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Anywhere but the UK Almost three years of saving and hard work since graduation have culminated in this trip. My inspiration has come from reading inumerable atlas's and watching the quality output of the BBC ever since I was a kid. My route has changed in it's scope and length since my orignial ideas. The theme however,remains the same: to get beyond the shores of our tiny island and to experience and explore the world beyond. Oh and to have a good time and not work for six months!

Just Another Temple?

CAMBODIA | Saturday, 16 June 2007 | Views [933]

Since the inception of this trip I had wanted to travel overland as much as possible and really see the countries through which I was traveling while trying to do my bit for the environment.  Clearly the second half of that statement is bollocks as I would never have set off in the first place if I was really that concerned.   I digress.  Upon arriving in Vientiane I had the nagging thought that flying out to reach Siem Reap was the only feasible option for onward travel. 

With time, for the first time, becoming an issue in our planning, this the result of having spent two unplanned weeks lazing around in Laos it felt as though we were in a state of inertia, flying, therefore seemed a sensible option to kick start our trip again.  The other option was a two day overland journey to Siem Reap through Thailand.  This would have involved at least one train ride and bus ride in Thailand coupled with much haggling and slow uncomfortable travel once in Cambodia.  We therefore decided to fly.  The only downside to this plan was that the scheduled flights only flew at 6am on Sundays, Wednesday and Friday, it was midday on Sunday. we would have to spend another three nights in Vientiane having covered the majority of the sights!  So much for kick starting the trip again, somewhat begrudgingly I parted 1.75million kip and booked passage on Laos Airlines flight QV512.

The flight itself was smooth.  This despite the dubious safety record of Laos Airlines (they don't keep records of accidents) and the fact that the pilot abandoned the cockpit for a smoking break with the guy carrying out our refueling at a stopover in southern Laos.  Other than this interesting turn of events little more happened.  We were speedily processed at Cambodian immigration and before long playing games with a taxi driver who wanted to take us to the 'best' hotel in town, which surprisingly was owned by his friend.  Upon finally getting our own way we settled on a fan cooled cell in a dusty part of town at the cost of $2.50, like in Laos the US dollar is strong here, in fact the cash machines dispense it in favour of the Camdodian Riel!  With the room sorted I showered and having been awake since 4am passed out for a brief sleep.  When I came to some three hours later I felt as though I was a part of the furnishings.  With the relative humidity almost touching 90% and fan in the room having conked out sometime in my slumber I had fused with the bed.  Dripping in sweat I peeled myself from the mattress, took my second shower of the day and headed out of the cell for some lunch, or breakfast.

The Angkor temple complex, for many people the sole reason to visit Cambodia, allows visitors to enter the complex 'free' for a sunset on the condition that a ticket in purchased for the following day.  Knowing that neither of us would have the energy to cope with the current oppressive weather for a whole day Mark and I decided that we would take advantage of this and witness and skip it the following day, in favour a seeing sunrise and hopefully many of the other temples during the 'cooler' hours of the morning.  For some spending only a day at this complex amounts to 'sacrilege' (Lonely Planet, 2006).  The more pragmatic among us view spending almost a week or more touring temples as insanity, it turns out that the more pragmatic among us are wrong.  Well maybe not wrong, but I would have enjoyed at least a second day.

Words don't really do these things justice, besides I don't really have a flowery enough vocabulary and find using superlatives combined with phrases such as 'it moved my soul and spirit' to describe an inanimate object carved out of stone somewhat cringe worthy, suffice to say these things are [email protected]#king mega!  After getting over the heat and the second early rise in as many days it was like being a kid again.  For eight and a half hours I climbed up and down near vertical flights of stairs to view the surrounding temples and jungle, wandered through darkened passages to see immense carvings and clambered over enormous roots and trees of the jungle which had engulfed and were in the process of devouring the temple of Ta Prohm.  All the while I handed out money like confetti to the poor kids that swarm around the ruins selling soft drinks and water to, sometimes extremely ignorant, tourists.

With our sightseeing at the Angkor complex over by 2:30 due to the exhausting effect of the heat we had an interesting chat with our tuk-tuk driver.  It turned out that he was studying night classes in English and the history of the Angkor complex in the hope that one day he could be a tour guide at the Angkor complex.  This seemed highly unlikely as he informed us that it costs almost $2000 to gain this license, an absurd amount in a country where, I have been told, the average civil servants annual wage is $240.  Maybe this had something to do with the Petroleum Corporation which administers the complex and charges $20/day for admission a paltry 10% of which goes into the upkeep of the site.  Where the remainder of this money goes is anyone’s guess.  No doubt furnishing the lives of the criminal government that appears happy to consign a large number of Cambodians to a state of near destitution.  And for this reason I was glad that I was leaving and bound for the capital Phnom Penh.   

Tags: Sightseeing

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