Poor Old Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Time to hop in our taxi transfer from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. You can go various ways and prices, from flying, taxi or the Giant ibis which looks surprisingly good for $10.20170126_115436

We are taking one of the staff with us too, so she can visit her family for the day or should we say a few hours, as the journey is 6hrs there and another 6hrs back but about the only time she can visit due to work. Generally the staff all work away from home and only get back to see family once a year.

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On route along the only main road, you see so many sites. A man on a motorbike with two live pigs tied on, various people going the wrong way up the road, lorries over flowing with people and last but not least kids of about 6 to 8 years old riding motorbikes along the main carriage ways. It’s an interesting ride and we choose to stop for lunch at Skuon, aka Spider town. We have a good look around but can’t bring ourselves to buy spiders or any of the other insect snacks and instead buy pineapple and sweet potato crisps. Little do we know that someone in the car has……. So once on route we get to try Tarantulas, Steve manages a leg and Deb eats legs and a bit of body but can’t manage any more!

We say goodbye to the guys and settle into our hotel. Phnom Penh is hot, sticky and rather smelly.. Our reason for coming is to visit S21 and the Killing Fields and learn what went on 1st hand during the Khmer Rouge Rule.

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You soon notice how poor Cambodia is, if you stop and take a look around. 70% of the population are under 36 and hardly any wear glasses as they can’t afford them. Deb noticed this early on as drivers seem to drive slow and over careful, thankfully our 6hr taxi driver did wear glasses.

Something that very much surprised us in Phnom Penh was the amount of older white men and young Cambodian women, far far higher than we have seen anywhere in our travels, along with a huge red light area. Get your accommodation wrong here and you will know about it! We spend a few nights feeling like odd ones out in restaurants, the only couple amongst a load of old fat single guys with big ears!

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Everyone else has these romantic dreams of sitting by the Mekong or going on a cruise along it.. In Phnom Penh you can pay the $18 each and do just that through the rubbish and dirty water whilst sucking in fumes from the boat engine. The people are busy fishing, foraging and using the water to make a living.

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Advice is to do the museum 1st, we hire a tuk tuk for the afternoon and go off to the museum called S21, previously a school, where the Khmer Rouge over took and used as a secret prison and torture centre. The story of the Khmer Rouge is truly horrific. Make sure you buy the audio tour as it will enhance your visit.

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The museum has real photos of real people who never made it through the camp and some photographs of the horrid torture they went through. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, over 3 million died, this equates to 1 in 4 people and anyone with an education were the 1st to die. Of the 20,000 people that are recorded as going through S21 only 7 survived.

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As we walked out to the exit there were two of the survivors selling their stories in a paperback and art work. This was such a hard thing to see, really puts a lump in your throat.
Next up was the killing fields, an execution centre and mass grave site was found. After seeing S21 then going to here to see the final destination of the poor people and hearing further awful stories that we won’t go into.

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Time in Phnom Penh was short as we only stayed 3 days, luckily for us we had a nice small hotel to disappear back to 5 mins walk from the noise and mucky river but also close enough to everything. We struggled to find it on arrival as it was up an alley but once inside it really was a little oasis of calm and had only been open 3 months.

You have to watch yourself in Phnom Penh, there are so many little barefoot dirty kids running around smiling with big eyes asking everyone for 1 dollar. Don’t give in to it, here is a thought to leave you with, everytime you part with a dollar it’s another day that the kids parents don’t wash or cloth these children. The average hospitality worker who brings you your meal and beer earns on average $3 a day, a modern new build one bedroom apartment in the very best part of town costs $6300 to buy. If you have money to give away, make sure you give it to the right places.

Cambodia has a long journey ahead and so much help is needed there, the aftermath of war and genocide really has taken a toll on the country. If you are in the area, put it on the list to really understand what we mean.

As we walk back to our hotel to pack up, Steve spots a UK plated van and we start to wonder how it managed to get here? Lo and behold the owners arrive and we start chatting. Turns out these guys retired early, sold their home and bought the van to drive around the world but were currently unable to get into Thailand as the rules had changed again meaning the van was not allowed to cross the border.

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Also time for Steve to say bye bye to the Cambodian Crocodiles andΒ move on to our next stop, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

 

“What” to Do in a Week at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We arrive at the airport in Siem Reap, Cambodia and are picked up free of charge by some more smiley people as part of the hotel package.

