Thursday, December 29, 2005

Next stop Cambodia

Arriving back Bangkok once again I headed to my usual guesthouse and almost walked right past it. It had been totally renovated, unfortunately they didn't have any singles available so I searched on. It must be a busy time because a number of guest houses were full, but I wound up getting a room on Khao San rd. at Dio where I stayed my first night in Bangkok.

Apparently I'll be flying home sooner than expected which puts a crimp in my plans so I'm wondering around trying to decide how to spend my last weeks. Wrote Robin (met him in Czech. Rep.) as I know he is in Thailand. Got a report back that the weather and attitudes in Phuket were lousy and he was heading off to Cambodia. So I decide to skip Phuket. I guess I'll go do some more diving and head to the East coast islands again.

I was just getting things together for heading south when I walked out on the busy street and guess who I see. It's Robin and his friend Minesh (they met in S. America). Another unlikely reunion on the road. We took a taxi to the weekend market which is huge and very busy. Walked through the narrow labrinyths of cramped stalls selling food, clothes, souvenirs, etc.
Later that night we decided to give Thai boxing a look. So we went out to the stadium, but we couldn't get tickets for $6 like we were told. It was more like $60! Oh well, if you've seen one guy get the shit kicked out of him, you've seen them all.

The next night after I had got my ticket for the 7am bus to Cambodia we began by grabbing a table on the street and enjoyed some drinks while taking in the characters of Khoa San. Anna (Czech) and Dean (Irish) joined us for the evening. I learned that Dean is a walking catastrophe who has had most of his bones broken at least once and even had his face torn off once. He says that's why he looks young for his age (40)!! We went upstairs where Minesh managed to save a cute Belgium girl (Isabella) from her date. At closing we took them all to little Khao San to continue the flow of beer. Around 4am it was definately time to call it a night. I tried to get Isabella to come to Cambodia but she had to wait for some visas so Minesh will just have to work on her tomorrow. They have the luxury of another day before they fly while I'm getting on a bus in 3 hours.

Got to the bus stop in the morning and Shino (Japenese) reminded me about needing passport photos for the Cambodian Visa. Of course, I had forgotten about them, but luckily I still had a few with me. We had a very pleasant drive through the green landscape of Cambodia down to the border. Stopped on the Thai side for a change of bus and lunch. Paid about $5 too much for the "Express Visa service". But it was fast. In fact faster than my lunch which I had to shovel in to avoid missing the bus!!

Next was our walk across the border. Nothing out of the ordinary. But for God's sake don't get suckered into changing your money at the border like I did. A big rip off epecially considering that you can use the U.S. dollar everywhere in Laos contrary to what I was told. In fact, all the prices are in U.S. dollars!

So now we hop on to the Cambodian bus. Of course it is nowhere near as comfortable as the Thai bus. And you can't even compare the roads because there really almost isn't one. A year ago the 150km journey took 10-12 hours. Today it's a speedy 7 hour trip. Unpaved! A Free Vibrating Massage!

Made a stop three hours into the journey and met Migella. French with a sicilian family where she has been working as a tour guide. Says the Italians "Break her balls!". Later we made another very short stop I think to say hello to the bus drivers cousin. We stepped out of the bus and were greeted by a handful of cheery young girls all very cheeky. They'd put out there hand out to shake and take it away at the last second and run it thru there hair. Point to your chest and say "what's this?" flicking your nose if you look. They'd ask where you were from and then reel of the name of your capitol. Very smart and friendly. One gave me a friendship bracelot.
Arriving in Siem Reap around 8:30pm we dropped off most of the passengers and then the last four of us were dropped off at the Golden Temple Villa. A nice place. Spotless rooms, bathroom with tub!, cable TV, balcony, and a really good restaurant.

When I got down from my room the three Japanese guys were negotiating with a tourist agent about getting a temple tour and subsequent nights at the hotel. They did pretty well. So we booked a driver for the following day and sat down for some food. Oddly enough there was very little in the way of Cambodian food on the menu so we all got pizzas and pasta along with Beer Laos which are really quite nice. Shino has lived and worked in the US but the other two guys were pretty shy about speaking English. Despite this we had a pleasant dinner and taught each other a few words.

Then we were off to get some rest for we were to leave for the Temples of Angkor at 5am to catch the sunrise. After morning coffee we arrived at the Temples area and each paid the steep entrance fee of $20. In the pitch black we walk along side thousands of other tourists, mostly Japanese. Sat in front of the silhouetted spires in contemplation awaiting the sun's daily entrance. The sun rose behind the temple making it difficult to get good pics, but it was a nice one although not breathtaking.
The main temple (Angkor) and ground takes up a huge amount of space. There is the main structure, a few smaller structures, lotus ponds, many buddha statues, and bas-reliefs telling of the king and his exploits. These temples were built under Hindu influences, but later when the buddhists moved in it must have been difficult for the monks to continually walk past the thousands of voluptuous half naked female bas -reliefs throughout the temple.

After breakfast we continued on to discover the other smaller yet no less impressive temples. We had a bus and driver so we skipped the elephant ride. We climbed lots of steps that day. Steep and narrow ones. You really had to climb them sideways because you could only get half you r foot on them. All in all I think we saw 8 or 9 temples. In the afternoon our driver who used to be a landmine worker until they cut his salary took us back for lunch and a short break.
Just before sundown we headed back to climb a small mountain for sunset. It was nearly standing room only. Sunset was nice, but again not spectacular. In fact, I got nicer pics after the sun had set and darkness settled in.
On the way back we stopped at our travel agents office and Ms. Meas Kanha offered me a job. I like to think it was because she is a shrewd business woman with an eye for talent, but it was probably just because I can speakith the kings Inglish;)

For more background info with a professional touch check out Robin's report at

See ya