Tuesday (November 1) – Travel day. We have two short flights which comprise most of the day. First flight is roughly an hour from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. In Bangkok, we have a long layover and treat ourselves to McDonalds (Chicken Nuggets with Plumb Sauce). Our next flight is one hour from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrive to Cambodia late at night, check into our hotel and prepare for our first full day in Cambodia.
Wednesday – We seek out a great breakfast/brunch place in the morning (Sister Srey). Here we find great food, music and hospitality. After eating we head over to the Artisans of Angkor. Here there are craftsmen/women shaping wood, stone, painting and various other art medium. The art here is impressive, but we were not compelled to buy anything (considering our tight luggage situation). From here, we head over to the Angkor Museum via Tuk Tuk. This is our crash course into the Khmer civilization starting in the 10th century. We appreciated this crash course lesson before our big day of temples tomorrow. After this museum we head back to the Angkor Artisans for an afternoon trip to their silk factory. Here we are amazed with the complicated process of harvesting, cleaning, preparing and looming silk. Now we understand why it is so expensive! After this tour we headed ver to Pub Steeet to enjoy watching the nightlife with some food and drinks.
Thursday – This is our big day in Angkor. We wake up before the crack of dawn (4am) and meet up with our Tuk Tuk drive for the day (Juan – we think). He will be our driver for the entire day and will take us to the following locations:
Angkor Wat – For Sunrise
Terrace of the Elephants
Terrace of the Leper King
Neal Pena Temple
Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple)
After all this touring around, we say goodbye to our great driver, muster up the energy to book our bus trip out of the city tomorrow, get some much needed coffee and then off to a nice dinner (another Gordon Ramsey recommendation).
Friday – Back to Sister Srey for another amazing breakfast and then pack up our bags and head to the bus depot. Now we have our first opportunity to commute by bus. We have a 6 hour ride from Siem Reap to the capitol city Phnom Penh. Get to the capitol city late and check into our very nice hotel. We enjoy the evening at the rooftop pool and had some small appetizers before bed.
Saturday – Trouble. Something should not have been eaten. We typically have used the first day in each city to do a lot of sightseeing and to get accustomed to commuting around, however we are feeling repercussions from eating something they day before. We struggle to get out, but manage to make it to the Tuol Sleng Museum (S-21). This museum now, was once a school that got overtaken by the Khmer Rouge and was the site of their prison/interrogation camp. After the museum, we walk around sluggishly in the frenetic downtown atmosphere and back to the hotel for the night. We extend our hotel stay for three nights total and book our bus trip to Sihanoukville.
Sunday – More trouble. Rain and overcast skies forecasted for the whole SE Asia region in the foreseeable future. We are faced with the hard decision to cancel our much anticipated trip to Sihanoukville, or to proceed despite the weather. After much debate, we decide to cancel the bus and book our flights to Bangkok and Australia two days thereafter. It’s pouring rain outside, so we get some pancho’s and get after it. We have a route prepared through the city that we would like to follow, however the Tuk Tuk driver did not understand very well so we just had him drop us off at a restaurant. We decided to walk the rest of the day. First on our list is a tour of the Royal Palace. From here we walk to the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument, Statue of King Norodom Sihanouk and the Independence Monument. Our walking tour is wrapped up with a visit to Mere Cafe, a refreshing stop after being rained on all day. The remainder of the night is spent catching up on current events and eating some ramen purchased at a mini-mart :(.
Monday – Grab breakfast at cafe Tous Les Jours. Head back to the hotel and catch a 30 minute taxi to the International Airport. Now we are waiting for our flight to Bangkok….
Phnom Penh, we have a problem. For this entire trip we have had a set itinerary in which we were always go-go-go from destination to destination. This set schedule had our course charted all the way to Siem Reap, Cambodia after visits in Vietnam and Thailand. From Siem Reap, we were going to take our time, relax and see where nature takes us from there (keeping in mind that our ultimate destination was a desired week at the beaches of south Cambodia to commit and relax). Beyond Siem Reap, we made it to Phnom Penh and trouble ensues. First we are slowed down by some bad food, but more importantly, terrible weather is forecasted during our intended beach time. What fun is spending time at the beach when there is nothing but overcast weather and rain? We both came to the heartbreaking decision that it did not make sense to make it to the beach for bad weather and so we will cut our stay here in Cambodia short. We have successfully been on the run for three weeks, a week shy of our intended duration, and if the opportunity presents itself, we will come back to capture this last leg of the trip. Moving forward we will spend two nights in Bangkok and then to Australia. Ultimately it feels like we have unfinished business here.
Enough of our troubles. We have learned a lot in this country and the troubles the people of Cambodia have faced in the past. You don’t have to look far back in their history to see one of the biggest genocides known to man. 1979 is the year the Khmer Rouge was overthrown by a Vietnamese invasion to free the Cambodian people of the torture and mass executions they were facing. That’s only 37 years ago! An estimated 3 million people were murdered from 1975 to 1979 which comprised of 33% of their population. In addition to this unimaginable amount of people murdered, any person of intellect was murdered as they were a supposed enemy. Just try to imagine what that does to ongoing generations. When I try to wrap my head around such devastation, it’s also hard to understand how they have overcome such atrocities and still maintain a bustling and growing city. As we walk around Phnom Penh, we see high rises being built throughout the city (I counted roughly 50 tower cranes along the skyline), jamb packed markets, hip coffee shops, restaurants of every variety and endless amounts of bars. You can tell they are heavily leaning on the influx of tourism dollars, and their city infrastructure definitely needs to keep pace with everything else rapidly expanding. But despite some of these inconveniences, the people of Cambodia have rebounded from this dark time in human history and are surging into the future.
Election Day. I guess it worth saying that everybody outside of the United States thinks we are all crazy. Our election is headline news for what seems to be everybody around the world. Any conversation we have abruptly steers towards the election and how we are voting for two of the most unpopular candidates of all time. Its hard for us to defend our electoral process and we are both limited to just shrugging our shoulders. However its fascinating to hear everybody’s perspective of the election and how each candidate is viewed on a global level.
Ughhhh I REALLY hate technology! I had written a really great blog for this post *the best one yet, so funny* and it just magically disappear (I have been using OneNote). So naturally I reached out to Microsoft for assistance and they informed me that because I was using the free app they couldn’t help me. But if I was using a corporate account they could. So that’s cool of Microsoft. I am SO over tech companies thinking they are so cool because tech is cool these days and big corporate companies who are so money hungry they dont care about their consumers! So now that it has been a week since I was in Cambodia and I am extremely cranky you are going to get a very half ass post *I am sorry but know the first one was great* So Cambodia: Siem Reap is great, I highly recommend visiting. I really enjoyed visiting the silk farm and seeing how silk products are made from the moths matting to the hand weaving of items. Angkor is great, my favorite temple was Ta Prohm *like most others* but be prepared for a lot of physical work to see the temples. The staircases are no joke and pick a Tuk Tuk driver you really like because it is a 12 hour day spent together. I got REALLY sick in Phnom Penh and shit my pants *thank the heavens above that our hotel in PP was the nicest, cleanest hotel we had seen in all of Southeast Asia* At first I was REALLY sad and embarrassed about it but once Eric found me crying in the shower he comforted me by admitting he shit his pants when we were in Mexico the morning after he proposed *he got the Mexican bug and got really sick there* This made me feel better and fall even more in love with this crazy man. So in Cambodia we laughed a lot, learned new things, climbed steep staircases and took our comfort level up a notch.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” -Anthony Bourdain