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Notes from a Wandering Daydreamer Life as it should be...

a land of extremes

CAMBODIA | Sunday, 12 August 2007 | Views [764]

i'm not sure exactly how to describe cambodia. before coming here i knew very little about this country except at Angkor Wat was one of the 7 wonders of the world and that they had just ended years of civil war and there are still massive numbers of landmines in parts of the country. but even after only 3 days here i've felt that there is something special about this country that clicks with me.

Our intrepid group all met in bangkok and there is 12 of us all up. there is another girl from australia, one from switzerland and the rest are english. everyone is in their 20's and up for a good time, so we had a pretty good night out in bangkok before our 7am departure the next morning. I got my 6am wakeup call.... just as i was walking out the door to leave at 6:45am.

when we arrived at the border crossing, you could already tell that things were a lot different. As soon as we crossed the short but bustling bridge into cambodia, the first things that we saw were giant casinos. Giant ugly concrete monsters catering to all the Thai's coming to cambodia to get their gambling fix. But other than the casinos, everything else was very dirty.

The road from the Thai border to Siam Reap, although not long in distance, takes 5 hours. The road is in such poor condition that the bus could barely go faster than 40k/h the entire way and despite the slow speeds we were still thrown about the bus as we went through potholes big enough to get lost in. One interesting side fact is that all the other roads in Cambodia are of a good standard and that this is the only main road that is in poor condition. Also interesting is the fact that Bangkok Airways - who happen to fly bangkok to siem reap direct - donate $5million to the cambodian government every year. so the options to get to angkor wat are a 8hour bus trip feeling every bump in the road, or a 45min flight, for which they charge you a cool $145.

Between the bone jarring bumps, the view out the window was not one of great optimism. I had been expecting the country to be poor, particulary after seeing Laos, but i was not prepared for just how bad things were.
The entire way was constant rice paddys and rich agricultural areas. Houses were small bamboo and wooden shacks with a fish pond for food. children herded cattle on the sides of the road and every so often we would pass a brand new brick home with high walls, gates and new cars in the garage - homes to those who work in the government to "help their people" obviously.

Arriving in Siem Reap felt like coming into Las Vegas. If you flew into the city and did not venture 10min out of it besides to go to angkor wat, you would think that this is a very rich country full of 5 star hotels and shops selling louie vitton, prada, D&G etc etc.

Angkor Wat is amazing. So amazing in fact that every other country now have their finger in the honey pot. There are massive hotels here from nearly every major international hotel chain, bringing along their own restaurants and tour operators. For every $10 spent in Siem Reap, approx only $1 actually finds its way into cambodian hands. the rest goes straight offfshore.
That is why we stay and eat at places actually owned by cambodians.

Its hard to describe the magnitude and beauty of angkor wat and the surrounding temples. my camera is nearly worn out after a full day of use. We went to the temple that they filmed tomb raider in, and it is amazing how trees have taken over a temple and are slowing destroying it with their roots.

have to go now, but i've got a lot more to write about what ive experienced already in this country that have opened my eyes like i couldnt have imagined and it's all made me think long and hard about what i should do with my life



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