Saturday, August 20, 2011

Laos to Cambodia - Angkor Wat and an ace boat trip

Angkor wat and reflection

little people

Our last morning in Laos and we were up at 7 – a good breakfast in the restaurant and after saying goodbye to our Belgian host, we were at the 'dock' ready for our 8am boat across the river. Of course the 8am boat still hadn’t gone at 9am and we were starting to think we would miss out 9.30am bus – but after a lot of fucking about and waiting around we finally left and arrived at the mainland 15 minutes later. We found the bus stop and paid a local dude to do all the hard work at the border with our passports and visas to enter into Cambodia. The bus turned up late of course and when we went to get on board we realised that the dude with our passports worked for a different bus company!! So we got our stuff back and paid the proper bloke off our bus before the short drive to the border. It was an easy crossing at the border and soon we were heading through Cambodia with yet another stamp in our passports. It was a 4-5 hour drive to our change over stop in the middle of the country and we spent our time looking out of the windows at the beautiful countryside – with thousands of stilted houses above the river flood plain, some modern stylish mansions and nearly everyone we saw wearing what appeared to be pyjamas!!

At 5pm we stopped in a garage and were told that this is where we change buses – so we got off, waited 5 minutes and a small orange bus turned up, with a friendly driver that told us this was the bus to Siam Reap – our destination! We climbed aboard and took our seats. It drove nearly 20meters before stopping for fuel – Bloody typical. After that though the journey was great. Being a small bus, it was a lot faster than some of the larger ones and zipped down the good Cambodian highways. We stopped at a hotel in a city and were allowed 20 minutes or so to freshen up, get a drink and use the toilet. It is the first time I have ever seen ice cubes used in urinals!! There is a picture to prove it, although I still cant fathom out why!

Another couple of hours drive and we arrived, EARLY in Siam Reap. Myself and Nikki helped the driver dude with passing our bags through the window and then as the rest of the bus faffed about, we walked out to the main road, grabbed a local Tuk Tuk (A different type here- A motorbike and trailer!!) and we were at our hotel in the city before 10pm.
We had a beer and a pizza in a local pub and then it was bedtime.

We were going to mellow out in the morning, but woke early to a nice warm, but not too hot day and decided to get straight out and do the sights. On the road we grabbed a tuk tuk and the driver - Rotti, told us we could hire him for the whole day and he would take us around to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and some other sights all for $18. Having read all the guide books and websites, we knew that was how things worked, but it turned out to be even better than we thought as Rotti was a really great bloke. He had a good laugh with us and appeared from the blue every time we wandered back into the car parks.

It was a fantastic day, despite some rain. Angkor Wat is stunning and I think is even more spectacular than the Taj Mahal – There is more to it and you could spend all day looking at the intricate stonework and venturing through the tunnels and corridors that appear at ever junction. It is also very big and in the 2 hours we spent looking around we saw about half of it. We are going to get up tomorrow morning and see some more, but first we want to be there for sunrise. So Rotti is picking us up at 4.40am!

After Angkor Wat, we visited Angkor Thom – a massive town sized area made up of temples and lakes that are simply stunning. It was here that it rained quite heavily, but that only made it better as we carried on while most people sheltered. That meant we had a lot of the place to ourselves a lot of the time. We climbed steep steps and looked out over the jungle before heading through tunnels and following the strange Asian tourists all with red umbrellas.

Our last stop was a strange temple where trees are growing out of the walls. It really is weird but a great way to end a long day. We even got a local kebab stick given to us by Rotti when we got back to him.

The temples here are so much better than those we have seen in other places. They have history and architecture that cant be matched. Cambodia too is a great country with friendly locals and lots of facilities that we really didn’t expect. It has superb looking hand made fishing boats with 5-6metre long bamboo fishing rods made to lift a massive net, it has history that you wouldn’t believe and it is cheap, friendly and warm – even when it rains. Its a cool place to be!

The next morning we were up at 4.20am and out on our tuk tuk driver again by Rotti before 5. We headed back to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. There were already a few people there when we arrived but we knew exactly where we were goingand grabbed our spot, with a great view of the main builiding. It was really frustrating trying to take photos though, as it wasnt quite light everyone had torches on, with no real need. It meant that taking pictures with a long shutter speed, we got lots of torchlight in them. It was a godd morning though and even though there wasnt any real sun, we got some great photos, including a few with the reflection of Angkor Wat in the lake.

The rest of the day was a lazy one – we said goodbye to Rotti, who has been brilliant and then had breakfast, a quick walk around the sights of town, where we found a bar that advertised cheese and Branston pickle sandwiches – we went back for lunch and loved them!! The afternoon was spent snoozing by the pool. We also managed to arrange our next weeks travel – starting with a boat trip tomorrow to Battembang - bought off a fantastic street side tour operator – no office, just a big gox with tickets and a mobile phone. He was great and gave us a good deal – from now on maybe we will avoid the big travel agents and go for the local dudes!

In the morning we got picked up by a minibus and after picking up far too many people to fit in the bus we eventually made it to the boat dock by 7.30am. The boat that will take us to Battembamg was waiting and isnt too bad. Its got no windows, wooden seats and a loud engine, but is a fun way to get about and we can sit on the roof and watch the world go by.

On the journey we had to stop a couple of times to get weeds out of the propeller – I got 2 new friends in the shape of a spootty mothand a grasshopper/praying mantis thing that lived on my hand and arm for about an hour and we passed floating villages in the middle of nowhere, where the locals waved and came to the boat to pick up and drop off their mail, shopping and some boarded to travel with us to the towns further along. We also stopped at a floating cafe in the middle of a floating village, where we got off the boat and grabbed a bit of lunch as well as using the toilet that was just a hole into the water.

Th rest of the afternoon was spent on the boat until we arrived in Battembang just after 3pm – just after a massive rainstorm

We were picked up and taken to our hotel by 'Dave', a tuk tuk driver who also offered us a tour tomorrow. After a wander around town, we decided to take him up on his offer and booked him to pick up up at 10am. For tonight we are going to watch the Liverpool V Arsenal match in a local ber before an early night.

At Angkor Wat

Had to be done!!

Me and a face

Asians with red unbrellas

making sure the boat makes it through

another friend

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