Existing Member?

No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Amazing Angkor

CAMBODIA | Sunday, 2 August 2009 | Views [2327] | Comments [2]

After a bout of travellers sickness for me, which added two extra rest days for us in the capital, we took the 4 hour bus ride west to Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. Although, from the size of it you would never believe it, it’s feels like a small market town by normal standards. The journey was fine, apart from the thousands of mosquitoes that were travelling with us. With concerns for the outbreak of Dengue fever that has hit Cambodia in the last few months we covered ourselves head to toe in 50% Deet repellent, but thankfully we arrived with no bites. 

Most of the attractions of Battambang are outside the town in the countryside, so we arranged for a tuk tuk to take us to the Phnom Sampeau hill area, where there are temples and the Killing Cave to visit. The cave was used as a slaughter chamber by the Khmer Rouge, killing 10,000 people from the surrounding area and some of the remains are still in the cave today.

There were temples, stupas and Buddhas around the hill to provide a memorial for the dead.


The view from the top was stunning, clearly showing the landscape that covers most of the country. Vast plains of flat countryside covered in palm trees as far as the eye can see.

Unfortunately there were a few ‘extra’ costs involved in the trip that we were unprepared for. This included a $4 fee to help build a new road, which was fine as the road was in terrible condition. The only way to get up the hill is to take a ‘guide’ that turned out to be a local child. Again, we were happy to do this, but thinking it would cost about 50 cents we were flabbergasted when the 12 year old said that his fee was $5!!! There’s a phrase often used in Asia that goes ‘No Money, No Honey’. Well our young guide said ‘No Money, No Study’! How could we refuse to help a kid continue to learn English.

As we were fast running out of money at this point, we were alarmed to see there were donation boxes situated all over the hill area for visitors to donate to the building and up keep of all the temples. They are hard to avoid when you are walked straight up to a table where a man shakes a bowl for the money whilst handing you a pen to write down your donation details. It’s not that we begrudge anyone asking for donations, but you can only give so much at a time and we didn’t have enough money on us to donate at all eight boxes we passed on the way.

After that little excursion we decided we had seen enough of the Battambang area, so we decided to head on to the Big Show of Asia...

Siem Reap

Reaching the gateway to Angkor Wat was a big milestone for our trip. Siem Reap is very touristy but the town has something for everyone and for all budgets, so was quite a relaxing place to stay. I was happy when we discovered the night market selling cheap Krama, the traditional chequered scarf worn by Cambodians. Not to feel like an outsider, I had to purchase one, or maybe five, to help protect us from the elements a day of temple exploring would involve.

The next day with our trusty tuk tuk driver Sukteah at the wheel, we set off for the city of Angkor.

We purchased our 3 day passes and hit the temples for day one. Angkor is an ancient Khmer empire built between the 9th and 13th centuries, with hundreds of temples still standing. The first on our list was the fortified city of Angkor Thom, famous for the Bayon with it’s towers of stone faces.

During the day we toured around the smaller circuit of Angkor taking in another 8 temples in total, including Ta Prohm, made famous by the Tomb Raider film.


It didn’t give me any clues on how to play the computer game though, I could never get out of the practice level to play the actual game.

The finale of the day was to see Angkor Wat, the biggest religious building in the world and centre piece of Angkor city, and we were excited...but then it started to rain

and the ‘templed out’ syndrome hit us hard so we decided to cut our losses and call it a day.

The next day refreshed from a night on Pub Street in town...

We decided to tackle the big circuit of Angkor, and this time we would do it on bikes. The day didn’t start off well...

Ryan’s chain broke off before we made it to the entrance, so we had to turn back and get a local bike repairer to fix it. Take two.

When we arrived at Angkor Wat in the morning the sun was still shining and we were able appreciate the magnificence of the temple in full.

We managed to complete the full 27km outer circuit, with just one more breakdown for Ryan when he got a puncture after riding into a pothole.

