KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA
Part 1, General Information
Part 2, BLOG Pictures and Gallery
PART 1, GENERAL INFORMATION
Capital city; Phnom Penh
Population; 16 million
Currency; Cambodian Riel
Km travelled in Cambodia 2100
Days in 27
Languages; The Khmer language, you find some of the older people also still speak French
The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, practised by approximately 95 percent of the population. Agriculture remains the dominant economic sector, with strong growth in textiles, construction, garments and tourism leading to increased foreign investment and international trade. However, Cambodia is most known for its war and Pol Pot. The Vietnam war extended into Cambodia with the US bombing inside Cambodia between 1969 and 1973. The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide between from 1975 until 1979. The Khmer Rouge army was slowly built up in the jungles of Eastern Cambodia during the late 1960s, supported by the North Vietnamese Army, Despite a massive American bombing against them, (Tens of thousands of people were killed in the bombings between 1970-1973) the Khmer Rouge won the Cambodian Civil war when in 1975 they captured the Cambodian capital and overthrew the government. Following their victory, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, renamed the country and immediately set about forcibly evacuating the country’s major cities. The regime murdered hundreds of thousands of their perceived political opponents. Ultimately, the Cambodian genocide led to the deaths of 1.5 to 3 million people, around 25% of Cambodia’s population. It took till October 1991 that Peace returned to Cambodia. Corruption is huge and effects all levels of government, judiciary, police and customs. People must deal with extensive red tape when obtaining licenses and permits, especially construction related permits, and the demand for and supply of bribes are commonplace in this process. The 2010 Anti-Corruption Law provided no protection to whistle-blowers, and whistle-blowers can be jailed for up to 6 months if they report corruption that cannot be proven
Having suffered immeasurably under the rule of Pol Pot during the 1970s, Cambodia has emerged as one of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating destinations. Its capital, Phnom Penh, has a modern city buzz yet its stunning golden palaces and temples retain a connection with the region’s Buddhist past. The cruelty of Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime is laid bare at deeply moving museums in his one-time prisons and killing fields. They’re vital viewing for all visitors. Further north, the majesty of ancient Cambodia is called Angkor Wat located near Siem Reap, The Cambodian government has made efforts to preserve the integrity of traditional Khmer culture, but younger generations are hungry for a change. The tourism industry is the country’s second-greatest source of income (hard currency) after the textile industry. Over 2.5 million people visit Angkor Wat every year. Other major tourist spots are Battambang, Sihanoukville, Kampot, and Kep
The capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The city is located on the banks of 3 rivers Tonle Sap-Mekong and Bassac Rivers. The 4 major highlights in the city are the National Museum of Cambodia, The royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a must do but very confronting. This site is a former secondary school which was rebuild into a security prison in 1975 named S-21. No one knows the real number of prisoners, but figures are more than 20000. It was one of more than 150 torture centres in Cambodia build/operated by the Khmer Rouge.
THE KILLING FIELDS
Just 15 km south of Phnom Penh in Choeung Ek are the Cambodian Killing Fields the site used to be an orchard which turned into a mass grave where over 1 million people were executed between 1975 and 1979 Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa. The stupa has acrylic glass sides and is filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. Many have been shattered or smashed in. They were killed by a group of teenagers led by a Comrade being battered with iron bars, pickaxes, machetes and many other makeshift weapons owing to the scarcity, and subsequent price of ammunition. the children and infants of adult victims were killed by having their heads bashed against the trunks of chankiri trees, and then were thrown into the pits alongside their parents. The rationale was “to stop them growing up and taking revenge for their parents’ deaths.” After the prisoners were executed, the soldiers who had accompanied them from S-21 buried them in graves. Apart from the stupa, there are pits from which the bodies were exhumed. Human bones still litter the site. Estimates of the total deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including death from disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 3.5 million out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million.
