Travelling Highlight of the Week (w.b 11th March)

During our visit to Angkor Wat, our favourite part had to be at Ta Phrom where Tomb raider was filmed. Not that we were too bothered by this but it gave us the perfect opportunity to pretend to be a mix of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.

We did try to unearth many mysteries by twisting certain rocks and touching inconspicuous looking objects or scripture. But alas, too no avail, no Temple of Gold or ancient mystery revealed itself.

But we did enjoy feeding the large ants our crisps and watching them carry them away to their home.

“Slow week?” I hear you cry….perhaps.

—Love to all—C Smith—

Siem Reap- tourist heaven!

After Phnom Penh we traveled north to Siem Reap, possibly the most touristy part of the country due to the World Hertiage Site,  Angkor Wat. But with 50 cent beers, $3 dinners and massages starting from $1, who can blame them??

We arrived and went to our hostel we had pre booked, called Tom and Jerrys, it cost us $8 with breakfast and is the nicest, cleanest and newest hostel we have stayed in. The rooms are massive and even has a flat screen TV! After the standards in Phnom Penh, we were blown away by our bargain here!

We organised with our tuk tuk driver who dropped us off about going to Angkor Wat, he would pick us up at 5am to get there for sunrise. The staff at the hostel were not too impressed as we did not go through them, but who were we to know. We spent a day exploring the town/city on bike of which there is not too much to see, as soon as you leave the touristy part it turns to dusty badly paved roads with not a lot of sights. So we opted for a Snow Yoghurt instead, mainly due to the air con it offered inside; cycling in 35 degree heats is no joke!

4.30am and our alarm went off after another night of sleeping in sticky heat. We were greeted downstairs by about 3 other groups doing just what we were, so it was nice not to feel so alone at that time in the morning. Our tuk tuk driver came over, who was not who we met the day before but had been sent instead and introduced himself as Sok. He seemed nice and friendly enough. So off we went. The chill air in the morning whilst riding in the tuk tuk was heaven. I have never enjoyed feeling cold so much before! We stopped off at the ticket booth and went to get our pictures taken to go on the ticket and pay our $40. Adam looks in the wallet….”oh s*!t…It’s not in here, the extra money isn’t here…ummm can we pay by card…no?…s*!t…” so we walk back over to Sok and asked where the nearest ATM was, turns out it is back in town and means we would miss sunrise. “Are you short of money?” he asks and we explain, “it’s OK. I have and you can give me back at the end! How much do you need?” he asks simply. “Really?? That would be great, we only need $10 extra. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!” we enthuse. What a gem!

After our little mishap, Sok drives us over to Angkor Wat where everyone watches the sunrise and we walked over in the dark, crossing a bridge we heard a guide say, “stay away from the edge, a Chinese tourist fell in the other day!” Woops!

So we stand, and we wait. And we get constantly bothered by touts selling coffee, breakfast, books, postcards, trousers, scarfs. You name it, they are trying to sell it to you. But at least we got to meet Justin Bieber, who it turns out sells coffee in Cambodia in his spare time and another girl called Lady GaGa. If they weren’t busy enough already.


Sunrise was OK. The clouds skewed the scenery a bit and we didn’t get to see the sun piercing the sky with brilliant colours. But it was still lovely all the same.

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning...intimidating or wat?!

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning…intimidating or wat?!


After that, we found Sok and he told us where we were going next and a bit of information on the temple and its surroundings. We got out, trudged around, took some photos, watched some Russian women properly posing against pagodas (very odd) and moved onto the next. We did this until we had completed the short circuit and seem some beautiful ruins and came across far too many touts lurking amongst the quieter ruins, especially child touts selling stuff we didn’t want. Which was a big shame.

someone to the time to carve these in...?!

someone to the time to carve these in…?!

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning...intimidating or wat?!

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning…intimidating or wat?!

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

We quickly popped to the war museum (where we had to lend another $10 from Sok!) and looked around there, unfortunately we couldn’t afford the free guides as it turns out they accept donations and when they found out we had none to donate, weren’t too bothered by us. I heard their tours were great too, so a bit annoyed by the situation, especially after paying so much for a ticket for a place which is quite run down. I am not too sure where our $10 went in this place.

After a 4.30 am start, we were back in bed by 11am and snoozing away! Oh the joys!

—Love to all—C Smith—

The beautiful people of Cambodia and their horrible history

We arrived in Phnom Penh from Ho Chi Minh City after an easy 6 hour bus ride where we (and everyone else) got ripped off by the bus company to pay an extra $5 each for them to “help” with our visas. Basically, someone got paid off somewhere and we didn’t have to unload our bags and get them checked. So we could of smuggled anything we liked over the border. Only if we had known before we had left…

Phnom Penh is hot. And humid. And dusty. But the cheery and lovely Cambodian people make up for it! How they stay so lovely in this sort of weather is beyond me. We searched for a hostel for the majority of the day and after traipsing round taking notes down in our little book and after 2 tuk tuk rides, we found somewhere in the old backpacker district for only $5 a night (but add in the $2 tuk tuks we got, we might have well stayed where we were and paid a bit more…) The $5 place was well, worth about that. Tiny room, fan, no bathroom door, and no bathroom window, just open bricks. We only stayed 1 night.

The next morning we got up early and changed hotels to one we found during our night time search and dropped our bags there. $10 this time for a small room, air con, no window, but a bathroom door….yes! No more headphones in whilst the other one “occupies” the lavatory! What a luxury.

We quickly got our selves sorted and found a tuk tuk driver to take us to the killing fields. After another man cheekily told us, “don’t go with him, he doesn’t know where anything is!” and looked at us, smiled and laughed, all in good humour. This is the Cambodian way we were soon to discover, friendly, chatty and plain old cheeky. Like the title says- just beautiful people.

After finding out their horrible recent history at the killing field and S21 prison, it puts their natural good nature and friendliness into perspective. Out of a population of 8 million, 3 million (1 in 4 people) were brutally slaughtered at the hands of Pol Pot in the late 1970’s. He was a man who wanted to turn his country back to the “year 0” by destroying anyone who he considered a threat. This included people who were educated, who wore glasses (!) and all their connecting family. As he believed to not let anyone live who could take revenge.

The killing fields were distressing, we listened to an audio tape the whole way round (as does everyone else) which leaves a very quiet area where everyone seems to be doing their own type of silent grieving. I know I did.

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The detail is horrendous, of which I will not go into, but if you are ever in Cambodia, it needs to be seen just to try and understand what the country has been through in the past 40 years.

The same goes for the S-21 prison where people were held before they were taken to the killing fields. It used to be a school before Pol Pot closed all education facilities and walking round it gives off a feeling of extreme ill ease. All the pictures of the prisoners staring back at you. The ghosts which haunt those grounds must be numerous.

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—Love to all—C Smith—