Bayon Temple Angkor Wat
Well i'm not in Cambodia anymore but trying to play catch up as i'm so poor at adding new blogs.
Ok Cambodia well i arrived with my friend who was still with me at the time via the border at Poipet with Thailand. The border crossing is an absolute joke and is very corrupt if you have enough money then you'll get your passport stamped first and without them even having to look at youwhich somewhat defies the object of having photographs attached to your visa to get into the country.you have to get off a bus at the thai border then walk across passport control and then to get your visa validated then to the next bus when in Cambodai which will take you on the rest of your trip.
Sun set in Sihanoukville
I foolishly agreed to get some money changed atthe border and got ripped of by about 5o quid which was veryharsh as moy budget is only 300 for the month but i wasn't the only one and we worked out that our bus alone had made that particular family about 850 pounds alone. anyway you have to put it down to expereince and move on otherwise it eats you up and these things happen on a daily basis if you haven't got your head screwed on like me!
I have been to Cambodai before so knew that the roads are really bad and what to expect but the rest of my bus were laughing saying how bad can it be...they soon found out.the road from the border to Siem Reap is only about 40 miles, is flat and in a verystright line but it took us 8 hours a new fan belt and a new wheel and a about 4 stops to hammer things that were clonking on the way, to be honest we were just lucky it was dry season because if not thats when it gets really bad.
Madeline, Rob and Alex- Sihanoukville.
the government haven't invested any money in making the road better as Siem Reap has an airport which they want to encourage visitors to make much use of when they visit Cambodia unfortunately this doesn't help the people who live there and have to use that road on a dialy basis often going to the border to sell goods atthe market or the poor driver who has to take the tourists back and forth form the border each day and lets face it once his back is broken and the dust has wrecked his lungs there's no heath care in cambodia thats going to look after him.Once you hit the airport the road is tarmaced and the streetslined with five star hotels someone on the bus siad it was just like entering las vegas from the desert the contrast is quite amazing and quite sickening all at the same time.
Phnom Penh traffic
I've been to SR 7 years ago and my freind kept asking me do you recognise anything but there was nothing that was familiar at all now there is loads of big fancy hotels and not so fancy onestoo loads of bars and resturants they even have a 'bar street', when i was there there were 3bars next to the river and a few hotels and that was really touristy then in comparison to the rest of cambodia it made me wonder what i was find on the rest of my trip...hopefully not a Mcdonalds and Starbucks in Phnom Penh
(the capital). Its was nice to see the economy had risen and more money coming in for the cambodia people but the longer i stayed there the more i realised that the people weren't really getting any of the money.
Jenga, Phnom Penh
cambodai is still one of the poorest countries in the world asyou can see by how many children aren't at school,poor snaitation and healthcare and it doesn't seem to be improving, the rich are getting richer and the tourists can fly in see the temples and stay in nice big hotels and the poverty can be nicely swept under the carpet away from where they are eating.its verysad and hard to swallow but i still couln't help falling back in love with the country. alot of the landscape was destroyed in the pol pot reign (good history lesson for those of you who don't know about polpot and the killing fields and the war with vietnam) and alot of it is still heavily mined and will be for many years to come but the people are the most freindly and dignified people i've ever met.they reallywant to know you and learn from you and share all the have however little that is and they really want you tocome to their country and to understand the horrible history so that it doesn't get forgotten about it needsto be remembered so that their suffering hasn't been in vain.
New friends Phnom Penh
Its difficult at first to decide what to see when you go to cambodia in terms of visiting the killing fields,thinking do i really want to visit a place where mass genocide took place which is the grave of so many people,doi needto goto the old school that was turned into aprison of torture and interrogation to understand this country's history. i guess everyone has to decide what kind of tourist they want to be in cambodiaand for me itwas important to understand and have good reasons for visting places.i was lucky enoguht to volunteer here years ago so had a good understanding of the country and had wokred with children whose parents had been killed and atthe time i couldn't visit any of those palces it was tooupsetting and it was veryrecent-polpot had only been dead for 2 years.
Ta Phrom, Angkor.
i guess i recognised the significance of what i had done the last time i was here and how volatile and unstable the country still was, i don't know if i'd have had that information i still would have made the deceion i did then but it was one of the best expereinces of my life. anyway afer visiting Angkor Watt and some of the surrounding temples and saying a teary goodbye to my friend i set off to Battambang
the place where i used to work.
I decided this time to go by boat on the Tonle Sap so that i could pass the fishing villages and miss out the trecherous road trip. The only thing i didn't factor was that it was dry season so the water is really low so after about 3 hours on the boatwe had to get off and take a truck for another 3 hours to get there.
Village life, Siem Reap.
so here i was with 15 other people all squeezed onto the back of a pick up truck with bags and boxes squashed against my legs(the bruises have just about gone) and no sun screen because i though i was going on a covered boat,so by the time i got to BB i was burnt ,dehydrated and my arse was very sore from the bumpy road.Another lesson learnt... always be prepared! It was lovelyto be back in BB it hadn't changed much at all and i decided to gofor awander along the river and market place. Cambodailike Vietnam and Laos was colonised by the French many years ago and BB has some of the most beautiful old french colonial buildings all old and crumbling with shuttered windows,although its the second town outside of Phnom Penh the differnce in size and industry is poles apart.Not much goes on here and there's noreal reason to visit so you'll only see a few other travellers passing through for a few days.
River life, Siem Reap.