Kratie on the riverbank of the Mekong. Kratie town is sleepy but picturesque with sandbars and big islands out front and bends in the river. Unlike in many towns around Cambodia, the war years were fairly kind to the French architecture and the roads, at least in the town itself. The river scene of Kratie has a beautiful river boulevard with dozens of snack and drink stands in the late afternoon. There are also a few big concrete decks along the river scene. The river road is a great place for a stroll or jog. Enjoy the dramatic sunsets over the Mekong. The stretch of the river around Kratie town is home to a group of rare sweet water Irrawaddy dolphins
Once leaving Kratie it is a remote place with almost no population and thick-forested areas..
You’ll also find a bustling market which is a great place to watch frogs being skinned. Going East from Kratie consists mainly of thick forested area, where you still can see the 1970-75 bombings due to big craters in the countryside, some filled with water. You also may find the typical plain wet area for Cambodia, covering rice fields and other agricultural plantations,
Siem Reap is in northwest Cambodia on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world-famous temples of Angkor the proximity of the Angkorian ruins turned Siem Reap into a boomtown in less than half a decade. Huge, expensive hotels have sprung up everywhere and budget hotels have mushroomed. Property values have soared to European levels and tourism has become a vast, lucrative industry. The Siem Reap of today is barely recognizable from the Siem Reap of the year 2000. The town’s previous ramshackle charm has been lost the developments of the last few years have brought livelihoods, to a good number of its citizens. However, this has been at a cost to the underprivileged people living within and beyond the town’s limits that now pay inflated prices at the central markets and continue to survive on poorly paid subsistence farming and fishing. If Cambodia is a country of contrasts Siem Reap is the embodiment of those contrasts.
Over 2 million people come to Siem Reap for the one reason Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, it is unrivalled Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century Estimated construction time of the temple is 30 years by King Suryavarman II, dedicated to Vishnu (Hindu) The temple is an object of pride for Cambodia, its depiction appears on the national flag. It is a richly decorated, very large temple; the total temple area including the moat measures 1.5 kilometres long by 1.3 kilometres wide, or a total of about 2 square kilometres. Angkor Wat is the biggest Hindu temple in Cambodia.
Described as the premier Cambodian resort destination? Sihanoukville’s white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway. catering to beach-going weekenders from Phnom Penh as well as a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. This includes those looking for young girls and boys?!?!?!?!?! most of the more remote beaches offer only beach umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries. In town itself you find Australian, French, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, British, Italian restaurants, pizza places, a couple of western bakeries and even an espresso coffee shop. And these days Sihanoukville offers a pretty good night life as well with a wide variety of bars staying open well into the wee hours, especially on Weather Station Hill, in the downtown area, and the beach bars on Ochheuteal, ‘Serendipity’ and Victory Beaches.
OTDAR MEANCHEY AREA
The countryside is covered by the Dangrek Mountains (or escarpment, as they are sometimes called), which was an optimal shelter for the Khmer Rouge to hide. It is a very remote province that has been a notorious place, because this is where he nastiest of the nasty Khmer Rouge made their last stand. The diabolical Pol Pot and his seemingly bloodthirsty henchmen holed up here for the last years of the Khmer Rouge’s existence. In the village of Anlong Veng Pol Pot died mysteriously after he was sentenced to house arrest and the international community began real efforts (for the first time ever) to capture and put this butcher on trial. There are plenty of tanks and tank shells to look at along the way and also a strange site in the form of a boulder that had Khmer Rouge soldiers carved out of the sides of it- they have all been decapitated since government forces took control of Anlong Veng. It’s an interesting little ride to a low-lying part of the Dangkrek Mountains. The road is in fair shape except for the climb up a rocky hillside near the border.
