A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

Goodbye Cambodia


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The top ten things we've learnt whilst in Cambodia:

1. Best tuk tuk drivers EVER!
2. We were very ignorant of history. We hope we've managed to put this to rights.
3. We love bucket showers! We know, this was in the Malaysian top 10, but it really can't be overstated!!!
4. Bats - fascinating!!
5. Jo has two left feet.
6. It's fun pretending to be Lara Croft for the day!
7. Boat rides in high winds can be scary!
8. It takes two attempts to kill a cockroach with an angry bird flipflop!
9. We love Dairy Queen! The blizzard - a McFlurry but one hundred times better! Why, oh why, don't you exist in the UK?!
10. Sometimes it pays to embrace the corruption and bribe the man who momentarily holds all the sway over whether or not you get a visa!

Posted by Tam-Jo 17:13 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

A ridiculous journey to Bangkok!

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So, as mentioned in a previous blog entry, our plans to travel overland by bus from Battambang to Bangkok were scuppered by the ridiculous bribes we would have had to pay to get a tourist visa when we were in Phnom Penh. I think we both regretted not paying the embassy guard's bribes at some point during our journey...

The flights from Siem Reap airport (very close to Battambang) were too expensive for us so we had to travel all the way back to Phnom Penh! Our journey to Bangkok therefore involved a six hour bus ride in the wrong direction, a long tuk-tuk ride from Phnom Penh centre to the airport, a couple of hours waiting around in Phnom Penh airport, a 40 minute flight (!), and a one hour taxi from Bangkok airport to our hostel. Ridiculous!

After a quick shower, I met up with a friend from Indonesia for dinner and drinks on Khao San Road (which is a pretty crazy place!) and Jo relaxed at the hostel updating the blog.

Lesson learnt today...sometimes it pays to bribe!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 07:41 Archived in Cambodia Tagged phnom penh Comments (0)

Trains, temples, tumbles and bats

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Our big day of sightseeing began with what can only be described as another health and safety nightmare, something akin to a wooden rollercoaster on a track that's seen better days, Cambodias only stretch of railway that runs something called the Bamboo Train. The train gets its name, we assume, from the bamboo platform that is laid upon two sets of wheels and attached to a motor engine, and not from the forests of bamboo that our fellow train passenger wrongly assumed we would be travelling through. Instead we hurtled along a very rickety track at what seemed like 100 mph, attempting to take in the views of scorched fields and bewildered cattle. We only had to stop twice to dismantle the "train" to allow people on the return journey to pass. When we got to the end we settled down with a Diet Coke and had a lovely long chat with the lady that owned the local stall we were sat at, whilst her children made us bamboo jewellery. Then back again on an uninterrupted journey to our lovely tuk tuk driver who took us onwards!

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After a brief visit to a fishing village and winery (Cambodian wine is an acquired taste!), we stopped for lunch outside Banan Temple. Supposedly, Angkor Wat was based on this temple which was built 100 years earlier than Angkor. There is definitely a resemblence, although this couldn't be admired until our post lunch walk up to 357 steps to the top of the temple hill! After a saunter round up there, and a rather amusing photo shoot, we started the treacherous climb back down. I say treacherous because half way down I had a spectacular tumble down a flight of steps, only to come to a grinding halt because Tammy was in my way! My stiff British upper lip came into play when the German couple nearby were asking if I was OK - "sure, I'm fine. My flip flop looks worse for the fall than me" (my flip flop did actually look pretty sorry for itself!). But by the time I had limped the rest of the way down the hill (with Tammy's help) I was feeling pretty sick and dizzy and in a lot of pain from a sprained ankle. But when has that ever stopped me?! Inca trail on a twisted ankle - tick! It's just not a real trip if I don't twist or break something!

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So, after being berrated by our tuk tuk driver for looking sleepy (I was actually just trying not to throw up!) we hopped back in our vehicle for the most bumpy (and painful!) journey of the day. We were heading to Phnom Sampeou, another temple on a hill. After arriving, our driver helpfully hinted that the hill was steep and long and that perhaps we would rather take a motorbike and driver - yes please! So on we hopped, Cambodia style - driver, me and then Tam, all very cosy! Our driver showed us the Killing Cave, a horrible place where the Khmer Rouge brutally murdered yet more people. It was upsetting. The temple was beautiful as the sun began to set, and the views across the surrounding flat farmland were fantastic. We also witnessed a monkey steal a lunch box from an unsuspecting local, and the retrieval that followed - highly amusing!

