A big update coming up. We have well and truly got going again after stagnating a bit in the Philippines. We are now steadily on-the-move and are loving South East Asia.
We made a very short 45 minute flight from one island to another in the Philippines. We needed to get our bags down to 15kg each to allow us on the plane and so decided upon the ingenious plan of wearing all our heaviest clothes. This resulted in us sweating our socks off (literally) by wearing trousers, heavy walking shoes, trekking socks, t-shirt and tying a our only jumper round our waist. It worked and we came in at a competitive fighting weight of 14.5 kg each. The plane was quite interesting because it needed two propellers to give it that extra kick to get off the ground. The staff sat us strategically to even out the weight on board to give us the best chance of getting air borne!!
We arrived back in our original Philippine starting point of Cebu and caught a flight the next day to Bangkok via Hong Kong. We arrived in Bangkok late at night and spent about 5 hours sleeping at a nearby airport hotel. A 5am start the next morning to catch a early bus to take us to the Cambodian border. We'd been warned that this part of the journey may be stressful but it turned out quite nicely. The bus to the border was comfortable and we had two seats each. They dropped us at a random place though and we were immediately offered dodgy homemade Cambodian visas. Ignoring these we walked out of Thailand and entered no-man's land between the two countries. It was quite confusing but we managed to pay $20 for a Cambodian visa and eventually walked through into Cambodia. A shuttle bus took us into the nearest Cambodian town - Poipet where we were able to get a share taxi with two Russians - Alexsander and Svetlana. The share taxi whizzed through the gun barrel straight road to Siem Reap in about 2 hours.
We looked around Siem Reap and immediately loved it. It has loads of character and atmosphere and the people are amazingly happy, smiley and friendly. We have had great fun bartering in the markets. At one point we haggled from $8 down to $2 for some silk cushion covers. Our happiness has since been replaced by extreme guilt as we later learnt that the cushion covers take 10 days to make! No wonder the poor Cambodian seller bid me adieu with the line "You happy, i no happy". In the evening we found an amazing curry house for dinner. I was a bit worried by the ferocity of my impending curry when i noticed the Japanese man next to me had just consumed his curry whilst wearing an ice-cold flannel on his head! I needn't have worried - the curry was delicious.
On the second day we again had an early start of 5am. We were picked up by our tuk tuk driver who took us to Angkor Wat for sunrise.
You have to get here mega early to get a spot for photos and it was still pitch black when we were stumbling over stairs and rocky ground to try and find our way to the temple. After mistaking a rather shabby looking temple for Angkor Wat we positioned ourselves in prime position for sunrise. About 100 photos later we moved closer to get pictures of Angkor Wat with the reflection in the water in front. The reflection made for an even more stunning photo - nature's way of saying it's worth seeing twice.
Hannah said i spoiled the majesty of the moment when i was offered breakfast by a Cambodian lady. I simply inquired about the possibility of Richmond Sausages and Heinz Baked Beans but was met with bemusement from the poor Cambodian lady and amusement from Hannah. We toured the temples for the rest of the morning. Each one being very impressive. A highlight of the day being Hannah posing in front of Angkor Wat looking like a country bumpkin who opens cans with her teeth!
After a mid-afternoon rest we returned to look around the inside of Angkor Wat. It was massive and very beautiful with amazing carvings everywhere. We were turned away from the central tower however as Hannah's clothes were deemed too provocative!! That evening we met up with the two Russians we shared a taxi with the previous day. We had a great time over some drinks and confirmed some stereotypes with them - they do love vodka and Russia is very cold!!
The next day we moved on to the Cambodian capital - Phnom Penh (pronounced nom-pen). Hannah was not impressed when she got on the bus and saw her seat for the first time. The chair in front of her seat was fully reclined and would not budge back into it's upright position. Hannah therefore received a horizontal lap dance from the French man in front for the duration of the 5 hour journey. We were impressed with Phnom Penh straight away. Like Siem Reap, it had loads of character and the friendly Cambodians made us very welcome. We were even more impressed when we found an Irish bar that served amazing Steak and Guinness Pie!!
The following day we visited the eerie sight of the security prison during Pol Pot's reign - S-21. It's amazing that this atrocity took place only 35 years ago and the museum at the prison was interesting and shocking at the same time. We also visited the site of the Killing Fields - Cheung Ek. Again, this was very untouched with traces of human bones still on the floor and a huge temple encasing hundreds of human skulls. Although sickening, it was a stark reminder of the harshness of the times and made us love the Cambodians spirit even more.
In the afternoon we managed to get an amazing hair cut each. I initially spurned the first barber we found as the only English he spoke consisted of two words - "2 dollar" - the price of the hair cut. We found another place and were treated to a head massage as well as much needed the haircuts. The staff were clearly fascinated by Hannah's hair as they clambered round to watch the stylist cut her hair.
The results were impressive and the cuts an absolute bargain although Hannah's hair is still very white from the constant sun. I think she resembles a cross between Lucius Malfoy and David Gower. In the evening we walked along the lovely riverside and found a restaurant selling Tiger beer pints for $1!! We enjoyed the riverside setting and people watched for a few hours. We were greeted by a constant stream of Cambodian street children trying to sell us their wares. Rather than giving them money we supplied them with bar peanuts and bar crisps which they were delighted with!
Today we have just finished a 30km bike ride of some of the surrounding Mekong islands. It gave us an opportunity to view the beautiful Cambodian countryside and gave us a glimpse of Cambodian village life. We were offered about a million silk scarves over the course of the morning and sampled some of the most delicious fresh sweetcorn we've ever tasted. We were also shown the fields where a variety of vegetables were grown. I realized then that i know about as much about vegetables and crops as i do about quantum physics. It was a brilliant bike ride as we combined with ferry journeys as we cris-crossed our way through villages and over dirt tracks.
As you may have realised we are absolutely loving Cambodia. The people are great and the weather is stunning. We're off to South Cambodia tomorrow to visit the beaches and do some trekking...