Monday, 6 September 2010

Angkor Wat & Siem Reap

Angkor Wat & Siem Reap

Hello from Cambodia! We've had another few busy days. Following on from our 12 hour journey from Thailand we (madly) agreed on a 4:30am start the next day to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. One of the drawbacks of visiting in the wet season (as we are) however was that it was too cloudy to see a beautiful sunrise. It was very cool arriving in the dark though and watching the temples emerge from the blackness.
What we weren't then prepared for were the hoards of sales prople trying to sell us coffee, cold water, guide books and silk scarves! "You want coffee, lady?" became a bit of a catchphrase we would hear many, many times.
Outside the temples we were also met by lots of Cambodian children selling postcards and bracelets. I was amazed not only by their standard of English but also their ability to reason with you and try and persuade you to buy! Some of the kids approaching us can't have been more than seven or eight years old and on telling them I don't want to buy a guide book because I can't carry anymore stuff in my rucksack, they will look at Kev and say, "but he can carry it for you!"
It's quite exhausting constantly batting people away telling them you don't want to buy anything but in a poor country like Cambodia we are perceived as the rich westerners and everyone wants "just one dollar" from us.

So, on to the temples. We hired a tuktuk and driver for two mornings to take us round the temples and show us the sights, then on day three we hired bikes from the hostel and cycled round some of the temples nearest to our accommodation.
First up was the Angkor Wat (the famous one):

Then it was on to Bayon, which was my personal favourite:

Ta Prohm (otherwise known as 'Tomb Raider Temple'

Those of you familiar with the Tomb Raider computer game might appreciate the following, though I must admit it's lost on me!

I was taken aback by how many young amputees there are in Cambodia, all as the result of the massive landmine problem here. During the war millions of mines were laid but without being counted, or any maps of their location being created. Mines remain active for up to 150 years and are littered all over Cambodia.
We visited the Cambodian Landmine Museum to find out about founder Aki Ra, who single-handedly goes out everyday to find and disarm landmines. He has also set up an orphanage and school for child victims of landmines, which are still a massive problem for Cambodian people who rely on going into the forest to search for food.
We thought this was a great idea: - charity soap in the shape of a landmine; as it gets smaller so does the number of mines in the world.

Siem Reap is a busy and friendly tourist town and where all the visitors to Angkor stay. We were amused to find the main strip of restaurants and bars on a road called 'Pub Street', for obvious reasons, really! There is a great selection of good value Khymer and Western food and bar promotions though Cambodia is not as cheap as we expected since the tourists are charged a separate rate in dollars. Still, you can get a good meal for $3 or $4 and plenty of places offer draft beer for 50 cents, so we're not exactly getting ripped off!

Next it's off to Phnom Penh and then on to the beaches of Sihanoukville.

Will blog again in a few days.
Love Sarah & Kev xx

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