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Cambodia

a quick decision of where to go and we were there!

sunny 34 °C

After flying out of Hong Kong we arrived at the brand new Bangkok international airport. All seemed very nice untill we had to que for half an hour at immigration! During our wait and my race with em to the front of the que, my 10$HK fake Diesel watch I had bought in a Hong Kong Ladies market dropped off my wrist and smashed to the floor! I suppose thats what you get for buying a cheap fake watch!

We had decided that we wanted to go to Cambodia as we had heard great things about it during our travels so as soon as we were through immigration with our backpacks on, we booked a flight with Air Asia for early the next morning. We then spent the next couple of hours in the airport trying to figure out where we were going to stay for that one evening and how to get there without being ripped off. The majority of this time was spent trying to dodge the 'where you going, where you going," Thai men wanting business. For f**k sake it was none of their bloody business! It seemed that all the Thai people we had spoke to during these couple of hours were constantly trying to con us. Non- metered taxi's were stupidly overpriced and the airport sky train to the new airport wasnt quite finished! Our newly bought, expensive and very heavy, lonely planet bible/guide book told us there was a free transfer bus to the bus station. The hostel we stayed at was perfect for the one night and was out of the tourist city centre of Bangkok. It appeared that a group of young Thai men ran the joint between them - they all looked rather camp but who were we to judge on our first night in Thailand. With excitment of seeing baked potatoes and beans on their menu we were quick to order them for our late dinner. Unfortunately the 1 overcooked green golf ball size potato and spoonfull of baked beans were not quite like what we imagined. What we had realised during our time away from the UK is that no matter what you order for dinner it will always be a surprise! We were up early the next morning and reached the airport just in time for our flight at 6.00am!

We landed in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, at around 8.30am. The cost of the visa entry was $20 each, suddenly our cheap week in the cheap country soon started off expensive. Not knowing what the exchange rate was from pounds to Reil we drew dollars from the cash machine, we later found out that most buying and selling in Cambodia is done with dollars! As soon as we left the airport we were pounced upon by people offering us taxi's, tuk tuk's, buses and bikes. But unlike at Bangkok airport they were really friendly and once you said no thanks they backed off! In the end we chose a taxi and headed into town.

We had spoken to a chap at Bangkok airport who had recomended the 'Royal Guesthouse' as somewhere good to stay. It was in town but near to the river where alot of the action was. After booking ourselves in we went for a wonder round town.
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After the modern Hong Kong it was nice to be in a dirty bussling city. Thousands of bikes all literally going in all directions filling the streets, and some how not managing to hit each other, it looked dangerous but everyone seemed to know what they were doing!
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That evening we had a few drinks looking over the Mekong River
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and had a delicious meal of Amok Fish and drank Ankong beer at 30pence a bottle...this place was great!
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The next day we had hired a 'Tuk-Tuk' for the day to go and see some of Cambodia's dark past and what the infamous Pol Pot's regime had done.
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The 'Tuk-Tuk' driver had suggested that we might want to go to a shooting range first to fire and AK47, now I never really thought about doing this but why not! So of we went weaving and dodging our way through the traffic and out to the countryside. 1 hour later, and Emily and myself covered in dust and dirt we arrived at the army outpost!

Before I could even contemplate what I was doing, and with no safety talk I had an AK47 in my hand!
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'psycho'!!!!
My heart was pounding at this point as the army guy put my ear protecters on, and instructed me to put the butt of the gun into my shoulder. Was this going to hurt?? So looking down the sights I squeezed the trigger, the recoil was not as bad as I had expected so shot off another 15 shots. Emily at the time was standing beside me but had to run for cover, as she was being hit by the empty bullet casings.

With half a clip left the army dude switched the gun onto automatic and pushed his hand against my back so I new there was to be quite a big recoil! Em tried to video this but had to run for cover! Two quick short bursts and the amo had run out!

Looking at the target I had been shooting at I hadnt done to badly with about 20 shots hitting the human outline. The whole experience just made us realise how powerful these guns are and how much damage they can cause to us! I cant imagine a child of 10 using an AK47 but as in many wars around the world they do!

