I CAN’T BELIEVE CATHERINE LEFT ME THIS MORNING. I thought we were just joking about her leaving. Damn.
Regardless, rainy season must go on and it certainly is today. I’m just now realising how lucky we were with the weather over the last twelve days. After a wonderful week in Shanghai we left (separately) for Siem Reap and reunited at arrivals. We kicked off the trip with four days in Siem Reap. I’d read that it was a travesty to blast through the temples in one day – not to mention impossible – and I agree! We started small(ish) with a tour of four temples and thanks to our trusty tuk tuk driver we were back at the pool before midday. The heat was so intense and we were sweltering by 9am – you know how I love to overheat. I accepted on day one that it was going to be a sweaty old week. Mmm. Feeling proud after our productive first day, we went into Siem Reap for a spot of lunch, quickly identified Pub Street and after a nap and a dip we hit the night market and a lovely Bosnian man cooked us some pizza and explained to us how easy it is to set up a business in Cambodia right now (none of these pesky business licenses or anything needed). Well behaved so far in anticipation of our 5:30am pick up the following morning to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Only slightly ressembling zombies after the bumpy ride to the temple, we sat down by the ‘big pond’ to watch the sun come up. A 5-deep line of people had gathered at the waters edge to get ‘that’ photo of the 5 towers reflected in the water at sunrise. It wasn’t as crowded as I’d expected and I enjoyed the communal ‘ahhh’ as the sun rose from behind the magnificent temple. There were some notably ignorant (unfortunately young) people turning up, or maybe they were just tired. One girl literally stood in front of me and Catherine and a gathering of people as if she thought we’d all woken up at 5am just to get a good look at her backside at sunrise. One American had assigned himself as crowd policement and looked like he sort of enjoyed reminded people that they were in EVERYONE’s way. There was also a Spanish man in the crowd of people who had their tripods ready who freaked out and yelled as two sets of people tried to turn up and sit in front of everyone’s cameras just as the sun was coming up. I’d be cranky too but I had to laugh when he yelled “Nnnnnnno! Nnnno! OUT!” at a dippy girl who plonked herself down in front of everyone’s shot. Oh babe. Anyway, it was more peaceful than I’m making out, and the temple was awesome! I feel slightly dazed about how many we walked around but I have more than enough photos to remind myself how cool they were. We headed to Banteay Srai next which was my favourite, and on the way back did the girliest thing ever and went to see a butterfly farm. You can’t not love it when a guy opens a cupboard and 20 new born butterflies fly out in your face, you just can’t.
We napped…for about four hours…we ate too much mexican food in town and we enjoyed some cheap beer. I’m not entirely sure if we napped again but we eventually made it to Pub Street for a ‘night out’. Mission complete. We hit the red piano for food and wine, Charlies for mojitos and something called Muscle Wine (disgusting) and finally we were drunk enough to check out Angkor Wat. There was definitely something wierd on one of the buckets of alcohol we drank as I was very much worse for wear by the end of the night. We did our usual amount of dancing and generally running around and met the funniest Cambodian girls who shared our passion for dancing to everything. I forget their names along with everyone elses name I talked to that night. It wouldn’t even be worth writing about Tuesday had we not got ourselves together to try Cambodian BBQ and have ANOTHER foot massage and a wander. We sat in the cutest cafe called Babushka in the Lane and chilled out. It was our last night in Siem Reap and we really managed to comeback from the hangover well.
We squeezed in a cheeky trip to Ta Prohm (the one off of Tomb Raider) before catching our bus to Phnom Penh.
Ohhhhhh the tension. An Australian travel agent told us that Spider village was en route from Siem Reap to PP. I was terrified. Shanghai friends had informed me of this place so I mentally prepared myself to have a tarantula thrown at me all night before. We got away with it. Phew. I expected to see more fried spiders in Cambodia but only spotted the one tray on a street near the night market. I read later that eating fried spiders is the result of a survival technique used by villagers during food shortages prompted by the Khmer Rouge. Apparently the body is sweet and the legs just taste fried. I won’t be finding out.
My shining moment in Siem Reap: biting into a lump of pork fat that was on the top of the BBQ because it looked like fish. The waiter politely came over and told me what it was and then they explicitly explained to every other table around me all night what it was.
Catherine’s hangover quote: I’d rather have a massage than a beer.
