Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Adventure to Asia: Cambodia Pt. 2

Saturday, July 26: Phonm Penh

We took a bus from Siem Reap to Phonm Penh. I was kind of nervous because I heard bad stories about the roads. The guy in charge of our hostel told us that he just went to Phonm Penh and he saw some guys head run over on the side of the road. Luckily, it wasn't that bad. When we arrived in Phonm Penh we were immediately bombarded by tuk tuk drivers. We were told they were a scam, so we just decided to walk to our hostel. I figured out the route using Google maps, and it wasn't too bad of a walk. Our hostel was only about 5 streets over.

After settling in we decided to go to eat. Phonm Penh, and all of Cambodia, is REALLY dirty. There are piles of garbage every where. It's also really hard to walk down the street because the sidewalks are all taken up by anything you can think of so you have to walk in the street, but there are also so many cars and motorcycles. I'm surprised we didn't die. We ate a place called Chat N Chew. We both tried fish amok (which is a must to try when you go to Cambodia) and we finally tried the Angkor beer.

That night we went to a night market with two girls in our hostel room. One girl was from Holland and the other was from Canada. The night market wasn't that great, not like the ones we went to in Chiang Mai and Siem Reap. It was mostly just fake clothing. Then we went back to our hostel and turned in for the night.

Sunday, July 27: Phonm Penh

The next morning Jillian and I took a tuk tuk to the S-21 museum. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge they turned this school in the city into a prison where the tortured and killed those who were against their regime or not ethnically pure and their children. It was sad walking through the grounds.
After walking through the S21 museum we rode to Killing Fields where they took people from the prison and killed them in mass graves. The Killing Fields were much further away, about an hour, and the road was so bad I thought I was going to fall out of the tuk tuk. I didn't take any pictures at the Killing Fields because it just didn't feel right. You are given a head set and then you follow a map around the ground. You could still see bones, teeth, and fabric from clothing in the grounds. You could also see the mass graves, although they removed most of the bodies and buried them somewhere else.

We were hungry after walking through the Killing Fields so our tuk tuk driver showed us this little restaurant to eat at. We then drove back to Phonm Pehn and walked through the Russian market. Since it was pretty much the same things over and over again we didn't spend much time. We went back to our hostel and hung out with some of the people in our room. Later on Jillian, our roommate, Pagie, and I headed to a restaurant called Empire. It's also a movie theater, but we didn't go see a movie. I ended up getting fish and chips because I was craving potatoes and I was tired of eating rice. Then Jillian and I went to a bar and spent some time then headed back for the night.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Adventure to Asia: Cambodia Pt.1

Thursday, July 24: Aranyaprathet and Siem Reap, Cambodia

After traveling for some hours we finally got to the boarder of Thailand and Cambodia. We were all on high alert because we knew they were going to try to scam us. We used this site and this site to help guide us. Once we got off the train we took tuk tuks to the border, and wouldn't you believe they tried to take us to the fake Cambodian Consulate. When we told our driver we wanted to go to the real one he made us get out right there, not that it was a far walk. It was literally right in front of us and took us about 50 steps. We finally got our whole group, and we went into the real consulate, which in itself was really complicated to figure out. We had to split up again to go through border control, and I almost thought I lost my sister and freaked out a bit, but it turned out she just went ahead because there were signs that said you weren't allowed to stand and wait.

I don't know if it was lack of sleep or just not being in a country where I know I can feel safe, but right from the start I didn't like Cambodia. There were so many little kids begging and roads weren't paved. I sound like a total rich brat, I know. Then the money situation really got me. They use both American dollars and Cambodian Riel, but they prefer American dollars, but it was so confusing trying to figure out what to get. It's convenient that they take American money, but things are also more expensive because most things start at $1 and if you know the value of the dollar back in the states you feel like you are being ripped off. My sister ended up getting Riel and I had dollars, and I decided I'd go to the ATM if I needed more. Then we all got a van with some other travelers and took a 2-3 hour drive to Siem Reap.

When we finally got to Siem Reap the van dropped us off where there were some tuk tuks. They had told us that our tuk tuk rides would be free when we first got in the van, but it turns out they were only free if you paid for a driver to take you around Angkor Wat. My sister and I refused and we said we were going to start walking and eventually he settled on 10,000 riel ($0.25). When we got to our hostel we showered, finally, then just relaxed and booked our tuk tuk ride for the next day. I ended up going to sleep so early because I hadn't slept in over 24 hours.

