Cambodian fun in the rain

Trip Start May 02, 2009
Trip End Dec 03, 2009

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Flag of Cambodia  , Kaôh Kong,
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From Chau Doc, Vietnam, we took a 6 hour boat ride into Cambodia, to Phnom Penh. The immigration process was unvelievably easy, the man on the boat did it all for us, we hardly even had to be there. In Phnom Penh we found a guesthouse and went straight off to visit the Tuol Sleung museum and the Chong Ek Killing Fields. The museum was pretty horrific, I just about could stomach the torture rooms, blood stains and prison cells but seeing pictures of the victims, in particular one of a smiling two year old child, was too much for me. It was, however, an important visit for us to learn the still very recent history of the country we were going to spenda couple of weeks travelling through. On a more positive note, in the evening we went to a restaurant which is a training centre for street children, easing them into the catering and hospitality industry. It specialised in gourmet Khmer food and so Andrew chose a local delicacy - deep fried tarantulas with pepper sauce, while I was more daring with my choice of beef in chilli and lemongrass.
Our next stop was Siem Reap for another dose of history. With an afternoon to spare we signed up for a quad bike tour, named 'sunset on the rice paddies', but which should probably have been called 'torrential rain on the rice paddies'. Even in the torrential monsoon rain it was good fun, though very muddy and we spent a few hours driving through friendly villages and beautiful countryside. Rural Cambodia is in many ways similar to the Vietnam countryside with the same welcoming attitude, smiles and simple way of life.
The next morning we woke up at 4am feeling terrible and a little paranoid that we may have contracted swine flu from one of the many crowded buses we had been on. We dragged ourselves out of bed and got to Angkor Wat for 'sunrise' which was as spectacular as the sunset the night before in the rain! We spent the day exploring the temples of Bayon, Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. The temples really were incredible but in our state, drugged up with cold medicine so feeling groggy and soggy from the rain, we didn't do them justice. We thought we had better go south in search of some sunshine to help us get better, so we caught a 10 hour overnight bus (best o/n bus so far this trip!) to Sihanoukville, a touristy beach resort, where we spent a nice relaxing day on the beach rounded off with a cocktail and a seafood bbq.
It was nice to have some sun but the town wasn't really our kind of place so we just spent the one day before going to Chi Phat, a small river village on the Preak Piphot river in the Southern Cardamom mountains. I will write a seperate entry about this at some point to give some advice for anyone considering visiting. We did a nice hike here which almost became a swim in the pouring rain and also caught up on some well-needed sleep when the rain got too heavy to leave our guesthouse,.
From Chi Phat we managed to get to Koh Kong in one piece despite some very questionable driving in zero-visibility rain. We checked in at a lovely family run guesthouse with some of the best Khmer food we have eaten, including a to-die-for coconut curry. The owner also helped us to arrange a boat trip through a vast mangrove forest and to a deserted white sand island where we watched locals gather cockles for which they would get 1$ for every 20kg - unbelievable.

From Koh Kong we got a motorbike taxi to the Thai border and then spent 30 hours - yes 30, and 10 different forms of transport getting to Ko Phi Phi, a beautiful island, from where we will write our next entry.

Lots of love

Nia and Andrew xxxx
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