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Posts Tagged ‘siem reap’

Road? What road?

February 7, 2005 Leave a comment

We’re back in Thailand, arrived yesterday afternoon after a totally hellish bus ride from Siem Reap to the Cambodia/Thailand border. 159 kilometers in 6 hours. They allege that there’s a road along that route, I’d like to dispute that. Most of it is a two-lane dirt track, and the bits that are tarmacked are so damaged that they may as well not be.

And it feels so wonderful to be back in this country. :)

We stayed in a very nice place called the Aran Mermaid Hotel in Aranyaprathet last night. Worth a stay if you ever happen to be in the area.

Up at 5am this morning for the 6:40 train from Aran to Bangkok. We’re now staying at the Atlanta Hotel. A very cool place with a great 1950s vibe, and well away from the Khao San Road backpacker area. Between noon and 1pm they play recordings of jazz tunes composed by the King (of Thailand that is, not Elvis), so we’re looking forward to hearing some of that.

I also discovered that I will be in Hong Kong on the night of Chinese New Year, the year of the Rooster, which is also my Chinese astrological sign. Synchronicity?

That’s it for now. Take care.

Cheers,
Paul C./Karsoe

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Cambodia photos

February 6, 2005 Leave a comment
Jen at Angkor Wat

Jen at Angkor Wat

Jen at Angkor Wat

Jen at Angkor Wat

Climbing down from the central prang at Angkor Wat

Climbing down from the central prang at Angkor Wat

Me at Angkor Wat

Me at Angkor Wat

Jen at Angkor Wat

Jen at Angkor Wat

Bayon

Bayon

Jen at Bayon

Jen at Bayon

Prasat Kravan

Prasat Kravan

Jen at Prasat Kravan

Jen at Prasat Kravan

Carvings at Bantey Kdei

Carvings at Bantey Kdei

Niem, caretaker at Ta Phrom and cover model of the current Lonely Planet.

Niem, caretaker at Ta Phrom and cover model of the current Lonely Planet.

Sunset at Lakeside, Phnom Penh

Sunset at Lakeside, Phnom Penh

Crocodile pit next to our guesthouse in Siem Reap

Crocodile pit next to our guesthouse in Siem Reap

Anchor What?

February 6, 2005 Leave a comment

Well, we’re still in Cambodia. Tomorrow we’re getting a bus to the “wild west” town of Poipet and crossing over into Thailand. With luck we will arrive in time for a train back to Bangkok.

Still trying to put into words the way in which this country affects me. I’ve never been somewhere that has such a sad history. Then of course there’s the ancient splendour of the temples around Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is the best known of these, and I have to say that it truly is an incredible place. It was built in the late 1100s as a temple to Vishnu, and served as a Buddhist monastery in the 16th century. There were hundreds of tourists/travellers there when we visited three days ago, but even so it’s so peaceful there it’s like another world. There are about 800 meters of old bas-releif carvings depicting scenes from history and Hindu mythology. Climbing the stairs to the central tower would have Sir Edmund Hillary thinking twice. To be in a place so old when my country is so young is quite an experience.

Another experience, far less fun, is cycling 12 kilometers in total darkness. Well… it wasn’t total all the time. :) I had 2 tyre blowouts yesterday, the second one taking place about 5 minutes to sundown. It cost US$2 to have a new tyre fitted, but then we had to ride back in the dark. Fortunately we had an escort for several kilometers, 2 local blokes on a motor scooter kindly shared their illumination with us until we got to a road with some streetlights.

Jen and I moved house to the lodgings annex of the Dead Fish Tower restaurant. And there are more crocodiles there! Much smaller, but more active. One jumped and hissed at me as I strolled past the pit, and I nearly leapt into orbit.

My trip is drawing to a close. :( But we still have a few days in Bangkok before I fly out for a night in Hong Kong.

That’s about it for now. Take care.

Cheers,
Paul C./Karsoe

Bicycle-related silliness in Siem Reap

February 2, 2005 Leave a comment

Right… well, I’ve discovered the secret of navigating traffic in Cambodia. Basically you have to totally empty your mind of any concept of rules, regulations or common sense. It’s every sentient being for him or herself out there, so just get used to it.

Jen and I cycled $DEITY knows how many kilometers around many of the ruins near Siem Reap. Revisited many of the places we saw yesterday, this time with a fully-charged camera. On the cover of the Lonely Planet Cambodia is a picture of an old fellah in one of the temples (Ta Phrom). We have a photo of him. Now all we need to do is find out his name…

We discovered the Vietnamese equivalent of Starbucks (Trung Nguyen) has a branch in Siem Reap, so I revisited my ‘Nam glory days :) by having a ca phe sua drip percolated coffee (aka Best Coffee In The Entire Universe (Franc, take note)).

Just prior to our cycling adventure I went actoss the road to get some water. After paying the not very princely sum of 1000 riel (33 Aussie cents) for 3 litres, I was approached by a landmine victim asking for a donation. I gave, a small amount, but he smiled widely and appreciated the gesture. I think it’s the first donation I’ve given to a beggar on my whole trip. It still tears at me, my moral compass askew, facing choices that I’m just not equipped to make. Who do I give to? All? None? Some? If some, who “deserves”it? This is a country with millions of people truly in need, and no social welfare system whatsoever. What’s all that about?

Cambodia certainly is a country of contradictions; the utter hell visited on it’s people by the Khmer Rouge, and yet they’re still ready with a smile and a hello. The kids are adoreable. And I’m starting to feel quite safe here, despite it’s proliferation of weapons and the utterly insane traffic. I’ve seen driving schools here and in Sihanoukville, I can’t imagine what a safe driving lesson consists of. Suffice to say that I suspect my bagging of Sydney drivers will now operate on a much reduced level.

I guess we’ll be seeing Angkor Wat tomorrow, as well as a better look around Angkor Thom and some other cool-looking Buddhist temples scattered about.

The crocs next door are okay too. :) Well-fed and so far unable to scale walls and open windows. Which is a good thing. I’ve never seen a crocodile walk before, by jeez they’re scary looking bastards on dry land! :)

Righto, must go. Take care. Etc.

Cheers,
Karsoe/Paul C.

Temples after torture

January 31, 2005 Leave a comment

Here we are in Siem Reap, ensconced in the Tokyo Guesthouse which has a crocodile pit next to it. We can look out our window and see about 25 crocs lazing about, occasionally grumbling but generally not doing much. Which is good.

The other day we went to Toul Sleng and the killing fields at Choeung Ek, just outside Phnom Penh. Toul Sleng was a high school until the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia, and they turned it into a prison/interrogation (torture) centre. Going there was a sobering experience to say the least. They have a gallery of the thousands of people interred there (about 17000 people all up). All bar 7 died in the place. That and the killing fields… well, I just don’t have the words to describe what it’s like and think of the absolute evil the Khmer Rouge visited on their fellow countryfolk. Men, women and kids of all ages, none were spared. It made me wonder what kind of threat they saw in pre-teen children and grandmothers. In one of the rooms at Toul Sleng, displayed with some examples of torture implements, were two damaged busts of Pol Pot. I had to fight a strong urge to kick them.

Siem Reap, fortunately, will provide a far more positive vibe. Temples and monuments of Hindu and Buddhist nature, the oldest being built in around 900AD, jungle growing around and occasionally through them. We’ve not seen Angkor Wat yet, today we had a look at Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm. Amazing majestic structures built long long ago.

It kinda saddens me to think that I’m flying out of this region in 9 days. But I do miss home as well.

Hope everyone is doing well, I’ll be seeing some of you all in a few weeks.

Cheers,
Karsoe/Paul C.