Some Like it Hot!

Trip Start Jan 29, 2003
Trip End Feb 01, 2004

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Saturday, April 5, 2003

2nd April 2003: Still in Bangkok!
Strangely at the end of the day, me and Dave went on a small session and ended up at Gullivers (obviously thats not the surprise bit), and I bumped into a girl who was from Stratton on the Fosse, about 10 minutes away from my house! I know this is as boring as watching paint dry if you're not a local, but I couldn't believe how I could meet 2 people who live so close to me, so far away from home in the same day, and yet I'm told this happens all the time when travelling, but so far its the first time its happened to ME.
At 2am, England were playing Turkey in the qualifiers so I made the stroll down to the Grand Football bar, and watched a very poor first half. At half time the police came in and kicked everbody out so I had to settle for the small bar underneath our guest house to watch the 2nd half, and console myself at the fact of being the only English person in there. Anyway it didn't matter in the end as Wayne Bridge set up Englands first, and Beckham got a pen, to give us a 2-0 impressive win.

3rd April 2003:
I put in a modest 2 hours sleep after getting back at 5am, after the footy and a few games of pool with the bar owner.
We headed down to the travel agents at 7:15 as arranged and were soon whisked away in a pick-up truck to a coach about 10mins away from Khaosan. The bus wasn't bad considering that we only paid 150B a ticket, and most importantly the air-con worked. It was simply a bonus that we had 2 seats each to ourselves.
The Thai roads are fine and so I slept most of the way until we got to a restaurant, about 5km from the border. I had been told that the buses make frequent stops at restaurants along the way to delay your journey as much as possible, but at this point I was not bothered as I was feeling hungry. I jumped from the bus, and felt as if I had just opened the oven door to Mum's Sunday Roast and walked on in. The heat was ridiculous. I somehow managed to make my way to the restaurant and back suitably fed without being permanently scalded, and we made our way to the border.
This was the bit I was worried about, as I had been warned about the hassles from beggars, the authorities trying to get money out of you to fill out the immigration forms, and the terrible contrast of living conditions.
But I was suitably impressed. OK, there were a few beggars here and there, but as long as you made it clear to them you weren't interested, they weren't a problem. It was strange going through Nomansland, the area inbetween the 2 border crossings of Thailand & Cambodia, as it is littered with plush casinos and shopping precints, and then BANG, you're in Cambodia with dirt tracks for roads, young kids trying to get you to buy a soft drink or some bread or anything else they think you might want.
We were eventually pointed towards our 'VIP' bus, which was more like 'RIP' bus, but still the fans were working so I wasn't complaining.
The road trip from Poipet to Siem Reap was incredibly bumpy, and was like trying to fall asleep on a roller coaster, which is quite amusing at first, but soon becomes awkward. Though I'm told that the roads have been vastly improved in the last couple of years, so I hate to think what they used to be like.
We arrived in Siam Reap not much after 7, and the bus trip which I was more than happy with dropped us off at one of his 'approved' Guest Houses. After driving through 100km of Cambodia already, I was not expecting a lot, and so was more than surprised when we could get a fan twin en-suite room with 2 double beds for $5US/night. The US Dollar is the predominent currency here, though strangely it has 3 in circulation. The main currency is the US Dollar, but when you have change less than a dollar, you will get it in Cambodian Riel, and occasionally you can also pay in Thai Baht. Sound confusing? It is! After a good authentic Kmher meal, we had a little stroll round Siem Reap trying to find out where all the night life is, when after stopping at a bar, the owner told us that tourism is way down this year, mostly due to the War and the recent troubles with Thailand. Still, first impressions last, and despite the heat, I like Cambodia.

