War, Temples and Mekong Whiskey Buckets
19.10.2009 - 14.11.2009 35 °C
Helloooooooo, sorry, I'm soooooooooooooooooooo behind with it all...
It's safe to say that I love Cambodia. I know I say this about most of not all the countries I've been to but Cambodia truely is a fabulous place, I had a wicked time there and my friend Alex finally managed to escape my clutches... till 2011 that is... Mmmwwaahahahhaahahahaaa (evil laugh)
The war muesums and orphange in Phnom Pehn were heart breaking, the temples in Siem Reap were incrediable and the buckets in Sihanoukville were downed with gusto!! What a place I even ate a deep fried tarantula leg eek!!
After the long and weary boat ride we were squished into 2 minibuses. My face was almost pressed against the window of the door it was so full of people and rucksacks. Why any of us believe it when we're told the journey will only be an hour I'll never know. We never learn. Anyway we arrived at a hotel and I left Alex with the bags while I sprinted to the loo faster than the bloke who robbed me in Saigon, If only I'd have needed the loo then I might have caught him then he'd have known all about it. Right then so the mini bus pretty much drove into the reception of the hotel and everyone was harassed into staying there. We were promised a quality room for 10 USD and give the man his due, the room was lovely. It had a balcony which looked out over the street, a bathroom with bath and shower, 2 big beds, a TV and after a while a very strange smell which came from the bathroom and was cleverly disguised by orange air freshner when we first walked in but got stronger the longer we were in the room. Much like the smell in my flat in la linea from the first loo, a gassy kind of no trap smell you know? no? well it's not very nice. Neither is getting comfy on your bed to discover that you have to share it with a family of ants, a big family. So we stayed one night and got a cheaper guesthouse near the lake for the rest of the time which wasn't as nice to look at but did the job and neither smelled nor housed any ants.
All the cash points in Cambodia give you USD and the price for everything is in USD. When you get change it's generally in USD except when it gets below a dollar, then you get reil as well. It's really easy after a while. The only thing you have to remember is to spend or give away all your reil before you leave Cambodia cos no one wants it anywhere else, a bit like Scottish money really much to my disgust.
We went for a walk down by the river and to what we thought was the silver pagoda but in actual fact we found out later that it wasn't, ah well, it was nice enough and pretty silvery. It had weird statues outside it of people lying on tombstones with thier guts hauled out. We also went to the Wat in the middle of town, it was pretty cool and even had monks wandering about it and we saw an elephant in the park below, how cool is that? right in the middle of town. Central market was crazy madness, we came across a woman selling deep fried bugs, she was sat there pulling wings off toasted coakroches and munching them down, we declined the offer to try something but did stand on her scales to be horrified by the result. Spent the night trashing some lads at pool and decided to go to the S21 Prison the next day. Don't read this next bit if you're feeling in anyway down in the dumps, it's horrible...
OMG!! How horrific, shocking and down right mental with a big helping of depression this visit was, we followed it up with the Killing Fields which was terrible as well but not as bad as the prison, not for me anyway. The S21 Prison is where loads of Cambodian people were brought, beaten, tortured and killed. Men, women and children. There are pictures of most if not all of the victims, thier blood socked clothes are there as is the feeling of total fear and dispair. I couldn't do the whole place, I got half way through and gave up, there's only so many photos of dead people and torture you can look at. Whats even more shocking is it all happened in the last 30 odd years and is only now being brought to court. You have to go if you're in Cambodia but it sure isn't a pleasure trip. Like I said, we went to the Killing Fields after that where more innocent people were killed and dumped in mass graves. The most shocking part of that place was the killing tree. It was used to kill babies and young children by holding them by the ankles and smashing their wee bodies against the tree. Just horrific. There's a monument to the people that died in the form of a massive tomb which is full of skulls which were found when the graves were dug up. There's about 8000 inside it. The field itself isn't as shocking to look at like the prison but you can just feel the terrible things that went on, just awful.