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After sharing a coconut at the bottom of the hill, we gathered alongside the road with a number of other tourists to await a phenomenon that our hostel owner had assured us would be one of the most memorable of our whole trip away - the mass exodus from the local bat cave. We weren't expecting much and were therefore blown away by the sight. It was one of the most incredible things we've ever seen - for an hour from 7pm every night a steady, and thick, stream of bats leave this cave in the hillside to hunt in the fields. The swirling band of bats is incredible to witness, and watching the black ribbon make its way across the flat farmland was amazing! What an end to the day!

A quick freshen up and change back at camp and then we were off out for our final farewell dinner with Dan. After this we go our separate ways. Our travels will never be quite the same without the promise of bumping into him somewhere along the way!

Tomorrow, although we can't believe it, we leave Cambodia and head back to Thailand. The last few weeks have gone so fast and I think we will miss this country, despite it's harrowing past. But it is safe to say that we are in need of some mental R&R!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 07:26 Archived in Cambodia Tagged battambang Comments (2)

The early bird...

gets a good spot for sunrise!!

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4:00am!! Far too early to be woken up but necessary to get a good spot at Angkor Wat for the sunrise. And it was worth it; we beat the crowds so got an amazing spot! One of the cafe workers even brought our breakfast of tea and a chocolate pancake to us on the ledge we were sat on. Lovely!

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The sunrise this morning was a lot different to yesterday's as there were far more clouds this morning. It was beautiful!

Once the daylight had completely revealed itself, we returned to the hostel to finish packing and catch our 9:30am bus to Battambang.

The bus journey was unevenful although I did spend half my time squishing mosquitos as there seemed to be a swarm of them on the bus!

We were met at our homestay in Battambang by the very friendly owner who seemed intent that we start sightseeing immediately. After repeatedly telling him that we'd been up since 4am so wanted nothing more than a lie down, he gave up and agreed it would be best for us to fit in all the sights tomorrow instead. Phew!

So we spent the afternoon watching rubbish TV, trying not to fall asleep, followed by an early dinner at "Flirt" cafe where we had cottage pie and crumble (not surprisingly it's owned by a Brit)!

Very much looking forward to a long sleep tonight...

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 09:20 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siemreap battambang Comments (0)

Sunrise at Angkor Wat....

and pretending to be Indiana Jones!

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4.30am - not a reasonable time for an alarm to be going off! But nevertheless, off it went and up we got! Andy was ready and waiting downstairs and we were soon joining all the other traffic on its way to Angkor Wat. We pulled up outside the moat and then proceeded to stumble our way blindly towards the lake in front of the temple in the pitch black, mildly amused by all the people that kept falling into the puddles left from the night before! We managed to find a spot just behind some guy having a photography lesson and waited for the sun to come up, snapping pictures over his guides shoulder as best we could.

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By the time we had been sat there for an hour, the sky was light but there was no sign of the sun and we were bored, so we wandered inside Angkor Wat to have a look around before the crowds descended. It was blissfully quiet. Compared to the temples we saw the other day, Angkor Wat was still in amazing condition, presumably thanks to its near constant use in one form or another since it's construction. It was an incredible building, but after all the hype we'd heard on our way towards Siem Reap, as well as the lack of information we'd found about the site, we were a little underwhelmed. Not to say that it wasn't worth the visit of course! We saw sun rise inside the temple and then headed back out to our tuk tuk driver after snapping a final few pics of Angkor Wat.

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Next up, Angkor Thom - the largest of the temple complexes and once the capital city of the Khmer empire. Inside we saw the Bayon with its 216 stone faces - very impressive. Also the Baphuon, centre of the city, a pyramid in ruins which the French are trying to piece back together one stone at a time - a giant jigsaw puzzle. The pyramid is meant to represent the mythical Mt Meru. It was a long way to the top (and back down!) up a very steep flight of wooden stairs! The trip down was a little nerve racking, especially when we heard that a few weeks ago a tourist had fallen down them and broken their leg - eeekk! We came away unharmed however! After a few more sites at Angkor Thom we headed into the crowds of tuk tuks in search of Andy.

