Wow! I made it to Cambodia and what an experience! It’s now a week on and I’m in a new destination so I shall recall the events from the past week or so..
Where was I? Oh yes, I was on my way to see Flick and Frankie and the crew in Bangkok for more shenanigans and I couldn’t wait! My flight was delayed by almost 2hrs but finally touching down, I rushed to the nearest taxi and made it to the Bangkok Centre Hotel. I asked reception to call Flick so they all knew I had arrived…the receptionist past me the phone so I gave Flick one of my booming laughs down the receiver and she instantly knew it was me haha! Aww it was soo good to see the them..Flick, Frankie and Howie came down to meet me in the lobby and help me with my invisible man (my back pack haha!) After catching up in the room, we were ready to meet the rest of the crew for dinner and drinks in the city..Koh San Road to be precise, that’s where all the back packers and tourists go! We had so much fun that night, it was like a hill tribes reunion! In the morning, everyone parted ways but I stayed in the hotel that day for I was meeting my new group for my tour of Indochina!
So I’ve checked into my ‘official’ room (the night before was a sneak in and crash with the girls job lol!) and I’m waiting for my new roomie..wondering what she’ll be like and again, if she’ll like me. Danielle eventually arrived late afternoon. She seems really nice..I wasn’t too sure about her to start with but having roomed and warmed to her for a week, I know she’s cool..I also realise now that I’ve met Danielle for a reason, she’s shown me it’s ok to be yourself. So, we’re doing the ‘get to know’ within minutes of meeting each other..Danielle is slightly younger than me and is from Canada and is training to be a boxer! After about 10 minutes, Danielle asks if I’d like to go with her to the National Stadium as she’s looking to buy some new boxing gloves for some pals back home. The stadium is about a 40 minute walk from the hotel, so I thought, sure why not, I mean we had about 3hrs to kill before our welcome meeting anyways. So we’re adventuring Bangkok in search of the stadium..it’s 40 odd degrees and we cannot find this place. Hours passed like minutes and then eventually we had to resign to the fact we weren’t going to find the place no matter how close we were!
Back at the hotel, it’s 6pm and we’ve just met Albert, our new tour leader. First impressions, he seems a lot more reserved than Ken but I’m sure he’ll be fine once everyone’s been introduced etc.. The new group are all lovely..all 9 of us, a much smaller group than the Hill Tribes lot. Albert gives us a run through of our itinerary along with a ‘tough’ talk with regards to safety..the places we are going will be a lot poorer than Thailand so we were made aware of bag snatchers, muggers, the tricks they may use etc.. I’m actually sitting there selfishly thinking ‘Oh my god..I hope non of this happens to me!’ and I can tell everyone else is thinking the same as we’re all exchanging the odd nervous glance and bite of the bottom lip! But I’m sure we’ll all be fine if we each look after each other and stay together when venturing out.
Tuesday 23rd April
Tuesday morning and we’ve set off early to head for the Cambodian border. It takes us 4hrs to reach the point where we must hop off the bus and walk into border control to be stamped out of Thailand and officially into Cambodia! With formalities over, that’s it, we’re in Cambodian territory. We can’t believe the difference between Thailand and Cambodia..for one, the soil is red! But already we can see a comparison in their lifestyle along with the poverty that seemed evident in the most parts we drove through. This stunned me to begin with..staring through the finger smudged window of the bus, I could see wooden houses, some on stilts, that literally looked like they needed to be knocked down and rebuilt..and inside these stick houses, it looked like they had very little in the way of creature comforts. The bus would only allow me to see so much before it sped past almost leaving my rubber neck behind but from what I could see, all seemed so bare within.
A further 2hrs road trip brought us to our final stop, The Mekong B&B in Siem Reap. We get time to freshen up before we’re taken to our first point of call..New Hope Foundation.
