Danger - Land Mines and Spiders!

Trip Start Sep 19, 2002
Trip End Sep 22, 2003

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Sunday, June 15, 2003

16th June - Today we set off on a day trip to Bokor National Park and the old hill station found there. So far the roads in Cambodia had not been too bad but today things were to change. We had to take a 4 wheel drive pickup truck as the road just gets worse and worse the higher you go into the hills. Most of the way there is no sign of tarmac just huge pot holes. After about 2 hours of bouncing around we came to the abandoned residence of the king. We thought that it didn't seem too grand for a King but the views were stunning over the plains and all the way to the coast. From here we took a 2 hour jungle trek to where we were to stop for lunch. The path was obviously not used that much and we often felt a machete would have come in handy. The guide calmly said that if we saw any green spiders not to touch them as they could kill you! We saw 10 of these huge spiders strung accross our path in total. We had to carefully edge past them as it wasn't safe to leave the path for fear of landmines! Relieved we reached the end of our hike and sat down by the river for a very nice curry for lunch. Then it was on to see the waterfall which was pretty impressive even though we were at the end of the dry season.

Next it was on to the abandoned hill station which was built by the French at the start of the 20th century as a retreat from the heat of the plains. It was obviously quite a place in its time as it had a church, hotel, casino, hospital and many other buildings. You can now wander round all the ruins and try and imagine what it was once like. It all has a very spooky feel to it and we both agreed we wouldn't fancy being there at night. The most impressive building is the old Bokor Palace hotel which is built on about 5 levels. The building has been totally gutted now with all the wiring and plumbing having been ripped out. The actual shell of the building is in quite good condition and there are always rumours that it is going to re-open. In some places you can see graffiti and bullet holes that were made in the fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese.

17th - Time to head back to Phnom Penh and again the only way was by share taxi. We had been assured the night before that it was always easy to get people to share so we decided to pay a bit extra and have the whole of the back seat. When the taxi arrived the driver said that he already had other passengers but of course he didn't. We then had to sit in the taxi at the rank while the driver tried to get someone (or three) to take the front seat. Unfortunately there were about 20 other drivers trying to do the same. As soon as someone arrived the drivers would pounce on them an try and drag them to their taxi. One poor young lad looked petrified as the drivers used him as a tug of war rope. Eventually we managed to find someone and off we went. LJ was soon wishing she had worn her sports bra as the car sped along the bumpy road bouncing from one pot hole to the next. Two and a half hours later we reached our hotel in Phnom Penh. We dumped our bags and went off to the Russian Market for a little retail therapy. We had been told this was the place to pick up genuine branded clothing very cheaply such as Calvin Klein, Gap and Polo as this is where the factories are. There only really seemed to be Gap things but this didn't stop LJ.

18th - Our last day in Phnom Penh and we couldn't leave without seeing the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The whole complex is really beautiful with well tended gardens and stunnning architecture. It is really strange that they do not tend for the insides of the building as they do the outside. Many of the displays of valuable artifacts are covered in dust and ghecko poo and look like they haven't been touched in years. The Silver Pagoda is so called because the floor is made up of thousands of solid silver tiles each weighing a kilo each. We actually missed this the first time and had to go back in after we had read our guide book. To be fair to us there were quite a lot of carpets and the tiles that were on show needed a really good polish. We had our last meal of mash potato at the Rendevous cafe and said good bye to Phnom Penh.
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