A Travellerspoint blog

February 2017

Prasat Preah Vihear

It was freezing when my moto driver brought me to the park office, 20 km away. He would wait for me until noon and then we'd go back home. I saw my missionary friends waiting for the rest of their group to arrive, so I asked if they were getting a truck up to the top. Most of them were making the 3,000 step pilgrimage on foot actually, so it was decided that I could share their truck with them, there would be plenty of room. This required a lot of waiting around, but I think it was better than going on my own.

Their amazed reactions to everything was more than enough entertainment for me. I walked up to the cliff on my own, but on my way down, I saw them coming up. We chummed around as they took those "inspiring" photos of each other, gazing off into the distance, everywhere.

They had a little picnic and I was happy they got me down by noon, so that Mr. Cham, my driver didn't have to wait.

I had an amazing fish lettuce wrap lunch and then spent the afternoon at a TV cafe catching up on my journal and using the wifi. I was propositioned for sex by a strange man who began showing me pornographic photos on his phone, until I started screaming NO NO NO NO NO at him. He left quietly.

Later I went back to my dreary guest house, took a nap and then crossed the street for some beers with a team of Coca Cola distributors. They seemed quite happy to push smaller Cambodian drink companies out of business to make way for "good quality" products such as Fanta, Dasani and the like. Hmm. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see a huge American conglomerate as inherently better than anything made in my own country by my nighbours. I guess that's what happens when your country is broken and you can't even trust your own people.

Anyway, the deep fried mushrooms were amazing dipped in mayonnaise and hot sauce, as well as the steamed fish cakes barbecued in banana leaves. But I got that weird rash on my throat again, so I vowed never to eat strange processed fish again. One day I might die.

Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear


Prasat Preah Vihear

Prasat Preah Vihear

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Why are there so many irritating old men in Asia?

The moto driver picked me up right on time, and I got in the van destined for Sra'Em, finally. They dropped me off in another dusty town where I was shoved into a car and my bag was strapped to the roof without my permission. I yelled and got it back down, then we sat four in the back seat, three in the trunk, and four more in the front. The driver actually shared his seat with a tiny elderly man in a floppy camo hat. Crazy.

We must've arrived at lunch time because there were a bunch of young missionaries milling about, on their break from teaching the alphabet to orphans. I talked to a few of them in the cafe to see if they were going to the temple tomorrow. They actually were, but of course I couldn't just hop in their van with them, although that would've been awesome. They also didn't know what time they were leaving in the morning. I went and found a cheap guest house and arranged a moto driver at the more expensive hotel next door. What a relief. I hate negotiating with those jerks.

As I was doing that, I saw the two Italian women who I met in Battambang. They had bought a motorcycle and were headed to Laos. I invited them to dinner at 7 and took a little nap in my crappy room.

What they didn't tell me was they were also eating with an extremely irritating older Dutch man (imagine that... an old man traveling around Asia is irritating!) with an extremely terrible perm (????!!!). He constantly complained about everything, including the bamboo train (!!!), which I went on with the Italians. They also enjoyed it but wouldn't say anything to him, I don't know why. There was also a bizarre argument about Lonely Planet, which he says is always wrong, and I agreed with him, and he pitied me for using it for basic information. There were some more strange discussions about the farmers markets in Canada. He said they are a racket and they are stealing money from people who are trying to support farmers! Um! I lived in many rural areas and can tell you honestly that all that money goes to supporting small farms and the families that work on them! It's just that the grocery store tomatoes are grown on insanely huge farms so no one can beat their economies of scale.

But no, this is all lies, according to my new friend. He spent a few weeks in Canada once and he knows. I was irritated, to say the least, and said goodbye to this terrible human being, sad that he ruined what could've been a nice dinner with my Italian friends.

Sra Em roundabout

Sra Em roundabout

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Happy pizza, oh dear

I woke up real early. Part of my high ticket price went to a tuk tuk driver who would bring me to the bus station. He never showed up. I waited an hour int he lobby, said goodbye to Helen and no one ever came. The front desk guy made a call, but by then it was too late. I'd have to change my ticket, but no one could tell me if it was even allowed. No one at the bus station seemed to even work there. I gave up and marched myself back to the ticket booking place. They changed it no problem, but they told me to make sure I didn't miss the bus tomorrow! Excuse me! Well! I was frustrated with this "service" and realized I would be bored the rest of the day. What to do? Oh maybe I'll eat a happy pizza and just sleep some more. Sure.