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We couldn't find him! Luckily we had his number so we rang him and were soon reunited. After a few more small temples (all very impressive!) we came to the much anticipated Ta Prohm, otherwise known as the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider temple. Despite the THOUSANDS of tourists (in the midst of whom, Tam and I got separated early on!), and the cranes located round and about for the restoration work, we loved it! The place had an amazing atmosphere. As we read somewhere prior to our visit, it is amazing to see a building that was so rapidly constructed by man being slowly destroyed and reclaimed by nature. It was definitely one of our favourite temples, along with Preah Khan that we saw the other day.

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It would have been a fantastic way to end our time at Angkor Wat, except Andy had other ideas and dropped us at yet another temple after this one. It only took us a few minutes once inside to realise that we'd been there before - we passed his test and clearly we've been taking more in than we realised!

We were homeward bound after that. The rest of the day was spent trying not to fall asleep and culminated in the lowest low point of our trip so far - a tuk tuk ride to KFC to get a take away to eat in front of an awful film about diamond theives! What can I say? We're tired!

We've decided to do sunrise again tomorrow and actually stick it out until we can see the sun this time! So it's early to bed here! Night all!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 09:07 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siemreap Comments (1)

Lazy Bones

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So we decided last night that we really didn't fancy a 4:30am start this morning. Pathetic really since our day yesterday was hardly taxing. But, it worked out for the best as we awoke at 7am to the sound of rain! Proper rain! This was an exciting event in itself; we hadn't seen rain like this in months!

We spent the morning on some much needed life admin; online banking, photo sorting, blogging etc... Not very exciting!

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This afternon we visited the Angkor National Museum. Parts were very interesting and it was nice to see some old sculpures and lintels. However, we both felt that we didn't learn as much as we'd hoped to. This may have more to do with our brains turning to mush than the museum itself though!

In preparation for our early start tomorrow we bought some bread, cheese (Laughing Cow!) and jam on route back to the hostel so we can make ourselves a packed breakfast. Aren't you proud mothers?!

Early to bed tonight as the alarm goes off at 4:30am in the morning!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 09:04 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siemreap Comments (0)

Cooks in Tuk Tuks

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It's been a while since we've been to a cooking school, and seeing as we had a few too many days booked at Siem Reap we thought that heading back to the kitchens would be nice! So today we entered the world of Cooks in Tuks Tuks. Luckily, we weren't actually cooking in a tuk tuk (I think that could be a bit tricky, not to mention extremely dangerous!), but we did go on a brief tuk tuk tour to see the local markets - a far less horrifying experience than the similar trip we did in China, although a fish did jump off a table to try to attack me!

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After that it was back to a very lovely hotel, where we sat at a table with our chef guide, Saroun, and our fellow cooking novice, Liz. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to cook ourselves. Instead, we played the part of little children helping Mum prepare a meal. Saroun would give us little jobs to do (chop this, peel that) and did all the cooking herself - perhaps we didn't look very capable! But it was still a fun day and we did learn some new tricks and how to cook some very yummy food. On the menu: chicken and banana leaf salad, fish amok (AMAZING!), and a sweet potato and tapioca dessert. The day was made all the more enjoyable by two for one cocktails and the fascinating Liz, who is a nurse in the army, stationed in Brunei.

We practically rolled back to the hostel as we were so full, and spent the afternoon doing boring life admin. We are undecided as to whether or not we will make it to sunrise at Angkor Wat tomorrow, perhaps we will put the 4am start off for one more day.....

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 09:02 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siemreap Comments (0)

Day one at the Temples!

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Our tuk tuk driver, Andy, from yesterday picked us up nice and early at 7am to go and see the temples on the outer circuit of the temple complex. We didn't want to spoil it for ourselves by going to see Angkor Wat on day one!

The temples we visited today were:

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- Preah Khan: meaning 'Sacred Sword' this is one of the largest complexes at Angkor.

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- Neak Poan: a temple surrounded by four pools representing the elements water, earth, fire and wind.

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- Ta Som: built at the end of the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII who dedicated it to his father.

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- East Mebon: stands on what was an artificial island at the centre of the now dry East Baray reservoir.

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- Banteay Kdei: a Buddhist temple, it's name meaning "A Citadel of Chambers".

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- Prasat Kravan: a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

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By the last temple, we were ready to head back to the hostel. This might sound bad but the midday heat was stiffling and all the temples were starting to blur into one! So we called it a day and retreated to our lovely air conditioned room!

