Cambodia

One of the unfortunate things about having a Thai visa is that I have to make border runs from time to time to renew it, shucks. This round I decided to make a mini vacation out of it and spent some time in Cambodia. Below are the details.


Day 1: Late night flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Ended up staying at this seedy little place near the train station. About halfway through the night I realized there were bed bugs all over the place, so I promptly changed beds.

No extra charge for bed bugs


Day 2: Had to wake up early to catch a train to the border at Poi Pet. Now, I am all about traveling cheaply and living frugally, but 48 baht for a train ticket is a bit ridiculous. If you do that math that's roughly $1.50 USD. The downside is that its a 6 hour ride crammed in on bench seats with the windows wide open, which sounds refreshing in theory but in reality all sorts of nasty stuff gets blown in diminishing the air quality.

Now I had lucky done some reading before crossing the border and was hip to all the tricks both the Thai and Cambodian government like to play on tourists. I viewed it as a game. First step, buy an online e-visa before entering Cambodia as it expiates the process and your not susceptible to paying unannounced fees to the authorities. The tuk tuk drivers literally point out who they are going to give rides to as the train approaches the station, then they deliver you to this nice looking building with air conditioning. Do not enter this building, its not immigration, just keep on walking to the border. Go through the border, enter Cambodia, look at the ridiculous casinos, and go through Cambodian immigration. Don't plan on finding any sort of food at the border, just hire a taxi for $40 bucks and head to Siem Reap.

A few major things struck me upon entering Cambodia. Firstly, the tuk tuks are very different there. Instead of an all in one transport they jerry rig scooters to pull little coaches. Secondly, there are a lot of people without limbs. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge the government put in tons of land mines at the borders to dissuade people from leaving, and it worked. Thirdly, though Cambodia has their own currency American dollars are used widely, you can even withdraw USD from the ATM's, so strange. Lastly, the economic environment looks bleak for much of the Cambodian people.

Crossing over at Poi Pet

Moving stuff

Local market

Pub Street, Siem Reap



Day 3: We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day through our guest house, roughly $15 USD. Most people go to Angkor Wat for sunrise but little do they know that many other temples with less traffic are just as badass. The first morning we went to Phnom Bakeng for sunrise. It was what you would expect I guess but with less people, aside from the old lady who thought it was completely fine to take a piss on top of the temple. The rest of the day was spent visiting Bayonne (the one with the famous faces), Ta Prohm (the one featured in Tomb Raider), Angkor Thom, and Baphuon. I could go on a long diatribe about the archaeological significance of each place, but luckily you can buy great literature on the area from any number of children selling goods (oh and they are all $1).

Phnom Bakeng

Phnom Bakeng

Gate to the old city

Bayonne

Smiling faces


Royal palace

I was expecting Angelia Jolee to come in shooting with a Cambodian kid in her arms.




Angkor Wat


The great churning of the milk sea (true translation)

Strange carvings


Decompression

Combodian tuk tuk's


Day 4: Honestly after one day looking at temples I was feeling a bit templed out, but I figured I would only be there once and slogged along to some more. I was happily surprised by the temples further a field. Not only are the temples less trafficked, generally cooler, but the ride out there is a nice way to see rural Cambodia. We hit up Banteay Srei (my personal favorite), Banteay Same, Pre Rup, East Mebon, Banteay Kdei, and ended with a sunset at Ta Keo (the pinnacle of limestone block construction). Again we had the entire temple to ourselves to watch the sun set while a thunder storm rolled in.

Amputee musicians

 
Banteay Srei (the temple was for Shiva)

Cambodia is hott

Making some palm candies


Mabon

Photo Bomb


Where is the tuk tuk

Some of the original stucco left


Night market


Day 5: Cambodia is home to the largest fresh water lake in SE Asia, Lake Tonle Sap. This area is heavily developed for the tourist industry, which is sort not my scene, but luckily we signed up with an eco-tourism company called Osmoze. It was a bit on the expensive side but was worth the cultural experience of seeing the floating villages and heading deep into the marches to watch bird-life. The only down side was that the guide didn't speak English well, they were using styrofoam containers for the lunches (so eco-friendly), and there was no real direction given by the guide as to what we were actually doing.

Pooping

Don't worry they have tv.


Bird watching

Keeping floating villages connected









Day 6: Hopped on a bus bound for Phnom Phen early in the morning and arrived in the early afternoon. Being the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Phen was influenced heavily by the French colonial government. The city itself is a nice juxtaposition of old French architecture and some of the most extreme poverty I have seen in SE Asia. Oh, and you can find amazing cheese and baguettes there.





The Killing Fields


S-21

The gallows

Number 1


Leo was advertising his hair here






Day 7: The last day of the trip was a bit depressing and very humbling. We visited both the killing fields of Choeung Ek (http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/index.html). This was one of over 300 camps around Cambodia that were used to exterminate "traitors." This place makes the Holocaust look humane. Because bullets were expensive and they didn't want the surrounding population knowing what was going on there they used primitive methods to kill the victims. Almost all the skulls have some indication of blunt force trauma. In one pit the bodies of more than 100 women and children were buried and adjacent to the pit was a large tree on which the soldiers would smash the children aginst. It makes me ill just typing about it. I will say that the audio tour of the complex was really well done and if you want to understand the Cambodian people it is a good insight into their past.

After the gut wrenching depression of the killing fields we headed over to Tuol Sleng (S-21), which was a high school that was converted into a detention facility by Pol Pot. I was immediately shocked by how unaltered the entire place was. It still had the grime, the stains, the razor wire, and gallows that haven't changed since 1979 when the place was shut down. What's more is the fact that there was a person in charge of taking photos for the prison. That being said the atrocities were very well documented visually, disturbingly so.

With only a few hours to spare before our flight back to Thailand we decided to do some shopping at the market. Mainly to overcome the emotional morning. The market was like any other in SE Asia where you can buy anything. Uneventful, as we only had 3 dollars left.

So, that was the trip in a nutshell.