Well, I’m officially on my tour with Intrepid travel. We met in Bangkok Sept 13, and headed to Siem Reap Cambodia via the public bus on Sept 14. This tour will go until Oct 22. Love our guide Bun, he’s been fantastic. The group seems good so far, 15 of us. I used Intrepid in India last November and have only positive feedback. Cambodia with Intrepid has been the same great experience so far. What I love about Intrepid is that they use local guides, have an extremely high standard, support local businesses, are all about responsible travelling and create packages that give you varied experiences. If you want to look up the details check out Intrepidtravel.com and the trip is called Best of Indochina, the basix tour. Okay that’s my Intrepid plug, moving on…..So here’s the map of the 40 days, starting in Bangkok, going counter clockwise to Siem Reap.
I think the slogan for Cambodia should be, “Welcome to Cambodia, if you aren’t drenched in sweat, you’ll be drenched in rain”. Yes, I am aware I came in the rainy season. The nice thing about Cambodia is that you can get your visa on arrival for $40 American. Cambodian currency is the Reil and the American dollar. It’s nice to easily wrap my brain around the conversion of the American dollar, however the Canadian dollar is shitty right now, so it makes Cambodia an expensive South East Asia country compared to its neighbours. In Seim Reap and Phnom Penh, I found people quite nice and friendly, I learned a few words such as hi, thank you, no thank you and bye, I usually get a big smile when I use them. I found people less friendly and not always the nicest when we travelled more into the country which was disappointing. Locals think Racine is Cambodian, just like in Thailand they thought she’s Thai. No, she’s Philippino. So they will speak to her in Cambodian, then realize she doesn’t understand. This benefits me as I get hounded slightly less with locals thinking I’m with a local as I couldn’t scream foreigner any louder if I tried!
So I’ve been in the country for 9 days. I liked Siem Reap the most. Chilled out city with lots to do, also they are use to lots of tourists as this is the home of the famous Angkor Wat! So Angkor Wat is much larger than I expected. There’s many different Wats (temples) on the grounds. It’s really a temple complex. We went to the 3 major ones, Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. A heads up, people buy their tickets the day before, after 5pm. They take your pic and it ends up on the ticket, and you get checked before each temple. Angkor Thom is where they filmed some of Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Never saw it, probably never will, but if you did, then you might appreciate the pics. We were suppose to do an Angkor Wat sunrise, but it was pouring rain, so it was a no go.
You see lots of tree roots wrapped around the stones at Angkor Thom. Just naturally happened, no way to remove it as it’ll cause the stone to breakdown. This was my favourite part, there were so many roots, extremely beautiful and interesting.
Angkor Wat! It was pouring rain all day, I ruined my camera. I soaked it. In June I went canoeing and lost my camera in the river when we flipped. So I re bought that camera and then now soaked it and I’m pretty sure fried it. I think the universe is trying to send me a message, clearly I’m not quite getting it. I still had my gopro, but going onto the next pics, you’ll notice less quality as the gropro isn’t good for everything. But I was able to replace my camera today finally, so I am a happy chappy. Let’s cross our fingers I remember not to bathe with it.
The Lady Boy show and the Rosana Theatre. This was also in Siem Reap and was one of my favourite moments of Cambodia. They really put on an entertaining performance of lip syncing, dancing and costumes. It was very elaborate and culturally diverse. Enjoyed every minute of it, hard to believe it’s all males. A must see!
We stayed overnight in Chambok, a village for our home stay, lived like the locals, slept on the bamboo floor with a foam mattress, pillow and blanket under a mosquito net. Which I kept kicking the mosquito net out from under the mattress, good thing I’ve been taking my malarone. No electricity or plumbing. At this point I’m so use to the no plumbing. The windows were all open, which was nice for a breeze, however I didn’t appreciate the rooster under my window starting up at 0311, it was still dark out, wtf! They also cooked us our meals, I tried cooked bamboo –really like it. The kids also did some traditional dances for us. Not a big kid person myself, but it was really cute, so that’s saying a lot.
