There are a lot of them!
19.12.2009 34 °C
As I type this I am sitting on a grass verge just outside of Siem Reap. It became pretty obvious from the off that something was wrong with the bus tyres. The driver and co hopped off, found a huge rock stuck between the right hand side back wheels and spent some time getting it out with a sledgehammer borrowed from the little shack across from where we stopped. So we set off again after our delayed start, drove a couple of hundred meters before we heard a big bang, stopped again and discovered the same wheels are now flat as a pancake!!! It is now midday and we should have left an hour and a half ago!!
We have spent the last few days in Siem Reap exploring the Angkor Temples area. We hired a tuk tuk driver for 2 days and bought our 3 day pass ($40 each!) and set off to see what many describe as the eighth wonder of the world.
The first day we set off just before 9am and didn’t return back until almost 6.30 having watched the sunset from the top of one of the temples in the area. The temples varied greatly in size, architecture and in their state of disrepair! Various countries around the world are helping to restore some of the temples which is a HUGE job. There are enormous stone blocks on the ground laid out in lines ready to be put back together again, if only they had the instructions to help!
The whole area was discovered by some French explorers after hundreds of years of being deserted. The temples were covered in dense plants and forest which had to be cleared. However some of the temples had trees take root on their walls or in cracks in the brickwork and so after hundreds of years the trees are now firmly rooted and part of the temples and look very cool! One of ‘tree temples’ was used for the filming of Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.
One thing all the temples had in common was the amazing and intricate carvings on almost every piece of stone, they really are beautiful to see and we got a bit carried away taking photographs, Gerald alone took over 600 on the first day!!!
On the second day we got up at 4.30am so that we could watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Of course we were not alone, there were well over 1000 other tourists waiting patiently alongside us. Once the sun came up we found our driver and headed further out to more of the temples (there are around 1000 in total in an area covering many square miles). We only lasted until midday as it was unbelievably hot and we were beginning to become a bit ‘templed out’!!
Siem Reap was a lovely city with lots of bars and restaurants and the latest craze – Dr Fish Massage tanks. These are big tanks set up at the side of the road with lots of small fish inside that love to nibble the calloused skin off your feet!!! For $3 you can have 20 minutes worth of nibbling! We were a little tempted to try it but after walking around the temples for hours and hours our feet were filthy and we thought we would have killed the fish if we put them in there!!!
We have found Cambodia a hard place to be at times, it is a country that is still recovering after various traumas. Eating in outdoor restaurants can be hard to do as a stream of people approach you trying to sell books, jewellery or other goods, desperate to be self sufficient and provide for their families. They often have no legs or no arms or are blind or hugely disfigured from land mine accidents. It makes us feel so guilty that we are there on holiday enjoying ourselves, we have given to several people along the way but you can’t give to everybody and you feel so bad saying ‘No thank you’.
Anyway, about half way through typing this blog, another bus came to pick us up and continue the journey to Phnom Pehn. The driver obviously felt he needed to make up some time so drove like a crazy man the whole way, beeping his horn incessantly at EVERY SINGLE cyclist, motorbike and car he wanted to pass (which was all of them). After 6 hours I was close to smashing the horn to smithereens!!!
Tomorrow we have another bus journey, this time to Sihanoukville where we will be for the next 10 days. We are looking forward to heading back to the beach and relaxing again after our intense and often emotional times in Cambodia so far. I’m hoping we don’t get the same driver!