Sunday, October 14, 2007

3 Week Travelogue In Summary

The Concluding Episode - Cambodia

Yes, after 3hr boat ride & 2hrs of Really Bumpy bus ride, we finally reached Phnom Penh city (1hr later than scheduled). Checked into our really cool & hip guesthouse (Top Banana Guesthouse) & went for a quiet dinner & slept... The guesthouse is really cool, with a hip chill out area at the top floor, & the owners are really cool pple! They don't look like typical guesthouse owners, & i actually thot our pickup driver was just a driver! Turned out he's the owner. Yes, he's the owner, pickup driver, city tour driver, chillout buddy etc all rolled into one!

2nd day started our tour of Phnom Penh - Killing fields, Toul Sleng Museum, Royal Palace & Silver Palace.

It was an emotional journey visiting the Killing Fields & Toul Sleng Museum. Learning abt such atrocities & monstrous acts by the Khmer Regime - just undescribable feeling inside me. Of the 7 million Cambodians, 2mil were killed during the 5yr (1975-1959). It's just plain crazy to comprehend the rationale behind the massacre & the communist thinking.. To totally wipe out the whole country! Totally unforgivable!

Memorial Stupa @ Killing Fields

Thousands of skulls housed in the Stupa

Toul Sleng Museum

After a really depressing morning, we proceeded to some market shopping & palace sightseeing under the tortuous sorching sun.. Bloody hell HOT HOT HOT! Talking abt the palace...USD6.25 per entry to just see palaces (ok they are royal palaces) but that's just plain exorbitant! In addition, they impose a strict attire rule - No sleeveless, no shorts. Yes, anything above the knee = unacceptable, anything that does not flow over the shoulder line = unacceptable. And unfortch, I was at the mercy of such rule. Well it was bloody hot, I can't be wrapping myself in clothes! Ended up having to rent a sarong & t-shirt just for the visit. I look like a Malay...Evidence as below:

Me in the sarong. It was killing me under the heat!

Point to note - It rains at exactly 5pm in Phnom Penh every evening, at least for the rainy season. And we witnessed it happend 2 nights in a row. Torential rains at 5pm.

3rd day - 6hr Bus ride to Battambang

Phnom Penh - Well it's really very city like, not unlike Vietnam & things are not so cheap as what we would have expected. Comparable to Vietnam & some even more expensive! Water is an expensive expense in Cambodia compared to Vietnam... Food wise, expensive. Granted, we ate at cafes, but in Vietnam, food in cafes is not that much expensive. So misconception to think Cambodia = Cheap! Maybe cos it's such a touristy plc. ANyway PHnom penh really doesnt have much to offer. 1 day was sufficient for us, & i think for most pple too!

After a 6hr bus ride (that's s'posed to be just 4hrs), we reached Battambang. Yes, we have learnt not to trust any form of time estimation in these countries. You always have to add at least 1hr to the estimate. They are never on time! Once we reached the bus station, we were confronted by hordes & hordes of motor drivers, trying to sell their services & hotels they're affiliated to. Luckily we made arrangements with our hotel to pick us up, or else it would have been chaotic! Yes, this is a very impt travel tip, to arrange for transport (if it's free or if the price does not differ much from the normal way) so that u would not be swamped.

Battambang. Probably an unfamiliar name to most of us. It's a small (really small) town in Cambodia, somewhere between PP & Siem Reap. The town is so small that after 1hr of walking, we've seen the town. Nth much in the town itself. Very quiet town, not many bars in sight as well & the town sleeps pretty early! By 6pm, the night has fallen (yes, sun sets really early in Cambodia & vietnam as well) & the streets are sorta deserted. Luckily we have TV to keep us entertained at night with pretty great channels like HBO, star movies etc...

2nd day begins our tour of Battambang. We went to the Killing caves, Wat Banan (Pre-Angkorian temples), tour of villages & fruit farm (where we had fruits feast for USD1). Final stop a ride on the famed bamboo train! We had to pay USD2 each for a 15min ride on that thing, a great discount from USD5 per pax! Though it was still rather expensive, we went for it (well it's famed, so must try). It is faster than a train!! & it's quite interesting watching them dismantle the train when met with oncoming train to allow them to pass through. Videotaped them in action:

& the speed of the bamboo train - Really really fast i tell u!

Us with Ally, fellow backpacker on bamboo train

3rd day begins our 7hr boat ride along the Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap. Boat ride was great & interesting! Glad we chose this instead of bus (heard the roads are really terrible) but of cos, don't try this method during dry season, it could take whole day!

Floating houses along Tonle Sap Lake

Balancing loads of stuff on that miserable boat

Our boat met with an accident, bumped into an oncoming boat & caused pple to fall off the other boat. Drama drama! Spent some time at the water traffic police because of this. It was also interesting watching the locals on board the boat & how they literally bought the whole market back to their homes (floating houses)! Yes, they live on the lake & they really carried loads & loads of stuff from Battambang. Vegetables, tins of biscuits, styrofoam boxes (yes no idea y) etc...I s'pose it's the supply for the whole village for days or even weeks to come cos it's really far from the city (at least 4-5hrs by boat).

As usual, we arrived in Siem Reap 1hr later than the stipulated time, but hey at least it's not tat bad! We would have thought it was going to take much much longer! Argh...Siem Reap, the ultimate last stop of our trip! No more repacking & unpacking!

More on Siem Reap in the ultimate concluding episode....

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