11.3.10 - 11.12.10 90 °F
Same Same, But Different
When we were in India someone told us that their favorite country in SEA was Cambodia because it reminded them of India. As soon as we crossed the border the similarities with India were clear to see. Both Cambodia and India are a little behind Thailand on the development scale, and both are seriously lacking in infrastructure. Cambodia is very similar to Thailand, but feels like it might be what it was like there 10-15 years ago. Roads are littered with pot holes and everything is a little crazier, louder and more hectic. But we loved it nonetheless.
We traveled from Bangkok to Siem Reap, where the Angkor Temples are. On the Thai side our ride was pretty smooth. Once we crossed the border we were herded from one bus to another several times, before being dropped off at a friend of the driver's hotel. The driver's friend was on the bus and explaining to us where we would be dropped off, and if we didn't want to stay there what we should do, when he was interrupted by his cell phone. He started laughing and rolling his eyes, and then shook his head and said "oh nooo, it's my girlfriend" debated not answering it, and then reluctantly picked up and lowered his voice. I guess some things are the same same across all cultures. (Same same, but different is a common phrase here that people use for pretty much everything, it's like the Indian head bobble...don't quite know what it means but we just go with it!)
We finally arrived in Siem Reap at the friend's guesthouse and decided that it was actually an alright place to stay. We wanted to do a little more reading about the temples and decide how many days we were going to visit them, so the first few days were spent wandering around the town. I had been interested in visiting an orphanage to talk to people about how they run it, and see if there were any possibilities of volunteering. I found one online and we set out to find it. The directions were brief, and said that if we got to the crocodile farm we had gone too far. Luckily we were able to find it quite easily. They didn't offer any opportunities to volunteer as they have a full staff at the moment, but they did give us a run down of how the orphanage was run. The children seem to be very well cared for and they receive a lot of private funding form donors, so all the children are able to attend school and participate in any extra-curriculars they want, including dance, singing, sports and extra language lessons. It was nice to see one that was so well run and where the children seemed truly happy.
After our few days of wandering we decided to only spend one day looking at the temples and if that wasn't enough, we could always go back. We got up before dawn to get there in time for the sunrise. It wasn't a very clear day so the sunrise wasn't that amazing, but it was still really neat to see the light rising above the great Angkor Wat. There are thousand Angkor temples (now in ruins) for miles around. Angkor Wat is meant to be the most impressive, and was originally built in the 12th century and is still used as a religious site today. It is the world's largest single religious monument in the world. The temples bring in about 2 million visitors annually, which is a tremendous help to Cambodia's economy.
On our bus trip down we met a solo traveler, Lukas, and hung out with him the whole time we were there. It became apparent that he is a bit of a scaredy-cat, and is not a fan of most animals, bugs, reptiles or anything of the sort. At the temple we saw an enormous hairy spider on the wall and Lucas freaked out pretty bad. But the worst was once we finished touring and got back in the tuk-tuk i glanced up at melanie and noticed she had an even bigger spider on her face! she was wearing sunglasses and it was right on the top of them near her forehead. I froze and tried to decide how to tell her. I didn't want her to freak out and fling it into the car so I wasn't sure what to do. I tried to calmly whisper to Brie that "umm...i don't know what to do but Melanie has an enormous spider on her face..." But it turns out I wasn't as quiet as I thought because Melanie heard and flung her sunglasses off her face, luckily outside of the tuk-tuk. As soon as Lukas realized what was happening he screamed and jumped out of the tuk-tuk as fast as he could. It took some convincing but he finally got back inside. Our driver thought this was hilarious and kept trying to scare Lukas and make him think there was a spider on him. He even told all his other tuk-tuk driver friends about it and everyone teased him.
We left Siem Reap the next day on a night bus. We each had our own little beds. A Cambodian mother and her three kids got on about five minutes into the 12 hour ride to Sihukanville and were ushered to the back of the bus, standing in the aisle next to my bed. The littlest one was sick and threw up everywhere...which wasn't very pleasant but I did feel bad for the poor thing. you could tell the mom was worried about her and the older two were told to just stand and wait in the aisle. I felt bad for the kids and invited them to join my bunk. It made it pretty cosy, but it was only for about a half hour so it wasn't too bad. I swear the kids didn't actually hate me, despite what it looks like from the photo! We arrived in Sihunikanville early in the morning and had to wait for all the hostels to open. We looked around a few and since they were all closed, we just picked one and waited. It turned out to be a cool hangout spot in the evenings and has cute little bungalows to sleep in.
After a day of sleeping and lounging at the beach we decided to rent scooters (yes, again) and try and find a waterfall. When we first got them our guy told us that Brie and mine needed some air in the tires. So we filled them up and were on our way. Melanie ran out of gas about 1 km from our hotel, and we we noticed her behind us we headed back, only to be pulled over by the police! (don't worry moms, we hadn't done anything illegal). Turns out they just wanted to see Brie's license, which we had forgotten back at the hotel. Brie headed back to get the licenses and Melanie hitched a ride to get some gas for her bike. After returning her bottle, Melanie was then pulled over! She had barely run a red light (all the locals don't even stop for them), but was able to talk her way our of that. After all that we were actually on our way. However, we didn't realize that the road to the waterfall was a 3 mile dirt/gravel road. Gabrielle and I could feel our bike fishtailing, but though it was just the terrain. Turns out our tire had gone flat already, and then the tube of the tire popped and we decided it was best to not try and drive it. Luckily we were only a few yards from the entrance to the waterfall. We all piled onto Melanie's bike and slowly made our way there. We called for help and then went to enjoy the waterfall. The guy we hired the bike from came out and fixed if for us, and we were on our way back home.
The next morning we wanted to take the bikes to a beach a little ways away that was meant to be quieter and more relaxed. We went to start the bikes, and of course, Melanie's (not the one with the flat) wouldn't start. We called our guy and he happily brought us a new bike, and we were off. The beach was beautiful, and we were some of the first people there. There was a random bull in the water we we of course did some power kicks off of, and had a great day.
We had heard about boat trips to neighboring islands and decided to go on one that went to a protected beach. The boat ride out was nice and peaceful and had a beautiful view of all the islands. We stopped part way out and the girls snorkeled while I fished. I even caught the first catch of the day! He was pretty little though so we had to throw him back. It took a little while to get the hook out, and I think he may have died in the process, since he was floating upright when we threw him back. He did swim upside down for a little bit, so I like to think that he made a full recovery. We got to the beach and it was stunning. It had pure white sand and aqua water. After a few hours in paradise we boarded the boat back. We were relaxing on the sun deck after our tiring day of beaching it, when we heard some shouting and dance jams blaring from the lower deck. We headed down and realized that there was a huge dance party going on, so of course we joined in. The macarana came on ( not the first time we had heard it recently) and gabrielle and I started everyone off. We docked and the party slowly died down and everyone headed their separate ways.
We were booked on a night bus to Bangkok in a few hours, so we headed back to our hotel to get ready. After our 12 hour (that took 14) we changed buses in Siem Reap, and then changed again, and again, and again. On our bus that we finally took to the border we had a very enthusiastic Cambodian guide who was able to talk non-stop, without any engagement from passengers, for about 3 hours. He was entertaining, but a little hard to understand. The one thing we did understand was "you know what mean 'boom, boom'?" which we didn't,but later found out when he said "some people don't eat 'food, food' because they do too much' boom, boom' and that is why the are so skinny". We finally made it to the border, crossed back into Thailand and headed for Bangkok. Hello Thailand round two!!