I left off in Pakse (Laos) heading to 4000 islands the next morning. One thing I have found really interesting traveling is how you run into the same people everywhere you go. The group I had been with in Luang Prabang and Veng Viang I thought I had left for good when I skipped a few days and headed down to Pakse.
Well the minibus to 4000 islands (Don Det) arrived and there wasn't a person in it that I didn't already know and getting to the islands ran into another few people.
For all the excitement i had heard about 4000 islands I must say I was a little disappointed. They were nice and all but being small islands on the Mighty Mekong there wasn't much to do. They didn't stack up to beaches since you couldn't really swim (for fear of floating away) and it was literally just a strip of guest houses and a couple bars. I understand it could be really relaxing but I think Corinne agrees with me that after 2 days there we had seen enough. Onwards to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor!
After a lengthy 14 hour bus trip including a boarder crossing into Cambodia (which included some lovely corruption; 2$ stamp fee, 2$ staple fee, 1$ photo attachment fee) we arrived in Siem Reap at fun guest house.
The first thing we did the next morning was rent 1$ bikes and head off to see Angkor Wat and the other more popular temples of Bayon and Ta Prohm. All in all it was about 30km of biking over the day, but on these terrible bikes I had had enough. Every pedal stroke between 3 and 5 the freewheel would slip. Lovely.
The temples themselves were amazing. despite this being a very tiring day I really enjoyed it. We got back fairly late and prepared for the next day which we would be waking up at 4AM in order to leave and catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat (the most famous and largest religious temple in the world). The sunrise was funny. Although we were instructed to enter and go left (North) for the best view, Corinne and I decided to go south and there were only a small grouping of maybe 10-15 people on the South side as opposed to the hundreds on the North. I dare say our view was significantly better because the sun rose over the temples rather than beside it.
Next up we went to further temples via Tuk Tuk (taxi). The rest of them were interesting as well however my highlight was the landmine museum which we passed on the way. This museum was created by a Cambodia who had been a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, then forced to switch sides and fight for the Vietnamese at the age of 12. Following the end of the war he had extensive experience with Landmines (Cambodia has more landmines than any other country in the world) and the museum owner has single handedly diffused 60 000 landmines. Sometimes as many as 300 a day. That being said there are still an estimated 6 million left (mostly on the border with Thailand).
Sunrise at Ankor Wat
The museum was very informative but in addition, since many people in Cambodia are poor, the museum also functions as an orphanage for children injured by landmines whose parents don't have the resources or knowledge to help them. Currently there are 50 kids there and over time as the museum makes more money and grows the money goes to expanding the orphanage.
Other than the temple and sights, I really enjoyed Siem Reap. It was a nice city with cheap food and amongst the best fruit shakes I've had. We bought a lot! I also tried Black Panther Beer (8%). I don't recommend this to anyone. And Corinne bought a child dinner only to be told she was a bad person by the other children. It was a good deed that definitely wasn't appreciated.
Next up, Corinne and I headed to the capital Phnom Penh. Corinne wasn't planning on coming to Cambodia at all and here I had persuaded her to see two cities now. In PP we went to see the prison S-21 where the genocide started followed by a very rainy motorbike ride out to the killing fields. They were depressing learning of all the horrors that took place, however it wasn't physically jarring that I've heard people describe. Maybe because I had read up on it before hand so there wasn't as much shock factor. One aspect that did surprise me was the photos of the head bad guy for the Khmer Rouge at the prison (not Pol Pot but his second in command or something). A guy who went by the name Duch. What surprised me was seeing photos of him, he is a tiny little man and the least intimidating figure you could ever imagine. Maybe 5'3-4 and 100 pounds its crazy to think this guy is referred to as more evil than Hitler.
Sunset from Guesthouse
Corinne left that night for Bangkok and I stayed in PP for another day. I went to the Royal Palace and walked around the city. Phnom Penh is actually a really pretty place.
Following PP I went to Kampot. Its supposed to be a really nice town, but to be honest. I just didn't see it. I stayed for 1 day. Did an interesting but significantly overprice tour and got out. The tour was to the Bokor Hill station. A 1920 casino/hotel built as a french retreat from the heat (since it is up in the mountains) but since it had a nice view it was heavily fought for during the wars. As a result the hotel is shot up as are many of the sites around it. In addition there is famous fog here which rolls in and makes everythign white. I took photos of the road and the hotel and you can get a picture. I would never want to fight a war there. The enemy could be 20 feet away and you wouldn't see him. THe only warning of their approach would be the detonation of a landmine.
Casino in the Fog, Bokor Hill Station (Kampot)
I left Kampot and went to the beach resort of Sihannoukville. I heard bad things about this place. Busy, touristy and dangerous. But to be honest I really like it. THere is a good atmosphere. I doesn't seem dangerous. and the beach is really nice. The only downside is that it has rained and I got sick making it so taht I don't dare be further than 20 feet from a bathroom (FUN!).
Storm Clouds coming in to Sihanookville
And that brings me to today! I will probably stay in Sihanoukville another day or two relaxing and getting better. I really want to go for a swim and get some exercise and then head to Thailand.
Thats all for now. A little rushed but has the details necessary.