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Angkor

October 15th

A minibus from the Capital Guesthouse took me to the boat dock where I boarded the fast boat for Siem Riep. Although I was allocated a seat inside, conventional wisdom is that it is safer on the roof.

About 30 minutes from Siem Riep the boat broke down, but after a lot of running around by all members of the crew and a bit of hammering it was restarted and we proceeded to the destination. No matter where you book your ticket in Phnom Penh, someone at Siem Riep appears to have a little sign with your name on it. I decided to actually go to the allocated guesthouse (Ta Som Guesthouse) and stayed there for the first night. The guy who met me at the ferry was surprise, surprise a moto driver who would be more than happy to driver me round during my visit. Since he spoke reasonable English and had some clue about the ruins I employed him for the first day. At about 4:00 we headed out to the ruins, since a ticket for the one day is valid after 4:00 on the previous day. I bought the 3 day ticket at a cost of $40. Today's trip was to see the sunset from Phnom Bakheng that is one of the most popular sunset viewing points. However the sunset was nothing spectacular. While there I met up with Laura, a girl who I had met in Saigon and she was looking rather worse for wear having been thrown off a moto on the way to Siem Riep, thus proving that the cheap option of a pick-up trip from Phnom Penh wasn't worth it. This evening I found out that my guesthouse was deserted so decided to move to more popular one the next morning

October 16th

First job was to move to Smiley's Guesthouse (aka backpacker central) then it was off to the ruins. First set to be viewed was Bayon which is also one of the best

Bayon

Big face, Bayon

 

and then around the rest of Angkor Thom. The Baphuon (currently being rebuilt), the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and Phimeanakas. I then exited the Angor Thom comples and went to Ta Keo and Ta Prohm which was my favourite place of all. The temple is partially overrun by jungle and it is possible to climb up onto the roof

The day finished with a trip to Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples, from where I watched the sunset

 

Sunset from Angkor Wat

October 17th

Another day at the ruins. Today the ruins to be visited were Preah Kahn, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Preah Rup, Srah Srang and Banteay Kdei

 

Preah Khan

 

Neak Pean

 

Elephant at East Mebon

 

Preah Rup

 

Srah Srang

October 18th

Today's trip was out to Bantereay Srei, which is 30km or so from town. After some disagreement over the amount I was to pay the moto driver (we agreed on $12 which is of course too much) we headed off. The road is under construction which means that in 6 months or so it might be very nice but for now it is a very comfortable ride. Once there the temple is quite small but well worth a visit. However be there early since once the large groups turn up it is quite crowded

The afternoon I spent revisiting some of the places that I had been to on previous days. I went back to the ruins to see the sunset but half way there it started to rain very hard and we ended up sheltering first under a tree and later at the souvenir stands. Here I made the mistake of mentioning that I was looking for a cross bow and all the sellers immediately ran around looking for one to sell me. Eventually I went off with one guy to another souvenir stand where there definitely was one. After more fuss here, one was eventually produced but it didn't work properly so it was back to the first stand where his father would know how to fix it. Once all this had transpired I was in a position where I had to buy the thing (which I wanted to do anyway) but the price was a little higher than I would have liked ($6). On trying the weapon when I got home I found that it was pretty powerful for a few bits of wood - which is what I would have told customs if they had asked me what it was

October 19th

There are only two ways to get from Siem Riep to Thailand, airplane and pick-up truck. I chose the truck at a cost of $6 (instead of the $140 for the plane) which got me a seat inside the cab. Luke and Richard who had been with me on the way to Phnom Penh were also in the truck. It started off OK but soon a noise was coming from the wheel, the fixing of which involved taking the bearings and brakes completely to pieces. Once we got moving again we reached a traffic jam that had been caused by a large truck going through a bridge. Since it was still stuck on the bridge and obviously was going to be for some time, the only way passed was for a tractor to tow the pick-up through the water. In typical Cambodian style the driver asked the western passengers to pay for this (not an unreasonable request) but then demanded about 4 times the amount that he paid the tractor driver. We did better than most of the other trucks whose drivers tried to demand even more. The upshot of all this was that our truck was joined by about 8 more people thus making the back very crowded and me glad that I was inside. The bridge trouble did end here, since many of the bridges seem to be missing the cross blanks thus forcing the driver to negotiate over the beams.

 

One of the better bridges. At least one had some logs

 

Although we had thought that the road got better Sisophon, if anything it got worse with massive potholes and dips in the road but at least no more bridges. When we reached Poipet the border had already closed, but luckily (??) the company which ran the pick up truck also had a hotel, which makes wonder if the truck was held up deliberately so that we would miss the border (we were only about 20 minutes late). Poipet is a town of mud. lots of it, and is best passed straight through. I got a bit confused on the way back from dinner and couldn't find the hotel. Even when I got on a moto he had great difficulty finding it, even though he had been told exactly where to go by another local. Perhaps I would have better off in the casino where Richard and Luke were winning/losing all of their money.

Next back to the civilisation of Thailand.

 

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