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Cambodia-Ankor Wat

CAMBODIA | Thursday, 17 July 2008 | Views [1198] | Comments [1]

Leaving Koh Samui for Thai mainland; Surat Thani


We were picked up by a minibus for the drive to the ferry port at Nathan where we transferred to a public bus for another drive to the vehicular ferry to Surat Thani. This was an interesting trip as all our fellow passengers were local Thais returning to the mainland on the cheapest ferry available. On the way the back door of the bus flew open and all our bags threatened to fall out, it was only the quick thinking bus jockey who ran up the back and stopped them from disappearing! The ferry was old, rusty and had a permanent 10% list to port, we were the only non Thai passengers and the girls received a lot of attention, mainly from the young Thai men.

We got back on the bus when we landed and had another hour drive into Surat Thani to our hotel.

Larry made all the girls go to a local food night market but it was really local and we did not trust the food, (after finding something alive in Kate’s noodles!) so we ate back at the hotel.




Next morning we flew to Bangkok on Thai Air Asia with a short connection to Phnom Penh, arriving around 4 pm to a hot, dusty and chaotic welcome at the airport. We all crammed into a taxi for the ride into the centre where we had booked The Hotel Castle. The girls were really interested during the mad drive into town, the city had a completely different look and feel to Thai cities and the traffic was the maddest yet! The last part of the drive was literally through the middle of a busy fruit and veg market, the driver just blasted his horn to get through as vendors scrambled to get out of our way; the girls hid their heads!

The Castle Hotel was a great choice, right on the Riverside with a lovely pool which was really appreciated by us all as it was real hot! Larry managed to find one of the guides he rode with by motorcycle with on his last trip. Ra was very pleased to see him. We went upstairs to the Foreign Correspondence Club for a drink overlooking the Mekong.


Saturday we went to the Russian Market by Tuk-Tuk where we were amazed by the rabbit warren of incredible market shops and stalls offering a huge range of things from clothes to second hand motorbike parts. Liz loved all the silk stalls and the girls found some nice tops. It was sensationally hot inside with no ventilation so we only stayed for an hour and went back for a swim and lunch.

After lunch we took another Tuk-Tuk out to the Killing Fields, about 18 km out of Phnom Penh. The girls had all read up on the history of the Khmer Rouge but nothing prepares you for the enormity of the lives that were lost. The ride out and back was a highlight with an amazing variety of interesting sights including witnessing a motorbike accident right next to our Tuk-Tuk, lucky the rider was not too injured, but her bike was broken! We meet up with Ra and Kim and enjoy sunset on a boat on the Mekong then go  to a Cambodian beer garden for dinner.


We have an early start to catch the bus to Siem Reip. We have chosen the ‘delux’ bus; the Mekong Express which is $11 each. It has a toilet on board! We are out in rural Cambodia quite quickly, leaving busy PhomPhen behind. The next 5 hours we have a great view from the bus of the beautiful green countryside. Their homes are built close to the road out of timber with thatched roofs and on stilts. Most have a cow tied up out the front, a dam full of flowering lotus and in between villages are fields of rice and water buffalo. We are welcomed in Siem Riep by the tuk tuk driver from Golden banana guest house. The guest house is quaint, an old original house with about 10 bungalow style rooms. The staff were very friendly, even telling us where the gay bars in town were! We walk into town and the girls and Liz are amazed to find a great market to explore and lots of cafes and restaurants. We decide to book a 2 tuk tuks to take us out to Ankor Wat, the ruins we have come all this way to see, at 4.30am to watch the sunrise.


It is a warm morning and the drive out to the temple ruins is quite eerie in the dark as we enter the forest. We have no idea what to expect. The ruins cover over 200 square kms and Ankor Wat, the largest, has a huge moat around it. As the sun begins to rise we can vaguely see the outline.  You are awestruck by its size. Lots of people are all being dropped off as we make our way across the stone bridge to sit and watch the sunrise, trying to take in seeing the incredibly intact temple materialize before us. I am amazed, and almost feeling guilty, as we clamber over these ruins that are thousands of years old without any restrictions. As the sun comes up we begin to explore this complex temple before too many people arrive. Stories are told in the incredible bas reliefs of the times gone by and we try to imagine who lived here and how did they create such amazing structures out of huge blocks of stone? It is going to be a hot day so we make the most of the cool morning. We have breakfast in a roadside restaurant after we have finished admiring Ankor Wat. Our tuk tuk drivers have waited and slept and now take us to another area which is even more amazing; Ankor Thom, which is where there are 200 heads of the king sculptured which are all about 3 metres high. Incredible! We then drive across bridges made of stone with huge carvings along the side, through stone archways where elephants wander by. We then went to Ta Prohm where the huge ficus trees have started to reclaim the temples weaving amongst the stone, this was the setting for Tomb Raiders. This place is so big and hard to take in. Just check out the photos! It was a huge and absolutely amazing experience. We went back to the hotel for a swim as it was so hot. We had walked miles and climbed to the top of some temples and were exhausted. Liz and Larry go back out to the ruins at 4.30pm to see the sunset from a different vantage point.


We decide on a rest day today, swim, have coffee in town and Larry explores town by pushbike. Plenty of establishments offer happy hour every night and we enjoy some Cambodian food. Larry wanted to try a “Happy Pizza” but the girls were not keen.


Monday we head back to PP by bus and arrive about 1.30 at the Ankor International Hotel, a cheaper alternative at just $15 per night. It has big rooms and is clean and comfortable!

We go out to the Genocide museum which is disturbing with photos and is in the actual school the Khmer Rouge converted into a prison in 1975. We then walk along the promenade next to the Mekong, an elephant wanders past in the heavy traffic, past the palace all covered in gold and watch the locals enjoy the coolness of the early evening playing traditional games, (kicking a shuttle type thing), selling food and watching the boats on the river. They are such friendly people and we think about what the older generation has been through. There are children on the street begging and some mothers holding their babies on the footpath asking for money. Responsible tourism is promoted and we give them food rather than money so as not to encourage parents to use their children to beg. It is a hard sight for us to see.


Today we fly to Bangkok today and regret having to leave Cambodia as it has been a an interesting place for everyone. The plane is delayed by an hour and when we do get on board the sky is stormy and we have a very bumpy ride, Maddy was screaming! Our hotel is in Sukamavit district and is well placed for our eating and market shopping needs!



Pity you didnt try the "Happy pizza",maybe next time!

  kenny ex cambodia Jul 17, 2008 6:42 PM

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