Tomb Raider

Trip Start Aug 14, 2006
Trip End Sep 04, 2006

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, August 27, 2006

It's been a while since my last entry. On Friday the 25th I had breakfast as described before, after writing the last entry I decided to treat myself with a Traditional Thai massage right at the beach. Very nice indeed! Then I met up with Melissa for lunch (had some seafood Pad Thai) and headed to the diving school. Here I was picked up by a pickup truck that took me to the pier at Mae Hat. Here I got onto a 2 hour catamaran that took me to Chumphon on the mainland. From there I had to wait about an hour so I ate some chips and ice cream, then got onto a pretty decent air-conditioned bus that took me to Bangkok in about 9 hours. I sat next to an Iranian girl that was quite nice so we talked a lot, but I also managed to get some sleep on the way. We were dropped off in Bangkok around 2:00 in the morning, so we walked to Khao San road to find a cheap place to stay. We found a place but there weren't any single rooms left so we shared a cheap room for the night. The girl had to leave at about 5:00 in the morning to catch her flight back to London! We went to have a pancake with banana and chocolate in the street and then went to bed.

The next morning I got up around 7:00, showered, then went to the nearest travel agency. There was a gorgeous girl that was finishing off before me. I asked for a ticket to Siem Reap in Cambodia and bought it for a bit of change. The girl asked if we were on the same bus, and it turned out we were: she was going to the Cambodian border to leave the country for a minute and come back to renew her Thai visa. We started talking and went to breakfast together. Her name is Elisabeth and she's from Sweden. Speaks perfect English, and is teaching English at a school in Bangkok for a while (only started a few weeks ago). She's 20 years old and very good-looking. I quickly checked out, then we got onto the bus to the border.

The large air-con bus only had about 10 people in it, and the two of us got the curved large back bench to ourselves. We had a great time talking etc and exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. She will be in Bangkok for a while, so I will meet up with her next weekend when I go back. At the border on the Thai side we were let out (4 hour ride) and we had some food and filled in a visa application, paid the fee, and gave in our passports. About an hour later they came back with a visa stuck into the passport, but we still had to cross the border to finish it off. Unfortunately Elisabeth had to leave very quickly with the small group doing a visa run, and I was taken on the other bus with the people actually going to Cambodia. No problem though, I have her email and phone number so we will stay in contact. At the border we had to leave Thailand by having our Thai visa finished off and stamped, then enter Cambodia and have the new visa set up properly and get a stamp for entry in Cambodia (Poi Pet by the way).

Around this time it started raining. And I mean raining. Tropical gushes of rain. I got quite soaked, but we made it to the bus that took us for 10 minutes to the proper bus station, where we changed some Thai Baht to Cambodian Riel and got a bit wetter, then got onto a little old bus. It wasn't too nice, but it had air-con which made it Ok. Then began the rest of the journey (another 160km). Sounds Ok...but unfortunately the road to Siem Reap is unbelievably shit. No tar, just red dirt pushed to the ground. Bumps EVERYwhere...HUGE bumps too. Not just a slight vibrating and the occasional bump, but literally 3 bumps a second! Occasionally we hit big holes and jumped about a foot into the air. Pretty exciting! It was obviously absolutely impossible to sleep on this 6 hour journey (keep in mind thats 160km/6 hours!). To make things worse, it started dripping in after about 20 minutes for the rest of the journey. The occasional drizle of rain through the ceiling wasn't a problem (people actually wore their rain coats on the ride, I just didn't care), but the back row had a nasty brown rusty looking drip coming out of the air-con system and nobody knew how to stop it! This meant the unfortunate German girls sitting in that row had to sit further up front where the bags were before, so the bags had to be stored in the isle between the seats, allowing no room at all to walk or put your feet. This was particularly difficult on toilet breaks, especially for the blind Vietnam war veteran sitting across from me (we all helped him though). The ride was quite an adventure to say the least! I couldn't lean my head against the wall the entire time due to the extreme bumping! in Siem Reap I checked into the Angkor Grand Hotel for $4 a night for a great room with a nice bath room etc. In Cambodia you can pay in Riel, but 10,000Riel are only about $2.50, so the cash machines don't give them out...they give out American Dollars. Very complicated. Sometimes you can even pay in Thai Baht. I have to say I feel quite generous when giving 1000Riel to begging children (this happens all the time)!

It was quite late by this point so I went in the restaurant to have some dinner (nice Kmehr food: chicken fried with rice and vegetables in some nicely spiced coconut milk).

This morning I got up around 7:00 again, showered, went downstairs, had breakfast (Omlette, bread, fruit salad, coffee), then went to find my driver that I organized the night before. His name is Peter (or that's what it sounds like when he says it). I organized for him to drive me around where I wanted to all day long on a motorcycle (scooter type thing) for $25. First we drove to the main attraction of the day: Beng Mealea. This is a temple ruin that was recommended to me on Ko Tao which isn't even in my Lonely Planet guide book. It was 70km from Siem Reap, but fortunately the road was very decent! The ride was a lot of fun. I wasn't given a helmet, but that's pretty common over here (and in Thailand) anyway. It's still safer than a family of 6 driving on a scooter without helmets (saw that about an hour ago. 5 is very common). I didn't see any tourists for about an hour and a half straight! Amazing. Just Cambodians in villages next to their rice fields with cows, pigs, goats, oxes, water buffalos, dogs walking around the side and on the road itself! Very exciting indeed. Cambodian people seem to be so friendly! I was happy so I was smiling most of the time, and if I looked at people and smiled at them (or sometimes just by looking in their direction) most people (especially children, of which there are huge amounts in Cambodia) gave me a big smile and even waved at me. It was a very nice experience and astounding to see all the straw huts or wooden huts on stilts, all the petrol being sold in coke bottles lined up next to the road etc.

The temple itself was amazing...I seriously felt like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider walking around an ancient ruin (and that's exactly what I was doing!). I only saw 3 other Westerners at the temple the entire time! Incredible. It was so empty and so beautiful. Vines and trees growing in absurd places in this jungle like environment with immense temple ruins made of massive stone all around. I explored for about an hour or longer and paid a guide a few $s to show me around and explain things to me.

Afterwards we headed back towards Siem Reap and went to a river where I got onto a boat and took it up the river for a while (past houses built on the river, house boats, children playing in the river, a few boats selling fruit and drinks from the little boats etc) up to the massive lake in Cambodia called Tonle Sap. On the way back we stopped at a river restaurant which had a fish and crocodile farm on it. I ate some sweet & sour shrimp with rice, which was delicious.

Next the driver took me to a Cambodian market for a while where I bought an Angkor Wat t-shirt for $2 and gave 10,000Riel ($2.50) to a Cambodian kid who talked some German to me and tried to get me to buy his post cards...he was really nice and I couldn't refuse so I bought some from him and his friend. It's very hard not to give some of the beggers money...they all seem so friendly and smiley...and it seems like they will really use the money for something worthwhile (like food and shelter). It's quite sad seeing people that are missing some limbs from the war or just mines that they happened to walk on.

Then it started drizzling a bit unfortunately, so I skipped out on seeing the sunset at Angkor Wat today, but I will do so tomorrow. I went back to the guest house for a bit, then walked here to the internet cafe. I am finally getting some laundry done at the guest house (very necessary), and I also just burned a CD with the 270 pictures I have taken so far (excluding the underwater pictures).

Cambodia has been amazing so far, and I am really looking forward to the next few days (and also to Bangkok so I can see Elisabeth again!). Bye bye!
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