Sen Monorom is the provincial capital of Mondulkiri province in the far eastern of Cambodia. With approx. 7500 inhabitants, 3 bars and no post office it is often compared to American Wild West frontier towns. Mondulkiri is the most sparsely populated province in Cambodia. The province is chock full of natural beauty, with thickly forested mountains, powerful waterfalls and the lush green rolling hills on the western side. Despite the growing deforestation, especially due to the valuable minerals remaining in the deep red, fertile ground, Mondulkiri still has deep pure jungle, with a huge variety of flora and fauna, gigantic and beautiful waterfalls, where you can take an empowering shower, such as the impressive Bou Sraa. During our visit it was very much undeveloped, this suited us as the hill tribes where not yet affected by mass-tourism. the hill tribes you still can find the traditional Phnong houses. In the houses you can find traditional gongs and big jars, whereby the last ones are said to be more than a thousand years old. There are various sorts of gongs used for different occasions. Jars and gongs are among the most valuable possessions in an indigenous community, whether in traditional, spiritual or material terms. During the Khmer Rouge Regime those objects were buried in hidden places in the jungle and in many cases they still wait in the ground.80 percent of the population in Mondulkiri is made up of ten tribal minorities, with the majority of them being the Chunchiet from the tribe of the Phnong. The remaining 20 percent are Khmer, Chinese and Muslim Cham. Most of the population lives off the land, planting rice, fruit trees and a variety of vegetables. Others grow, coffee, strawberries, rubber and cashew nuts.
This area is not only at the fertile and almost ever-wet heart of Cambodia, but also just a 91km ride from Phnom Penh. the provincial capital Kampong Chhnang, which is an easy-going river port town that is worth a visit, focuses on fishery and therefore features a big fishery port. From here you can hire a motorized boat to explore the Tonle Sap River area around the town and experience a breathtaking countryside. Another must do stop is Kampong Khleang much less touristy than Kampong Pluk. Here you see stilted houses rising to 10 meters in the air. In wet season the waters rise to one or two meters of the buildings. Kompong Khleang is a permanent community within the flood plain of the Lake, with an economy based in fishing and surrounded by flooded forest. But Kompong Khleang is significantly larger with nearly 10 times the population of Kompong Pluk, making it the largest community on the Lake.
KEP & KAMPOT
Kep City is a municipality in Cambodia with the status of a province. Kep is just a few kilometres from the border with Vietnam located and used to be Cambodia’s most popular beach town but has fallen on hard times in recent years. Many of Kep’s, mostly French villas are abandoned, but some of the town’s former splendour is still apparent. Kep is mainly popular to the local Cambodian tourists, who choose Kep as their holiday destination. Kep offers great seafood and magnificent views of the mountains and the beaches. Kep is also home to an extensive national park covering some mountains with deep green jungle. Don’t miss the serene waterfalls of ‘Tuk Chhou” situated about 10 km from Kampot which sits near the base of the abundant green Elephant Mountains and the famous 1030 Bokor Hill Station mountain.
The drive to the massive Cardamom Mountains is not too difficult as there is a road from Pursat to Veal Veng, a small village between the Mt. Samkos and Mt. Aural Wildlife Sanctuaries. Not much to do but the scenery and meeting locals who do not see many foreigners is worth it.
Stung Treng is an important trade hub with a few hints of Lao influence scattered about, owing to the fact that the Lao border is about 50 km away. It’s a friendly, quiet country town situated on the confluence of the San River and the Mekong River. It sits on the banks of the San River, with the mighty Mekong on the north eastern outskirts of the town. The area outside Stung Treng offers, Extensive forests, intersecting rivers and streams and low population density characterize it. Stung Treng includes also the western chunk of the massive Virachey National Park, accessible from Siem Pang, a small beautiful town on the Tonle Kong. But it also is crossed by the mighty Mekong with its hundreds of small islands scattered on the river stretch.
