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Cambodia

Chapter eighty five - Siem Reap

Wat? Angkor Wat that's what

overcast 29 °C

Day 305: Siem Reap, Cambodia 31/07/2012

A 7.30 tuk tuk pick up from the room (with a real odd couple in tow) to get to the bus station and start our journey to Siem Reap via Phnom Penh. A rumbling hunger and a sub-zero air conditioning system makes the stop for a hot noodle soup all the more satisfying but we soon find ourselves arriving at the bus station in Phnom Penh and waiting for what seemed an eternity for the next bus to come. There is lots going on here though to keep us entertained - annoying Europeans, locals travelling across Cambodia with their worldly possessions, travellers with huge camera lenses pointing at people's faces.

Eventually on the bus to Siem Reap and there is a real mix of locals and travellers using the service, which is always nice to see. Again the a/c is set to arctic but we do get to watch some excellent Khmer programming on the onboard tv. Get to Siem Reap in good time, organise a tuk tuk to Angkor Wat in a couple of days and check in to the hotel before grabbing a bite to eat and getting an early night...

Day 306: Siem Reap, Cambodia 01/08/2012

After a good night's sleep I head to the rooftop gym and smash the treadmill for a massive sweat on before we step out for a bite to eat and a bit of time wandering around this charming riverside town. We visit all the haunts we loved so much last time we were here and buy a few bits and pieces from the markets. Back at the room, we have a slight problem with the plumbing and we ask to be moved. Unfortunately, they are full at the moment but say they will move our stuff when we are at Angkor Wat tomorrow. A quick visit to the internet cafe and a bit of time in the fish foot spa (always good for a laugh) before an early night for an early morning...

Day 307: Siem Reap, Cambodia 02/08/2012

Up at ten to five then for our trip to Angkor Wat, with the tuk tuk ready and waiting for us outside the hotel. We soon hit the road and are excited about this morning's excursion, reaching the gate to the complex nice and easily and having two beautiful, early morning, post tuk-tuk ride photos taken for our day passes.

After being accosted by a food and drink vendor called Angelina Jolie (not sure if that is her real name) we soon bear witness to the magnificent spectacle of the sun rising over the mysterious Angkor Wat and the ancient complex is revealed in all its glory. It is incredible to think how a structure like this was built so long ago, without cranes and machinery, not just built to a decent standard but finished with such unbelievable quality and finesse.

Exploring the temple complex reveals some stunning monuments and statues and a huge pack of very wild looking monkeys. From Angkor Wat itself and onto the Bayon we move, where there is plenty going on. Elephants compete with the tuk tuks for roadspace carrying hordes of gawping tourists to the strange, mystical and all knowing huge heads carved into the building blocks of this strange but captivating temple. There are some excellent views to be had from the top of some of the other smaller temples (very steep steps up) and the whole thing is a really special sight to behold - definitely worthy of its position near the very top of almost every tourist's itinerary. After negotiating the maze to get out and grabbing a quick drink, we head back to the hotel for a quick nap and (eventually) swap rooms as promised.

After such a busy day we treat ourselves in the evening, first stopping for a massage from a blind man (so relaxing!) before a great dinner at one of the best eating holes we have found on the entire trip. A couple of beers and we are ready to leave Cambodia - a charming and unforgettably welcoming and hospitable country - in the morning for our last return to our most favourite of cities, Bangkok.

Posted by tevs 21:49 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap angkor_wat Comments (0)

Chapter eighty four - Sihanoukville's second chance

A place in the rain

sunny 30 °C

Day 301: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 27/07/2012

So depart from the B&Q furniture bus depot and make our way to Sihanoukville, for a final chance to snatch some quality beach time. The not uncomfortable minibus takes far more than the promised four hours (and nearly run a dog over in the process) and I run into somebody else reading another of Michael Palin's fine travel books. Have just finished Around The World In 80 Days and give it to my new buddy as I finished it last night. Decline a book back in return on account of the eight we are already carrying around.