The temples are full of people trying to sell you souvenirs, cold drinks, photocopied books and much more. If you have a dollar there is someone with something to sell. I tried to stump the kids by telling them I was from Fiji, not England, so they couldn’t reel off all the details they’ve learnt about that country, but when one girl said ‘Will you give me a $1 if I can name the capital of Fiji?’ I quickly backtracked admitting I was from England after all. I’m sure she would have won that dollar too!

It is a shame that there are so many children being used to sell to tourists, but we like to have some fun with them rather than get annoyed by them, after all it’s not their fault they are taught to sell by adults. All the locals we met in the area were so friendly, especially when the bike broke and they went out of their way to help us, tell us where the nearest bike repairer was and look after me while I waited for Ryan’s return.

The temples of Angkor are crowded with tourists, so we were slightly anxious about visiting somewhere so popular. But, after arriving you realise there’s a reason such large numbers visit the area, it really is worth seeing. It’s adventurous, exciting, intriguing, exotic and romantic all wrapped up in one package, so we were happy we went.


When we got back to town we decided we were officially templed out by Angkor and as we had seen all the major sites we decided that using the third day of our ticket would just detract from the fun we had from the two days exploring, so we booked tickets to head back to the capital.

Phnom Penh again

Back to the dust bowl of Phnom Penh, this time to organise our visas for Vietnam and to finish off the sightseeing on offer, including the Independence Monument, Royal Palace, National Museum and the Central Market.

We have spent just over two weeks in Cambodia and even though there are other parts of the country to visit, we have to push on with our plans for the rest of Asia. Cambodia has beaten all our expectations, which, to be fair, weren’t very high because we had met a lot of travellers who hadn’t enjoyed all their time here. It has a distinct personality that stands out from the other SE Asian countries we’ve visited. It’s a country picking itself up from a haunting past but moving on with smiles on their faces. There are more tuk tuk drivers here than there will ever be a need for probably in the whole of Asia let alone just Cambodia, but they are the most polite we’ve met and it means there’s always someone to help out.

But just as we think it’s a shame to be leaving, tomorrow we get to say Good Morning Vietnam (sorry, that was lame) and that’s something new to get excited about, that’s the beauty of travel.

Highlights

Favourite Place -  Phnom Penh (Both)
Favourite Attraction - Tuol Sleng (Both)
Food - Chicken Amok (Jo) , Fish Amok (Ryan)
Beer - Klang (Jo) , Angkor (Ryan)

LowLights

Border Crossing transport company (Both)

 
For those of you thinking of possibly travelling to the region:  Costs in USD

Accommodation - $5-10
Restaurant meal  - $3-5
Food stall meal - $1.50-2
Mug of Draught Beer - $0.50
620ml Bottled Beer - $2.50
285ml Soft Drink - $1
1.5l Bottle of water - 50c
Bus - $5 all destinations

Until next time

Jo & Ryan

Photos:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157621880891834/

 

Tags: angkor wat, battambang, phnom penh, siem reap

 

Comments

1

nice work guys. I had fun reading your experience of travelling over the "middle of nowhere" border from Laos To Cambodia. We had almost the exact same experience. It's funny to go from Laos where your radar sort of goes off, and into Cambodia where all the old tricks and money spinning tricks get thrown at you again. Glad to hear you enjoyed Cambodia. For me it was one of those places that I didn't enjoy all that much at the time but which think I would like more the second time around.
Anyway, keep writing. I always get a little injection of travel medicine every time your emails pop into my inbox.

Len

  Len Aug 3, 2009 1:17 AM

2

Hey ryanandjo,

We liked your blog and decided to feature it this week so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Aug 3, 2009 3:07 PM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.


About ryanandjo


Follow Me

Where I've been

Favourites

Photo Galleries

Highlights

Near Misses

My trip journals


See all my tags 


 

 

Travel Answers about Cambodia

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.