Quad Adventure meets Tomb Raider

Trip Start May 23, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We started the day at 6 in the morning.  A tuk-tuk (The Cambodian version) came to pick us up from our hotel to take us to our quad atv adventure.  We met Sobey, our guide for the day.  We also met Sean and Jen, another couple who from Toronto who was going on the ATV tour as well.  We got a quick introduction on how to operate the ATV and then we were off.  These Polaris TrailBlazers were automatic transmissions, so learning to drive one was fairly intuitive.

Once on the trail, it quickly became apparent that we weren't going to do a regular run-of-the-mill type excursion.  We battled all sorts of terrain, from rocky roads, river crossings, mud holes, paved highways, rice paddy fields, and jungle trails, all the while dodging dogs, cats, potholes (more like craters) and massive cow dung piles.  What a ride!

Part way through the day, we stopped by an orphanage that took in and educated orphaned kids and many other economically poor kids from the area.  We were given a tour of the orphanage by a couple of the kids and sat in briefly for one of their English lesson classes.  Felicia and I got a chance to give them a quick pop quiz on some of the new words they had learned.  The kids were really beautiful and well-behaved.  They had only a partial class day today, because they had a picnic planned down by the river later on in the afternoon.  It was a really nice experience to get to interact with them.

Everywhere we rode, we were greeted with smiles and waves of "hi" and "hello".  When kids heard the noise of the atv's coming they would run out to the road and wait there for us to ride by to say hi.  These kids were so cute and sweet.  Their living conditions in many instances were nothing more than a little hut with 2 walls and a flat pad for a mattress.  It really made me feel reflective on how much we have back home and how much we take so many things in our life for granted.  I think I see myself a lot in those kids, I could easily have been living like them if not for my parents immigrating to Canada when I was young.  It's amazing the opportunities afforded us just because we're Canadian.  Wow.

As we continued traveling through the countryside, we came across a truck that was carrying about 6-7 pigs that I think was being transported to be sold or slaughtered.  They were in a really tight cage that didn't  allow them to move much at all, and when they passed us, they just looked and stared at us so sadly, it made my heart sink... I felt so bad for them.

We continued through some pretty rough terrain, and I started to feel pretty good that we could handle the ruggedness of the trail though only just barely.  Then somewhere near  the 4th hour of riding, Sobey turns to us and asks if we would like to try off-road trails...... WHAT?  I thought that's what we had been doing...  we hesitantly said yes, and that's when I found out what he meant by off road trails.  We went anywhere and everywhere Sobey decided to go at the time...cutting through rice fields in every direction.  The bumps were getting larger and larger, and our buttcheeks really began to get sore... but it was great fun.

We eventually made it back to the atv offices, where we got a chance to clean up.  We were given wet towels to wipe ourselves down, and man, dust was everywhere... our faces, our necks, our clothes, our bags.  It was pretty dirty but well worth it.

We exchanged emails with our new friends from Toronto, said goodbye and made our way back by tuk-tuk to our hotel where we had a reservation for a free lunch.  The restaurant in the hotel was quite fancy, and I believe for the area it's considered to be quite high-class.  We felt a little weird going into the restaurant dressed pretty casual/bummy, but luckily there was no one else in there at lunch... we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves. 

The service was great, but they may have been a little too attentive, there were always at least 1-2 waiters or waitresses, standing.... And I mean standing, right behind us... waiting to serve us or to motion that we needed something.  We're not really used to this and it made us feel really awkward that they were just standing there watching us eat the whole time...   I kept asking Felicia throughout the courses if they were still staring, and yup... the whole time..  but the minute a dish was finished, it was just as quickly whisked away and replaced with something else. What service!

In the afternoon we visited the Temple called "Ta Prohm", it was the place where Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider.   Unlike many other Angkorian temples that have been restored and cleaned up, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found.  The combination of old fig and cotton trees growing out of the ruins and the encroaching jungle surroundings makes the place very photogenic.  

We had planned to go up to a popular hill at Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset, but rain clouds had formulated near that time and so we decided to cancel that and just head to the night markets in town for some shopping.  Luckily we changed our plans, because on the way to town, it started thundering and raining hard. Storms seem to come and go here in Cambodia pretty quickly.  By the time we reached the night markets, the rain had become a light drizzle and so we put on our new rainjackets and marched through the drizzle to the outdoor stalls.  

Shopping is a blast in Cambodia, everything is pretty cheap.  Lots of vendors on each corner hawking similar wares.  From silks and t-shirts, to luggage and statues, on to jewelry and photoalbums.  It's a shoppers delight if you are good at haggling and don't mind being constantly harassed to peruse their merchandise.  I don't mind haggling, but I felt pretty bad asking for too much of a discount cause most of their prices would be considered a steal back home in Canada, and they really looked like they could use the money more than us.  It's so hard to say no to them when they ask you to "please-please" buy something in front of their kids.  So more often than not, Felicia and I bought stuff that we didn't really want but got anyways.

Overall, it was a super fun day, but we are beginning to feel very very tired, from the lack of sleep and the constant heat and humidity.  Tomorrow's schedule also doesn't help, since we are planning to wake up at 3:30am to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  Nite-Nite.

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