A quick stop at Victory Hill for the fat, white, middle aged man sat next to me and it is the seediest, sleaziest, scummiest place I have ever seen, built solely around the world's oldest profession. We find a hotel room and head to the beach for the afternoon sun. The town is a lot quieter and therefore nicer than it was the last time we came due mainly to it now being the low season. The clouds gather but the rain holds off for today and we enjoy a decent tea in the town. Consider a trip back to the desert island but decide against as the weather is not as reliable in low season. A film in bed is followed by a good sleep.

Day 302: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 28/07/2012

A beautiful day outside - the sun is shining and the beach beckons. We saunter down to the beach and after grabbing a sun lounger, enjoy a whole twenty minutes of uninterrupted sunshine before the biggest, blackest, most threatening clouds you ever did see appear on the horizon and the staff of all the beachside businesses run out to collect in anything that could be damaged by the rain.

And rain it did, as we spend a very uneventful afternoon in the room listening to the almighty storm gather pace outside. With the sun back up in the early evening, we head back to the beach, where we run into one of the lads we met in Koh Samui and briefly catch up with him. Happy Hour then opens its welcoming arms and we enjoy a few 50 cent beers with an Aussie-Kiwi couple and their young son, who has grown up in Cambodia. Needless to say, this ends later than Happy Hour intended and I forget where we live.

Day 303: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 29/07/2012

Wake up early to confront the hangover and duly lose this battle. Back to bed. A very uninspiring day mirrored by the miserable weather outside. Dinner is about the only highlight. Shocking.

Day 304: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 30/07/2012

Another rainy day unfortunately, and the after a spot of luncheon at the Big Easy bar we catch a bit of Olympic action all the way from good old Blighty. Lots of US Navy personnel about for some reason.

Back to the room for some movie entertainment - so much for the last bit of beach before going to Australia. Book a bus to Siem Reap for tomorrow and head out for dinner - two courses for $5. Baked scallops in white wine are very good. The rest is distinctly average. A frustrating few days here.

Posted by tevs 04:13 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches cambodia sihanoukville Comments (0)

Chapter eighty three - Kep

sunny 31 °C

Day 299: Kep, Cambodia 25/07/2012

Awake early this morning, each of us a fair bit healthier than we were yesterday. When I ask G what time it is she replies with an authoritative and decisive 'ten past eight'. A look at the watch reveals it is in fact ten past nine. She is living in the past. To the embassy then Batman, and the trip starts well as we step out of the tuk-tuk and I promptly go arse over tit care of a shin high chain fence at the side of the road. 'Oh my God' squeals the tuk-tuk driver. Quite.

Get all the required paperwork in and ask to pay for express/same day processing. The jobsworth from yesterday does not understand why we would possibly want this and tells us that it is not possible. Au contraire mon ami, as he looks up to see me and remembers the laser eye treatment he was subjected to yesterday and allows us (begrudgingly) to pay for the expedited issuance. Told to pick them up in a couple of hours so we grab a spot of breakfast from a restaurant run by an OG, who walks round commanding respect and holding two huge bricks of money without so much as the thought of a worry. Not a man to cross we feel.

We get our passports back with two Chinese visas firmly pasted into them and a weight is lifted off - the journey can be completed and the final leg undertaken. Check out of our hotel for the last time - I am sure they will be really sad to see the back of us for good - and we make our way to the bus station, where we buy two tickets to Kep and we leave Phnom Penh, passing through some parts of town we definitely haven't been near before. See a new favourite shop. It is magnificently named the 'Selling Glasses Watches Shop'.

We reach Kep, find a room and make mortal enemies with an obnoxious and truly quite horrible French nine year old. Good tea.

Day 300: Kep, Cambodia 26/07/2012

Get up and watch a bit of tv, flicking between Russia Today, Somali Kingdom TV and numerous Christian channels (kids love oatmeal snacks apparently). Go for a walk around the really quiet and quaint little town that is Kep and continue on our walk round the cliff that we abandoned last night due to the dark. Just as well we did really, as the pathway is teeming with monkeys and given our previous with these cuddly, furry, evil balls of fun we would no doubt have had a scrap on our hands.

