Friday, 6 April 2012

A Short Stay in Cambodia...

After a final farewell with friends at New Life, we were on the open road and fending for ourselves again for the first time in a month. It was a bit of a shock to the system to say the least, especially when it came to the portion sizes at meal times. We had really been indulging at New Life.

Next stop Cambodia! Everywhere you look you'll find warnings about the madness that is the Cambodian border, and you've got to have your wits about you if you want to avoid one of the many scams that are out to get the innocent tourist. Luckily John was well read on the matter and had even managed to find a youtube video that guided you through the process – sounds a bit extreme but turned out to be really helpful!

6 on a bike
You arrive a few kilometres from the border, so the first task is to make sure the tuk tuk driver charges you a fair price. We eventually got him down to less than half of what he'd originally quoted. The next trick is to avoid all of the official-looking offices strategically placed on the approach to the border with men outside claiming it to be the place to get your visa – they don't mention their inflated prices or the fact that Cambodia actually gives visas on arrival (50 metres down the road) so you don't need to get one in advance.

A bamboo bicycle
Even when you get to the border the officials will try and scam you – signs very clearly state the 20$ visa price but that doesn't stop them asking for an extra 100 Baht for the 'express service' (code for their back pocket).  What?! Erm...sorry officer, we don't have any Baht left. Phew! Once into Poipet on the Cambodian side, you then really have to have your wits about you if you want to avoid the inflated prices being charged for your onward journey. Most people (like us) head to Siem Reap, and the 'official' taxi price is an incredible 48$, apparently so high because 25$ of every journey is given to the police. Great. We managed to join up with a tour group that had come from Bangkok and so paid an only slightly inflated price to take the bus – arriving in Siem Reap an exhausting 14 hours after we'd left Bangkok.

Siem Reap
Siem Reap is a gem of a city bustling with tourists thanks to it's main attraction, the ruins of Angkor Wat. Now I'm not going to lie, I'm not really fussed about crumbling ruins, and so it was with slight reluctance that I handed over 20$ for my day's pass. Definitely one of the more expensive things we've chosen to see this trip, but we were going off everyone's advice that it's definitely a 'must see'. The ruins are vast and spread out over many kilometres, so other than taking bicycles (which we didn't fancy in the 40 degree heat) we joined the tourist bandwagon and hired a driver for the day.

The driver & our carriage!
What a treat!!! We felt like royalty being driven around in our motorcycle carriage...he'd planned an itinerary for us that took in the main sites and so off we went. I don't think either of us had quite appreciated how vast or frankly amazing it was going to be – our first stop at Bayon (built nearly 1000 years ago!) was pretty incredible and definitely gave me a new appreciation for all things old.

indiana John assesses the ruins

Over the course of the day we visited 5 different sites, in and around Angkor Wat, including the amazing Ta Prohm which has been purposefully left to nature and now has trees growing through the walls. It was really beautiful. Temple fatigue kicked in towards the end but it was definitely one of the best days of our trip so far and lots of fun. A 'must see' for anyone heading to Cambodia.

More photos from Angkor Wat can be found here!  The clock is well and truly ticking on our time in Asia with only 6 weeks left until our flight to Istanbul. That definitely puts the pressure on our itinerary and we can no longer be as care free with our time. Our stay in Cambodia is limited to a week, giving us the remaining time to be split between Vietnam, China and a few days with John's cousin in Hong Kong.  Fun times ahead!x

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