Randomly, we were both craving some Indian food this evening so headed to a local curry house. From our time spent in India, we know exactly how to order an amazing meal. And it didn't disappoint! Palak paneer, butter chicken, garlic naan, etc... Oh Indian food, how we had missed you!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 08:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siemreap Comments (0)

The 10 hour bus journey.....

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By the time we get home a two hour train ride will be looked upon in the same light as we used to look upon a 15 minute bus ride! Today we had to take a 10 hour bus from Kratie to Siem Reap. The most eventful thing to happen on this trip was our change over to a different bus in the middle of nowhere. Had we missed this then we would have ended up back in Phnom Penh AGAIN! Despite the quiet voice of the bus driver when announcing the change, and the lack of any other tourists getting off the bus (bar two Western men) we managed to make it onto bus number two to Siem Reap. We discovered that we can now while away almost 10 hours doing absolutely nothing except listening to music and day dreaming - quite a talent we think!

We got to Siem Reap at about 5pm, were immediately accosted by remork drivers and headed to our hostel. Having filled out some forms we were taken up to our room. Then followed the main issue of our day - our room didn't have aircon! Don't get me wrong, aircon is not something we're particularly accustomed to. But the heat here in Cambodia is stiffling, and we picked this hostel specifically because we could afford the aircon room. It turned out that the manager had mixed up the bookings and given our aircon room to someone else. He suggested we went out for a couple of hours and by the time we returned the situation would be rectified.

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We spent a lovely four hours in town, eating, drinking and shopping (what else!) but when we returned to the hostel the people in our airconditioned room still hadn't come back from their sighseeing. By this time it was getting late, so we gave up and took the fan room for the night free of charge. It is sweltering hot here though and our room is like a little sauna! But we keep reminding ourselves that we are lucky to have even a fan...... Cambodia's electric supply comes from Thailand and Vietnam and a few days ago there was a bad traffic accident near the Thai border, which has meant that nowhere in Siem Reap without a generator has any electricity at the moment, and probably won't have for the next week or so!

So it's goodnight here, from a very hot and bothered Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 08:51 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siemreap Comments (0)

Dolphins and a cockroach on the face!

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So the cockroach first...last night a huge cockroach (the biggest we've seen yet on our travels) fell from the ceiling and landed on Jo's face! After some screaming and a little histeria I located a 'weapon'; some giant Angry Bird flip-flops which were in the corner of the room. After throwing both, the cockroach was immobilized so I pushed it into the corner of the room out of sight assuming it was dead. No such luck. We awoke in the morning and it had somehow made it's way into the middle of the room (they really are resilient!). After some more screaming and a few more goes with the flip-flops, the cockroach was no more! Phew.

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We arranged yesterday for a friendly local remork driver called Ploy to pick us up at 8am this morning to go and see the Irrawaddy dolphins. So off we went! The place where the dolphins can be seen is 15km north of Kratie in a place called Kampi. Once there we hopped in a boat with a couple more tourists and went out on the water. The boat took us out for about half an hour and we saw several dolphins in this time included a mother and her baby. We count ourselves very lucky to have seen them as they are critically endangered (only around 75 left in the wild) so are sadly at a high risk of becoming extinct soon.

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Ploy then took us to some rapids upsteam where we lazed in hammocks in stilted bamboo huts. It was lovely and peaceful and whilst we would have loved to go swimming (the temperature was in the high thirties today) the rapids were a bit too rough. We dangled our feet in though which was refreshing!

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On route back to Kratie, Ploy took us to some random "mountain". This was a hill with steps leading up to the top to a meditation retreat. We seriously did not want to climb up all the steps because of the heat but we felt we had to as Ploy had so kindly taken us there. So up we went, had a quick look around then swiftly climbed back down to get back into the breezy remork!

After getting back to our guesthouse we grabbed the laptop and walked along the river to a restaurant. Walking in the midday sun for half an hour was a bad idea!! Hot and bothered we collapsed at the restuarant for several hours where the lovely staff gave us our own dedicated electric fan to cool us down (nowhere here seems to have air con!) and served us ice cold drinks whilst we caught up on our blogging entries!

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We're up early for the 7am bus to Siem Reap which supposedly will take around ten hours (eugh!) so we'll have an early-ish night and keep our fingers crossed that no cockroaches land on us tonight!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 08:42 Archived in Cambodia Tagged kratie Comments (1)

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