Siem Reap, Cambodia

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A very long and bumpy 15hr bus journey to Siem Reap was ahead of us and it lived up to our expectations. On the positives we had our own seat. It did beg the question of which bus journey was worse and it’s a question neither of us can confidently answer. The road infrastructure of Cambodia is is poor, worst we have seen in SE Asia so far. Most journeys involve going back through Phnom Phen and a lot of the roads are glorified dirt tracks riddled with pot holes.

We arrived in Siem Reap pretty late in a small bus depot full of tuk tuk drivers all hustling to take you to your final destination. Here we met Tiger, the tuk tuk driver. He took us to our guesthouse and met up with us in the morning to organise a trip for the next day. Turns out in Siem Reap you can’t hire a moped so tuk tuks are the way forward. We agreed a price of $20 for the day and he would take us to the famous Angkor Wat and Lake Tonle Sap which housed a floating village all out of walking distance from the centre of Siem Reap.

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Later that day we walked around Siem Reap, a pretty pleasant town with a river flowing through it. We hit up a few markets, and cruised the streets for a while in the harsh hot sun. Needed a place to break from the sun, we were on a street called Pub Street when we saw a poster of beers advertised at $0.35/£20p a mug and immediately proceeded. You name a street pub street what do you expect to happen?

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The next day Tiger (The tuk tuk driver) picked us up at 5am. We were   off to see the sunrise over the famous Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is like the unofficial 8th wonder of the world, an old city which used to house over a million people. It cost $20 each for a day pass and there is plenty to see. Back to the sunrise, firstly a lot of other people had the same idea, there were people stacked up to see the sunrise.

I don’t know, sometime these things are far more romantic in your head. Anyway the sunrise was blocked by clouds so the 4.30am wake up didn’t seem like such a great idea for all of us stood there with bags under our eyes and yawning.

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I am not going to bore you or me writing about each temple and ruin we saw, all I will say is that it was all so magnificently grandiose. The detail and craftsmanship that went into something like this is astonishing, especially if you start thinking about what tools they must of used 1000 years ago. Oh the other thing is Tomb Raider was shot here, I think Angelina brought back a Cambodian baby. Anyway here’s a load of pictures for your viewing pleasure.

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Some more pictures

We stopped off for some lunch with Tiger, spoke about general stuff like eating dog and cats … with Tigers philosophy “you do not try, you do not know”. Later in the tuk tuk we realised he reminded us not of our friend Jeff, we met the Cambodian Jeff!

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Later we went to Lake Tonle Sap, I actually snoozed off in the tuk tuk which was pretty impressive because the road was all gravel. We took a boat to see the floating villages. We paid $20 each for the pleasure. We had our own boat and the driver let us sit in the front of the boat.

As we meandered through the water roads we passed many locals on their boat. We soon reached the village, seeing a whole different way of living. The driver told us people live here as they don’t have to pay anything to do so, build you house boat and live away. The lake is the biggest freshwater later in SE Asia and there are to be believed 1 million people living on the entire lake. We stopped off at a strange little tourist shop come aquarium selling all sorts of things and have multiple crocodiles and fish to see (alive). I even held a snake, a big bastard and when it started wrapping itself around my hand i could feel its strength. You could say it had a firm ‘handsnake’.

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After that we went to a school, howevert before that we were taken to a shop where we could buy things to take the children. Rice, crisps and water were the main things on sale. There was a bit of an uncomfortable pressure to buy the $30 bag of rice but with already shelling $40 on the ticket it seemed steep.

We opted for a crate of water and headed to the school. We walked into a room with lots of children running about and a few full on fighting. We handed the water to a guy and then watched our driver take a water and helped himself to rice! Which kind pissed us off.

We were then left free to roam the school by ourselves. We walked around different classrooms and noticed we were being followed by a cute girl, she was very shy and wouldn’t tell us her name but seemed happy to follow us from room to room.

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We then set back to the shore, we even had a little stint at driving the  boat. The driver thanked us for the donation as it enabled him to eat so when I questioned him about the $40 which we paid he said it went to his corrupt boss and none to the village and not much to him and then proceed to ask for a tip.

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Tiger took us back to our guest house where we got some food and retired early for the night to recover from the early start.

It was a great day, seeing the impressiveness of Angkor Wat to the humbling community of the floating village. Siem Reap is well worth a visit in Cambodia even though getting there is not a comfortable ride.

Some more photos

Next we are off to Kratie…

Stephen and Katie x

Even more photos

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