We hired 3 tuk tuks and travelled over a pot-holled dirt road and slum to reach New Hope. To say I was overwhelmed just doesn’t cut it..the people in the slums all cheerfully shouted hello when we passed them and children would come running out waving and grinning as soon as they heard the tuk tuks coming..some would even chase us laughing and giggling as though it was a game to try and keep up! As soon as we got off we were showered with cuddles from the kids, they seemed so happy to see us and they were even eager to have their photos taken..the best bit was showing them the photo after, it was such a joy to see their little bewildered faces confused perhaps trying to work out how the camera worked haha!
We were then taken into New Hope. New Hope are amazing..in brief, they provide free healthcare and education to the locals who simply can’t afford these primal necessities. It was so touching to see all their hard work and how much they put into providing these services. We were lucky enough to catch 3 english classes going on upstairs in the school..so we were split into groups of 3 and allowed to ‘mingle’ with the students and help them with their english for around 20 minutes! I loved it! The students in our class were 15yrs old and my word, they were so good..some were fluent and a few rustier than others but I was so impressed!
New Hope then put on a yummy dinner for us all and answered any questions we had about their work.
I was emotionally drained when we got back to our hotel..how lucky I’ve been, how lucky I am..for the kids I saw today had next to nothing but they were / are so happy.
Today was a seriously early start for we were off to Angkor Wat for the famous sunrise photoshoot! So we’re all up and out by 5am and its pitch black. Wow, this is early haha. The coach reeked of bug repellent (as the mozzies are also getting up at this time too) and no ones saying a word apart from our eager and frightfully chipper guide for the day!
We arrive at our first temple and armed with torches, we head down to the front of Angkor Wat temples to secure our photo standing point! Well, we must have waited for almost 45 minutes for the sun to appear. Tourists numbers were increasing and crowds were pushing everyone nearer to the lakes edge when the sun started to paint the sky a crimson shade! But what a disappointment..clouds denied us of a beautiful sunrise that morning but hey, I was just grateful to have been there to see it! We ventured on that day and visited a further 3 temples nearby.
Later that evening, some of the girls and I decided to visit a night market and have a nose round. I’m getting better at the bartering, in fact, they expect it and its fun seeing what you can get them down to hah! Then we tried some of the local beer which of course was called Angkor!
Yes yes, I know I’ve skipped Thursday but I didn’t think a 6hr bus ride was worth mentioning but then, I guess I kinda just did haha..Thursday we all moved to our next location of Phnom Penh. It was here we went to visit the Killing Fields.
What a day! What an unbelievable moment of history! It is truly awful to think that such a horrid event could have ever taken place. All those thousands of people tricked by their own leader Pol Pot who then had them killed in the most horrendous ways..plus having them dig their own graves!! Beheadings, torture, children beaten against trees and babies thrown in the air and stabbed on bayonets..omg! It was naturally a very solumn day. Walking around the killing fields you could actually see the odd bone peeking out from under the earth which made it seem all the more real. Just lost for words! I wrapped one of my bracelets around one of the trees snd just hoped that the many thousands of innocent people were now at rest.
We also met one of the few survivors, Mr Chum Mey. That was very interesting..hearing his inside story of what it was like to be detained at the prison camp and what they did to him. Mr Chum Mey also explained how he escaped them and it was by the skin of his teeth..basically, as one of the soldiers of the Khymer Rouge was reloading a cartridge into the shotgun and he made a run for it and what an escape! I felt so sad for him for what he had endured but at the same time, I’m sure he’s now a very rich man and living a happy and altogether free life.
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th
On a happier note and 4 bus riding hours later, Saturday and Sunday we moved to Sihanoukville..the Miami of Cambodia. My god its so hot but the beach is on the cards today so a nice swim and chill is much needed.
It really is gorgeous here but….we get to the beach and pick our loungers and are immediately bombarded by children selling bracelets! “You want bracelet? I make you..what your favourite colour?” Despite how many times you say no, they just don’t give up and it actually becomes rather annoying when you’re sat there trying to write your travel journal!! One of my favourite lines was this one..”You got boyfriend?” Me; “No” …kid bracelet seller; “That’s because you don’t have bracelet” haha, cheeky lil…The kids here arent as nice as the kids we met in Siem Reap, here they seem more..sorry to say..but tainted in some way. I reckon they’re not as innocent as they look but it’s because their parents have taught them to exploit as many tourists as poss?
