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Angkor, Whaaaat?

But back to the trip,  it just keeps getting better.  My last post was from that giant of a mall in Bangkok.  We ended up checking out the Red Light District that night and boy is that place annoying.  Every 10 steps a man jumps out the side of the building shouting “Meeesta, Meeeesta you want girl? Want ping-pong show? Want Boom-Boom.”  No, No I don’t thank you.  One persistent dude followed us for a good 150m.  Since we were heading to Cambodia the next day we didn’t bother stopping in the “ping-pong-shows”  but we’ll check them out when we’re back in Bangkok in August.

An early rise on Monday, checked us out of that tiny-roomed hostel in Bangkok.  It was bunk-beds, and I was top bunk with a window shining light over half my bed every night – the half that the fan touched (a rotating fan giving me about 2 seconds of cold air before going and giving Duncan 2 seconds of cold air).  I think the longest we slept was 4 hrs.

So we headed to the North train station, to be kind of disapointed to find there wasn’t a bus going to the border until 9:30, so a nice 7-11 breakfast got us by.  A weird experience occurred when a stray dog in the station starting howling at 7:55 for a good 5 minutes.  I thought it was dying of hunger so was about to go give it food. at 7:59 people started to rise, then at 8:00 everybody was standing when all of a sudden the National Anthem started blaring.  This Australian dude sitting in front of me looked back and we kind of shrugged and stood humming pathetically off que.

The bus ride was 4.5 hours and not to bad.  We noticed 2 other foreigners on the bus, aqnd lucked out when reaching our final destination at the border to find out one of them was a dutch couple (Yinko = the guy, Alouk = the gal) that spoke english.  We all hopped off and figured to walk to the border to avoid the cabbies and tuk-tuk drivers.  A torrential downpour and sign saying 6km’s stopped us in our tracks, and I hollered down a tuk-tuk driver and bartered him down from 100 baht to 10 baht for the trip.  We told him border, but he drove us to some scam artists who give visa’s for an outrageous price to unknowing tourists.  We told him to stop messing around and take us to the border, which he did after pretending the vehicle was stalled.

At the border we got visa’s for $25 USD  (a $5 cut for the borderguard who will make tourists wait for hours if they insist on paying the signposted $20 cost).  We then faced a swarm of people bartering to take us to Siem Reap.  The public bus wouldh’ve worked out to $10 each, but we managed to barter a cabbie down to $30 USD for the 4 of us.

This was just the start of the adventure.  We quickly found out that they drive like lunatics frequently overpassing on a 2 lane road WITH ONCOMING TRAFFIC barreling down the road at us.  We then pulled over to fill up with gas, to find the next surprise: he’s converted his car from gas to propane.  About 1 hr into the trip we grtinded to a halt as a swarm of cows took over the road and engulfed our vehichle.

We got into Siem Reap in just under 3 hrs.  Yinko whipoped out his guyidbook and found us this sweet looking hotel – the Sydney House.  We bartered it down to $14 USD (by the way they use all USD in cambodia, often prefferring it to their own currency the Riel) each room for the 3 nights.  Excusing the Gekko’s on the hallway walls, we found our room had A/C, two nice firm beds, a fridge, and private washroom/shower.  It put the Bangkok hostel to shame.  After a quick shower the 4 of us heading downtown for 75 cent beers and a $2 dinner.  We caught a cool tradtional Khmer dance at the bar before getting back to the hotel at 23:00.

For a 5:30 wakeup we were suprisingly giddy.  We were afterall about to see Angkor Wat, one of the wonders of the world.  We walked 100m down our street to rent a bicycle for the day at a cost of $2.  We saw mainly tourists on tuk-tuks, and locals on bikes, so we wanted to fit in a little.  In a way we did, but on the other hand I stuck out like a sour thumb.  Duncan being 1/2 Japanese and pretty tanned must seem like a local to them.  We managed t0 make it out of the city alive being a little to careful compared to the locals.  Kids were all riding their bikes to school, and the bike company made the mistake of giving me one with a little bell on it.  Whenever people stared (surely wondering what this crazy tourist was doing) I rang my bell and bellowed out a loud “heeeelloooooo”.  It was always returned with a smile, a wave, and a hello…sometimes an exchange of  “how are you’s”. As we sped by them (locals go at a crawling pace) they surely thought I was crazy.

After a 15 minute ride to the outskirts of town, and a stopover for the Angkor Temple admission cards for $20, we reached Angkor Wat after about 25 mins from taking off. I was a little disspointed to see that as early as we had arrived there was still a great deal of tourists there.  None the less it was rather quiet as we walked through Angkor Wat.  We walked the walkway to see a monkey scavanging with a basket (smart monkey waiting for the tourists to pass the main gate).  We then explored the ground in awe.  The most memorable experience was leaning over an edge to take a picture.  As I turned away I felt a bunch of stings on my arm.  Duncan asked me what was wrong, and I looked down to see a swarm of ants up my leg all the way to my shoulder.  I jumped around a bit before swiping them off as best I could…a couple bites, no big deal consiering the shock.  First Lesson: Make sure not to upset any ant trails.


We finished up and went to the local shops to have a breakfast of Thai Omlette for $2.  Here we made the mistake of assuming the iced tea was bottled.  The plan of only drinking bottled liquid’s was hesitantly thrown out the window.  We fiugured we were b0wned to be sick sooner or later, so why not risk the shits while having a private bathroom.  5 minutes later as if on cue we saw were the ice came from.  Blocks sittin in the bed of trucks were handed out to vendors…a rusty truck bed might I add.  After shooing off a young (10 year old?) hawker and scorning him for quitting school to hustle tourists (“meestah, you from Canada? they speak French/English, Prime Minastaaaaa Hahhhhpaaa! You buy my postcard 1 dollah”) we hoped on the bikes and did the big circuit of temples.

The temples were all amazing.  about 50 meters past Angkor Thom, I gave a “Hello, How are you” bell-ring to a old local man cycling along side us.  After a quick conversation with hand guestures (4 temples = 4 fingers, ahead = point) we picked up the pace and left him in our dust.  Not 20 meters later I looked back to give him a wave only to crash my bike into the side of the road, dinging myself in the nads.  The old man burst out in laghter, hollering all the way down the road as he passed us.

The rest of the loop was a good 25 km’s total ride, involving stops at various temples and people hawking goods on us.  Our only purchase was bartered down water and coconut’s after we were sweating balls from the heat.  I chatted up a 18-year old girl at the coconut stand trying to call her out for quitting school for this job in a little shack.  Finally she admitted to quitting to do this since it paid more than school.  I had a tough time convincing her she could probably get paid more after graduating.  That said I’m totally ignorant on that one, since I know nothing about the employment situation here in Cambodia.  It’s just discouraging to see young kids dropping out of school to sell little $1 trinkets to tourists.

We’re back in the hotel utterly exhaused, consuming copious amounts of water (I think i’m dehydrated and definately sunburned).  As I typed this a man looking eerily similar to the old WWF wrestler’The Iron SHiek’ walked in and promptly faceplanted as he attempted to climb the stairs.

Should be a good day tomorrow, as we are hiring a tuk-tuk to take us out to the Killing Fields, a Silk-Worm Farm, the gun range (can’t wait to shoot off an AK-47) and a temple that has been overtaken by forrest crawling with monkeys…All 40km’s outside of town.

I will try and get pictures up when I head to an internet cafe and backup the images/video.

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