Phnom Penh was so different. Being the capital city it was much less touristy and we didn’t think it was as friendly as Siem Reap. Perhaps because when we first arrived at the hostel and told them we were going out for the evening to have a wander they couldn’t tell us enough that our bags might be snatched. Slightly on edge we found the strip of restaurants on the river and had a pretty nice meal followed by the sleep of our lives in our hostel. To continue the trend of being uncharacteristically productive on holiday, we got up early and met Cat’s uni friend and her boyfriend who happened to be in Phnom Penh that morning too! SO many english breakfasts to be scoffed down in Cambodia…I really enjoyed the cheap western food everywhere as some of it is so inaccessible to me in Shanghai! Don’t get me wrong, there are some Khmer dishes that I’ve really enjoyed, like Lok Lak Beef and Amok ANYTHING. A failed attempt to visit the Royal Palace meant that we had to switch our schedule around and visit S21, a Khmer Rouge prison, in the morning. Before deciding to come to Cambodia I had little or no idea about its history or how much tradegy occured here not so long ago. I definitely know a fair bit now and the prison was harrowing. Given how recently the Khmer Rouge was in power, it shouldn’t have shocked me that our own tour guide was himself marched out of Phnom Penh to the countryside when it was ‘liberated’. There were only seven survivors of S21 when it was freed and two of them were at the museum, too. They had very different stories and reasons for coming back to the camp and it was surreal to see them in black and white photographs as prisoners and then shake their hand.
We visited the Royal Palace in the afternoon after lounging around in a thai restaurant and deciding that we want to dine on cushions on the floor forever. It was awesome and beautiful and decadent. I liked it a lot, we were just so hot and Cat had to wear a very sexual large white T-shirt over her clothes to cover her shoulders, so I feel as though we were thorough but fast. We headed back to the hostel and had a drink before heading out for a pizza ‘no happy’. There were quite a few expats in the restaurant, mostly middle aged western guys with decidably younger looking Cambodian women, munching on their Happy Herb Pizzas, ‘extra happy’.
We got up early to visit the killing fields before catching the bus to Sihanoukville. After the Genocide museum the day before we didn’t particularly want to go, but we knew we had to. I’d recommend the tour. You get a free head set that walks you round the site and tells you everything you need to know, along with some accounts from survivors of the Khmer Rouge and even Khmer Rouge soldiers themselves. I can’t say it was enjoyable…but I’m glad we went.
I don’t think I embarrassed myself noticeably in Phnom Penh…but I don’t know, ask Catherine.
To Sihanoukville!!!!! We were SO ready to relax. It took five hours to get there by bus and I did what I’d been doing all week – sat passing the time doing absolutely nothing just staring out the window. After our first long beach day Cat asked what I’d been doing to amuse myself and neither of us had really noticed me move all day. I’ve discovered there is no end to my people watching. We stayed on Otres Beach at Wish You Were Here, a cute wooden beach hostel with the loveliest staff. I can’t recommend it enough. The next couple of days involved tanning, sunsets and eating. I’m not sure we did anything else. We went on a snorkelling trip on the third day, which was okaayyyy until the final snorkelling session which was awesome. Geeked out staring at coral for a long while. For our last night on Otres we walked along the beach at sunset and sat under a little straw pagoda and ordered a bottle of wine. Then the rain came down. We had a beach view to a tropical electric storm at sunset. As the torrential rain didn’t stop for about two hours we had no choice but to sit in our little hut and drink a second bottle and share the most delicious pizza ever. It was one of my favourite nights just sitting having the craic! I enjoyed rainy season!! Everyday when the shower comes you have no choice but to haul up some where and have a drink, read your book or just watch the rain come down.
Cat’s last full day was a complete save. The weather sucked and we managed to go horseriding in the morning through the countryside (we liked it but the horses freaked out when the rain got heavy so so did we), move our stuff over to Serendipity and grab lunch, have an hour long massage, go across the street and have an hour long facial, drive down the coastal roads on a motorbike for a while, check out the night market and then go to Cat’s favourite restaurant so far: Grand Kampuchea. $3.50 gets you BBQ meat or fish and a big plate of veggies/sides. It just delicious and so so cheap! Yum. I fancied dessert…so we walked into town and found a little cafe with an ENTIRE MENU OF BANANA SPLITS!!! (If you dont know me, banana split is one of my favourite things ever). We had a martini and a peanut banana split. It was cute, they gave you your own cocktail shaker and you poured your martini out yourself. I love a gimic. Before heading back we went across to Led Zephyr as they had some live music that night. A very smooth Cambodian man sang some covers. Some well…some not so well.
My shining moment in Sihanoukville: falling asleep during my facial and snoring a little bit…
We headed to our hostel, fell ashleep and got up to have a nice breakfast downstairs before Cat’s bus arrived. I’ve had the best time in Cambodia so far. Feeling extremely lonely today now that my partner in crime has gone home but looking forward to the next stages of the journey! Going to a Cambodian cooking class tomorrow (it’s just all about the food) and then it’s onto Bangkok on Friday for two days! You read about the Cambodians being the friendliest people on Earth and we definitely agree. Shout out to Lin, Lucky the tuk tuk driver and everyone else who gave us a smile (so everyone).
I have to go shopping now because the hole in the crotch of my denim shorts is just getting unreasonable.
Have a lovely Wednesday!