22 March 2008

Capitivating Cambodia

Oh, where to start? Just a mere couple days ago I was in Bangkok finishing my last week at Sarasas, and now I am temple-hopping around Cambodia! Crazy world. The past couple days have absolutely flown by, which makes me realize I need to start blogging this trip across the border from the beginning. Let's begin at Poi Pet, a nice little Cambodian border town!

Like I said before, as soon as I crossed the border, one of the things that struck me the most was the poverty. Although Bangkok can be relatively affluent, I still saw a lot of poverty in Thailand - homeless mothers with their children on the street, disfigured men and women asking for money and many other images which I will not soon forget. In Cambodia however, poverty permeates society. It is everywhere and so widespread, I wasn't sure how to react to it at first. Here are loads of carts (who have been waiting hours) lined up to cross the border into Thailand and bring back much-needed supplies into Cambodia.

Once we passed through immigration, which was pretty painless, we found a nice little guesthouse where we dropped our bags. Then we walked around the town, which was rather small, and grabbed dinner at a nice sidewalk joint. Honestly, the three of us were pretty tired so we headed back after dinner for a good night's sleep.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the Happy Palace Casino (yes, I just said Happy Palace Casino) where there were tons of Chinese tourists gambling their yuan away. If it hadn't been for strict no photography rules, I definitely would have gotten a picture of that! Then, we hopped on some motorbikes through the dirt-filled, dusty roads (everywhere is super dusty in Cambodia) and enjoyed a nice ride with Richard through Poi Pet!

One day was definitely enough in Poi Pet, so on Friday morning we braved the treacherous road from Poi Pet to Siem Reap in order to see the great Angkor temples. The 3-hour car ride was not the greatest - the road between these two cities is still being paved so some stretches are nice and relaxing, while others is like riding the Excalibur at Valleyfair. Seriously bumpy! Since much of the road is still dirt, here is what you see out of the driver's seat for large portions of the ride.

During the trip, the landscape of Cambodia remained relatively unchanged. It was vast expanses of dry, arid land populated by sparse trees, plants and the occasional village every 45 minutes or so. However, it is the dry season right now (summer is really starting to heat up in this region!), and I am told the landscape is lush green during the rainy season, when this country is soaked with tons of rain. Regardless of the season, I could have spent all day staring out the window and taking in all the sights, especially the local villagers.

Upon arriving in Siem Reap - the gateway to the Angkor temples - we enjoyed a tuk-tuk ride into town (here is Shaun and I enjoying the ride), dropped our bags off once again and set about exploring this cute little place. Full of yummy restaurants serving Khmer food, massage parlors and much more, it is a great place to start off your journey to Angkor. So stay tuned to the blog tomorrow for the good stuff - more temples than you can possibly imagine!

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