PHNOM TBENG MEANCHEY
Is the Capital city of Preah Vihear a big northern province of Cambodia. Its capital is called Phnom Tbeng Meanchey. Due to the state of the infrastructure and its geographical location not visited by a lot of foreigners. Most of them don’t make it here worrying about the street conditions and the backcountry feeling of no fast supply in need. The city is sprawling and dusty and consists of little more than two small major dirt roads form South to North Much of this area is extremely remote and strongly forested. It has one of the worst infrastructures in the country there are even no proper Major Roads in existence. Going around this province is not that easy if you’re used to proper roads. Unfortunately do large logging companies reduce the natural landscape by carving huge tracts of pristine tropical hardwoods out of the locations. It is also one of the least populated provinces in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The area has a lot to offer for those, who are interested in ancient temple structures and remote villages without touristy influence. The area is blessed with endless natural treasure. With its acres of dense, hilly forests and scrub green vegetation, an ideal getaway destination. The breathtaking views over the Dangkrek Mountains and lush jungle from Preah Vihear temples are famous. Preah Vihear you may find three of the most impressive legacies from the Angkorian era: the mountain temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, the 10th-century capital of Koh Ker and the mighty Preak Khan.
KRONG KOH KONG
Located in the biggest province in Cambodia with a long undeveloped coastline and a mountainous, forested and largely inaccessible interior, which embraces part of the Cardamom Mountains, the biggest coherent rainforest of Southeast Asia. Abundant wildlife; big waterfalls and even a casino on the border of Thailand.
Ratanakiri is in Cambodia’s far northeast bordered by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, this rural rugged province is a 70% ethnic minority, which are known as “Chunchiet”. Ratanakiri was as recently as 2002 seriously off the beaten track but has since been “discovered” step by step.
Ratanakiri is still a remote province in North-eastern Cambodia worth to visit. The word “Ratanakiri” itself is a derivative of two Cambodian words, which are combined to mean “place of gems and mountains.” The word comes from the Sanskrit words Ratna (gem) and giri (mountain). The capital city is Banlung located in the central highlands of the province, approximately 365 miles (586 kilometres) from Phnom Penh and reminds one of a wild western city, even if it’s the wild east. Its wide red laterite roads are bordered by new, recently build houses replacing the older ones. The centre of the town features a lively marked with all the needful things.
Great spot for those who like to experience the real Cambodia due to lush wildlife and remote tribal villages. Most of the inhabitants of Ratanakiri are indigenous minorities.
Beautiful waterfalls, clear rivers winding through stretches of jungle, and rolling hills that meet mountains near the Vietnamese and Lao border.
Very closed to the border of Thailand. The provincial capital is called Pailin City and is known to much of the world as being the area where many of the Khmer Rouge leaders came from and retreated after their fall.
The city was during the 1980s and 1990s a major Khmer Rouge strongpoint and resource centre. Even after the death of their brutal leader Pol Pot in 1998, many Khmer Rouge leaders remained there. Some of the leaders went into hiding in fear of punishment for their crimes, although other leaders or henchmen lived openly in the province. It is said that almost 70 percent of the area’s older men were fighters for the Khmer Rouge, but unfortunately none of the regular fighters have yet been brought to justice.
Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city. Population today is around 250000 people. The beautiful riverside town has the best preserved French colonial architecture in Cambodia. A network of charming old French shop houses clustered along the riverbank is the real highlight here. Just out of town is the Bamboo Train. An absolute must. The bamboo train (or Norrie as it’s known locally) made its first appearance in the early 1980s inspired by the small rail vehicles used by the railway workers to carryout repairs. People were struggling to rebuild their lives and the country was re-establishing its existence. With roads in disrepair coupled with few means of transport such as buses and motorbikes the Norrie was an ingenious and practical solution. With its launch the population now had an important albeit rudimentary transport system able to haul products produce and people at minimum cost. Although flimsy looking the bamboo construction is very strong. Cattle and pigs would be taken to market tons of vegetables and rice would be delivered people could get to clinics and in emergencies it would run at night-time. To begin with Norries were muscle-powered using poles. A few years later small petrol engines were introduced. The Norrie is a crude assembly of a bamboo and wooden platform with wooden struts on axles of salvaged railway rolling stock wheels, the engines sits on the rear with a fan belt attached to a flywheel on the axle. Due to the low centre of gravity the speed feels a lot faster than the around 30km per hour. The noise on the uneven rails will not allow you to have a conversation. Once a train or Norrie is coming from the opposite direction the deal is that the lighter Norrie gives way to the heavier. Driver lifts the platform and removes the axels from the track and replace on the other side. The railway is in a dilapidated state and the few trains that are running only do so at 15km per hour. We have been told that the new railway will be in place around 2016-2017 allowing trains to travel at 80km per hour hence the Norrie’s will no longer able to use the railway line.