Anyways, the beach was hectic as so you really couldn’t hang around for long or ‘chill’. Later in the evening, we all had a BBQ on the beach and then partied in a bar called Utopia which was so much fun..it certainly helped to shake off the emotional side of the week we’d had too. In fact, one strange but funny thing happened..it seemed to be all the rage to breathe in balloons of laughing gas in the bars here! Having mingled with some other travellers in Utopia that night, we were encouraged to give these balloons a try! Well, that felt so weird! You breathe in this awful tasting gas, give it about 10 seconds and that’s it..everything is then super hilarious for about 30 seconds! So, we did a couple of balloons..chin chinning them as though we were raising a pint and laughing and rolling around like school kids! Haha!
Well well..today its Vietnam day..most of it will be spent on a bus..9hrs in fact..groan! We’re up at 6.30am and hit the road headed towards the Camb/Viet border.
Once we get there (5hrs later), it feels ‘illegal’ haha..you’re being stared at by everyone which is very un-nerving and each border control point looks ‘shoddy’ and basic and im thinking to myself ‘That could be anyone sat in that shack, nice little scam going on there’..but I snap myself out of my day dream and hey ho, onwards we go! Oh one word of advice, don’t go to the toilet here unless you really have to! One of the girls stepping in human poop is more than I need to say hah!
So we’ve made it with no hiccups..we’re officially in Nam!! But we’ve still got quite a way to go to reach our final point at Can Tho homestay.
Finally..4hrs later and we’re here. Tonight we’re staying in a small village homestay where the lives and living conditions of the people are simple but seemingly very happy. It’s like I’ve been transported back to one of the hill tribes villages! I love it..the food they fed us was amazing..rice pancakes, vegatables, spring rolls, chicken and pumpkin curry..yummy. They literally have all they need to survive, animals, food and accommodation.
Again, the kids here came out to greet us which was too cute, they were so happy to see us! My Dad will love this..I taught them the sliding ‘snapped off forefinger’ trick..actually, they looked a bit horrified to start with haha but I soon showed them how it was done..so Papz, the cute kids in Cambodia are now doing it haha!
Once our beds and mozzie nets were all set up, we sat around playing cards and other games including the new ones I’d learnt from Flick..’I went to market’ and ‘I took a plane to…’ so thanks Flick, both served me well 🙂
In the morning we drove another 3hrs to our stop which brings me to today..Ho Chi Minh City!
My first impressions..a little bit like Bangkok but more Chinese hah..well, there is a huge amount of Chinese influence here, buildings are also a mix of french architectural influence so it’s all very interesting. Whats also got me are the amount of motorbikes! Apparantly the population in Ho Chi Minh is 8 million and there are 6 million bikes..well, can you imagine trying to cross the road!! Scared is not the word. It reminded me of when Frankie and I tried to get across the road in Bangkok but 100 times worse! The trick is..look the bikers in the eyes while you cross, keep going oh and DON’T run..they will go around you trust me! It’s still terrifying though hah..we even saw a motorbike crash right in front of us today when we tried to cross, thankfully no one looked hurt.
So after some exploration of the city, it’s out for dins and then back to our hotel. Wednesday we’re off to the Cu-Chi Tunnels which will be interesting..plus, I hear you can fire a live round on an AK47!!
Oh one last interesting (or not so interesting fact!)..I exchanged some of my dollars today into Vietnamese currency = Dong..not only does the currency sound funny but check this, I changed 100 dollars and got 2 million Dong, so yep, it’s official, I’m a millionaire haha.
So I will leave the adventures for another week or two and catch up once I’ve finished my tour of Nam! Until then…xxx