I chatted online while high and paranoid out of my mind. I closed the curtains around my bottom bunk and hid from imaginary Khmer Rouge agents looking for foreigners to interrogate and kill. I promise I don't have ANY secrets. I sure did fall asleep, just to make the THC wear off. My god. And then I woke up at 3 a.m. or something and was really super prepared to get out of there in the morning.

Bored? Why not eat happy pizza?

Bored? Why not eat happy pizza?

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Hitchhiking adventures

I woke up early, but it wasn't enough. I couldn't find this mysterious bus to Koh Ker. Someone finally attempted to help, but it was wrong. I ended up at a dusty market in the middle of nowhere. A young man told me to sit down and a bus would come in "20 minutes". Everything comes in 20 minutes doesn't it? I have learned that this is really code for "Any goddamn time, don't ask me, I have no idea".

So I sat there not particularly convinced. Soon an hour went by and I saw a European guy drive up on his scooter to buy a sandwich. I asked if I could hitch a ride with him, even though I had no idea where he was going. He said sure, and we ended up at Beng Meallea, a huge temple, crumbling and covered in the jungle. It was besieged by Chinese tourists, but I had a good time there, despite not reaching my destination.

Gustav, my Swedish driver, had an idea to go see a waterfall, so we stopped for lunch and asked the noodle woman how to get there. She pointed in the direction we planned to go and then pointed to her legs. We must walk, we can't ride our scooter, she said. I absolutely trusted her, but Gustav wanted to press on. I told him truthfully that it wouldn't bother me to hitchhike back to the city, and that he should continue on his own adventure without me. I think he thought I would be stuck and wait for him there, so he took off quickly. The joke was on him, because I found a ride back to Siem Reap in about 30 seconds.

A nice couple was driving there and leaving that same instant. I hopped in their big white truck, where they gave me fried bananas and we drove almost all the way back. We stopped outside the city at what seemed like a small fairground. There would be a party, they told me. I guess I wasn't invited, because they found an English speaking guy who said he would drive me the rest of the way. I was not feeling good about him, and all the other young men, who were suddenly circling around me, so I said no thank you and started walking.

The English speaking guy followed me on his motorbike, and he flagged down a car with a young family in it. I'd rather go with them, and they let me until we got to Angkor Wat. Of course, I no longer have a park pass, so I was kicked out of the car. They were allowed through without me. I don't think they wanted me in the car anyway. I gave them a dollar to apologize.

The park ranger said I had to get a moto taxi to take me back to town, but I literally only had a dollar left and it wouldn't be enough. Instead, I spent it on a coconut and tried to find another ride. I came upon a truck driver taking a pee. He let me get in his big truck and drive with him to Siem Reap, thank goodness. I headed straight for the Bank of China, but I also stumbled on a ticket booking place. I asked for a ticket to Sra Em, where my next destination would be. Prasat Preah Vihear, the temple that Thailand and Cambodia have been fighting over for a decade. Today, the area is peaceful. The war ended in 2011, when the UN decided the temple belonged to Cambodia. It seemed like the best way to end my trip, in such a controversial place. So, I booked the $17 ticket (an exorbitant amount!) and went to a nearby hostel to catch up on sleep again.

I met a nice Chinese lady named Helen and we had dinner before she had to go back to China.

Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea


Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking


Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Escaping the douchebaggery

It started to get light out, and everyone was asleep, so I decided to make my escape. Problem was, I could only find one of my shoes. I walked around for at least half an hour, before I found it, about 10 metres away. Did a dog take it and lose interest? Did some jerk just throw it into the grass when he was drunk? I'll never know, and I didn't care enough to find out. I put on my shoes and started walking. There was no way I'd be able to stand the two or three hour ride back to town with these idiots.

