Oct 4, 2010

Cambodia for *Chuseok*

Months of planning and waiting in anticipation finally came to an end on the 17th September, when four very excited South Africans (Claire Keet, Jono Hatting, Farmboy and myself) headed for the far corners of Cambodia for Chuseok. Luckily for us, all of our schools had given us the Friday off, as well the National Public Holidays from Tuesday 21st - Thursday 23rd September, so all that had to be done was arrange to take Monday the 17th off, and then we were 'A for Away'!

Our flight left Korean soil at 6:30 pm on the Friday, to arrive in Phnom Penh at 9:30 that same evening. It was a 5 hour flight, pretty easy going with a very interesting choice of supper (spicy chicken curry or seafood...seeing as I really struggle with spicy food and am not a big fan of seafood, I had to make do with 4 bread rolls and butter...yum!). We got to our first nights accommodation by Tuk Tuk (the first of many), and were blown away by the sights and smells, not all good, of the Capital city. After a slightly rough night of sleep disturbed by the glue sniffer outside our bedroom window, we awoke refreshed and in much better moods...ready to take on Siem Riep and the Angkor Wat Temples. We caught a bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Riep (booked for by our Guest House which cost $11 each...standard procedure for most/all guest houses), and so began the 5 hour journey.

We arrived in Siem Riep just after lunch, only to be accosted by a hoard of Tuk Tuk drivers. So we picked out the most friendly face, (meet Tom, our wonderful and extremely funny Tour Guide!) and then set off in search of a place to stay. We were rather nervous to just 'pitch up; and find accommodation with a  Tuk Tuk driver, as we had heard of many scams where you are taken to a relative/friend etc. of the driver who then receives kickbacks for brining in guests, but Tom was great. He took us to a whole lot of places, and then we just chose which one  included breakfast and looked the cleanest! Easy! Then off to Old Market to get our haggle on (bartering hehe).

The next day we headed to the Temples, and we hired Tom as our guide. We paid him $25 (for the 4 of us) to take us out for the whole day, during which we saw 4 Temples; Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm. Banteay Srei was the smallest, but the most well preserved about an hour away from the main Angkor Wat. 

Back on the Tuk Tuk to Angkor Thom...

And last but not least....I now present to you, Angkor Wat!!

Unfortunately, there was huge reconstruction going on, so most of the pics had huge ugly scaffolding in them, so here are a few without :)

That night we caught the overnight bus from Siem Riep arriving in Sihnoukville at 06:00 (which stops in Phnom Penh after 5 hours) and took about 10 hours in total, and cost us each $16. 

It was the cheapest way to get to Sihnoukville and also provided us with accommodation for the night. It was pretty comfortable, as there are beds, and you are provided with water and a blanket. The only downside, the toilet..although I'm not sure what was on that bus could have been called a 'toilet'. It was so small, and so filthy, you had to squat with your feet on the toilet seat and hang onto the roof to keep your balance as the bus roared along. Well, it was an experience, and we all arrived in safely and in one piece at Sihnoukville.
As soon as we stepped foot we were again accosted by Tuk Tuk and Taxi drivers offering to take us to ALL sorts of places! Eventually we settled with Pat, who old us that when foreigner step off a bus, each Tuk Tuk/Taxi driver gets a group to drive around, and if you don't go with that driver, no one else will help you. Sounded like nonsense, but it did seem to be what was happening. 

And the stories about Tuk Tuk drivers getting kickbacks for bringing in foreigners, was exactly what happened in Sihnoukville when we arrived looking for a boat to take us to Bamboo Island. 'Pat" took us to his aunty's sisters, brothers, grannies dogs house, where we were totally ripped off for a one way trip to Bamboo Island on a private boat, It cost us $40 in total for the hour long trip, which ended up being for nothing, as Bamboo Island was a far cry from the pictures and reviews we had read and seen. There are 2 sets of bungalow's on the Island, and the better ones were closed for the Rainy Season, and the ones that were open...well let's just say, they were HORRENDOUS! Litter all over the beach, filthy rooms. Not what we had signed on for when booking our trip to Cambodia.We refused to pay the boat driver to take us back to the mainland, and arrived feeling utterly depressed. So the boys went off in search of another place for us to spend the rest of our 5 days, after hearing rumours of a much more expensive Island, about 2 and a half hours away by boat.

The boys finally arrived back, sweating and panting from their 'hike' to a booking office, and with frowns upon their faces, as they relayed what had happened. Basically, this new Island, called Koh Rong Saloem was going to cost us $30 a bight for a bungalow (as opposed to $5 for the places on Bamboo) and they only had 1 room available, from the next day. We were not happy chappy's. But, it was the best we could do, and had to resign our selves to the fact that we could be forking out a lot more money for a place that may end up being just like Bamboo Island (shock horror!). But we decided it was better than staying at Bamboo, and headed off to find a place to eat lunch and a place to stay for the night, before catching our boat out to Koh Rong Saloem ("Lazy Beach") the next day.

We found a cheap motel, run by a very friendly Turkish guy, ($8 for a double room with a fan) and hired scooters ($5 for 24 hours) to head out exploring Sihnoukville, where we found a wonderful restaurant, right on the beach, where we stuffed our faces, in between cooling off in the sparkling clean and refreshing water, 1 m away from our loungers :) bliss!

The next day, we waited in anticipation for our the boat to take us to Lazy beach *Koh Rong Saloem*, and didn't have to wait long. Instead of writing out a whole load more for you to read, I'll let the pictures do the rest....

Apart from Claire and I getting atrociously sunburnt after our 5 hour snorkel round the cove, we had a truly magical time. The staff at Lazy Island are incredibly professional and friendly, the owners being 2 young Brits who came out here a few years ago. We can't speak more highly of this establishment, they island speaks for itself. There are about 12 bungalows, and they are usually fully booked throughout the year, apart from the rainy months of June and September.
For more information visit their website below:

We spent the rest of time there sipping on cocktails, nursing our sunburn, and getting fat while stuffing our faces with the most delicious food! We met such a fabulous couple from New Zealand, Gaby & Dave (we are coming to visit you guys!!!) Who were in the middle of their 9 month trip round Asia. They most definitely passed their travel bug onto the rest of us! We wish them a safe and happy journey as they head for  to  India for 3 months!!!

 We then said a very sad goodbye, before headed back to Sihnoukville, onto another 5 hour bus  to Phnom Penh and onto our plan back to Incheon, Seoul.

Cambodia, we will be back.

*If you have any questions about our trip feel free to drop us a line: farmboyandcitygirl@gmail.com*