I’m just about finished in Cambodia and off to Vietnam tomorrow.
In Bangkok (seems so long ago!)i pretty much was waiting it out for the visa. I did go to a floating market just outside in a village called Damnoen Saduak, and i got there the night before – there were no other westerners there, which was a nice change! But it was very tourist-ified at times, but i still enjoyed it! The next day (my last) i visited some more temples that i’d missed out before.
In Cambodia i’d decided to go straight to Siem Reap with 5 others i’d met on the bus, with whom (excluding one who wasn’t feeling well) i rented a bike the next day to go see some temples in Angkor! There are so many there, but despite the whole hype, angkor wat is pretty much all they say it is – it is breathtaking! We also visited Bayon, built slightly later, and wat phrom, where tomb raider was filmed. It was pretty busy but apparently it wasn’t as busy as last year! A good day, lots of exercise!
The next day i wanted to go see some more temples further away so i went by myself on the back of a moto (mopeds, they pretty much run this country – crossing the street is risking your life every single time!) to see Bantaey Srei, probably the best conserved but i prefered Bantaey Samrei as it was so much quieter! I also visited Preah Khan but it was pretty much a lot of ruins. It’s really sad because i can only imagine how majestic it must have looked when they were in full glory but looting and the unstable political situation have left very few intact!
I left the others and took a boat to Battambang the next day, a journey which was supposed to take 3-8 hours. It took 10. And we had to get off 2/3rds of the way through because the boat was taking up too much water, as there were too many passengers and we were almost tipping over! Dry season meant the water level was very low so lots of bends in the river… It was really interesting to see all these floating villages though where kids rows boats at the same age i was just learning to walk! And many of them are so poor, i wonder where they get their basic resources from…
In Battambang i took a cooking class and learned to make Amok, a national dish like a thai curry but richer in spices, Lok lak, a beef dish, and a soup (lots of Khmer – cambodian – food is based around soups). It was really cool!! In the afternoon i went to see these killing caved and went for a ride on the bamboo train. Since being here i’ve learnt the horror of the cambodian genocide from 1975-1979 by pol pot, which is worse even than hitler’s in the burtality and murder against its own people, and so few people know about it!! people will have heard the name pol pot before, but seriously, read the book i mentioned before by luong ung – first they killed my father – and only then will anyone begin to realize what stuff has gone on under the khmer rouge regime only too recently! i can’t believe they didn’t teach this stuff in school…
I got to Phnom Penh (which is pretty cool, much less congested than bangkok!) by bus and went to see the killing fields (where over 80000 people were killed by the khmer rouge) and to the s-21 prison, where tons were tortured. It was a pretty depressing day, but in the process i met up with 2 guys i’d seen siem reap with.
Tomorrow i’m off to ho chi minh city (Saigon) by bus but am planning to go straight through to a place called nha trang and maybe get some diving in! Can’t wait to get back in the water.
Cambodia’s been really nice to see. It shows such a contradiction in rich history and the recent unstabilities it’s really interesting to see how if unfurls in the future, especially with the tourist boom it’s experiencing. There’s only really a few specific areas that most people go to – siem reap, battambang, phnom penh and sihanoukville, but if i’d have more time i’d go up to the northeast – scenery is supposed to be stunning and all a lot less touristy! Oh well, next time 🙂