Tonight we are writing you from Siem Reap…let’s catch up
Title Count: Elephants sightings- zero. Unless you count stone ones…then we have seen quite a few
Tangs- none but we saw some lemur looking ones by Ankor Wat
Mosquitoes- don’t see them too much but judging by the 20 plus bites on both our legs..check! woo woo for malaria pill Tuesday!
We posted our last update from The Lazy Gekco,a super cool backpacker bar in PP run by a cute Australian couple. They had a funny menu with witty comments about the town, not feeding their pug, and being a foreigner in a strange land. It was exactly what we needed in that moment. Traveler talk with native English speakers can never be underestimated. Although we came in second to last in quizzo (in our defense the three teams ahead of us had like 8 and 10 people a piece) we talked with the owners, got some good travel tips, and met Dale from rural Australian. He was on our quizzo team…we were the “two kates from jersey and dale from rural Australia” team. He was good on the indie movie trivia and we totally had the American history and pop music down (Riahanna and Justin Timberlake hello!!)…don’t know how we lost really…
We hired a tuk tuk driver on our full day in PP the next day. We started out at a market…we got lots of good stuff at pretty good deals. We are looking into shipping home from Bangkok if our shopping keeps at this rate! Next we headed to the Killing Fields about 30 minutes outside of town.
It has only been since 1996 that Cambodia has been able to start rebuilding from the genocide of the Khmer Rouge that started in 1974 and the killings lasted til Vietnam forces invaded in 78. With the head guy Pol Pot killed in 96, the rouge was divided and rebuilding could begin. During the killings the goal was to bring the country back to the Stone Age. All intellectuals, academics, doctors, writers, educated people and their families were killed and the rest were moved to the country. There is a genocide museum in PP that describes the atrocities with details, but we chose just the visit the fields where most were taken to be killed and buried. There was a huge excavation project in 1980 and now a memorial and small outdoor museum pays tribute and details the killings, the Khmer rouge, and the excavation. A tall stupa is the center point, inside there are skulls of many victims arranged by age and sex. Pretty gruesome. Throughout the grounds are different graves with signs telling who was found in them. (numbers of victims, gender, or type of killing…we won’t go into detail but its amazing what people are capable of. ) Inside a small museum were biographies of victims and the Khmer Rouge leaders who have gone on trial in 2007 by a special UN tribunal hearing. It was a very disturbing that reminded us of the feelings we had visiting the concentration camps in Poland, but felt it’s something you have to pay your respects to. You like to think the world has learned so much from things like the Khmer Rouge but it’s really disheartening to think it is still going on in places like Sudan. But we felt like it was something we should visit even though neither of us really wanted to (or else they died in vain right?) as well as get perspective as to what this hectic, beautiful country has been through in the past decades.
We exited to fields expecting to find Hoi, our tuk tuk driver right where he left us. (As we had at the market…oh the market. We have started shopping! So many good deals here! We can’t help ourselves. We go a few times a day just to visit our favorite vendors and they can say “hello LADY! Buy something.”) However we found a sea of tuk tuks driven by men who all looked like Hoi in tuk tuk’s that looked like Hoi’s. But no actual Hoi. Kicking ourselves for not tying string or something to distinguish our tuk tuk from the rest Hansel and Gretal style- we walked around calling for Hoi to no avail. We finally sat against a tree and wrote a song we like to call the tuk tuk blues about losing our tuk tuk driver. (Grammy’s 2010 look out.) Somewhere in our second verse, Hoi popped up and pulled up next to our tree…he had said he’d been there the whole time..we aren’t so sure though. We got some gas and were back into the city. We visited Phenom Wat next, a Buddhist temple atop the only hill in PP. Here is a shot of the inside of the temple:
Then we got dropped off by the Royal Palace. We had some delicious ice cream for lunch (should we talk about how the food isn’t good here now? Great and so cheap in Vietnam. Not so good here..we have not had an appetite. Even western food doesn’t do it for us…wtf?) Next we visited the Royal Palace and the Pagoda…this is what they looked like:
Very pretty and different. Worth the trip…it was cloudy and rained a little while we were there but the architecture was nothing like we have seen before. We didn’t see the blue flag flying that King Sihanouk was in residence though.
We walked around and had a drink at the Foreign Correspondence Club (Amazing Race followers we really feel like an episode was filmed there -- the young guy who won didn’t ask the question right and kept having to ask. Dark wood chairs and fans? Anyone? Bueller?) Hopped another tuk tuk to the hotel (We left Hoi earlier…good man that Hoi even though he lost us) (en route we bought the 5th season of greys for $4 and glee for $2…thanks mom for the dvd thingey!) We refreshed then headed to the aforementioned quizzo night. The next day we were once again on the road…
We woke up early the next morning for a 730 pick up for a bus to Kratie. Kratie is a down in the western central part of Cambodia that is close to a rare freshwater group of Irrawaddy Dolphins in a town on the Mekong called Kampie. There used to be many of these dolphins all over the Mekong River but the group of 100 or so in Kampie is all that is thought to be left. Almost extinct dolphins?? We are there!!
