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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Siem Reap, Cambodia & Bangkok, Thailand

CAMBODIA | Monday, 25 November 2013 | Views [1244]

We got the bus from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap. A distance that back home would only take 3-4 hours, took  9. The traffic was horrendous and we stopped constantly to pick people up. The bus was so full that people sat on little plastic stools in the aisle and the lady next to us threw up the entire way... There were baby chickens chirping behind us. Ah the joys! At our lunch stop, ladies were selling cooked spiders, all piled up high on a plate. They were the size of tarantulas! Gross! A young child played with a live one. It made my skin crawl.

Siem Reap is a neat little town with various markets, treelined roads and french architecture. The town caters to the hordes of tourists that come to see the great Angkor Watt. Cambodia's major draw card - the countrys heart and soul. There is neat padestrian only "Pub Street" with coloured signs all lit up and yellow umbrellas hanging as decoration over the alleyway and loads of restaurants and bars to choose from. Amputee bands play in the street & it had a very fastive ambiance. Before we enjoyed dinner there, we hired bikes and rode out the ruins for sunsest - there were buses, tuktuks, cars, motorbikes and people everywhere - not the best for a skittish bike rider! The best viewing spot had the sun behind us so we didnt see any grand colours like I expected, but the sky turned a deep blue and the silhouette of the incredible building was still stunning. In the morning we got picked up by our tuktuk driver at 5am and went there again for the sunrise. Unfortunately there was too much morning cloud so once again we had no pretty colours, but it was still fantastic arriving in the dark and seeing Angkor Watt appear in the light. Unfortunately there were many people fighting for the best viewpoint infront of the pond and we had a group of loud and rather annoying retired american ladies behind us. Really ruined the moment.

Angkor Watt is the largest religious structure in the world. It was built in the early 1100's by King Suryavarman the second. It is surrounded by a moat, 190m wide that forms a rectangle 1.5km by 1.3km. Inside the main gates is a pond filled with lilypads that reflects the image of the spectacular structure, enhancing the photo ops! Once the sun finally broke through the clouds we explored the massive building with all its corridors and steps. So impressive, especially considering it was made in a time when they didnt have the tools and machinery that we have today. Damage over time has worn the stones, statues and detailed carvings on the walls - it would have been so spectacular when it was new. Wild monkeys wonder around like they own the place but we steered clear of them as they are obnoxious!

Afterwards we explored the surrounding region. We visited Angkor Thom which was build by the next King, King Jayavarman in the late 1100's. The fortified city in 10 sq kms in size. At the height of its time, the city boasted a population of around 1 million people, around the time that London only had 50,000. The wooden city no longer stands except for the city walls and temples that were built with stone. Bayon is the main temple - it is now a crumbling mess but I loved all the big faces carved into the massive stones. We also explored Bouphon and the Elephant Terrace. Outside of the city walls we visited Preah Khan which has mostly fallen apart except for rows and rows of walkways. And of course we visited the very popular Ta Prohm which was used in the movie Tomb Raider because the jungle has started to claim it back which makes it really special. Massive treetrunks & branches work their way through the huge stone buildings and it really feels like youre in another world. Unfortunately though, the small walkways & buildings were so congested with people - mainly huge tour groups - that the full effect was completely ruined. Rather frustrating having to be one of the masses, and its a shame that the site has been so modified to accomodate tourists.

Then it was time to say goodbye to lovely Cambodia. I will miss that country - mainly Takeo & the kids! We flew to Bangkok which took an hour. It was strange being back in a place where there are more cars than motorbikes, AND we were back to driving on the left side of the road!. I had so looked forward to exploring this city as I had heard so much about it, but we had a rough time of it! Once we were on the plane we realised that we werent going to the main airport which has a conveniant train into town, we were going to its smaller airport where transport was the tiny crammed local buses. With 3 bags, it was just too much of a mission so we had to shell out for a taxi. We decided to stay in Banglamphu which is the backpacker area. Its a really neat area with street stalls filled with food & clothes and loads of bars & restaurants. The atmosphere at night was fantastic. But unfortunately we were to discover  a few things - first, it was incredibly busy and we should have prebooked now that its highseason, and second - theres a massive protest on all week so transport was a nightmare. (This ended up escalating into a full blown violent strike but luckily we had left by then!).

We found a tiny box of a room for double what we have been paying up until now, and spent 5 nights, which was more than we needed. We attempted sightseeing but ended up having to walk for over an hour to get the train (shouldve stayed in the city centre!) because taxis refused to take us (without completely ripping us off) because of stand still traffic and tuktuks would only take us if we agreed to visit their friends shops (and be forced to by something). It was infuriating. We  managed to get the local boat to the train station on a few occasions (but it was rammed) and went to see some of the citys main Temples, but I wasnt allowed in without a T-shirt covering my shoulders (I had a scarf which is usually fine) and Andrew wasnt allowed in with shorts, even though it covered his knees yet my knee length skirt was fine. Wtf?! They were forcing people to pay to hire clothes. Yet groups of people were coming out of the Palace / Temple in shorts and singlets, some females were wearing next to nothing! Obviously the guard wasnt as vigilant when they arrived.... 

We did however achieve loads of shopping! We went to the weekend markets, to the local markets, the impressive malls around Siam Square, and the tourist markets in Banglamphu. Its odd though that so many places refuse to let you try on anything - how are we supposed to know what it looks like and wether we want it?!! Its not often that I have shopping sprees (usually all my money goes towards travel!) so its been so fantastic treating ourselves. Only downside is having to carry everything!! In hindsight we shouldve done all our market shopping in Phnom Pehn though - money goes alot further there. Also had a fantastic foot massage / relexology. The 4th massage so far on this trip - I'm going to miss this!

I also had to subject myself to going back to the dentist again. Hopefully this time the problem is solved.... Ive been to the dentist 3 times in the last 4 months (in 3 differant countries) and each dentist have "discovered" differant things wrong. Its really making me loose faith in their abilities, and loose trust that theyre telling the truth and not trying to just make more money...

Anyways, we are now off on our last overnight mission down to the south of Thailand. Island hopping for the next 3 weeks (and looking for wedding venues)! Very exciting! 



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