Friday, July 25: Siem Reap, Cambodia

We left around 10:15 to go to Angkor Wat which wasn't too far from our hostel, only about 10 minutes. I didn't know this before but Angkor Wat is actually a large area with a lot of temples, Angkor Wat being the largest of them. So, there are several tours you can choose from and we chose the one that took us to the most popular sites. At first we wanted to do a longer one to see it all, but honestly it drains you just going to see three. It was so hot and you can't wait shorts because it's a temple and the ground isn't even so you struggle with every step.... or maybe I'm just that out of shape.

I have so many pictures from Angkor Wat. I kind of just skimmed through and picked some, but I know I'm leaving so many out. When we got there there were so many beggars and children trying to sell stuff to us. One girl kept insisting we buy post cards from her. I said "maybe" just to get her off our backs and by the time we got out she remembered me and pretty much told me I was a horrible person. Oh well.

After we walked through Angkor Wat we found our tuk tuk driver and he took us to Tom Wat. Tom Wat is smaller but there are a lot more temples in the area so he dropped us off and we walked around. 
The last temple we visited was Ta Prohm Temple, which is better known as the "Tomb Raider" temple because it's the temple they used in the film. One thing I liked about this temple was that they were restoring it. They had pictures of what it looked like before and much of the temple was just piles of rock.
It took us a while to find our tuk tuk driver because we ended up going out the wrong entrance, and then he was sleeping so we didn't recognize him. When we got back to our hostel we showered because it's really dusty and we were sweaty from walking. For dinner we went to a restaurant called Marum, which trains street children to work in the restaurant business. It was mostly appetizers but also half priced drinks so we both got an orange julius type drink but with mango.

After dinner we walked to the other end of Siem Reap where the Old Market and Pub Street were. We went to a coffee shop called Joe 2 Go, which also helped people, but I don't know if it was street children or former prostitutes. There, we both ordered Thai teas (because we are obsessed) and I got a cookie. We walked around the market and bought some souvenirs. I needed money so we stopped at an ATM which gave me a $100 bill. I was so mad because many places don't even take $100 bills in America, but luckily it worked out. We really wanted to try Angkor beer so we ended the night at a bar which actually didn't even have Angkor beer. We got drinks anyways and then walked back to our hostel where we stayed the rest of the night.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Adventure to Asia: Thailand Pt. 5

Thursday, July 24: Bangkok, Thailand

Not much happened on the way to the airport, and the ride to Bangkok was really short. We took a taxi to the train station where we would wait overnight. The train station was locked, and there were a lot of people sleeping outside the station. We went up to a security guard to ask where we were supposed to go and he was really excited to help us out and brought us to a spot near some plants. I had already planned on staying up, so I got out my journal and told Jillian I'd watch our stuff. While we were sitting there we kept hearing something and looked behind us and there were rats and mice! They were actually running over people and tried stealing the tarp from the guy next to us. Let's just say we moved from that spot.

The security guard comes back over with a father and son and says, "They are going to Cambodia too!" We smiled, but just continued doing what we were doing. Jillian and I told the security guard we were from California because in Jillian's experience it's just easier since most people know where California is. Around 2 am the security guard comes back over with a man and says, "He's from California too!" He started talking to us, and we learned his name was Andrew and he currently lived in Poland. It turned out the father and son were also from Poland. The five of us just stuck together and decided we'd try to get to Cambodia together. There are a lot of scams at the border, and we were all aware of them, but decided it would be easier as a group to get through and watch out for each other.

At some point I walked to the 7/11 to get some food and water for the journey. When it was time we all bought our train tickets. It was less than a dollar for the third class ticket! We waited inside and the security guard comes back and yells "USA! USA!" while pointing to this young black guy behind us. He ended up joining our group too. Around 5am we boarded the train and took up a lot of the last car.

Before the train left the guards tried giving us a hard time. They were trying to get us to move to a different car, but we refused. The Polish father and son almost got up and left but we convinced them to stay because the guards weren't actually going to do anything to us. They wouldn't dare do anything to traveling foreigners, the guards just wanted to be jerks. I ended up talking to Andrew and the black guy (I feel terrible that I don't remember his name) for most of the trip. The scenery was beautiful and definitely worth getting no sleep over.
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