Tomb Raider country

Trip Start Sep 07, 2004
Trip End Aug 15, 2005

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, November 29, 2004

We left Bangkok at 6.30am for our bus journey to the border with Cambodia well prepared for the journey ahead, we had been organized enough to get up early and get the hotel to make us some food for a 14 hour adventurous (as we had been sold it) journey ahead. The 1st bus to the border was a luxury coach with only 10 folk on it, so we were both able to stretch out and get some kip as the trip to the Cambodian border was fairly uneventful.
However, on the other side of the border was where the fun began! Our second bus paled in comparison to the first as the seats had no leg room and you had to sit with both your knees resting on the seat in front of you with you feet raised about a foot off the ground - not the comfiest to start with and then we come to the road. We were told, when we were sold the ticket, that as it was a relatively new border-crossing, that the road would be bumpy therefore making it more adventurous - our expectation of bumpy was just a little different to the real thing. Massive holes everywhere, on the good bits no better than a farmer's track and everytime you went over a bump you were sent flying off your seat into the air!! After about 30 mins we went over one bump and the battery of the "coach" was left behind on the road! At this point our drivers showed their initiative and fixed it with some cloth and rope they had in the boot whilst us passengers were mixing with locals and having a beer, so it wasn't so bad but it did add an extra hour to our journey.
A small way along the road we saw many road side signs with words to the effect of ""mine field cleared" by either the Japanese or Finnish governments and later many signs of "Danger Mine field", we also saw children on crutches or with limbs missing which certainly was a heart rendering reminder of the legacy of wars that have occurred in this country over the last century.
The journey continued in much the same vain for another 10 hours or so until we eventually reached Siem Reap about midnight. After such a journey we were gagging for a beer and likewise so did another couple, Dave and Claire, also from England. We got chatting to them and the guys who worked in the hotel over many beers. Mato, one of the hotel staff, who had the highest pitched and infectious laugh, had caught some frogs earlier, as it had been raining, preceded to fry them with salt and presented them on plate for us to share!! As we have recently been sampling local delicacies, we decide to try them just for the experience and munched them down bones and all! What is happening to these so called vegetarians!!! (We are now both back on the straight and narrow though). After the frogs we were introduced to Cambodian rice wine which tasted a bit like nutmeg and molasses and is mixed with coke to make it palatable, you can see where the evening was going. Two of the guys we were drinking with, along with Mato, were going to be our Motobike taxi's around Angkor for the next 3 days. Dang Lee had Liz and I on the back of his bike and Tong Hat had Dave and Claire on his bike, but we swapped every other day.
As you can imagine after the night before we didn't rise too early the next day so we chilled out in Siem Reap (the town where we are staying, near to Angkor) before going to see the sunset from the tallest temple in Angkor. From here you got the most glorious views over the jungle, nearby paddy fields and in the distance you could make out the towers of Angkor Wat.
The next 3 days were spent visiting the ruins of various temples of which some were in fantastic condition. This included sunrise at the awe inspiring Anghor Wat. Of the many temples that we visited over the three days this was one of our favourites along with the incredibly atmospheric Tah Praem which has been left alone since it was re-discovered therefore being swallowed up with jungle, with tree roots strangling parts of the ruins and towering high above.
Travelling around the vast ancient city going from temple to temple, with 3 on each bike with the wind in our hair provided us with welcome relief from the heat and also gave us the opportunity to see how some of the locals lived. At one point we heard an American voice shout out "Oh my god, there's 3 of them on those bikes!" At some of the temples we met some of the cutest childern you could imagine and spent some precious moments talking to them and practising our Khmer (Cambodian language) that we had learnt from Tong Hat and Dong Lee.
As we're pretty templed out today we are having a rest before spending tomorrow on Tong Hat's bike, doing a bit more sight seeing, looking at a killing fields museum and a bit of the local countryside before we catch the bus to Phnom Phen the next day.
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