Cambodia’s climate, is dominated by Monsoons
The temperature in Cambodia varies from 22 degrees at night to 40 degrees during the day
Wet Season is from May to October, September and Oct being the wettest months.
Dry Season is from Nov to May with January-February being the driest months
Part 2, BLOG Pictures and Gallery
NORTHERN and CENTRAL CAMBODIA
After Northern and Eastern Laos, we were a little disappointed in the southern part of Laos, so we pushed on and once we arrived in Kratie (Cambodia) we would probably have a better chance seeing the Irrawaddy Dolphins. We crossed the border into Cambodia which was a breeze; all up it took less than one and a half hours.
Sadly however, we were confronted with the first signs of corruption (again) when we were asked for 2 USD for the stamp in our passport. Is this a sign of too much foreign aid again? we travelled off road towards Kratie following the Mekong River as much as possible. Our first stop was Sambor, for a visit to the pagoda with 118 pillars, Wat Myoy Roy. Next were the famous Irrawaddy dolphins. It was 2.30pm in the afternoon and we were told the chances to see them would be perfect. After three hours of waiting patiently, we had one good shot with the camera and about 200 shots of the dolphins` backs as they disappeared. However, our time at the river was nice. We drove to Kratie with lots of expat tourists, most of whom were on day trips from Phnom Penh.
After a week we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. We found a perfect camp spot right in front of the Royal Palace. The car park security allowed us to stay here overnight. Street kids and the homeless were a bit of an issue but you can`t help but feel sorry for them. Cambodia has no social security, so it is either begging or dying. Phnom Penh is situated at the confluence of 3 great rivers, Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers.
The city is a hive of activity and like elsewhere in countries that receive foreign aid, it is full of NGO-UN and other do-gooders. Lots of brand new cars you and I could not afford, plush restaurants, shops, nightclubs and anything else you require for a great lifestyle. UN staff, NGO`s and other do-gooders can been seen partying with the filthy rich Khmer people who all frequent the dusk till dawn nightclubs with their body guards. Another disturbing part was the sight of many European men with young girls. (and boys!) We visited the Royal Palace. The Palace serves as the residence of the King, the presentation of court ceremonies and as a symbol of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Also in the grounds of the Palace is the Silver Pagoda, so named for its sliver tiled floor. This is where the King meets with monks, and royal ceremonies are performed. No monks live at the Silver Pagoda. From 17 April 1975 until January 1979, the brutal communist Khmer Rouge regime lead by Pol Pot controlled the whole of Cambodia. During those four years no less than 2.5 million Cambodians died. Between 1979 and 1998 the Khmer Rouge retreated to the mountains and border area`s persisting with their campaign until they were defeated in 1998. To gain a better knowledge of what happened, we visited the Toul Sleng Prison (S 21).
Prior to 1975 Toul Sleng was a high school. The classrooms were converted into tiny brick cubicles, 1 meter by 2 meters, where prisoners were systematically tortured sometimes over periods of months, to extract the desired confessions, after which the victim was killed. The prison processed over 17,000 political prisoners. Our next stop was the killing fields just outside Phnom Penh.
Many of the Cambodians who perished under the Khmer Rouge regime ended up dumped in one of the dozens of killing fields scattered around Cambodia. Choeung EK Memorial is the site where over 17,000 brutal executions of men, women and children took place.
