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Charissa' s Travel Journal

Day 10 and 11 - Siem Reap to Pnom Penh

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 25 April 2012 | Views [583] | Comments [1]

So I forgot to mention some great news in my last blog! The girls at the fish spa said that the triangular shape of my fingers are good luck in Cambodia. Finally, something good about my fingers being the shape they are! I was super excited to hear that news. 
I'm trying hard to keep this up to date but I finding it difficult to find time and by the time I get to write I'm sure I'm forgetting things. 
I'm writing this in the bus from Siem Reap to Pnom Penh. I have really enjoyed my time in Siem Reap. It's not a big city/town but it is very nice. The town is divided in two by a wide tree lined river which reminds me of a less clean version of the Avon in Christchurch. The main tourist area and busiest part of the town is Old Market, where there is an old market! The roads are wider than those in Thailand and I actually find it a bit cleaner too. The Old Market area is filled with restaurants, market stores, massage places and plenty of tuk tuks! I have also seems lots of colorful tents set up which are used for Cambodian weddings.  
On the drives out to the various temples you  can find gorgeous straw and cane houses built up on stilts and scattered among lush green grass and massive trees. Most of the community are outside socializing or doing chores together. 
The people here are all smiles and very grateful for what they have but there is a sadness behind their eyes. There are many many people walking around with various limbs and digits missing or that have other severe deformities. Of a population of 15 million people a huge 4 million are living with severe psychological trauma from the ruling of Pol Pot during the time of Khmer Rouge. It was so shocking to find that there are a mere 10 psychiatrists for the entire country. Feeling strongly about mental health it is so upsetting to know how many people are living with such sadness and huge emotional scars, in addition to their physical battle wounds. I wish there was more being done for this country. It feels as though Cambodia is a forgotten place squashed between countries that fend for themselves, are wealthy in comparison and have played a part in the position Cambodia finds themselves in. My guide for the temples, Mol, was missing all fingers from one hand and had only three on his other hand (yet he was a pro at taking photos for me). Mol told me that when he was young his dad packed their belongings and took a horse and cart to try and escape from the Khmer Rouge. Mol said his biggest memory of that time is being in the buggy as bombs exploded around them and came closer. Bullets were fired at them and his dad kept pushing Mols head down into the buggy. He also said a lot of food was destroyed. They had large coconut trees that were a major source of food for them. The Khmer Rouge shot holes through the trees which grew larger over time so the trees rotted and died. It is strange to think how recent all of this occurred. 
There is no health care system here and the education system is so poor that it's ridiculous. The life expectancy is 61 years. It is hard not to wonder whether this country had any hope of moving forward, especially if people are not educated. Everything here is so cheap yet the wages are so unbelievably low. Majority of people here have no fridge due to the expense of running it and consequently must shop daily. Mol said in his house and his village they get power from a battery. One person in the town owns a  generator to charge the battery. The battery costs him $1 per charge (a lot considering wages) and its lasts 2 hours for cooking, heating water and a bit of light. Most children are considered lucky if they go to school until the age of 12. School only runs for 20 hours per week and they are not taught subjects such science. Virtually no one attends university. 
This is crazy!!!!! 
So continuing on from my last blog... The afternoon after my fish spa and market visit we did a few more temple visits. We went to Banteay Srei, a small temple built in 968AD. It is also known as the ladies temple. Following that we visited Ta Prohm which is the temple used in Lara Croft:Tomb Raider. This temple was pretty amazing. It had trees growing on top of the temple with the roots oozing down the sides. I took lots of pics! I think we also went to the Indiana Jones temple but I can't remember which is was. All the temples are different and interesting because they began as Hindu but at some point the country converted to Buddhism and consequently they changed minor things at the temples to reflect this. After the afternoon if temple trekking I was a bit over temples and glad to reach the hotel. We had a very short break to change and hauled ourselves out again for dinner and a show. We went to a traditional Cambodian dance show which was nice but I got a little bored as it was very similar to those that I've watched in Bali, Thailand and China. We did a little bit of the night market afterwards before meeting our guide in Pub Street for a drink. The street is literally called Pub Street and it is the place to party, I really like the street. It was busy with lots of music but without the same frenetic energy and crowds in Patong or Bangkok. The place we had our drink was called 'Angkor What?' I headed home after that because I was really dragging my feet. 
Early yesterday morning we were up and out temple trekking again! The Bayon was my absolute favourite temple and beat Angkor Wat hands down. It is a very large temple built in 1181. Full of carving and the towers have huge Buddha faces carved all over them! Very cool. We then walked from there to The Baphuon which was only opened to the public in December 2011. It is a pyramid temple built in 1050, which makes it older than Angkor Wat! It had been lost in the jungle and the paper work destroyed during the Khmer Rouge. Satellite were used to find its location again. This day at the temples was so incredibly hot and I was feeling really faint. No amount of water was helping. On arriving back in town I was dropped off at a clinic to have a doctor check my increasingly painful ear. The doctor was very good and spoke English, which helped! After a very thorough examination I was given lots of medication for a bad ear infection in my right ear. The doctor did go into a small panic when he saw the rash in my leg and started asking malarial related questions. Was a little bit funny. After the doctors I was on my own so I decided to stop off at the Mexican restaurant painted in bright orange. The vegetable fajita I polished off was some of the best Mexican I've ever had in my life! A little bit of market shopping before heading back to the hotel for our trip out to Tonle Sap Lake. Every year during rainy season the Mekong River swells and backflows into the lake via the Tonle Sap River. In dry season (now) the lake is 2,600sq. Km. and in rainy season it expands to a whopping 12,000sq km. Driving toward the lake we saw many houses built high in stilts and a floating school in preparation for when the lake expands and reaches them. On our boat trip we took a long trip down the river to the lake where we visited the floating village of Chong Kneas. The lake was filled with boats converted into houses. We stopped in a floating shop where the housed about 15 crocodiles and a pool of eels. Children rowed up to us and climbed aboard our boat at times to ask for money or to sell something. One bit climbed aboard and started giving me a massage! Lol. There were even very small children rowing along in aluminum laundry buckets! It was so fascinating! We stayed to watch the most amazing sunset and then headed back to town for dinner. Many of the others had a Cambodian BBQ of snake, crocodile and other unusual meats. I had pizza! I'm craving western food ATM. After dinner I headed back to bed and was up early to pack for our trip to Pnom Penh. 
Ps- tried a lotus flower seed and it was delicious! Very nutty flavor. 
Pps- I helped a Cambodian women down the stairs at one of the temples. She was so grateful that she started banging her head on my hand. Would have been fine apart from the fact that there was a shower of sweat pouring off her head onto my hand. I used lots of debug after that, but it was my good deed for the day! 
Blog you later xxoo
Check out the pics in Facebook.   



Sounds fabulous. What an experience and education. Hope the excitement continues and that it cools down a little for you. Missing you here.

  Mum Apr 26, 2012 5:20 AM

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