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Wednesday 5 Mar 2003
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siaous Dei from Cambodia!

After an agonising 12 hour trip through 200 km of potholes from Poipet on the Thai-Cambodia border, I finally arrived in Siem Reap yesterday!!

Im sharing a 15$ room with AC (and TV!) with an English bloke, James, so it ends up costing the same as a guesthouse in Khao San road, Bangkok.

Today we went to the Angkor Wat temples and they are absolutely fantastic.... not too many tourists around either so it was almost like having the place to ourselves.


The Khmer people have a very distinctive "look"to them and not at all like Thai people in appearance, but as is the case with all South-East Asian people so far, they are VERY friendly and hospitable... although they do like to get money from you in a variety of scams whereever possible... so thats something to look out for

For example... last night after the bus trip from Thailand the tour operator dropped us off at a guesthouse (without us knowing this was the plan) and we were somewhat "oblidged" to stay there.

Myself, James and another Danish couple (wise to the goings-on) decided to head off and find a better place to stay.. but then we were surrounded by tens of people trying to stop us, asking us where we were going and that everywhere else was closed (which is of course rubbish!)

Just walk on, eyes straight and they soon leave you alone.. as is the case with Tuk-Tuk drivers in Bangkok!

Anyhoo... we found a cool hotel later that night and its pretty damn nice.. although it has a cold shower... ah well cant have it all!

oooh yeah one last thing... I bumped into my cousin, Dermot, and his girlfriend, Kathy, in Bangkok the morning I was leaving for Cambodia in a 7-Eleven. Freaky or what! (I mean "Freaky or Wat"..sorry have temples on the brain right now!!!)


On the bus into Cambodia, our guide stood up in front of us to announce that we were going to be heading to a pre-assigned hotel... as we had all guessed would happen. At this point a stupid arrogant Brit scumbag got up and started shouting profanities at the guide, in such a way as to say "This aint good enough!". The guide then came back with such ferocity that I thought he was going to pull a gun out and shoot him. "You sit down! You shutup! You not talk to me like that in MY COUNTRY! We throw you off bus now!". The British spa respectively shut-up.

Of course that wasnt going to help our situation: we were all crammed onto a tiny little van with hardly a toilet stop along the whole journey (I had thoughtlessly downed a full bottle of water prior to the journey and almost pissed myself before we even reached the border... thankfully we DID stop once!). Here we were in the middle of milita-country where mines laid only metres from the muddy pot-holed road we were driving on and the guide starts to freak out. Who knows? He may have been a soldier killing hundreds of people only a decade before. For a second I was sure he was about to pull a knife on the Brit.

To make our situation worse, it started to flash-flood. This combined with the notoriously bad-driving of the Cambodians and copious smoke eschewing forth from several cigarettes in the enclosed space, me with my knees up to my chest in the tiny seat, made this journey among the least comfortable in my entire trip abroad. I think Ill FLY into Siem Reep the next time!!!

Crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia into the town of Poi Pet was a daunting experience. Heavily-armed guards were everywhere pushing people around while we had to queue to fill in the abundant mass of immigration forms.

Once in, you were greeted to a squalid picture of Cambodia: several beggin children in rags surrounding our mini-van reaching their hands in through the windows, upturned to receive money, or downturned to try and grab whatever they could before you noticed. In fact their mothers were there, child in arm, egging their elder children on. Some of the more-experienced travellers on board the van knew this would happen and had prepared little bundles of sweets or money to give the poor families. It was a nice gesture and something I should think of the next time I come through here...

Although we were only in Poi Pet for an hour, I soon found it to be the most squalid poverty-stricken place in Cambodia (that I encountered anyway) and a stark contrast to the relative prosperity that Thailand enjoyed.

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