Most of these people had first suffered through interrogation, torture and deprivation in the S 21 Prison. It reminded us of our visits to Rwanda, Burundi and the former Yugoslavia; Dachau in Germany and Auschwitz in Poland; and just a few weeks ago, our experience in Laos – (Vietnam War). We keep reminding ourselves over and over, when we visit these places of just how barbaric people can become in times of war. And why? Mostly over ideology, religion, territorial or politics. And surely none of these reasons for war can justify such barbarism. We are now faced with what is happening right now in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Surely people must wake up soon. One thing is for sure, the evidence of all these past atrocities makes us realize just how lucky we are.
After 5 days enjoying the city life in Phnom Penh, we left, and we were looking forward to some R&R and a nice tropical beach. It has been nine months now since we saw the ocean. The drive to Sihanoukville was not that spectacular and it took nearly one hour before we had crossed the city and hit the toll road. Funny as this road was funded by the UN and now we must pay again to use it! It was a good road but nothing that would indicate anything special. In Europe this would still be classified as a country road and in Australia it would rate as the old pacific highway from Cairns to Brisbane. Once we arrived in Sihanoukville, 220km south of Phnom Penh, we headed towards Otres Beach, the spot most people advised us to go to. We found a perfect spot right on the beach in between two beach clubs.
Sihanoukville is being promoted as Cambodia`s premier beach destination. We have not been on a beach for the past nine months and it was nice to smell the ocean. The area is on a peninsula and is surrounded on three sides by beaches. Lots of activity and development is happening in the area but many resorts do not seem to be finished, giving the area a run- down feeling. Otres for us, was the most rustic. It is a 3-kilometre-long white sandy beach and by far the most remote beach in the area and attracts the least number of tourists. Very relaxed, lots of beach shack restaurants and a few guest houses. But for how Long?
WESTERN CAMBODIA part 1
Hard to leave a perfect beachfront location but we had a lot more to see in Cambodia. We took the main highway this time as the floodwater of the Mekong even reached the sides of the highway and many villages were flooded This week we headed to Western Cambodia. It has been 34 years since we were last here in 1978. At that time, Cambodia was embroiled in one of the most brutal wars in modern history; Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We had planned a short cut today, but as the floodwaters are still rising and the rain is still relentless, we decided to turn around and follow the main road back. But first pick up our passport where all going well, the policeman who is on watch outside the Thai Embassy has organized a 60-day Thai visa, for a small fee?!?! It will include a 30-day permit to drive our truck into Thailand. For all this he charged us 5USD per passport extra. Normally this is only a 14-day permit for the truck that needs to be extended in Thailand at extra cost. Ten minutes before arriving in Phnom Penh we called him, and he told us to stop in front of the embassy and he would have the passports ready. Don`t you love corruption?!
After 3 years on the road we are getting better at it all the time. We don`t want to boast about this because we would prefer to do things above board. Unfortunately, the system in many countries has been twisted by people who most likely have a hungry family to feed and then you quickly find there is no other way other than to spend a couple of dollars here and there just to get things done. From here we followed the rice paddies stretching along the rivers and Lake Tonie Sap. The flooding this year has been substantial, but you can see that people are used to this annual natural event. Most of the houses are built on stilts some up to nine meters high to stay dry in the wet season. Cattle are moved to the roadway and a new road has been built just above flood level.
Western Cambodia`s main attraction is Siem Reap, gateway to the millennium old ruins of the Ankorian era Khmer Empire. Best known is the Angkor Wat. However, we enjoyed Ta Prohm the most. We did not visit them all, it was very hot and humid and after four or five temples, we thought this was enough. The ones we visited were Angkor Wat-Ta Prohm, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Pre-Rup, East Mabon and Ta Som. We spent 10 nights in the area including a few hours in front of Angkor Wat on the night of our arrival, over-looking Angkor Wat before being told to move on. No camping allowed. As it started to get dark, the tourist police told us very politely to move on because our safety could not be guaranteed. We found this very strange as the place was peaceful and very quiet after the tourists leave at 6pm. Anyway, we could not convince them, so we had to move, and we finished up in town in the dark, looking for a camp spot in a side street alley, just three meters away from the busy food stalls. But it was an experience. The food stalls were open till 1.30am and reopened again at 6am, so you can imagine not a lot of sleep.