Right, enough of that, onto minging food and shoogley bus rides. We were an hour and a half into the trip to Siem Reap (where we met batman, marvelled at temples and drank pink slushy drinks) when we had a squat and snack stop. It was here that I ate my first and might I say last spider leg, yes, a deep fried tarantula leg which had been kindly donated to me by a couple of canadian lads who ate the rest of it including the big squidgey bum bit - yuck!! It was a bit like the crispy bit of fat on a lamb chop after being marinaded in garlic and after I got over the fact that it was an 'S P ider' (as my Granny P used to say) leg, it was actually quite nice. Our next stop another hour and a half later was for lunch, I had a very nice bit of pork loin with rice but I could have had a boiled turtle which in all honesty didn't look that nice lying there on it's back newly boiled with stream rising from it's belly, poor wee soul. Anyway, we arrived in Siem Reap and were picked up by a bloke as previously arranged by our guesthouse bloke in Phenm Pehn. After wading through a very deep puddle we hopped into a tuk tuk and were taken to a guesthouse which from the outside looked quite nice but from the inside it was a different story. The first room we were shown smelled funny, the pillows smelled of dirty hair and the compliamentary towel smelled of sick. Not wanting to trapse about all night looking for a new home, we stayed one night then moved into a much nicer place in town for the rest of our stay. On the way round to the new guesthouse we bumped into Mr Batman the tuk tuk driver. I'd heard about him from Jenny and Ben and had emailed him but hadn't had a reply so bumping into him was fate for sure. His tuk tuk was all customised to look like the bat mobile, well, as much as a tuk tuk can be. Anyway, we booked him for the next 3 days of temple touring singing na na na na na na na naaa batman!!! at every given opertunity, well I did anyway. Looking at my journal I haven't said much about the temples really, they're all pretty amazing, some more than others like the Tomb Raiders one, it was crazy with trees dripping over the edge of the stones, really cool and my favorite which we went to at the end of the second day, was so amazing. I can't remember the name of it but could have spent most of the day in it, not just cos it was massive either honest. After that temple we walked up a hill with about half a million other tourists to watch the sun go down. It was really lovely looking out over the hills and trees as the sun went down. I took a photo of everyone else watching the sunset cos it looked like a rave with hands and arms in the air waving about (like they just don't care) taking photos.
Dinner in siem Reap can be as expensive as you want, we prefered the 1 dollar deal at the market but did treat ourselves to a resturant offering one night which was just as nice. On our second last night I went to a cello recital at the local hospital. The hospital is free for the locals to use which is great as otherwise they wouldn't be able to get the treatment they need for dengue fever and accidents and other run of the mill illnesses but they need donations so the guy that opened it and others like it in Cambodia puts on a cello recital every saturday night. Batman said he'd pick me up at the guesthouse and take me which he did but the bat mobile broke down about 5 mins into the journey. Fearing I would be late Mr Batman said he'd call his brother to pick me up and take me. Great I thought, thanks very much so I waited for about 10 mins then to my joy and hilarity who should come belting round the corner to save me....? SUPERMAN!! how fabulous is that?? you couldn't make it up... The concert was good but there was more talking and donation pleas than playing, still it was for a good cause. Met up with Alex and Richard for a quiet drink that turned into a 3am pink slushy cocktails dance-a-thon and no temples the next day. I obviously wanted to go and see temples for the third day in a row but Alex wasn't too well so I went to the shop and bought lots of supplies and we lay around watching films all day, was sheer bliss. Alex left for Laos the next day and I decided to go back to Phnom Pehn to volunteer at an orphanage but before I left I bought a few presents at the market where I noticed a lot of women wearing jammies which made me think of Asda in Liverpool. I also noticed a lot of people washing cows that day while I drove to Phnom Pehn... weird. I stayed in the same guesthouse and was warmed to my cockles with the welcome I got when I arrived. I wasn't however impressed with the angry child who cut my arm with his plastic box for carry books in just cos I didn't want to buy any, the evil little urchin. My plan to voluteer and stay at the orphange for a few days was quickly squashed by the people that were trying to organise it. I know the locals need money and they're poor etc but ripping off tourists and being mean to them just cos they think you have loads of money and should pay stupid amounts for things isn't the way to go about it so I visited and sat in class helping the kids with their english for a few hours taking 50 kilos of rice and 2 kilos of fruit with me then went back to the guesthouse to book my ticket to Sihanoukville on the coast. The orphange was class, the students at the school were brilliant and so good at english. I was very impressed. The school wasn't as full as usual due to flooding in the village but it was still good fun I wish I could have done more for them but I really was put off by the slimy wee toad from the guesthouse. Onto Sihanoukville...