A spot of lunch is followed by a spot of beaching it. A scorcher today and after two minutes sitting on the sand we find ourselves on two rather ancient and delapidated sun loungers. Charged to use them by a woman that Gemma thinks is just someone using the beach and seeing an opportunity. Lots of locals around the beach today, all of them staying in the shade by the road and most of them extended family units enjoying a good barbecue, which is always nice to see.

Book a minibus back to Sihanoukville tomorrow and are told by the travel agent to meet him back here at his office in the morning. His office is a patio table in a car park. Love the way that Asia conducts its business.

Posted by tevs 03:36 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches cambodia kep Comments (0)

Chapter eighty two - Phnom Penh III

Return of the Mack

sunny 31 °C

Day 295: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 21/07/2012

Hmmm, an interesting morning to say the least. I run from breakfast to try to change some dong to dollar. Step into a travel agency - the only place that seems to be offering currency exchange - hand over four and a half million dong and wait, seemingly forever, for the dead presidents to come back to me. Well, when they do arrive they feel a little funny and the gut feeling says something is wrong. When the two dollar bill makes an appearance the alarm bells really ring and I seriously question the legitimacy of the notes. Argue for my dong back (that sounds so wrong) but with our bus departure looming large, we end up losing about a pound for their 'exchange fee'. Oh well, better than a bunch of fake money. Return to eat my cold, shit omelette shaking with rage. Gemma is nowhere to be found. She emerges half an hour later, having been to the shops.

Eventually manage to get hold of some US dollars and the bus picks us up. When I say bus I mean a little man comes, grabs one of our bags and walks us the 300 metres to the bus office. Here the bus picks us up...oh no, turns out to be a taxi taking us to the other office. Eventually find ourselves on the real bus. A nice easy journey back to Phnom Penh and we soon find our way over the Cambodian border very easily and hassle free (Poipet take note). Arrive in Phnom Penh, stumbling across the road on which 'our' hotel is and persuading the bus driver to pull over. We get to the hotel and the staff seem horrified to see us back.

Day 296: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 22/07/2012

Awake, back in one of our favourite cities of the trip, ready to seize the day and see our favourite market, even swinging past some of the other shops we thought were great previously but which seem to be really quite poor. Check the market for a new backpack as Gem's is on the way out and whilst it is not quite as exciting as previously the market proves a great way to while away some time.

We continue the healthy eating regime by taking on at least fourteen thousand calories in the shape of a mammoth ice cream before heading back to the room and I attempt to fix some of the damage with a gym session. A nice dinner is followed by a Sunday night skype and a nice little surprise that came in the post for me.

Day 297: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 23/07/2012

A reasonably early morning is spent strolling to the Chinese Embassy, which is fittingly located on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. Proceed to the consular services office where we pick up a load of forms to fill out and discover we need to have some hotel reservations sorted for the visa to be granted. Ballache.

Head back to the room, grab G's backpack (we are going to try to have it fixed) and get a bite to eat. We take a tuk-tuk to the market and discover that the bag can be fixed for an extortionate $5. We get lost in the market despite it being about the fifteenth time we have been there and with a few hours to kill before the bag will be ready we decide there is only one thing for it and have a beer or two. I head back into the maze of the market, grab the bag (after asking at the wrong stall) and find the bag is now better than new. Have a couple more bottles, and feel more than tipsy after a grand total of about four pints. A takeaway for one in the room with sleeping beauty away with the fairies.

Day 298: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 24/07/2012

Our idea of waking up early and getting the visas for China issued and stuck in our passports works out well. Gemma is severely hungover and it must be said I also wake up with a fuzzy head...(should this blog be called 'Around the World in 80 Hangovers?'). I take the plunge and brave the elements and head to the consulate down on Mao Ave. Here I am treated embarrassingly rudely and I leave empty handed as a visa requires a full itinerary and proof of funds to be submitted, in addition to an official looking hand written A4 sheet outlining our intentions here. Back tomorrow then for a third visit!

