Saturday, October 24, 2009

12th to 15th October - Siem Reap

We travelled up to Siem Reap, the roads were sketchy and there were obsvious signs of the floods that had impacted Cambodia the weeks before we arrived. I was very excited to see Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. It completed what has been a memorable time for me in terms of seeing some of the worlds most important monuments and sites. I've now seen The Grand Canyon, Osorno Volcano, Black Glacier at Bariloche, Statue of Christ in Rio, Machu Pichu, Dead Sea, Petra, Taj Mahal and the Ganges River and now Angkor Wat.

We stayed at a place called Mekong Palace Hotel and the best news was that it had a swimming pool. It was pretty warm in Siem Reap and we really appreciated having a pool at our disposal. That night we went out for a very nice meal at a posh restaurant near our hotel. Exactly what was needed.

The next day we relaxed and took a lazy stroll around Siem Reap after a swim. The main road of Siem Reap is literally a dirt track full of holes. It's terrible. But somehow, Siem Reap has this magical charm about it. I loved the place. We went off in search of a place called Pub Street, so called because it has a lot of pubs on it... amazing huh.

We found ourselves being talked in to taking a fish massage. Now, this is an interesting concept. They get these fish from Turkey who eat dead skin from the bottom of your feet. It's something i've wanted to try for a while and it was a very entertaining experience. When you first put your feet in it feels really weird. Like little bubbles bursting on your feet. But then you start to relax with it and it ends up feeling amazing. Makes you're feet really smooth too which is so important after all of the walking i've done....

We were joined by a group of local girls aged between 8 and 14 trying to sell us stuff. I got chatting to one who was a real character and started showing off with my eyebrow juggling and some other tricks... It made them laugh... I then showed them this game that Simon showed me in Laos were you make the figure zero with your thumb and your forefinger and hold below the eyeline of your victim. If they look at the hole, you're allowed to punch them on the arm. If they put their finger in the hole without you catching it, they can punch you on the arm. The girls loved it and ended up playing the game for the next few days everytime we saw them... I'm pleased to say that I told them the game was called Andy's Game so now they'll tell everyone they meet about the game and it's name.. Sorry Simon... :)

We went out to see a cultural show that evening and then had a Cambodia BBQ which was very nice. We met a German guy called Wolfgang and went to a bar to play pool called Temple. It was full of the usual suspects, Old Western Men, Prostitutes etc.... Good fun though.

The next day we'd arranged to go to see the sun rise in Angkor Wat. The alarm was set for 4.30am and we had to meet our tuk-tuk driver at 5am if we were to make it there. When I woke up it was around 7.30am and it dawned on me that the alarm didn't exactly work... oops.

The poor tuk-tuk driver had been outside waiting since 4.45am and was still outside waiting for us at 8am eager as a beaver. Bless him.

We spent an exhausting day touring the temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom etc until we could take no more. There's one temple where you climb up these really narrow steps.. Lena and I both struggled a bit and I ended up helping these Japanese tourists out as well as they were having real difficulty climbing up. But I was glad we all made it up. The view was something else. Problem was, getting down was even more difficult. It made for an interesting challenge. :)

After about 3 or 4 hours we were knackered and asked the driver to take us back to the pool. The weather was hot and we were both templed out. On the way back, we passed an orphanage which had the sign outside saying "Come and see our childrens paintings. They love to meet you". We stopped and went inside just as the kids were about to have lunch.

It was a fantastic experience. These kids are so happy and so friendly and just delighted to see us. They all ran up to us saying hello and holding our hands. So sweet. It makes you fill up with tears... The guy showing us around was in his early 20's and had been at the orphanage for 13 years. He now helps out by teaching the kids art. He's going to university to study art. I wish him all the best. He does a great job.

We stayed for about an hour chatting and playing with these wonderful children before buying a picture and saying goodbye. I'd love to go back and see them again someday it was one of the most worthwhile experiences i've had on my travels.

That night we went out for a couple of drinks and some food. We were travelling back to Phnom Penh the next day on route to Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast.

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