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Angkor Temples, Cambodia
Sunday, 20 June 2010 09:08
Siem Reap, Cambodia 06.04. – 15.04.
The journey from Don Det, Laos over the Cambodian border and on to Siem Reap was another one of those nightmare bus rides which had us thanking our guardian angels once we had arrived safely. Well me anyway, Heiko never seems to get as stressed as I do.

According to our ticket we would leave Don Det at 8 am and arrive in Siem Reap at 9 pm. Not that anyone ever believes what it says on the ticket but sometimes miracles do happen. After crossing the river from Don Det to the mainland we were all plonked in a cafe to wait for the bus. After an hour we found the guy from the boat and asked when the bus would arrive – 10 am he said. Yeah, right. Lo and behold at 1 minute before 10 am it pulled in and we boarded a clean and intact bus, a rarity in those parts, and drove the short distance to the border.

To leave Laos we first had to pay 1 USD to get our passports stamped at immigration. Next stop after walking over the border we arrived at the ‘quarantine stand’  where we had our temperatures measured with some kind of laser gun being pointed at our foreheads -  pay 1 USD and proceed to the visa shack across the road. Pay 23 USD for the visa stamp and 1 USD for some other stamp.  Do not pass GO. No one knew exactly what all these stamps were for but I’m pretty sure those 1 dollar notes landed in the customs official’s pockets.

The road was pretty decent and despite the driver racing along, the lack of traffic and cattle made it relatively relaxed.  Around 5pm we stopped at a petrol station where we were supposed to change buses to carry on to Siem Reap (this bus was heading in the opposite direction to Pnomh Penh). Oh dear, no bus and the driver can’t reach the other bus driver. Do we want to just here a while (and risk the other bus never arriving) or carry on to PP where they would put us on a local bus that would arrive in Siem Reap at 11 pm? No thanks, we’d like the bus we paid for which goes straight to Siem Reap and which should arrive around 9 pm. After one more phone call the other bus miraculously appeared from round the corner – all very dodgy. Then the white knuckle ride started. This driver was a complete maniac.  He sped along happily, blowing his horn at anything and everything (standard South Asian driving practise) from people, to tuk-tuks, to any animal which might be on or near the road, literally making motorbikes swerve off the road to avoid being hit while he overtook them. Bearing in mind there were no real paths – people just walk at the side of the road in front of the houses or fields so are in danger of being hit by motorbikes swerving off the road. To get animals to move out of the way – these include herds of cattle, goats, horses and dogs – drivers blow their horns as loudly and as long as possible until they are a few metres from them and THEN they brake as a last resort. After several such incidents our driver included an emergency brake for good measure and came within an inch of hitting a horse. I shouted something at the bus driver to please slow down but he just waved his arms in the air (whilst driving) and ignored me. As if that wasn’t dangerous enough it then turned dark and I was just hoping the headlights worked. And didn’t they just, however they were positioned with the beam pointing so high up that they illuminated the tree tops and every driver coming towards us was flashing their headlights at him as they were being blinded. Coupled with that every car trying to overtake us, got so near to the rear of the bus that their headlights lit up the bus. By this point I was exhausted but daredn’t  take my eyes off the road in case I had to brace myself for a crash. I have never been so glad to get off a bus in a long time. Needless to say the hotel transfer pickup service was not waiting for us (as we had not reconfirmed a thousand times!) and we were left in a pitch black car park wondering what to do. Just our luck that one of the passengers was a tuk-tuk driver and had his vehicle waiting there to take us to our hotel.  After some confusion about our reservation we checked in and headed off for a much-needed drink to calm our nerves.

Siem Reap is a very touristy town, catering for people coming to visit the Angkor temples and has renamed its streets to names like “Pub Street” etc.  To be honest though this was a welcome change to having to go home at 10 pm in the dark with a torch. We hit one of the main tourist strips and were immediately jumped on (literally) by young children (under 10) carrying babies on their arms, begging us to “buy milk for my baby brother” – and all in perfect English. The scam works as follows: they take you to the shop across the road, you buy them a carton of milk for which you are charged too much, then  the kids go back to the shop, return the milk and get the difference in price from the shop owner. You will see the same kids with and without babies as they “hire” them from mothers who lend their babies so that the older children can go begging with them. And no matter how hard you argue with these children that the baby’s mother should be taking care of it, they have a string of answers ready and again all in perfect English. As cruel as this may sound, giving them anything is not helping them. Although they can earn more in a day from tourists than the average Cambodian earns in a month, what are they going to do when they get older, less cute and haven’t been to school to get an education as it was more fun begging? To ease our conscience we found an information centre called Concert which provides addresses of organisations and orphanages taking care of street children to which we could donate.  

Enough text, want to see a few pictures?

Petrol station for tuk-tuk drivers

Cambodian New Year decorations

At one point we moved hotels twice in one day (long story) and ended up in Les Terrasses des Elephants, named after The Elephant Terrace in the Angkor Temple complex. Our ”bathroom” was a lily pond with a replica of a Bayon statue in the middle and a platform at either end supporting the shower and sink. Full points for originality, less points for practicality.

Angkor Temples

The main point of coming to Siem Reap was to visit the Angkor Wat Temple. There are numerous other temples and ruins in and around Siem Reap which are part of the Angkor complex so we bought a 3 day pass and did an extra day trip to fit in as many of them as possible. Getting our tuk-tuk driver to go where we wanted and when we wanted for the price we had agreed wasn’t always that easy. Despite his good English there always seemed to be some misunderstanding about something even though we showed him a list of what we wanted to look at and in which order. If anyone reading this plans on going there, leave yourself plenty of time for each temple and for driving between them  as it can take a while to go a few kilometres, and make sure the driver has no excuses for trying to charge more at the end of the day than originally agreed. If you agree to take one driver for several days they will normally give you a better deal. Also pick up the Siem Reap City Guide which provides useful information on all the temples e.g. best time of day for photography. The following pictures include: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Beantey Srei, Beantey Samre, Beng Melea, Pre Kahn, Roluos, Ta Keo and probably a few others whose names we didn’t write down.

Having my fortune told in Angkor Wat

.Just pick a fortune out of the book






 Nature takes over


One evening we bumped into Vinny and Paul who we’d first met in Ecuador back in October but had not kept in touch with. It turned out they had a similar route to us and just by coincidence our paths crossed again in Siem Reap – isn’t it a small world? Other than drinking copious amounts of cheap beer and wine with them, we drank our own body weight in water trying to stay hydrated in the unbearable heat and cooling off in the roof-top pool. When the heat got too much we retreated to the comfort of our air-conditioned room and watched a lot of telly. Here’s a taste of the equivalent of Cambodian Top Of The Pops:


After 9 scorching days it was time to leave Cambodia and head to Hong Kong via Bangkok. And yes, we had to pay 25 USD for a stamp to get out again....

Last Updated on Monday, 21 June 2010 14:05