In Other News...
One thing we definitely won't miss in Cambodia is the buses! They have definitely been the worst of the trip especially because of their bad time keeping. We were told our trip to the Thai border would take 2.5 hours and ended up taking just over 4. This included 2 stops totalling a combined 1.5 hours - no wonder we were so late! Despite their faults though, they have very informative signage to ensure women were kept safe on the bus (#notouchingboobies) or did they really? If you look closely at the sign next to it (the naked woman) it says 'no means yes'!
To follow up a day at the Cu Chi Tunnels and the war remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh we spent our first day in Phnom Penh learning about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. Fun, fun, fun!
Pol Pot was a dictator from the 1970s who set about trying to create a Communist peasant farming society through his political party, the Khmer Rouge. He set about purging what he perceived as class enemies - anyone who lived a capitalist life, typically within the city or under Western influence and forced all remaining citizens into the countryside to grow rice in the fields.
He declared the beginning of his rule as 'Year Zero' and all before would be eradicated.
ជំរាបសួរ - chomreabsuor
Visitors tend to fall in love with the people of this country. We found the youth to be so very friendly.
State of WCs:
6/10 - average for a developing country
34*c - 37*c
Eggs, KFC, Pizza ...food wasn't great here
No. Of bites:
Maryam 4 v 0 Andy
Architecture in Phmon Pehn is called Khmer Architecture, it's a mixture of modern architecture with Cambodian decoration
When visiting the Angkor temples, do the route backwards to avoid the crowds!
Elephants, monkeys and lizards at the temples, cute lil dogs in towns
They use US dollars as their currency so it is more expensive than the rest of SE Asia
Temples, NGOs, Khmer Rough
7 hours ahead of GMT
A country of beautiful beaches, historical architecture of the grandest proportion and a recent national atrocity, Cambodia certainly had a lot to offer.
If you've just read our Vietnam post then stay strong as Cambodia started just as depressingly as Vietnam ended. We promise the fun and games will return by the end of the post!
The Choeung Ek Killing Fields were the main extermination and mass burial grounds and the genocide museum was formally S-21 prison where 'prisoners' were held and tortured before being moved to Choeung Ek for execution once they had 'confessed' to their 'crime'. Amazingly, two survivors (there is estimated to only be a handful) of the prison return every day to talk to visitors about their experiences.
About 25% of Cambodia's population was lost during Pol Pot's short reign, either through execution or via starvation/disease/exhaustion from the inhumane working conditions they were subjected to.
The fact that all this happened as recently as the 1970s is crazy but, to make matters even worse, once Pol Pot was ousted, the British, along with a whole host of other Western countries refused to acknowledge the new government and continued to provide the Khmer Rouge with financial support and even gave them a seat within the UN!!! Words fail us.
After a pretty emotionally intense couple of days in Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh we needed a break - bring on the beach! There isn't much else to do in Sihanoukville than sun, swim and eat so it is basically the perfect place to chillax. Andy set about finally getting himself the tan 5 months of travelling deserves - and got burnt! Maryam on the other hand tried to stay out the sun yet still has gained some pretty bad tan lines!
Cue the Indiana Jones theme music! Dur d-dur durrrrrrr, dur, d-durrrrrrr! Exploring the Angkor temples really did feel like we were on an Indiana Jones adventure. One of us was Shortrun but we'll let you decide who...
The Royal Palace in the centre of the city is still used by the royal family for ceremonies and special events. The official throne is located here but funnily is only actually used for the King's coronation and then it is never allowed to be sat on again!
Being archigeeks (Andy really) we did the Phnom Penh architecture walking tour which is organised by local architects (we downloaded the map and walked it ourselves). Phnom Penh has a great mix of French colonial and modern 'Khmer' architecture and also a very reputable architecture school which was part of the tour. We dropped in on some students and got to speak to them about the course over here. They start with product design and progress to a chair, a window, a facade and to a complete building, studying for 5 years and then they are qualified architects. Interestingly there was also a degree for decoration and ornamentation.
Whilst at the beach we (Andy) also lost the key to our locker in the hotel. Ah well, nevermind, it only had every valuable item we own and our passports in there... Doh! We asked reception if they had a spare key... to be told that we weren't the first people to lose the key for locker 6 and so therefore we had actually lost the spare locker key! Epic fail. Good/bad news though, it is actually VERY easy to break into one of these lockers! All you need is a big ass knife and a minimum amount of leverage and you are in.
As you can see, the locker was very secure!
Next stop Thailand! Although we have been there twice on this trip but we will explain more in the next post...
The temples were lost for centuries within the jungle and were only rediscovered in 1860. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are the two main temples in the area due to size and importance and it's easy to see why. Angkor Wat is enormous and in great condition still and Angkor Thom is filled with giant carved heads of King Jayavarman VII who was the ruler at the time of its creation. Our ultimate favourite temple though was Ta Phrom which literally had the jungle grow on top of it so there are parts of walls/the temple that have a 20m+ tree atop with its roots crawling down! Super cool, besides Maryam loves a good ruin.
Needless to say, as fun as the temples were we were grateful for our cold hotel pool as the heat was truly unbearable from as early as 10:30am. Temple raiding in 36 degree sunshine is serious hard work whilst playing Indiana Tomb Raiders!
We need to make another insurance claim as Maryam has lost her phone (the day before her birthday!). Sigh. We headed to the police station, submitted a complaint and were told to come back in 48 hours to pick up the form. Back we went and the cheeky buggers asked us for a donation for their 'hard work' in getting the form signed for us! We duly declined but, would love to have known what they would have wanted if they had actually found Maryam's phone! We also got blessed by a Nun who gave us good luck and a long life... about an hour after Maryam lost the phone! #toolittletoolate although Maryam did manage to recover all her photos so maybe it wasn't! She had a great sense of humour too, anyone who didn't want to get blessed, she would shout at them, "No luck for you!"
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Maryam, happy birthday to youuuuuu! There would be no temples on this day, we needed to chill out a bit! We met Kim (yes, Kim again - that's 3 countries now!) for cake and tea, ate Korean style Nandos, had a couple of massages and a swim before finishing it off with pizza and Italian music (we're still in Cambodia by the way)! Maryam really enjoyed her massages and found them very relaxing. Someone found the massage relaxing in Andy's room but it wasn't Andy... the masseuse fell asleep half way through! #awkwardturtle
Comic featuring Indiana Beggs and the Tomb Raiders!!
Whilst in Siem Reap we volunteered at the Cambodian Children's House of Peace (CCHP) which is an NGO set up to take children from poor families and provide them with housing, food and care and give them the platform to go to school and learn English. We were tasked with teaching the children English, as well as Andy playing football with the boys and Maryam playing singing games with the girls. Their favourite song went like this... 'Eat banana, eat, eat banana, see banana, see, see banana...' The best bit of it was the fact that they pronounced banana as the minions do!!