I just chose a direction and went, with no idea if it was the right way. Before long, a pack of angry dogs encircled me and I had to fend them off with my bag. I kept going, and there seemed to be no end to these angry canines everywhere. I was a little stumped. I started to walk back, defeated, when I saw a sweet little school girl on her scooter with her very young brother. i showed her bus stop in my dictionary and she took me right away. I gave her a dollar, which she tried to refuse, and hopped into the mini van, bound for Battambang. Finally. Ugh.

As soon as we arrived, I headed back to Siem Reap. This was the wrong idea, but it made sense at the time. I had breakfast at the same vegan place and then slept all the way to Siem Reap.

The bus driver told me to come back tomorrow when another bus would take me to Koh Ker. I was just relieved to be away from all those douchebags. I got a little hotel room and some takeout noodles with beer. I washed some clothes and had a good sleep. Everything seemed right with the world again.

Noodles on the porch

Noodles on the porch

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

"Camping trip"

The hostel also planned a camping trip, which didn't go so well. We waited around all morning for people to rent their bikes. Against my better judgment, I hopped on one with Ben, an 18 year old British guy. Oh lord.

I didn't find out how old he was until we were almost there. At which point, there was a big pile up on a gravel road and I found myself on the ground rolling around in the dust, dodging the next bikes in line. I wore all long sleeves, pants and shoes, so I was fine. The crash was in slow motion also. I t didn't make me very excited to go back with Ben the next day at all.

We went swimming near a small waterfall, and of course the boys needed to jump off the cliff, one after the other. Ben was the first of course. i just sat on the stones sipping cheap beer, marvelling at the way things stay the same, throughout the millennia.

There was some sort of dinner, but I couldn't finish it. Some jerks decided to shit talk feminists so I left and went to bed. I was only there for maybe a half hour when the same jerks came in my hut and tried to sleep there. I told them I wasn't sleeping in the same hut as them, and they said they were no matter what I said. They dropped their bags off and left a blanket. I stole it and fell asleep till they came back. It was the campsite owner's blanket, not his, so I didn't care. I didn't sleep at all after that, it was too cold.

Waterfall

Waterfall


Former gang member

Former gang member


Waterfall

Waterfall


Cows

Cows


Campsite

Campsite

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Really busy day around Battambang

Our hostel organized a tour leaving in the morning and coming back in time for dinner. The first stop was the bamboo train. All the ladies went on one car together. I was glad for that because earlier in the day, I heard our driver actually selling us. He told some prospective male tourists that there were "girls" in the car, so they should come with us and buy his tour. He was selling us as a part of his tour. Really cool guy, right? Bleh.

Anyway, the bamboo train was fun. It was a little car made from bamboo slats that the driver had to take apart and put back together if someone came from the other direction. The heaviest car had the right of way, so our car went really fast with four of us on it. It was like a little rollercoaster. Except with nothing remotely resembling safety equipment at all.

Before combustible engines, people would push themselves around with poles along the tracks, so it was interesting to experience. Our driver, Rith, said that they'll be closing it down soon to make a new railway.

Our next stop was an old temple, Phnom Banan. I met a Cambodian architect at the top, he told me all about the temple. He was building a new overpass on one of the highways so he was living in Battambang for a while.

We continued on to Banan winery, the only one in Cambodia, to try some awful wine and some really great ginger juice. Also, there was some brandy that was fine. The Italians hated it, but I guess I've gotten used to baijiu, so it was OK for me.

Next up, we had lunch at a little reservoir, where the water was warm and not very refreshing. They served me some instant noodles for $3 and we went on our way to a small suspension bridge and Phnom Sampeau, where there were some "killing caves" which I avoided, and beautiful views at the temple at the top.

The real draw though, was feeding time for the bats. They all came out of their cave in a long column, starting precisely at 6:17 p.m. I sipped on a fresh coconut as we watched the show. The smell of bat pee and poo was strong and unbearable after about 10 minutes, so we all went home.

Rith's van had bluetooth, so we listened to some Canadian songs from my iPod until we got back.

I went with my German friend Monika to the night market for dinner, but all I wanted was juice. I got myself some sugar cane juice and an avocado shake and I was happy.

Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan


Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan


Banan winery

Banan winery


Suspension bridge

Suspension bridge


Suspension bridge

Suspension bridge


Reservoir

Reservoir


Reservoir

Reservoir


Phnom Sampeau

Phnom Sampeau


Phnom Sampeau

Phnom Sampeau


Phnom Sampeau

Phnom Sampeau


Phnom Sampeau

Phnom Sampeau

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Wandering around town and the circus

I could hardly get out of bed, but I did anyway to find Mahe (Molly Ringwald). She had made a be-dreadlocked friend from Germany and we all ate breakfast for a few hours, not wanting to go out at all. Another German woman joined us and then we set out on an architecture tour with me in the lead because I was the only one with a map.

It looked like it would take an hour, but of course I pointed us in the wrong direction and we found nothing for an hour and a half. We eventually figured it out and went to gaze at the royal palace (which is never used because the king lives in Phnom Penh) before we got tired and sat on the river with a few beers. We listened to an annoying generator the whole time and talked about nothing.

Battambang really was my favourite place in Cambodia. I don't plan on coming back, but if I do, I will only go to Battambang, nowhere else.

When we were hungry, we had some vegetarian food, because the dreadlocked guy was vegan of course. We went back to our respective hostels and then got ready to see the Phare circus, a performing arts school for poor children. It was really nice and quite professional. I bought a cute painting of a boy riding a water buffalo that will most likely get smashed at some point in the next three weeks, I'm sure. The students also make the art for sale in the circus school's store, by the way.

Royal palace

Royal palace

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

The boat to Battambang (and pick up truck)

We woke up real early to go to the boat dock. 6:30 was too early. The woman who picked us up was way late, and then we waited some more for a minivan to take us from the collection point, to the dock. It was craycray.

When we finally left on the actual boat, it must've been 9 a.m. I said goodbye to Jo and then promptly fell asleep on the boat. It was supposed to be scenic, but I just thought it was smelly and dirty. Maybe it was because it was the dry season, who knows?

I snoozed until suddenly we hit the bottom of the river and couldn't go any further. We had to get out and get into some random pickup trucks. All the "young" people scrambled into the back and the driver pointed at me specifically an "old person" and made me get into the cab. Wow, do I really look that fragile? I don't care, I'll take the special treatment. I sat in the front of the truck with yet another knowitall awful old man from France. His girlfriend however, didn't say much, in French or otherwise. I had just about had it with him by the time we got to Battambang.

I found a hostel pretty quickly and my friend who looked like Molly Ringwald showed up at the same place. We ate lunch with another strange person from France and promised to meet for breakfast tomorrow. I went to bed early only to be woken up by some British douchebags at 5 a.m. because they had apparently just arrived and needed to discuss their plans for tomorrow in the dorm room. Ugh.

Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang


Pickup truck to Battambang

Pickup truck to Battambang


The laundromat family offered me dinner

The laundromat family offered me dinner

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

History day

We spent the better part of the day in teh Angkor Museum, learning about all the stuff we had just seen. I especially liked the stories they told to kids, such as this one:

Garuda's father (Garuda is an immortal bird man) had two wives, one was bad and the other one was good. The bad wife told the good wife to ask their husband which wife he thought was the most beautiful. Whoever lost the wager would have to do everything the more beautiful wife wanted. She would be a slave forever. The good wife was reluctant but took the bet anyway, hoping she coudl gain some power in this lopsided relationship.

The husband god of course, said the bad wife was more beautiful, because he was afraid of the repercussions from the bad wife, if he said she was ugly. So, even though he believed the young wife was prettier, he said that the bad wife was in fact, the most beautiful wife. So, the good wife was imprisoned as the bad wife's first order, and her son, Garuda, had to go rescue her. The end. What a bullshit story.

We looked at a lot of statues that were taken from the temples at Angkor and watched a lot of videos about ancient history in Cambodia. It was a lot to take in and our brains were soon full.

We tried to buy tickets to the circus and it was a little complicated, so we gave up. Instead, we stopped at a random place for spring rolls and amok. At night we went to the night market to buy some touristy stuff for Jo's friends.

At the museum

At the museum

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)