Next stop were the 'Killing Fields of Choeung Ek'. We read in our guide book that the Cambodian government had privitised the site and was now run by a Japanese company! To sell the rights to such a sensitive and important national site was sick in our opinion! Anyway after we paid our admission fee we first caught site of the Giant White Memorial to the 17000 men, women and children who were executed here.
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We decided to look around the site before looking inside the Memorial. The area itself was smaller than we had imagined with about 20 craters dotted around. There were very few clues as too what had happend here, but as you walked around and looked closer you began to notice the strands of clothing coming up from the soil.
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And more disturbingly what you thought were rocks, were in fact pieces of human bone! On one tree a notice read that it was used to beat children against.
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As we walked around the place had an eiry silence to it with no one raising there voice. The memorial itself was simply made up of shelves of human skulls, divided up into variuos age groups. The fact that children's skulls were there made it even worse.
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On leaving the site we still found it very hard to comprehend what had happend here! And it now being a top tourist attraction is also slightly weird.

This was also the case with our next stop, the Tuol Sleng Museum. This was a school but was turned into a security prison named S21 under the rule of Pol Pot. It was a the largest centre of detention and torture in the country. People were taken from here to the killing fields to be executed. What was left in the class rooms were iron beds with various restraining devices on show, as we walked from each class room you began to realise the scale of the torture and suffering that went on here not too many years ago.
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The most hard hitting part of the museum were the rooms filled with images of the people who had been brought here. People of all ages and both sex's were shown, the look of terror in there eyes was awful.

After leaving the museum we stopped at the Palace which was very beautiful and ornate but to be honest I think we had quite enough sight seeing in one day, a beer was needed!

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After a good nights kip we caught a bus to Siem Reap. This was a 6 hour bus journey, but it was good to see some of the country. Arriving in Siem Reap we found a great hostel, with free breakfast! Siem Reap itself was much smaller than Phonm Penh. That evening we headed out on yet another tuk tuk to buy our tickets for Ankor Wat and millions of other temples. During our ride we visitedthe temple of Phnom Bakheng to watch the sun set! After a small climb to the top we were rewarded with great views of the area and in the distance you could see Angkor Wat.

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The mood was only slighly ruined by the hundreds of spitting and smoking chinese tourists!! That night we went into town, and had another great meal....the food here was so good!

We were up reasonably early the next day as we headed off with our tuk tuk driver to show us round the temples of Angkor. First stop was Angkor Wat which was amazing due to its sheer size!

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We spent a good hour looking around and Emily managed to see all of it, myself got slightly scared by the rather high climbs that had to be done so missed out seeeing the main temple, but the views were equally good from below!!!

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From there we stopped at many more temples but to be totally honest they all began to blend into each other, I think we were slightly templed out! But here are a few images of the best ones.

Bayon - The temple of faces
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Ta Prohm - A temple taken over by tree roots!
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One of the many shrines inside the temple

Banteay Srei - a smaller pink stoned temple - was this built for a little girl??
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Many children huhng around the temples selling all sorts, mostley postcards. After a good 10 minutes of 'why not', 'why not' we found ourselves telling the children that the man opposite said he wanted some. Cruel I know! We eneded up buying some postcards from this sweet girl.
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The next day we chilled in Siem Reap and looked around the markets, selling absolutley anything.
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'yummy'

Things started to look appealing after a while however after a beer and a reality check it was obvious that there was not much worth taking home.

We were staying in a fab hostel. The room was clean and had air con and the owner was very helpfull. It was a large white coloinial style building with only a handfull of rooms. It had a courtyard where you could help yourselves to bread, jam and tea - Em was in her element!
We took time out by watching some national geographic programmes and also the must see movie about the Khmer Rouge

We had hoped to meet up with Chris and Amanda (Ems friends she met at uni) and her sister Jo. But it just seemed like we kept missing them. Em hoped that we would still meet up somewhere and at last I would be able to discuss some footy!

We had booked a bus back to Phom Penh and after getting in touch with Chris and Amanda had arranged to stay in their hostel for our final night in Cambodia. That night we all met, it was great to see people we knew and to swap stories of our travels, offcourse we did this over a few beers and a great meal!
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The next morning and with a slight hangover we flew out of Cambodia, it really had been one of the great surprises of our trip, especially for me who had been rather sceptical. We had a great time, and had seen some amazing sites, and met some really lovely Cambodian people.

Posted by robandem 00:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking

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