Lucky, we had our own truck because this allowed us to drive around the Temples of Angkor. We never realized the area was so large, stretching out from 4 to 30 kilometres north of Siem Reap. Park admission is 20USD per person per day. But you get a discount for 3 and 7-day passes. The park attracts on average 7000 people per day. Many are visitors from Thailand on one, two or three-day packages. Early morning and late afternoon it is a complete traffic jam getting in and out of the park. The town of Siem Reap is only 5km south of Angkor Wat and lies in Cambodia, but it could have been anywhere in civilized South-East Asia. It is Cambodia`s number one tourist destination and it is a most prosperous town. It really has little to do with Cambodia as the city centre is one huge tourist trap full of restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, 5-star hotels – all cashing in on the huge tourism flow from neighbouring Thailand. Tourists also flock here on short stay holidays from Europe, China and the USA. It was also the first time that we had to share with so many tourists since leaving China. Nevertheless, Siem Riep and its famous Angkor Wat can`t be missed. We visited Pub Street where beer is sold for 50 cents during happy hours, which last from 5 till 11pm. Not to mention bars that openly advertise that they promote irresponsible drinking! Just like in many other places in the world, you could ask the question who is at fault. The government and councils who are allowing so many restaurants and bars to open and cashing in on license fees, permits or the poor operator who tries to compete with so many other bars and restaurants. One thing was for sure, the customers knew where to go for a drink and this was not in the more elegant restaurants or hotels where the cost could be up to 6USD catering for those who fly in from Bangkok or Pattaya staying at the Le Meridian-Sofitel and Hyatt type hotels. Siem Reap even has its own International Airport and the story goes that Bangkok Airlines paid the Cambodian Government lots of money so they would not upgrade the road from the Thai border, so people would fly in from Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and other destinations in Thailand! The road is now upgraded and in excellent condition making it possible to drive in one day to Bangkok or Pattaya.
WESTERN CAMBODIA part 2
That night we also met Diane, a Singapore Lady, who looks after homeless kids who are prone to be picked up as sex-slaves or prostitutes by the deviate and sometimes paedophile men from foreign countries who prey on them. She also runs a beautiful guesthouse called Bloom where we were invited to park our truck.
Perfect place and any over-lander in the area should use this place if they can because the money is all put to good use, such as helping unmarried mothers and young children. Our last stop in Cambodia was Battembang, famous for the last remaining Bamboo Train in Cambodia. It is simply a vehicle that is made of bamboo, has a size of 2.5 X 4 meters looking like a bed on wheels. It is used to transport locals, their shopping, goods and in some cases animals to their villages. One problem is that many Bamboo trains run along this railway line in competition with the local train that goes to Phnom Penh. So once a train comes from the opposite direction the Bamboo Train must be disassembled and taken off the track for the train to pass. If it happens to be another Bamboo Train the one with the least freight and or passengers is disassembled and taken of the rails for the other to pass. Despite the many comments re the border crossing, the touts, the corruption etc etc. we checked out of Cambodia in 35 minutes. This included the walk back to Customs to get the Carnet stamped. Thailand does not accept the Carnet, so we were required to sign a Temporary Import Form and a Conveyance Form. This allowed our truck to be in Thailand for 30 days and this can be extended for another 30 days in the next month or so. In fact, you can extend it twice, so you could spend three months in Thailand with your own car legally, if you chose to do that. Our 60-day visa was all good and one hour and thirty minutes later, we were driving on perfect roads in Thailand. Having experienced all these border experiences in Africa and now Asia has made us experts in dealing with corruption and working out what to do where. The only thing missing was a third- party insurance because we could not find the office in Anraprhanet. So, we are hoping we will not be stopped until we get to Bangkok in around 7 days. Being Saturday, we assume insurance offices will be closed over the weekend.