4th April 2003:
After waking at a respectable hour and having breakfast, I went for a stroll to see what Siem Reap had to offer by day, and was bitterly disappointed. No, thats unfair, the people are great, and you can get almost anything here including a blind massage. I setlled for some black and white photo film and a cheap photocopied Lonely Planet Vietnam.
I don't mean to keep going on about the heat, but I will advise you not to visit Cambodia in April. I was aware before I came that Cambodia's Summer peaks in early April, but naively didn't really expect it to be so 'sauna' like. Its like going to the North Pole at the height of Winter, you just don't do it.
Anyway, after meeting Steve up in the local bookshop, we went for a drink and then decided to visit the local crocodile farm, which seemed to be the only reasonably close thing to do without visiting any of Angkor, so thats just what we did.
The $2 entry fee might not sound a lot, but you don't get a lot for it. Basically there are just 2 enclosures, one keeping all those under 2 years, and everything else in the other. Its quite amazing, yet a bit sick to watch these animals fighting for what limited space there is available to them. Although a very small site, there must be upwards of 300 crocs here, and all as ugly as each other. You can also buy croc eggs and croc oil which is meant to be good for your skin, but unless you're bored don't go out of your way to visit this place, its not up to much.
This afternoon, we both got motorbike lifts up to the ticket booth, for the Angkor temples, and I opted for the 1-day pass, whilst Steve has chosen the 'twice as expensive' 3-day pass. After climbing the ridiculously high Phnom Bakeng temple steps to get a good view of the sunset, we took a few pics, then made the inevitable walk back down again. And it is quite a walk, believe me.
This evening we visited the Taj Mahal (restaurant, not monument) and had some great Indian food. Why is it that the best Indian food is only available outside of India?
Took an early night as we have to be up early for our day of temple visits tomorrow.

5th April 2003:
After an uncomfortably warm night, I woke up in saturated sheets at 5am (through sweat, not bladder problems). We made our way out to the dark outdoors, where our motorcycle chauffers were awaiting. For sunrise we went to the world famous Angkor Wat, which is magnificently huge, and deserves to be the most famous temple of the lot. We only had an hour to look round it, which wasn't long enough to see all of the overwhelming sets of buildings built almost 1000 years ago. If you're interested, and I very much doubt you are, the 3 phallic looking symbols which are the centrepiece of Angkor Wat, in fact are representative of closed lotus plants, but why? This I don't know?
We then went for breakfast at 7am, and then on to Angkor Thom - 'The Great City' in the Angkorian period comprising of enclosed walls 3km long on each side. The centrepiece is the Bayon temple, comprising of giant faces which represent a former King of the region.
Then we visited Ta Keo, which is really tall, but was never finished, because it was struck by lightning, this being seen as a sign that they should not build it.
From here, we went to Ta Prohm, my personal favourite, and with pictures that cover many a postcard, because the jungle here has intertwined itself with the relics, causing a sort of fued between history and nature, of which Nature seems to have the upper hand.
Moved on to Banteay Kdei next, which is impressively big, and seems to go on and on and on. It may have been that this temple was no bigger than any of the rest but I was getting bored and tired by now.
Finally we visited Prasat Kavan, which was piss poor, and so at half one, with the sun at its peak, we decided to call it a day and go back to base. We had done 8 hours, and yet some people manage to go 13 hours before going back, which to me sounds just stupid. I accept that I'm not as interested in ancient history as I thought I was, but I now realise that I definitely prefer modern history to proper history which is proven in the fact that the 2nd World war stuff we have seen in different places meant a lot more to me knowing that this was happening only a few generations ago, in contrast to ancient civilizations that I know nothing about and sometimes have little interest in learning.
Stephen has once again shared with me his disappointment at the temples not being as impressive as he had thought. Still, I have not visited a site with him, to which he has been mightily grateful, instead he tells me what a waste of money it is, which makes me laugh as he has a 3-day pass, whereas I get to leave tomorrow.
Don't get me wrong, if you're into your Khmer culture, or your Cambodian history, or just any kind of history, then this is a magmnificent, old, religiously devout community well worth a visit, but unless you are one of these above people, do only get the 1-day ticket, or you will find yourself killing time in the temples, trying to make them out to be more interesting than they actually are.
Off to Phnom Penh tomorrow, and I maybe even eat a spider on the way?

Keep e-mailing me people, I do get very bored sometimes you know and so a few e-mails a week makes the world of difference to keep me entertained about local goss, footy, headlines etc.
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