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Location 38, 39, 40: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Kratie, Cambodia

CAMBODIA | Monday, 18 July 2016 | Views [355]

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Kratie - Cambodia

I arrived in Phnom Penh from Kampot and immediately hired a tuk tuk to take me to the Killing Fields and Genocidal Museum of Cambodia.  The entire experience was extremely eye opening and very historically important, it was hard to learn and hear about.  My tuk tuk driver was an older gentleman, who was able to communicate to me some personal anecdotes about what happened to him and his family during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.  If you haven't heard about the genocide that took place during reign of the militant rule I would recommend taking a moment to read briefly on what really occurred in Cambodia during the 4 year rule.  It has been documented that ~3 million Cambodian citizens were eradicated through the use of these "killing fields" that were located throughout the entire country.  The audio material that they provide at both of these different historical sites were very elaborate and definitely helped me understand what exactly took place.  The tuk tuk driver told me that when he was a young 20-something man his mother, father, sister and all living family were killed, with the exception of his one younger brother.  As he described to me the displacement of families and survivors of these camps, you could tell it was something that still haunts him (to some extent) today.  In parallel to what happened in Nazi Germany, the people targeted were those who were educated, or had something that threatened militant power.  Once I had my share of depressing history I walked back to the hostel to drop off some of my things and then found a place to eat dinner.  Due to the bus ride and the lots of walking I did that afternoon I was ready for bed.

On my second day I opted to just walk around the surroundings of my hostel and just wander.  I ended up grabbing some breakfast at a nearby cafe and then found my way to a mall.  I had some administrative things to take care (i.e.: switch flights, grab cash, and re-up on toiletries), so it ended up being a bit of an oasis for the day.  On the walk back I found a massage storefront offering 90 minute massages for $5, so I indulged.  I then came back around dinner time to grab one last meal before jumping on my overnight bus to Siem Reap.  The bus left Phnom Penh at around 11:00pm and it was a true "sleeper" bus.  I had the back bed of the bus to myself (normally a double, but the bus wasn't full), so I managed to get decent sleep, despite the turbulent roads.  I woke up a few times throughout because I shared a side of my bunk with the bathroom, so more often than not someone was slamming into the door looking for the light.

Upon arriving in Siem Reap (6:30am), I grabbed a ride to a huge guesthouse right near pub street.  The guesthouse had a hotel setup in that it had a large pool w/ a swim up bar, two eating areas (bars) and a pseudo-conceirge.  It actually made me feel like I wasn't on a backpacking trip, with the exception I was still on a budget and sleeping in dorm rooms.  The cost for a room with AC and shared bathroom was only $6, so it was a sale.  I was still pretty tired from traveling the whole night, so I ended up just meeting friends at the hostel pool.  We spent the day just hanging by the water and then ended up going to pub street that night. The whole scene is great, because it is just a lot of bars and restaurants that play music and have street access to just walk around.  We had one minor run-in with "law enforcement", but all ended up fine and actually turned into a pretty good story.

On my second day in Siem Reap, I had planned to get up at 4:30am to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat (huge national park of temples in Siem Reap), but I slept through my alarm.  Luckily- when I actually got on my motorbike and drove the 10 kilometers to the park I was told the sunrise ended up being really poor due to the clouds that morning (I still arrived by 7:30am).  I then spent the next 8 hours riding around the entire national park.  Many friends I have met have recommended spending 2-3 days at the park, by way of tuk tuk, but I found I was able to do almost every temple because I was driving myself.  It was a very long day, but truly one of the most impressive spots for ancient archaeology.  Although I found Bagan, Myanmar to be more scenic with the temples spread out across some very beautiful landscapes, the temples at Angkor were truly huge in structure and detail.  I enjoyed driving around and having the freedom to veer off some of the roads less traveled.  Overall Angkor was a huge highlight.

The last day in Siem Reap also turned into a pool day, which I am not complaining about because it was a great way to save some money.  I spent most of the day just playing cards and talking with new friends and then the weather permitted for a beer pong tournament in the pool (anchored tables).  The rain started to pour early evening, so we decided to go grab showers and then find some dinner nearby.  Siem Reap was great in that all the meals we had were really good quality Khmer food with a small price tag (ranging from $1-2.5 per meal).  Once we finished eating we made our way back to Pub Street for an hour so, but I needed to get back to book my trip to Kratie.  I woke up the next morning around 7:00am and hopped on my van to Kratie.

Kratie is a Mekong River town that is roughly 6 hours by minivan from Siem Reap.  It was a long ride, as the van was very crowded and I have a lot of body to fit into such a small space.  Once I made it to Kratie I booked my ride to the border of Laos, for the next morning, and then found a local to drive me on his motorbike to the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins.  It was about 20 kilometers from where I was staying, to where the boats launch from the pier for dolphin watching.  I got on a boat right before the storms rolled in, and we drove about 15 minutes up stream to where we saw about 10 dolphins circling.  They are very interesting because they do not have the "beak" like mouth, but instead they are very round at the front of their bodies.  Since they are a complete different species from marine dolphins they behave differently, but they definitely surfaced periodically and did venture quite close to the boat.  I got progressively more frustrated, because each time I tried to take a picture they would dive back down.  I did manage to get a few fin photos, but no selfies this time.

I just left Don Det, part of the 4000 Islands in southern Laos, heading off on a 2 day motorbike trip around the Bolaven Loop tomorrow.  More to come on both.

Neill

See photos here.

 

Tags: cambodia, killing fields, temples

 

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