Sihanoukville is on the coast and I'm sure has lots of things to see and do but all I saw was the beach during the day where I enjoyed fresh fruit and dips in the ocean while turning down offers of massage, pedicure, manicure, braclets, anklets, keyrings, threading and cruises on junk boats then at night I enjoyed the beach pubs and clubs through Mekong Whiskey tinted glasses. Well, at 2 dollars a bucket, who can say no...?
When I got off the bus I was whisked away on a motorbike with a fistfull of guesthouse and hotel leaflets. The first place I went to see was ok but something about it just didn't feel right so I went to see a place that was 2 dollars a night. OMG I think if I'd have stayed there I would have woken up with a missing kidney or in another country with a price tag on my head if I'd have managed to get to sleep at all, it was really scary. I ended up staying at Mick and Craigs which was nice but a bit pricey. As soon as a room became available at Monkey Republic next door I moved in there. There's a lot of woodworm in Sihanoukville. I could hear them eating my bed and door in both places I stayed. I spent halloween in Monkey Republic. Having not bought or brought a costume with me for the first time in years I raided my first aid box (cheers Jess & Mark) and wrapped a bandage round my head and face. There's one picture but it's in the camera of a scottish couple I met that night and spent the next 2 days with.
I bought some tiger balm. Have you ever read the instructions? well, I did. It says it's good for everything including insect bites, stuffy nose, sore muscles etc and "effective in relieving flatulance. Directions: apply tiger balm gently to affected areas.." how do you go about that then?
There a lot of kids on the beach trying to sell you things. I was well and truely hussled by Peter the fruit boy. I wanted to pay a dollar for the fruit, he wanted 2 dollars so he suggested we play a game of knots and crosses, if he won I would pay 2 dollars but if he lost, I would pay 50 cent. I paid 2 dollars... he knows that game inside out, we played 4 in the end and if he didn't win, no one won. I also made friends with Genna the braclet girl, both kids are very good at the poor me face bless them. I spent the next few days with 2 canadian guys Clint and Grant and Fabio the irishman. His name isn't really Fabio but women are like putty in his hand with his chat up lines so Fabio it is.. if you're reading this, you'll know who you are. Anyway, we also had Seema and Minnie in our enterage for a bit. our nights were spent at a beach bbq for fish then to the dolphin shack for 25cent beers followed by the place at the bottom of the hill for 2 dollar buckets then to utopia for vodka redbull ice luge, dancing, pool playing with the local girls and general hilarity sometimes going down to Chivas shack on the beach for a laugh. It's the kind of place old men to go to dance like dads at a wedding in the hope of going home with a local girl. At the end of the day they don't have to try very hard, there are loads of professional girlfriends about. One night we went to the Otres Fest at Otres beach which is about 4km away from the very busy beach and lovely during the day if you want to nurse a hangover without being plagued by people selling things. The fest was a bit pants but the kebabs were nice. I think we just got there a bit too late as it was kinda winding down, drunk and spaced out people sitting about or dancing to the 2 DJ'sand the acoustic bit inside. A man on the beach was doing the fire poi stuff which was pretty cool. Clint and I drove down on a motorbike, my first experience of driving one with gears, was pretty cool till we hit the sand, it's hard to control on sand. Do you go faster or slower?? I tried both and still near fell off a few times.
After 2 weeks of lying on the beach during the day and out drinking at night till stupid oclock it was time to leave and go back to Thailand. Fabio and I caught a bus to the border which started off ok but we were soon put on another bus and after about 10 mins the aircon broke down. 45 people on a bus with no aircon and no windows - it was horrendous. I went up to the front and asked if the foor could be opened as the wee hatch in the roof wasn't doing much good but he looked at me with a blank expression and nothing happened. Finally he opened the door after another woman went down to complain, I think if he'd left it any longer he'd of had a riot on his hands. We stopped a couple of times till we eventually got to the border. I rung out my ponytail, grabbed our bags and crossed the border. If you do the land crossing from Cambodia to Thailand and you don't have much money, take your own bags across, if you leave them on the trolley thing, you won't get your bag back till you give the bloke that wheeled them over some money. I was warned previously. It was only like a dollar or something, not a lot in the grand scheme of things but it's dinner for a night and I'd just rather know where my bag was...
Now in Thailand it was onto Bangkok in a minibus driven by a man in a major hurry...