I visited the place i used to live and some of the orphanages i used to work.At one there were some French and Japanese circus performersworking with the children to put on the first circus festival in BB and I was lucky enough to go along to the opening night. the performers were great but it was the children's faces i was interested in they were so amazed atthe firetricks and acrobatics and the amazing things that peoplecould do with balls,bits of sting and their own bodies.It was great to see the children have so much fun and to see there faces when they expereinced everything for the veryfirst time.I was also adopted for the night by four local lads who wanted to preactice their english and have a go at my camera, so they showed mearound and made sure i was safe and promised to email when they had to get home at 9 o'clock.
Angkor Wat? bar, Siem Reap.
After BB i Took the bus to PP and the road was muchmuch better it even had tarmac! However i'm finding that all the drivers here are mad and although there's loose rules of the road theyare very loose, the biggest vehicle has right of way, the loadest horn wins and pedestrians are stupid to walk and should be in or on a vechicle so best get out of the way,pavements are also for parking so ifyou want to go for a walk its on the road and then you're toying with your life! It was agin new year in cambodia and lots of peoplewere making there way to visit their families for the few days they had off worksomy bus was very busy and had afewlivestack on board.a guy in front of my brought along his pet bird who squarked very hungrily for the second half of the journey irritating the death out of me whereas everyone else didn't bat an eyelid,that with the combination of the driver practically sitting on his horn really tried my patience ao by the time i got there and fought my way through the tuc tuc drivers there to meet the bus i was ready for my bed.
In PP i went to Toule Sleng the genocide museum and old school as mentioned before,i really deliberated what to do and spoke to some of the local people....ah yes forgot to say I learnt the Khmer language the last time i was here and remembered alot of it and the locals helped me to practicesomemore so i wasgetting very good at getting around using the Khmer language...well in a fashion!...anyway i spoke to a few the locals and they told me that they wanted peopleto see and understand their history and not to be fogotton. as part of the formation of the new government in cambodia the UN agreed that the Khmenr Rouge (Pol Pots army) never had to go to trialsopeople who carried out torture were never punished. the khmer people still feel very aggreived about this and it breeds alot of misstrustin sommunities which i guess will take lifetimesto repair, because of this they don't want their history and what they suffered to be forgotton orswept under the carpet so it is very important to them that people come and see for themselves.
New freinds i met at the circus in Battambang.
I decided to go along and was absolutley horrifeid.the school here areall pretty much the same designs;three story buildings with about 5/6plain rooms on each floor,stiarcases at each end and walkways outside the front. At Toule Sleng/S21 there are 4 school buildings one was used for new prisoners who were to be torturedtofind out what they knew and who their families are (you really needto read up on the history as i can't write about it all here) basically the whole idead behind PolPot's genocide was based on a communist ideal where everyone would be stripped of their wealth for the good of everyone and they would be made to work on the landits more complicated than this but basically people were taken from their homes and madeto give upeverything and forced into the fieldsto work,anyone who apposed this would be taken into the forset and never be seen again (the killing fields)during Pol Pots regime 1/3 of cambodia'spopulation died either murdered or starved to death or died as a result of poor health care,sanitation etc.
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
People starved and many families were separated often the children taken off to be trained assoldiers forPolPots army the children were also trained to tell the guards if their parents were saying anything against the regime as a result many parents died. One of the things the Khmer Rouge did was murder all of the educatedpeople,monks,teachers,government officials, people who spoke another language,wore glasses etc because it was felt that these people would apose the community they were trying to create.S21 was used first to tourture and kill the old government people, then the itellects, then pol pot truned on his own army i think something like 17 thousnad people were killedover a4 year period.in the museum the rooms still have the torturedevices and pictures on the victims mutilated bodies and i was horrified to also seein some rooms that there wasstillbllod on the walls.
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
the cells in one of the blocks wereconcrete rooms not big enought for a person to lie down falt with shackleswhere they were chained to the walls. ther is pictures of many of the people who were taken there,head shots, and the horror in their eyes brought me to trears,some of them just children and some of them obviouisly didn't have a clue why they were there. then pictures of the guards the ones who carried out the torture just children themselves corrupted by evil.there was lotsto see there,lotsto take in and try to understand and testiments of people who lost family there and who served there it was really moving but an expereince i never want to repeat.After this i decided not to go to the killing fields i feel i would be visiting a grave and couldn't justify why i was going there i.
Khmer New Year. I didn't escape the water and powder!
I did some of the other touristy sights while in PP the russian market whcih once sold guns and ammunition which now sells cheap clothes and dvds and the silver pagoda.
After PP decided to go to Sihanoukville or Kompong Som as it used to be called.Agian this place had really changed what was an quite undisturnbed beach was now a big holiday resort and because of Khmer New year it was heaving.Unfortunately another thing i'velearnt in SE Asia (well the parts i've been to) is that people don't throw their litter into bins they justthrow it wherever they are standing on the ground in the weater they have big rubbish dumps right outside of their house it is awfuland unfortunately by the time new year was over the water was littered with leaft over food and worse plastic bags.
However its still abeautiful beach and i found out that the five star resort that was far down the beach from where i was staying had bought the whole beach and next year is making it into one huge resort, they have also just refound oil not far out to sea which is going to chance the industry of the town i wouldimagine and why peoplecome here.It was a ncie palce to chill out,get atan i met loads of children as there'slots of NGO projects set upon the beach for the street/beach children where you can go and see their art work whcih they want you to buy or their fruit or their jewelry in return the proejct sends them to school for half a day,beacuse i was there about 10 days they wouldcome and sit on my lounger with me and chat and listen to my ipod and asking me questionsit was really nice and laid back and they helped me with my khmer too.i met some lovely english boys tere too who had just fisished uni last summer and were having a big adventure before going home to get 'proper' jobs.
After a nice chilled out rest I packed my bags ready for my next adventure, I went backto PP then took the bus to Vietnam...Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) here i come.....