Ghosttown to ghosttown
Trip Start Feb 28, 2012
40Trip End Nov 22, 2012
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What I did
So anyway, like Marty McFly I am gonna go back in time and try piece together again what I have not had chance to let you all know about just yet…
So (I seem to start a lot of sentences in this diary with ’so’)…so, me Steve and Dorothy managed to get the minivan to Stung Treng where we hoped to organize a boat trip on the Mekong river. WE had all been on the LP forum but were hearing about ridiculously high prices to hire boats out, in the hundreds… dollars that is, not boats…
'So’ we arrive around 5pm and start walking around looking for guesthouses and after a while we walk past a westerner and I am walking about 10m behind but neither of the others stop and ask him about guesthouses – this is what I have found – neither really make the effort with other people too much; Steve is more of a self confidence issue I think so don’t mind but Dorothy is more of a ‘I can do it myself without any help’ but either way it always puts the oweness (is that the right word?) on me, which I do when on my own anyway, but gets annoying when we all cant agree and walk around for ages trying to find a mutually satisfying outcome… but anyway I ask him and he says he is staying about 1km away and offers to walk us there, even though he has just come from there; nice guy eh? We get there and a room is $6 with an extra bed in so we share at $2 each and I take the camping bed.
That night we have a look at the market which is a bit of a dirty place and we try eat in a café on the outside but when me and steve order Dororthy comes back from her interogationesque inspection of the area and says she’s not happy how the chicken is being kept and won’t order just as my and steve’s chicken and liver noodle soups arrive… So Steve leaves his chicken and liver but I, maybe more in protest of Dorothy just eat in and take Steve’s too just to say Fiz de Pute Dorothy
OK just to break off again, you know I keep saying weird things always seem to happen on this trip, well in the 15 minutes I have been typing this a few things already; without noticing til just now, earlier I used the loo in my room and shower and could hear voices quite close and realized I was next to the seating area of the place I am staying but only just now have I glanced to the side to see about a 1 metre stretch of water from my shower run under the tarpaulin wall to the table next to me?! So earlier whilst on the loo, someone really was literally 1m away, 2 cambodian kids I think… KO, the other things; I have just been bitten on the back of my arm by something and the swell has come up immediately, its about the size of a 50p coin already, and the last thing is this huge beetle/cockroach flying thing has been buzzing around the light above me for ages, its huge, almost the length of a little little finger and it just dive bombed and landed right on my hip, glaring up at me, so carefully I manoeuvre round and plant a strong forefinger flick and see it fly off and whack into a wooden support beam; it hasn’t got up since.
OK, back to the story, so we inquire about boats only to find they want to charge about $45 for whole day up and down the Mekong; bargain, that’s $15 dollars each just 10 quid…"oh non, I will not pay this price – this is tourist price and they are taking advantage of us”.
--- I think I am being eaten alive in this place---
One thing I don’t know if I mentioned is that many things are hard to find in Cambodia, but the things you can find all over are things like food, shops selling tat clothing and sandals, rip-off bags like North face and Prada and cigarettes, which for all you smokers out there cost as low as 15p for the local brand (which Steve swore by called Ara) but even Marlborough’s only cost 35p. So next day when we go to look for both a scooter for the day and also a bicycle for the following day to do a shorter trip, we look for the ones listed in the lonely planet and ask for any more and of course, we cant find any, they are either simply not there or have a sign up saying they are closed; this is sooooo typical of this place
The rest of the journey is just main roads with little traffic but a good view of the countryside which, in parts, is very poor but has a real sense of community and relaxed, peaceful living, and as I am not driving I see a lot, take some pics and get the, now usual, "hello’s” and waves form locals, mainly young kids.
After struggling through about 10kn of bumpy dirt road and seeing some water buffalo’s lazing in mud (see video and photo’s – one pic I walked right up to one buffalo’s about 2 ft away but he was so happy in the cold mud he didn’t even flinch!) we arrive at the beautiful small village of Svay and the next part of the trip was great; there was a small track we thought led to the Mekong for about 5km we drove down and I swear, you would think they had never had a westerner visit before, everyone loved us, it was like being a Beatle all over again, all the kids would shout “Hello” with huge smiles and waves but here even all the adults and even the men would smile and wave too and again when I would say sua se dai they would go wild
--big bugs keep falling on my head—
We find the river and ask about a boat to see the Dolphins but it’s a 2 hour trip and we have to get the bikes back in 3 hours so its just too long but apparently the Dolphins don’t appear at that time, even tho the boat guy says they will so we set off back and I drive though the journey again is just about getting back, but one interesting thing is the gasoline here, its sold by locals from drums and sold in ˝ litre water bottles at $1/litre usually but we find somewhere that’s got an actual mini filling device and Dorothy took a video which I got off her and have hopefully uploaded too (because of the internet connections here its tough even to get online, harder to upload images and almost impossible to upload a video but will upload what I can and save the rest for when I get a better connection)
We get back in time to take a quick one hour sunset drive in the opposite direction down the Mekong and get some great pics and again banter with the locals from our bikes but on return, as there is little to do and no bars in Stung treng which really is a ghost town really, we decide to eat and then go back and play cards. One of the best and few things Dorothy gave me was a demonstration of how to play the national Cambodian card game someone had shown her, a bit like crash but better and whenever we play in public we get loads of Khmer attention and the only time when locals will actually approach you and peer over shoulders to check your hand on what your gonna play – the LOVE this game and play it everywhere and it always brings a laugh when we get the cards out and play, partly cos we know it and partly because actually we probably don’t know it and play it really badly! This time we eat first but at a street stall but as we eat we see something unfortunately common around Cambodia which is kids sniffing gas or glue and one boy of about 9 comes up asking for money or our wattle bottles which they collect and get nominal fee’s for recycling, but even though he is obviously high by his glazed eyes, and starts getting aggressive, I just felt gutted for him having no life or future at that age and probably for his whole life…and after getting no where asking for money he starts leaning in to Steve and tries sitting on his knee to which Steve says NO,NO, NO and calmly brushing him away, and whereas I don’t know if it was just the boy innocently trying to make Steve feel sorry for him it was very possible he was offering himself to Steve for money – apparently child sex abuse is very bad here and there is a major crackdown on tourist pedophiles coming here and taking advantage of there being this poverty and kids unfortunately being offered to these people and everywhere there are posters and billboards saying “no to child sex abuse” with call numbers and also stories of Cambodian courts now handing out massive sentences to foreign pedophiles now being court… but after Steve’s rejection to whatever it was, the boy got pretty vicious and upset, no doubt as he was high and stunk of gasoline, and just picked up Steve water bottle and threw it over the road and at this point the girl who owned the food stand came over raising her voice but also keeping her distance but the kid was a law to himself but after a while just wandered off… very sad indeed but I am glad I am seeing ‘the real cambodia’ and what is actually happening here, its part of the reason for this whole trip is to see for myself what these places are like and not just go by the media or lonely Planet and whereas I obviously don’t want these things happening or to see them, they are happening and probably much more than ill see as even though though I try to stay off the tourist trail I still don’t see the mass majority of Cambodia and the main non touristy areas.
So anyway, subdued we go back ,play cards and crash and since we can’t find bicycles for the next day we decide we will take the bus to Siem Reap, the 2nd biggest city here and where we will find, see and marvel at the amazing temples of Angkor….