It’s not far from the airport and slightly outside of the town but close enough to be in town in 10 minutes by the hotel free shuttle.

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The Flourishing Spa is our base for the week to explore the temples of Angkor Wat and have a relaxing bit of down time from the constant moving around from place to place.The hotel is perfect and the room lovely. How did we end up here? Having spent much time googling places to stay we have come to realise that although Trip Advisor is a good guide to look at hotel reviews, it is far from the best at supporting the new and up and coming businesses due to the way it seems to work out the scores and ranking.

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You can be a great new hotel but fall very low on the rankings as you don’t have enough reviews, so we have started to look at accommodation differently to ensure something good doesn’t get missed just because it’s new. The room was beautiful and so well designed, we even have a private little garden and our bathroom looks on to it. The pool was gorgeous too and just lovely to come back to after a dusty day in temples and town, we can thoroughly recommend it.

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Deb starts by planning our days out to ensure Steve doesn’t get completely bored looking at temple after temple. There are more than 1000 temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, so where do you start? Deb starts by reading a lot of blogs on the subject and starts a list to see what comes out the most appealing and comes out with a plan.
You can pick up lots of tours of the temples but end up doing certain circuits and with herds of people meaning you miss so much and see just the usual stuff.

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We opt for a 3 day pass, valid over a week. Our tickets cost $40 each but we didn’t realise just how lucky we were as the private company has just been taken over by the government and ticket prices rise in Feb 2017.
Starting February 1, 2017, the cost of the one day pass will increase to $37, from the current $20 and a three day pass to $62, from the current $40.
That’s a lot of cash when you think that in 2016 2.2 million visitors came through the gates and in 1993 only 7650 were recorded.
Our hotel arranged us a tuk tuk for the day or half day and we chose the “Bespoke Millies Tour” as below. We may not have seen all 1000 temples but it’s a cross section of different types and styles without getting bored.

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Day 1 Tuk Tuk
04.30am pickup, go and buy your 3 day pass.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, it was OK, but it is so busy with people. Soon as you have seen enough, head to the back of the temple and go backwards to everyone else, it’s then much quieter and you get photos without people in them and the monkeys haven’t woken up yet. If you’re not an early morning person you could skip it and see it later in the morning once the wave of sunrisers have left.

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Then straight to a couple of temples with a jungle book feel, Prah Kha and Ta Prohm, roots of trees growing through them, as it’s still early and you are ahead of the bus groups you get a better look around then back to your hotel early afternoon.

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Day 2 Tuk Tuk
12.00pm pick up from hotel and go straight to Banteay Srei, it’s a way out from the rest of the temples but worth seeing, the carvings are amazing and so detailed and the journey there is interesting as you get to see a bit of real life. Sad that many of the people out here are just so poor when you think of the amount of money flowing into Angkor Wat.

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Transfer to Ta Som, a nice place to take a photo of a tree through a gateway and super quite. You won’t spot it at 1st just keeping walking and turn around.

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Then off to Pre Rup, good views from up high but get your head for heights on. The stone steps are very steep, Deb is not one for heights so didn’t look back or go close to the unbarried edges up top and couldn’t go back down the same way as she got a bit stuck looking downwards but don’t worry, there is a set of wooden steps with hand rails at the back of the temple..Much better. Then it’s time to return for the evening and off on the free shuttle to town for dinner in Pub Street with beer at just 50 cents.

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Day 3 Tuk Tuk
If you fancy another early morning you can see sunrise at Prasat Kravan, we were going to do this but forecast was not so good so had a lay in instead in our super cosy bed.

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14:30 off to Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper king, take your time here. So many people skip through with a quick look, make sure you go into the terrace as inside are some amazing well preserved carvings. As you keep walking you arrive at Banyon, you should get there just as the sun casts some lovely light on the many faces of the towers, in fact there are over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers and also some superb carvings too.

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If the weather is good then take yourself to Bakheng for sunset before return to hotel.

Steve’s favourite temple was Banyon for the faces and Debs was the amazing carvings of Banteay Srei.

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The rest of the days are spent chilling, eating and people watching in town. Our biggest surprise was the amount of middle aged travellers over here.

Time to now head off to Phnom Penh to visit S21 and the Killing Fields.

Live Happy
Debs and Steve

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