a look is Sam Mountain sunset tour. There was a couple of pagoda's and such but by now I think you know how I feel about them! So today we will walk around and explore.
By lunch Lynne is tired and she opts to go back to the hotel for a nap, i decide to continue to walk and just
Much better than a moto-bike.
pick a direction and go (this makes it harder to get lost) after about 30mins walking I reach the city edge and a local approaches me, he does not speak any English but i get the message. He is telling me that I am too close to the border of Cambodia and it is not good! I return to the hotel and ask the receptionist for more details, as the receptionist speaks very good English, the receptionist tells me that a tourist approaching the border will be arrested on site and questioned........at this point i would like to thank the mystery man for turning me around....i know he will never read this but....Thank you!
4.30pm time to ride up the mountain for the sunset tour. The guide we booked the tour with is there but has outsourced our job to 2 of his mates, who don't speak any English. We are off and all we wanted was to get to the mountain but they stop at a temple, no no no we cry! no temples! off we go again....fast....now Lynne is not one for trusting a foreign driver let alone one who she can not talk to so when
we reach the summit she is not happy! He went fast around a windy road, Lynne's primal fear kicked in and she nearly kicked the driver. After a couple of minutes she calmed down and saw the scenery so it was back to Aww! Pretty! We thought the view from the road was good and when a guide told us to go behind the shop at the top we were in heaven. There is an area set up for viewing and you can enjoy a cold beer while watching the sun slowly drop. Now i have seen some sunsets on my journey but this was the best yet. As some clouds moved across we thought it was the end....no not this time. They only enhanced the already stunning scene, cutting across the sun and creating some amazing silhouettes. The sun is gone now and we head back down the hill.
The previous night we met a lady trying to get her class of English students some practice with tourists and we obliged. The teacher also asked us if we wanted to return to her house the following evening and we thought she meant for dinner and to meet the
family.....NO! We arrive to find we are to teach English class! Hmmmm suckered in i think, but Lynne leaps into it with gusto and gives it her all. Just when we thought we could go and get a feed the teacher announces the older students will be arriving soon...what! Oh they will take you to get some food and you can help them with their English too.....Hmmmm suckered again! but Ok. During the day we booked a 3 day 2 night tour from Chau Doc to Ho Chi Minh city
THE 3 DAY TOUR!
It is now the 16th December and off we go to Can Tho, a visit to a minority village of Islamic Cham people, and a floating fish farm. The fish farm was cool we arrive at a house (floating on the river) the guide lifts a couple of the floor panels and nothing much but when he drops a load of pellets into the water...WOW! the water exploded with what must have been 200-500 cat fish and some others climbing over each other to eat, water splashed up to 3m away and i was too slow to get a video but it was huge! On to
The resting place for ashes after cremation.
the next place a 3 hour ride by bus. My Tho, Wow here is a nothing kind place in the middle of nowhere. We had some trouble with the accommodation but fixed easily and we could sleep in the next day. Great!
Natural wake up and on the boat for a big day, first the floating markets. Now i pictured floating markets as a bustling place where the locals gather and squawk for a good price on goods to sell on land....Naaaa! This is a slow paced crawl from boat to boat where the vendors display what they have by tying a display piece onto a bamboo pole and erecting the pole so all can see. Look at me i sell carrots! LOL! The melon salesman was having some trouble as his pole was limp! A good thing is the coffee was available too by boat delivered to your boat. The bad thing was when i saw him later washing his coffee filter in the river....Ew YUK! Off to the rice noodle factory. A factory by my definition is a large place where huge numbers of people gather to make goods en masse for an employer....Wrong! Here a factory
is a place where people make stuff, i guess it is sort of the same just a hell of a lot smaller scale than what i am used to. On the ferry to cross the river. There is a bridge being built but until it is finished the ferry will have to support the masses. This is where i saw organization well put to use. There was a ferry every 2-4mins and each one was filled to over capacity with truck, car, passenger on foot and of course moto-bike. We are now cruising across to board a boat and see the islands...the coconut candy factory, have lunch and try some of the local honey products, try some of the local grown fruits and finish with a boat ride though the canals. On the boat back to the bus. Now off to Ho Chi Minh City for the final days of our Vietnam tour.
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