Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Day 350 - Siem Reap

Siem Reap, literally translated means "Siam Defeated", so I suspect diplomacy in Cambodia in the past left a little to be desired.

Well my original plan was to cycle from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap in 2 days, that meant 168k and 147k, but when I got up in the morning I thought "Sod it! I can't be bothered", so I just had a short day of 80k to Skun. The problem with that was it was 80k of retracing my route into PP, and I didn't enjoy it the first time. Actually heading out wasn't as bad as heading in as you start of fresh and the traffic gets lighter as you go along, though I still struggled to get excited about any of it. For some strange reason there were a number of motorbikes towing trailers stacked high with cane furniture (photo), I am sure a puff of wind would have spelt disaster for them. Still, at least I had a choice of guest houses on arrival, though I steered clear of the one with a big building at the back that housed lots of little karioke rooms. I suppose I could have joined in, that would have emptied the place. I arrived in the calm sunny weather, but it soon became overcast and the wind really picked up, and what's more it would have been a tail wind, typical. I bought some mangos before I arrived, they are delicious and dirt cheap and a real treat on arrival. For some reason I started to belch the taste of rotten eggs again, I feared the worst.

The following morning I was still belching rotten eggs and as expected I had the trots. This time I have no idea as to the cause, I certainly hadn't eaten any moldy cake. I really didn't want to hang around in this little town of no interest, so I popped a couple of immodium and hoped for the best. It did the trick. The ride to Kampong Thom was much more enjoyable as I wasn't leaving a big city and I was on new territiry. The countryside is never exciting, always very flat, but there were roadside houses most of the way to keep the interest levels up, but would have been a major problem if the trots had continued. I stopped for a juice and took a photo of a wonderful old lady with her baggage on her head (photo), though for some reason when I went to pay they charged me for her drink too, telling me she was a bit scatty and had left without paying, I declined the offer. I am sure if I were to start to leave without paying that they might just remind me.

Today I was still left with 147k to Siem Reap as I suspected there would be no guest houses elsewhere, still I would rather have a long ride than camp in a country were there are still an estimated 4-6 million landmines to be cleared. I didn't want to assist by clearing one for them. The whole way from Phnom Penh was very flat, that normally means wind and true to form I had a head wind in the afternoon. The last couple of days I have seen no end of pigs being transported on motorbikes, mainly groups of piglets in wicker cages, but also fully grown beasts strapped unceremoniously unside down to the back of a bike. I also passed about 5 weddings today, at least I assume that is what they were. The very loud distorted music gave me ample warning of what was ahead. So I arrived in Siem Reap and it has to be one of the easiest places in the world to find a room, there are probably hundreds of guest houses and hotels due to its famous attraction of Angkor Wat just a few kilometres to the north and the whole area scattered with hundreds of other temples. I plan to buy a 3 day tickets, I think that will be enough to get "templed out".

Despite my bad times and experiences in Myanmar is still saddens and distresses me to see a country I have so recently visited, hit in such devasting fashion by a cyclone. Knowing just how flimsy the houses are that most people live in, it comes as no surprise that the death toll has been so high. It doesn't come as a surprise either that internal and external aid will be such a problem in a country where the infrastructure is shaky at the best of times. There are some wonderful people there and my heart goes out to them, especially the family I stayed with. I hope they can recover from this quickly.


Tony said...

Several more of my family (including the New Zealanders who arrived here last week via Cambodia) are noticing the high quality of your Blog!

David & Lindsey said...

Hi John, we are off to Kephalonia for 2 weeks tomorrow - very boring compared to your travels! We have really enjoyed reading your blog and looking at the amazing photos -The ones in Thailand and Laos and Cambodia have brought back a lot of memories - Is it really nearly a year ago that we were having a pint of Hooky with you at The White Horse in Stonesfield? Where does the time go? In North Thailand we also visited the 'white' temple, it was a bit OTT but very different to any other one that we saw. Whilst we were there the architect paid a visit and was mobbed by the locals!
We would love to go back and explore Laos properly - The Thai's said it was how Thailand used to be. The only part of Cambodia we saw was Siem Reap which was a bizzare mixture of very expensive hotels and the poor locals - we saw several without limbs due to landmines - however Ankor Wat is well worth a visit - some good photo opportunities amongst the old ruins - hopefully it won't be too busy - We also took a boat out onto the Lake (Tonlé Sap) and saw the floating village - well worth seeing if you can. Well congratulations on cycling for one whole year - quite an achievement!
Best wishes David & Lindsey