We went on a bicycle ride around the village and surrounding roads. After 2 hours of banging my lady parts on an ill fitted bike seat on bumpy gravel roads in the sweltering sun I said how much longer? The guy said 2 km, I said F this, I’m done. So me and Racine headed back to the village, which I’m glad as it gave us time to get blessed by a Monk. So the thing about Monks,mthey can’t touch women. I was able to be blessed, but my guide Bun had to tie the orange string on my wrist instead of the monk. I didn’t understand the blessing as it was in Cambodian, but I was later told it was for luck, safety and to get rid of evil. I also wiped out hard on all this algae on the cement infront of a few of them, like I mean I hit that pavement hard. But they had to watch me fall as they can’t help me, cause they can’t touch women lol. But I survived, maybe that’s what I get for wearing an Angkor beer shirt to a blessing. Then when he was doing the blessing, I couldn’t really concentrate, I kept thinking, omg I can’t believe I racked out in front of some monks….omg my elbow really hurts, fuck it hurts, is it bleeding? I wonder if it’s bleeding… Is it rude if I look to see if it’s bleeding. It’s okay I can look after….maybe I should look now..no no just look after…..fuck is hurts…is it weird if I do a hand and wrist assessment to make sure it’s not broken…. It feels sore…Ya it’s probably weird…oh we’re done already, that was fast, look at my elbow, yup it was bleeding. I was fine.
We also drank rice wine with honey and tarantulas, very potent stuff, I think I grew hair on my chest after. I also tried a fried tarantula leg. It was alright, tasted like deep fried chicken skin.
Never under estimate signing up for a cooking class on your travels. You come all this way to another country and enjoy trying the local cuisine, why not learn to make something. I did one in Nepal and now one in Siem Reap. They can be a lot of fun. First they take you to the market and show you what to buy. You then come back and learn how to make it, then you eat. You learn different cooking methods with new ingredients. We made 4 traditional dishes, banana flower salad with chicken, Sam lor koh Koo soup, steamed fish amok in banana basket and banana sago in coconut cream, the soup was my favourite. Maybe I’ll attempt to make it once I’m back in Canada, you can come over, but bring your own diaper, that coconut cream should be sold as colonoscopy prep.
You can walk into any pharmacy and buy pretty much anything with no prescription, antibiotics, narcotics, benzos etc. you name it, just ask, I’m sure they have it. This is Diazepam 5mg, 100 tablets for $2.15 American. How crazy is that! At work its counted by 2 nurses each shift and locked up at all times. Now sometimes these meds can be fake, but I was told by someone using it that its the real deal, and no it doesn’t belong to either me or Racine!
We also did a beach day of island hopping in Sihanoukville, which I sunburned my face rather nicely. We went to 3 islands, and they cooked us breakfast and lunch. Not bad for $15 American. Just thought this was interesting as I didn’t realize Cambodia had these little islands. Foggy day, but we had fun, played monkey in the middle lol, no rain which was shocking as it rains like everyday here.
Last but not least, the Killing Fields. Heads up, this one is graphic, and a serious downer, but very important. The Cambodian genocide. On April 17, 1975, Pol Pot led the Communist forces of the Khmer Rouge into the capital city of Phnom Penh and started the Cambodian genocide. So this was Cambodians slaughtering Cambodians for a more pure race. 3 1/2 million out of 7 million Cambodians were kidnapped, abused, raped, tortured then murdered and dumped in mass graves.
These bones are real, due to rain over time, more bones such as teeth are starting to surface at these killing fields. There’s the site where the killings happened, then the genocide museum, where an old school was converted into a jail. You can click on the pic to enlarge it so you can read it, gives more detail.
Now you may think it’s disrespectful for me to take pics of these sacred sites. The guide for the killing fields emphasized that the world didn’t really know it was happening and those that did, did nothing. He and many of the Cambodian people want this story out there to the world, they want us to know what has happened to them. He encouraged us to take many pics and share them. So I am. The killers were child soldiers, teenage boys. Teenage girls were the cooks, cleaners etc. In the old school, they had found box after box of pictures of all the workers, all the victims before and after they were murdered. That part was the hardest to look at. The male killers had smug looks and smiles. The female workers looked afraid. The victims all looked either confused or terrified. It was haunting. You can look into each of their eyes, you can just sense that fear, before being brutally tortured. It’s like some knew what was going to happen, and others probably had no idea. Right now in Cambodia, the under 30 population is booming, with very small older populations. There’s still so much trauma from this genocide as people are living who remember it. This event has led to Cambodia being a hot bed for human trafficking and extreme poverty. Only 4 people were recently held accountable, with next to no punishment. Pol Pot got to live free and die peacefully in Cambodia with his family. There’s just been no justice. There’s so much I could write on this, but feel free to look it up on google or visit the site yourself one day. It’s a must see, as tragic and horrifying that it is.
Well that’s the highlights and lowlights of my days here. Tomorrow we head to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam (formerly known as Saigon) via public bus, always interesting those public buses. I’m looking forward to it, I’m ready to leave Cambodia. I’m glad I came and saw some of the country, but I doubt I’d ever come back. Just didn’t grab me the way some other places have, but that’s okay, that’s part of travel, onto the next gem!