Monday, 24 March 2014

Siem Reap (2nd time round)

After an emotional goodbye to those on Koh Rong, my destination was now Siem Reap, the place I started my adventure in Cambodia, and yes, the place I was nearly robbed on my first night out. I wasn't sure how to feel about going back here but I was very much exited to be visiting Angkor Wat, the largest religious site in the world. I took the boat from Koh Rong to Sihanoukville with the intention of getting the night bus from there, problem was though it was full so I had to stay one night in Sihanoukville to then catch the early bus in the morning. I went to The Dolphin Shack for some dinner and planned to get an early night in, what I actually ended up doing was spending almost the whole night on the toilet with what I can only put down to food poisoning. I had a brief bout of it on Koh Rong but thought it had passed so either it wasn't completely cleared or I'd picked up something else but it wasn't nice thats for sure. After very little sleep my alarm went off at 6.50AM and I immediately went to the bathroom to be sick, I had no idea how I would survive the long bus journey and almost decided to stay back till I was better, I decided though that I needed to go and pumped myself full of Imodium ready to catch my bus. The bus time quoted was 10 hours and normally you just add one or two hours to get a realistic time but the total journey was 14 hours with a change of bus in Phnom Penn, needless to say it was not so enjoyable but the good news is I did not need to use the vile toilet that was on the bus.

The first bus from Sihanoukville to Phenom Penn I took one of the three seats on the back row, to start with nobody was next to me but as I know full well in SE Asia these seats would soon be occupied by locals along the way. It turned out that the two available seats were used to fit three people but luckily two of them were kids so it wasn't too cramped, to take my mind of of things I ended up playing some games with them on my tablet. A few hours in one of the kids and his dad got off and I now had a lot more space to put my feet up, I managed to get some sleep but was woken to the sound of the other boy next to me heaving into a bag (presumably travel sick) it did not help my situation but I really did feel for him, I think he was only around 9 or 10, his parents were somewhere at the front and nobody came to his aid, I told him not to worry, offered him some water and told him he would be ok, he stopped for an hour or so while I drifted back off to sleep but then he set off again, luckily for both him and I we were nearly due to arrive in Phnom Penn. When we arrived it was time for a change of bus, and luckily I was pleased to see this one was a VIP bus and to my astonishment (the first time I have ever seen this) nobody was sat in the seat next to me for the entire ride so I was able to get very comfortable which made me feel a lot better. It was around 10PM when I arrived in Siem Reap, I got in a tuk tuk and headed to the guesthouse where Phillip my friend from Germany was staying, luckily he had also pre booked me a room so check in was quick and smooth. I went straight to bed in preparation for the visit to Angkor Wat the next morning.

After a decent nights sleep now that the bug that I had vanished I got up with a clear head ready to take on the extreme heat that visiting the temples of Angkor would bring. We arranged a tuk tuk via the guesthouse and we set off at 10AM deciding on just the one day pass. The day was specacular, through my travels in SE Asia I have visted a lot of temples and ruins but of course this topped them all by miles. We started with the most famous Angkor Wat site itself and worked our way round as much as we could see in the day, neededless to say the heat was extreme an with there being zero breeze this only added to the temprature but we battled through and throughly enjoyed it. Around 4PM we decided to head back to the guesthouse for an hour or so to shower and cool down and planned to return to watch the sunset, we were somehat dissapointed though because as soon as we got back to the guesthouse the whole sky clouded over making it impossible to view a sunset so we decided not to head back. Whilst we were on our way back to the guesthouse I witnessed something that instantly made me want to cry, we passed a childrens hospital which was split over two buldings across the road from each other, they have some barriers somewhat similar to those on a train track and as we approached they were being pulled down, I wondered what was going on and it was then that I saw three small kids being transported across the road hooked up to drips and blood bags, they were in a very bad way, they looked very malnourished and extremely sick, I'm not sure what was wrong with them but I think it may possibly have been dengue fever, on the way to Angkor Wat I noticed a big sign asking for blood donations due to a recent surge in people being infected. I would love so much to give blood but of course the idea of having a needle in my arm in Cambodia screams high risk to me, especially with the high prevelance of HIV in the country. The standard of health care in Cambodia is extremly low to non existent with a lot of doctors not even having proper training or education, it is a very sad situation and I truly pray that those children I saw and all the others young and old with health problems here find peace.

In the evening we headed to the 'Downtown Siem Reap Hostel" which is where a friend of mine I met in Ayutthaya had just started a job. The hostel is awesome, housing an outdoor swimming pool, a pool table and a nice chill out garden area, there's also a huge pull down projector screen on the side of the outdoor wall to watch movies. I spent my remaining three days in Siem Reap hanging out at this hostel and every night around midnight we would hit the Temple Club in Pub Street until the early hours, that place was always booming and we had some really great nights out there.

My time in Cambodia has now sadly come to an end, my visa is about to expire and I must leave and go back to Thailand, I am looking forward to seeing Fai and my other Thai friends but would have liked to have spent longer in Cambodia. Although my first experience was hellish the country really grew on me, I learnt a lot about the history and hardships the people had, and still have to face, and pray that times get better for these people. Cambodia is a country where 50% of its population are under 18 and it is great to see that their level of English is to a very high standard (much more so than Thailand), the children here are the future of the country and by them learning English it will ensure that they can secure themselves jobs in later life. There is certainly hope for Cambodia but its not going to be easy.

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