snail trail’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 02 Mar 2006

Location: Cambodia

MapThe 13 hour train was actually very enjoyable with stunning scenery on the way, it only went belly up when we arrived in bangkok to argue with taxi and tuk tuk drivers who wanted to rip us off, so caught the metro to the hotel and then walked the wrong to the hotel hot & shattered and late. Only in bed for 20 mins before being woken by rats banging against the air conditioning irate phone call later, we moved rooms, first being offered the room next door as if!!!!!!!
Anyway, now in Cambodia, spent three days at Siem Reap first, trecking around the many temples - built between 9th and 14th centuries....all by hand. They are truly amazing - photos can't do them justice - just sprawling, some in ruins, some with beautidful carvings still could spend weeks wandering around them and still not see everything. Some are being restored, others are being taken over by nature - beautiful tree roots growing around the stone , like scenes from Narnia!
Traffic rules here are by far the most amusing we have theory traffic drives on the right, but nobody stops at junctions, roundabouts etc....basically the rule seems to be (if there even is one) biggest vehicle goes first - so if you want to turn left through the opposing traffic, you just do it, and they all move around you can imagine, crossing the road is a real feat! if there isnt a traffic lane for your bike, you just make a new one, even if its not wide enough for you!
Now in Pnhom Penh and we have been to the El Chouek Memorial (killing fields)...up to three million people killed in whole country, many of them here, buried in mass graves in the late 1970's..they have exhumed some of these graves and they have a huge memorial to those killed...just impossible to contemplate...we also went to S21 prison (which used to be a high school) which was the administrative centre and torture area for those captured locally before they were sent to the killing fields..this place is absolutely horrific to describe....they have photographs of all the people kept here in cells, with their legs chained..and the images of torture are impossible to forget..cant really explain....
On a positive note, we have luckily managed to spend time at a school in Siem Reap and an orphanage here in Phnom Penh, which has been really moving. we are wishing we had more time, and had thought to be a more selfless and spent more time volunteering at one of these places, helping with English or something. The children are so happy to spend time with you, and they are so keen to engaging..a really beautiful many orphans here in Cambodia, and the poverty in Pnhom Penh is so tangible...street children come up to you regularly to beg or sell goods..its so hard to descirbe the way that we are feeling right now....kind of helpless and a bit self centred maybe.... this is one of those places that makes you think a lot about your life and how lucky we are and how unfair that now seems.......yet we are constanly amazed by how happy many people are, and how far they have developed already considering the Khmer Rouge was only 30 years or so ago.. its amazing.
Anyway, on a lighter note, we cross the border to Vietnam tomorrow where we are going on a homestay in the Mekong Delta so likely to be out of touch for a few days....looking forwards to catching up with everyone in April.