Tag Archives: night life

Angkor Whaaaaat?

4 Jan

After a late night in Bangkok we had to be up early to leave by 7am in an attempt to make the Cambodian border before the hoardes of tourists. The bus trip there was incredibly uninspiring with a few, what seemed like close calls with oncoming traffic. Reaching the border it was quite evident that my theory about border towns being incredibly depressing seemed to ring true here. I’ve never heard good things about the Poipet border and while it wasn’t as bad as I expected it was a lot of standing in line in the hot midday sun until we were finally in Cambodia and free to go. Poipet on the Cambodian side featured a number of huge casinos catering for Thais and not much else. From here we got into a very comfortable bus and tore our way down a decent road to Siem Reap arriving at 4pm after 9 hours of driving and waiting around.

Siem Reap is a lovely town and very tourist orientated thanks to Angkor Wat. After a quick stroll around town we were picked up by tuk-tuk (a cross between a motorbike and a ute) to go to the New Hope Foundation. We spent a good half hour driving through the slums with children chasing after us to say hello until we arrived at the organisation’s old school and were greeted by a really nice young Cambodian guy to show us around the women’s refuge. The kids there were incredible. They were the poorest of the poor but so happy and wanting to play or hug us or use our cameras so it was a great afternoon followed by a 5 course Cambodian dinner at their restaurant and new school (we also had a look around their medical clinic).IMG_5246 We were surprised to learn our guide was only 20 and had been at the organisation completing his high school diploma for a few years after he was sent by his parents at 13 to the capital to work as a cement worker earning on $15 USD a month. After dinner we headed back into town to explore the night markets. I bought a really interesting abstract painting and we all squirmed and laughed through a fish spa before heading home because the next day we had to get up at 430am!

After the early start we gathered in the lobby and were happy when the same young guy and his friends turned up to guide us to Angkor Wat. Driving in the pitch black in the tuk-tuks we didn’t really know what to expect but we bought our tickets (which they put your photo on) and followed the masses towards the viewing area where a Cambodian man helped us find the perfect spot to shoot photos from. The sun came up and the view was spectacular. IMG_5295 The temple reflected on the pond below and it was truly an amazing site. After countless photos including a few fun poses we went and explored Angkor Wat before heading back for breakfast and then back out again to see some of the other temples.

We first went to Bayon with all of its stone faces of Buddha looking in all directions and had a few tough climbs to score some good photos. Unfortunately I don’t remember most of the other names of the temples at Angkor Thom but the next one was huge and we had to climb some terrifying steep staircases to make it to the top. My favourite temple however was Ta Prohm or the Tomb Raider temple thanks to the film being set there.IMG_5418 It was proper ruins with trees growing all over it and lots of corners to be explored. It was here we encountered so very loud, rude Australian tourists which made us a little annoyed. Following lunch we went to another temple which is when temple fatigue set in. It was 3pm and we were over temples so the whole group found a nice spot in the shade inside the temple and hung out there. It seems a bit surreal that you are actually allowed to do this inside a 900 year old temple but it was quite relaxing.

One thing that is kind of entertaining while terribly sad in Cambodia is the kids selling things. They come up and say Where you from? and after you respond they list a whole heap of facts about the place you named. We tried to throw them off by naming more obscure countries but generally speaking they were hard to trick. So we now are “friends” with a lot of Cambodian kids.

Back to the temples we climbed a higher than expected hill to watch the sunset before heading back down and playing hacky sack with our guide and drivers. Then it was back into town for a shower before hitting Pub Street. Pub Street basically describes itself. We had dinner there and had a massage before trying a few bars. IMG_5373 It was a very fun night with favourites being Temple Bar and Angkor What? where we got to write on the walls. We also managed to score a few free t-shirts which they gave out with any purchase of a bucket (about $8). We also had a hens party from Australia and the UK next to us so we were helping the bride to be out with her dares and having a fun time all round.

The next morning was another early start (630am) after not very many hours sleep as we had arranged for one of the drivers to take us out to the landmine museum. I was so glad we did this as although it sounds corny it really was inspiring. It was set up by a man called Aki Ra who was originally a child soldier laying mines for the Khmer Rouge and then the Vietnamese Army. He has now spent the past couple of decades defusing mines at first just using a knife and stick until the UN made him go get proper training. He and his wife (who sadly passed away recently) have defused tens of thousands of mines and UXO.

The figures truly are scary. In the Second Indochina War the US alone flew 60 000 bombing raids with each bomber able to carry 100 bombs which were taller than me (there were some on display at the museum) this doesn’t include the mines from the Khmer Rouge regime or the Cambodia-Vietnam conflict so the number of munitions out there is quite scary. The museum was interesting as we got to touch and see the mines up close and also on site there was an orphanage for kids injured or orphaned by mines although we weren’t allowed to go near it as no tourists were allowed. We spent a bit of money at the gift shop and left a donation as all the purchases went to the amazing work that Aki Ra and his group are doing before heading back to Siem Reap to leave for Phnom Penh.

Courts xx

More information about Aki Ra’s organisation can be found here- http://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org/

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This is madness… THIS IS BANGKOK!!

30 Dec

I’m currently in Siem Reap using the ridiculously slow internet after a long day of driving (will post about it later) and trying to recover from what was an incredible One Night in Bangkok.

The flight to Bangkok was great. Scored an exit row seat and had an epic breakfast of nasi lemak, cake, chocolates, 2 types of juice and magnums. Getting to the hotel on the train was super easy and then all that was left to do was explore.

I jumped in a taxi to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The Grand Palace is amazing I have never seen so much gold in my entire life and the Emerald Buddha was terrific. The Buddha was left wrapped in plaster for many years before it cracked open and it is now highly revered.IMG_5159 Before seeing it you had to cleanse yourself with holy water and the room was dead silent with people meditating. After that I wandered around the guards and saw the Royal Thai Guards which are like the Buckingham Guards but with pith helmets after which I walked down to Wat Pho.

Wat Pho is home to a massive reclining Buddha and while in the temple you had to put 1 baht coins in 108 copper pots and there was more temples covered in gold which in the afternoon Bangkok sun wasIMG_5211 all a bit too much so I hopped in the tuk tuk to head to the MRT station onwards to Siam Paragon.

Siam Paragon is a ridiculously large mall (I think 6+ floors) including a floor with a Lamborghini dealership and many other luxury brands. When I ventured to the bottom floor it appeared all the Buddhist rituals had paid off as I found food nirvana. I always think you can judge a city by its supermarkets and this one was incredible. Every type of food imaginable, huge organic section and heaps of imported products I could have stayed there for hours.IMG_5232 The public transport in Bangkok was really easy. I caught the sky train and MRT everywhere (except the temples) and was feeling like I’d conquered the city in the afternoon when someone asked if I lived there. Until I started to feel a bit too confident and proceeded to get on the wrong train. Two stops later I was confused as all hell and the Thai guy next to me said “You don’t know where you are supposed to be do you?” I jumped onto the platform embarrassed and sprinted onto another train and back to where I started eventually making my way back to the hotel to meet my tour.

After a welcome dinner a few of us decided to venture out to the night markets at Khao San Road. For those of you who don’t know what this is it’s the super seedy backpacker area of town and no shopping was done. The quiet trip to the markets turned into a few bars, a lot of singing, buckets and sampling some bugs from a vendor. I tried crickets and meal worms and was cringing at the memory of them all day today. It was an absolutely manic place with several tattoo parlours packed with tourists (Don’t worry I didn’t get one) and several offers for ping pong shows.IMG_5240That’s it for now. I’m off to Angkor Wat at 4:30 tomorrow morning!

Courts xx