Back at the room G has made some progress in beating her 'illness' and we head out for a spot of lunch at a very nice restaurant near Tuol Sleng before taking a stroll around the town centre, even taking in some parts we haven't been to yet! Stop for a drink in a rather odd coffee shop, where the message 'Merry Christmas' is adorned on every wall - in the type of tinsel and plastic decoration outlawed by my mother in the 1980s - amidst brown formica and further strange decorations and mod cons, including a huge remote controlled helicopter suspended from the ceiling. In a neighbouring shop, a child asleep on a bed in the middle of the shop floor opens his eyes and looks around, sees us two and flops straight back down, face first into the pillow. Know the feeling kid. Gemma certainly does today...

The evening is spent planning China and ensuring we have everything we need for the visas to be issued.

Posted by tevs 21:25 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beer market shopping cambodia phnom_penh Comments (0)

Chapter eighty one - Phnom Penh III

Return of the Mack

sunny 31 °C

Day 295: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 21/07/2012

Hmmm, an interesting morning to say the least. I run from breakfast to try to change some dong to dollar. Step into a travel agency - the only place that seems to be offering currency exchange - hand over four and a half million dong and wait, seemingly forever, for the dead presidents to come back to me. Well, when they do arrive they feel a little funny and the gut feeling says something is wrong. When the two dollar bill makes an appearance the alarm bells really ring and I seriously question the legitimacy of the notes. Argue for my dong back (that sounds so wrong) but with our bus departure looming large, we end up losing about a pound for their 'exchange fee'. Oh well, better than a bunch of fake money. Return to eat my cold, shit omelette shaking with rage. Gemma is nowhere to be found. She emerges half an hour later, having been to the shops.

Eventually manage to get hold of some US dollars and the bus picks us up. When I say bus I mean a little man comes, grabs one of our bags and walks us the 300 metres to the bus office. Here the bus picks us up...oh no, turns out to be a taxi taking us to the other office. Eventually find ourselves on the real bus. A nice easy journey back to Phnom Penh and we soon find our way over the Cambodian border very easily and hassle free (Poipet take note). Arrive in Phnom Penh, stumbling across the road on which 'our' hotel is and persuading the bus driver to pull over. We get to the hotel and the staff seem horrified to see us back.

Day 296: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 22/07/2012

Awake, back in one of our favourite cities of the trip, ready to seize the day and see our favourite market, even swinging past some of the other shops we thought were great previously but which seem to be really quite poor. Check the market for a new backpack as Gem's is on the way out and whilst it is not quite as exciting as previously the market proves a great way to while away some time.

We continue the healthy eating regime by taking on at least fourteen thousand calories in the shape of a mammoth ice cream before heading back to the room and I attempt to fix some of the damage with a gym session. A nice dinner is followed by a Sunday night skype and a nice little surprise that came in the post for me.

Day 297: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 23/07/2012

A reasonably early morning is spent strolling to the Chinese Embassy, which is fittingly located on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. Proceed to the consular services office where we pick up a load of forms to fill out and discover we need to have some hotel reservations sorted for the visa to be granted. Ballache.

Head back to the room, grab G's backpack (we are going to try to have it fixed) and get a bite to eat. We take a tuk-tuk to the market and discover that the bag can be fixed for an extortionate $5. We get lost in the market despite it being about the fifteenth time we have been there and with a few hours to kill before the bag will be ready we decide there is only one thing for it and have a beer or two. I head back into the maze of the market, grab the bag (after asking at the wrong stall) and find the bag is now better than new. Have a couple more bottles, and feel more than tipsy after a grand total of about four pints. A takeaway for one in the room with sleeping beauty away with the fairies.

Posted by tevs 21:25 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beer market shopping cambodia phnom_penh Comments (0)

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