It was a 7 hour bus ride that wasn’t awful. (that’s us trying to be cheerful about it.) We got to Kratie in the late afternoon and checked in a hotel. Looking around we realized that the “indolent delight” of a town with “hotchpotch of colonial terraces and traditional khemer buildings” that the guide book promised was more of a rundown town with the most interesting activities a day’s motor bike ride away on the way into Laos, where we have not yet secured visas to. We quickly adjusted the plan. One night in Kratie and the bus to Siem Reap the next morning. We quickly hopped a tuk tuk to see the dolphins so the 7 hour journey had a little bit of purpose. The tuk tuk took us 30 minutes from Kratie past lots of schools, little farming villages and stilt homes…the children would run out to the road wave and yell hello. We felt like we were in parade. We got to the really small rapids where the dolphins most like to swim and it turns out that the dolphins have to be seen from a $9 per person (that’s a lot of money here!) boat ride…monolopy. We were super low on cash but struck a deal by throwing a polish couple on our boat and got a $4 discount. The boats set out to look for the dolphins just as the sun was setting. The captains did a really good job of looking for them. We didn’t get a sea world or flipper appearance. But we saw them come up for air and lots of dorsal fin action. They weren’t as energetic or active as the dolphins you see off the jersey shore but it was really cool to see the snub-nosed breed before they die off (Can’t go wrong with dolphins and sun set on the river!)…although we believe that if more conservation was put in place the dolphins would survive. Its about $30 for a two people to get out there…major money in this part of the world. We don’t quite understand why they are still going extinct with that kind of money but how could ecological concerns ever be a big issue here with all the poverty? (However many of the solutions to both issues could be one and the same…but no one has asked us yet.)
Our ride back to town was a little unnerving because the of the darkness but uneventful…well unless you want to count the time that we noticed our driver was on the phone as we left a village and rounded a bend by a steep ravine. As we got to the further part of the end, next to a steep embankment, our driver slowed to a stop. At this point each Kate was nervous and silently preparing for an attack, robbery, or ambush. (not wanting to panic and scare the other Kate) We each clutched our bags and were trying to think what we could offer this man not to kill us and how fast we could run to the next home as our driver slipped his phone back into his pocket and stepped into the road. We both gasped as the driver walked up to us and reached over our heads….to turn on the little disco light above our heads. There were also rope lights around the top part of the tuk tuk and clinking lights on each corner. So we discoed our way back into town. We got to town; tracked down an atm, got some dinner, booked “direct” tickets to siem reap for the morning and went to bed. Dolphins? Check! (you can barely see it..but they were there.)
So our 9 hour direct bus turned into a 5 hour really nice bus ride…a 90 minute wait at a lean-to in the direct sun in the middle of nowhere where a Cambodian family with a staring problem and a grandmom who points and yells at western girls,oh and a random German guy, followed by a 4 hour bouncy bus ride to 10k outside the city where we were dumped in a gated lot of grass. There was a man there holding a sign with our names on it and free ride under them. His free ride was contingent on that we book him for our driver to ankor wat we soon learned. We hopped on anyway, despite all the shadyness of the situation (especially the locked gate we had to wait to get out of) we hopped in and were whisked into town. Our apprehension was eased as we made it closer to the center of town and saw some tourist looking people. Our driver took us to four different hotels we found in our research that were all booked, we finally allowed him to take us to one of friends hotels. Its clean, its cheap, there is hot water AND wifi! Jackpot!
(We need to go back to clarify our day…we brushed over it like it was nothing. However it was not. We were dumped at this lean-to and were told a bus would come. We were under the impression it was a direct bus when we bought our ticket, but were told we needed to change buses half way there. Assuming it would be a quick transfer bus station or at the company depot it seemed okay. Then we were dumped at a wood lean to in the absolute middle of nowhere. It was terrible. As our really nice bus drove off Caitlin was only able to get a "one hour" out of the driver and we were abandoned to wait. It was not fun, frustrating, and hard not to view the situation with western standards.)
So so so stressed and frustrated we noticed a margarita bar in our final pass through the main part of town, we dropped the bags quick and headed over there. $1 taco and margarita night!! Jackpot again! We spent $24. Opps! It was soo good though…best Mexican in Asia the sign said. Delish!
A funny thing happened after 5 margaritas on the walk through the market back to the hotel….we started shopping. In the matter of 5 minutes we bought an dress, tea, key chains and change purses for the kids, paintings, and pepper. We did a good job of haggling and spent like $15 and we only bought the dress cause Kate tried on about 5 different ones and haggled her heart out and was compelled to buy it. A great end to a long and exhausting day! We are now pumped to be in Siem Reap and are excited to explore tomorrow and to get to Ankor Wat the day after!!
Until then…lots of love!!
Stay tuned for our next update on Ankor Wat and Siem Reap and in two days we are taking a 10 bus to Bangkok!
Just so you know...these darn pictures too us the better part of 2 hours to upload...we had more to share but this is all your getting for now. you people better comment!! Also they are from Caitlin's camera...good stuff right??
Also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!! Love Caitlin
Also: Happy Birthday Mrs. Mizanin!! Love Kate!!