Touring the cambodian countryside

Trip Start Apr 16, 2005
Trip End Jul 28, 2005

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

holy cow you guys, we are having SOOOO much fun! we spent 6 full days touring around the temples at angkor. there are so many temples, and each one of them is super interesting. most of the time we rode around on bikes, but one day we shared a tuk-tuk with some friends we met. still haven't figured out exactly how we're going to upload pictures (i need to shrink the size before i can upload them), so here are the highlights:

* feeding monkeys around the temples. real live monkeys. we would give them a banana and they would sit back and peal it and then stuff it in there faces. they are so gentle and funny to watch. there were loads of mothers with their babies on their back (and enormous nipples). super fun.

* yes - we were at the tomb raider temple - i think the one from part 2, but not sure. it's a bit spooky, a bit sad, but really interesting. trees growing on top of towers with their roots snaking in and out of the stones. they are destroying everything, but at this moment in time the effect is kind of neat.

* surviving the scorching heat. the heat is absolutely the most insane thing in the world. when we first step into it in the morning we just want to turn back, but you have to take a deep breath and just go for it, realizing that the price everyone must pay to see these sights is soaking in your own sweat the entire time. it's an extremely uncomfortable feeling, dripping for an entire day. we drink at least 2 litres of water per day, but never need to go to the bathroom. anyways, we are pretty much the only people we've met who have toured around as thoroughly as we have, most people get too bogged down by the heat. this is the peak of the hot season so the heat is crazy.

* our quest to see a sunset at angkor was twice thwarted. once because clouds blew in and i got extremely thirsty so we left before the sun actually hit the horizon, and once because a rain storm came into town and forced everyone to leave the temples. this storm was intense for a short period of time then went away entirely. but, it was strong enough to cause flooding and knock trees and debris all over the roads.

* riding almost 20 kms in the blazing heat to see a pile of stones. we decided to go to see the first set of temples that are in a different location than the angkor wat complex. because we're cheap skates we decided to go by bike. at least 15 kms on a dusty straight road with no shade in sight. we just about died - partly because of the intense heat, but partly because we did all that to see ... the smallest temple in the world! but, along the way we definitely saw some very cool sights. like pigs being transported, belly up, on the backs of motorcycles ... ALIVE! squealing and spasming the entire way. a truly horrific sight. i'm still irked by it. then, not 30 seconds later, another one, then one carrying 500 chickens tied by their feet. it was gross. and the garbage lying around absolutely everywhere. cambodians chuck litter out their car windows, and have no qualms about throwing their rubbish anywhere they please.

yesterday we said goodbye to siem reap and made our way westward to battambang. this place is amazing. way better and more relaxing than siem reap, which is becoming overrun with tourists. we hired 2 of the best motorcycle tour guides for a 2 days to take us around the province and we have had the best time ever.

yesterday we rode around the countryside to see how the farmers live. cambodians are the friendliest people i have ever met. as we drove down dirt paths kids would run to the side of the road to shout "hi" to us. adults too. they love foreigners here. we made a few stops on the way - to see a fruit and pig farm, and walk on a wooden suspension bridge. we spent hours riding around the countryside, seeing oxcarts, cows and chickens roaming around everywhere, people relaxing in hammocks, it was great. but, best of all, we rode on a bamboo train. it's basically a mat made of bamboo strips that they place on 2 sets of wheels and slap a motor on top. we sit on the thing and it whizzes down the track. an amazing way to travel. since there is only one set of tracks, when another bamboo mat meets another going in the opposite direction, they decide which one is the heaviest, and the lightest one must get off the track to let the heavy one through. everyone gets off the mat, the mat is carried off, then the wheels. then the whole thing is reassembled once the heavy one goes past. scooting along in the open air with the beautiful cambodian countryside view is absolutely something everyone must try once. the only downer happened when a small chicken was caught between kyle's and my motorcycle and it panicked and ran ... and my motorcycle ran over it. we left it wriggling around in the dirt. i felt so guilty. it was so sad. the drivers said it was no big deal, it happens all the time. in fact, if they had run over an adult, they would have strapped it on onto their motorcycles and had it for dinner!

today was also great. the heat is not nearly as bad when we're on a motorcycle with the breeze. we started off driving down the most dustiest piece of road i have ever travelled on. we had to wear face masks it was so bad. i literally couldn't see kyle right in front of us because he was in a dust storm. we were caked in dust by the time we got off. we went to see the killing caves here. really sad. the driver of my motorcycle told me how his dad was killed by the kmer rouge, and his sister died of dengue fever. these people have been through so much, but they are still surviving and just trying to get some peace. after that we rode to a river and took a dip. floating around in murky water, with a suspension bridge overhead and cambodian kids playing all around, and cows crapping right beside your bags is so relaxing. then come more touring around the country and now i'm here at an internet cafe, caked in dust and dirt from the ride back into town. tonight we'll enjoy another crazy sunset from the roof of our guesthouse and hit the sack early.

we're heading to phnom penh tomorrow morning. just a few days there and then we're leaving for the elephant mountains in southwestern cambodia, where we're planning to take the 20 km/hour train around sitting on the roof.

just a quick update - i haven't really had too many new bites to report, i coat myself with bug spray before bed, so that has helped a lot. now i just have to contend with all the bruises i'm getting and the heat rash! i think the heat is making my skin really sensitive. our guesthouse here is actually really nice. $5 goes really far. surprisingly, we're very disappointed that our room only offers warm water - we love the freezing cold showers now. and the water that comes out of our faucet is a troubling brown colour. oh well.

hope i haven't bored you with the details (again!). hope everything is good back home and in japan!

joanne and kyle
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