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Cambodge & Malaisie

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 21 October 2009 | Views [302]

From Saigon we got the bus straight through to Siem Reap in Cambodia, which for a change was just bliss cause it was empty and we got a whole seat each to lie down on. After around 13 hours we arrived to find that Siem Reap was indeed flooded and the roads are total crap so getting to our hotel was just great. The town was very touristy, it was basically built to cater to the needs of tourists visiting Angkor Wat - which is just what we did for three days. There were literally hundreds of temples to explore it seemed a waste to try and cram it into one day and we were very glad at the end of it.

I couldn't even try to explain the size of the temples they were all enormous and beautiful. It was my first proper experience of anything as ancient and vast - I felt like I was on the set of Indiana Jones (and Tomb Raider as it was filmed there). Angkor Wat, the temple the area is named after (sort of) is the most famous and touristed temple and is definitely worth the adventure, however my favourite was the next one along, the Bayon Temple which had enormous faces all over it. Lots of photos to bore you all with when I see you again! Other temples had monkeys crawling all over them and trees growing through them and of course each entrance and exit had the usual people selling, begging and hasseling you for money. After the first day we decided to bring bags of food to give away as giving dollars away was pointless and you're told to discourage begging. After the three days we were definitely templed out but enjoyed every moment.

The ultimate highlight of the temples adventure was making friends and exchanging email addresses with two monks. They were my age and spoke english really well so it was nice to trade cultural stories and ask lots of questions - without touching them of course!

Siem Reap town itself was very cute, even if manufactured for tourists. There were little alleys with restaurants and bars which we spent most of our evenings in. Many bars do a 'drink till you get a t shirt' promotion, which we were obliged to do as all backpackers were. At one stage both Gill & I were brought to tears after a man with no arms and one leg came to us at our dinner table to sell us some books. To see someone suffer so much from a civil war and just trying to get by literally broke our hearts. It was so hard at times but we tried to give as much as we could without getting too crazy.

From Siem Reap we caught the bus to Phnom Penh, the capital which as most capitals have been so far, was dirty and smelly. When the bus stopped for a toilet stop we found the locals selling spiders the size of my hand which was awful to see... but even worse when they tortured you by letting ALIVE ones crawl all over them, which they tried to put on you. I was pawing the bus trying to get back in and all the little girls thought it was hilarious and wanted me to buy a spider from them (???). I have never looked forward to getting on to a bus more in my life. The bus then rewarded us with some Westlife karaoke which eased the anxiety.

In Phnom Penh we ate at a few restaurants which donated to charities which was nice to do although some of the kids walking the strip by the river were clearly at it and making a fortune as we sat and watched tourists feel sorry for the children and then buy them food or give them money, then the next load would come past and do the same. It was hard to pity them (even though they were very good actors) when you could see stuff like this happening everywhere. We visited the genocide museum which had a really cold feeling. It was a school which was converted into a prison/torture chambers and now a museum which shows the prison exactly as it was. We learned alot about Pol Pot, his regime and all the atrocities that occurred in Cambodia not so long ago. It was really unsettling to see the hundreds of photos of people who were killed, photos that they provided in their army applications where they look both happy and excited, not knowing their close future. After the museum we visited the Killing Fields, which is where most of the people who were tortured at the prison were sent to to be killed. I can't even explain the feeling you got when you saw fields of enormous grassy pits in the ground, with pieces of clothing and bone poking out. It was only found and opened to the public a decade ago and a monument filled with skulls to commemorate the death toll stands tall in the middle which is a haunting reality of how many people were killed there.

We flew from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur - which worked out to be much cheaper and faster than getting a bus/train back through Thailand to get to the islands at the south. We decided to splurge after a few dodgy hotels and stayed in a nice hotel which had a great view over the city. I must admit I did get a bit scared being so high up with all the earthquakes nearby but got over it when I realised what shopping awaited me. The next day we literally shopped til we dropped - for 12 hours. There are more shopping centres than I could count and it was all so cheap! It felt stupid buying gloves and warm clothes when the weather was still so hot but the retail therapy did the trick... it has definitely been awhile since I have splurged. In amongst the shopping I found a Boost juice bar which satisfied part of my home food homesickness (I can't believe Im even admitting that I miss food from Sydney when Im in countries like this) and shopped in the 3rd tallest building in the world. At the end of it we were utterly buggered and found some great Malaysian satay which ended a great day perfectly.

From KL we flew to Phuket... will fill you in on the island adventures when they're over!

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