Siem Reap, Cambodia

Last day in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tomorrow, I fly at 0750 from here to Singapore – arriving around eleven, just the right time, so when I catch the train and walk to the Betel Box hostel(where I started) I will be sweating profusely in the midday, equatorial heat.

The last few days have been pretty good really – done alot more than I usually do. My moto driver has been picking me up then driving me round all day visiting the temples of Angkor. I know before I said I was sick of them(Bangkok), but the ones here are around 1000 years old(and havent changed much) so it has been rewarding.

I have really enjoyed riding on the back of a motorbike actually. The roads are some of the worst I have experienced so far – the drivers are mental! So it has been quite thrilling shooting along at 70kmph, avoiding potholes that would swallow the bike – cows, buffallo, dogs and of course other drivers are just some of the hazards. I should also mention, no helmets.

We had a pretty hair encounter yesterday. Driving along at about 50kmph out in the countryside, passing a tuk tuk, with an oncoming truck on the other side. We squeeze through no problem at all, but just as we pass the end of the truk – something big, heavy and metallic falls out of the truck. It made a huge noise right beside me and pretty much scared me shitless. There was also another incident with a police car, same sort of story – crazy drivers!

The temples are fascinating, so big and at the same time, the carvings that have been preserved are so intricate. One thing which astounded me was that no mortar was used, the weight of the stones kept everything together.

The only thing that annoys me about this place is that at the entrance and exits of every sight, there are at least 6 children who come running up to you trying to get you to buy things. The same with the restaurant owners – they are constantly shouting ‘You buy cold drink sir? Just one dollar. You buy from me, I remember you’
I feel bad for the kids, because I understand it is their parents that send them out and sometimes I just give them a few notes, but at the same time – it is hard not to snap at them. One older girl was trying to get me to buy trousers – she must have been 14 or 15. The walk to the temple was about 600 meters from the road and I was about halfway down it. ‘You buy trousers sir, many color’. After a while I just got fed up. The sales tactic is very aggressive, so I said ‘Yeah, you have them in Red’. Delighted, she turns her bike back to get them – during which time I scarper, leaving her to cycle the 1200 m round journey. I must say, she was particularly aggressive and persistent, the smaller kids, you can talk to them sometimes and make them laugh – and usually they forget about trying to sell you a flute, – but this girl was mean!

I visited the land mine museum here. It is quite popular I think. The founder, has removed something like 50000 mines himself, without specialist kit or funding – he just goes out with his team, armed with a pair of pliers and gets on with the job, as opposed to the big organisations who charge 1000 dollars a mine. The mine problem is huge here, people still get injured or killed everyday here, it is really appauling to think that countries like the USA and China are still manufacturing and using them(lobby your government!). Anyway just google ‘Cambodian Land Mine Museum’ and go to it if your in Cambodia(and give generously).

What else, what else, what else??

Umm. I have been trying to put some weight back on, so I have been eating loads here, cannot wait to get to Oz and have a decent steak. Tried one here, but I am sure it must have had some sort of parasite in it, because I pulled out a huge worm like thing – needless to say, I didnt eat it. The food in Cambodia, isnt spectacular – Malaysia still holds the title of best for cuisine.

There are a hell of alot of tourist here, especially Japanese. They are well behaved, but come in swarms. The English, seem behaved at the temples, but again seem to go a bit mental when they have a beer in them – kind of embarassing really, being Scottish, we still share the same country. A couple of young americans seemed to go overboard with the booze too, so I guess it isnt really a case of race – just maturity. Thankfully though – the French seem to be the worst of all, according to my driver they are ‘stingy and complain too much'(those are his words not mine) he also went as far to say, that the drivers he knows sometimes will refuse to take French customers. It has been interesting talking to my driver, his english is alright and I have been asking him alot about Cambodia. I never even realised before that there is a rivalry between Thailand and Cambodia.

Anyway, cannot wait to get to Papua New Guinea. Not looking forward to Oz a great deal. My British Pound doesnt pack the same punch over there, so it is going to take a bit of getting used to. Also, Cairns, like the other destinations on the East Coast of Oz tend to be alcohol orientated in the backpacker scene, not something I want to get involved with just before 7 weeks out in the jungle. I just want to chill out at the beach, maybe go for a couple of dives, eat good food, meet interesting people, maybe have a look round the area and sleep. Not keen on drinking throughout the night, sleeping through the day, then going drinking again to the sound of bad dance music.

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