Posts Tagged With: siem reap

Flooded Forests and Floating Towns

Our next big adventure in Siem Reap happened two days later.  We booked a tour through a local company so we could see some of the countryside and another one of the cool attractions in Siem Reap – the flooded forest.  FINALLY, there is an upside to visiting this part of the world in rainy season: you can’t see the flooded forest in the dry season!  We took a trusty tuk tuk to our riverboat stop, a trip that was bumpy but fun cause we drove through some small towns and saw what Cambodia was like for the people who lived there.  It seemed like a simple but happy place – the people were just as curious about us as we were about them.  I even caught a monk snapping pictures of me on his cellphone in a temple we visited as I was snapping pictures of his beautiful temple!  I laughed when I saw him doing this, and obliged in a few photos 😛

Temple InteriorOur little tuk tuk ride came to an end at the mouth of a very dirty river where we boarded a noisy little boat and took off to see the “floating” town that was built on stilts to accommodate for the rising of the Tonle Sap river and lake that annually floods the surrounding area, turning their neighbourhood into a floodplain.  It was so surreal to see these rickety looking houses and community buildings towering high above us as we boated through the water below – it reminded me of some kind of surreal post apocalyptic place where the homes were rebuilt from leftoverscraps and whatever was floating by.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water levelled off closer to the lake, and we caught a glimpse of the flooded forest around us.  It was magical – all the twisted trees poking out of the water.  We boarded a small long tail boat and glided soundlessly though the forest.  One of the ladies I was travelling with was deathly afraid of the water spiders climbing everywhere in the trees and on our boat, we thought at one point for sure we were going to tip and fall in the water!  Steph eventually just cowered at the front of the boat as we turned a corner and made our way back, making sure to tip our Cambodian boat lady for the trouble!

Woman drivers :P

Our tour ended in one of the floating villages, where we were shown a school and encouraged to purchase pencils and school books for the children.  From the well-rehearsed way this operation was run (children lining up to grab at the books and pencils, handing them back to their mothers for repackaging, the open and sharpened panicles in the packages i “bought”)  I could tell that the money was not going directly to the school or where we thought it was, but I had to give kudos to these enterprising Cambodians who had found a way to tug on our heartstrings and open our wallets to them.  I enjoyed spending time with the lil Cambodian kids anyhow, and had my encounter with the monk at the beautiful temple in the town, built high on the hank of the flooding river.

Me "giving supplies"

Me “giving supplies”

Siem Reap was a really worthwhile place to check out.  It wasn’t as cheap as I thought (except for accommodation which was $5 in our very clean dorm room) but the food and attractions were excellent so I didn’t mind paying.  The little town was easy to navigate by foot and there was lots of shopping and cute little massage places to keep us occupied in our downtime.  The overly enthusiastic hawkers and beggars littering the street were more persistent than the ones I encountered in Thailand, but the county has no social safety net and these people have to do whatever they can to survive.  I tried not to give into the children who were begin.asking for money or meals on the streets, as it’s a well-documented fact that parents keep their children out of school to work on the streets.  Don’t support child labor!  Give your money to a local NGO instead, which is what we did.

My four nights in Siem Reap flew past and before i knew it I was on a night bus from hell to Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia.  Epic trip, indeed.

In the mangrove forest

In the mangrove forest

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Siem Reap and Angkor WHAT??!

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My bus trip from BKK to Cambodia cost 300 Baht (about ten Canadian dollars) and took about 10 hours including waiting time, not a bad trip overall considering it included a border crossing as well.  I met some cool British girls and a German girl on my bus trip over there, as well – me and the Brits ended up doing all of Cambodia together!  Our journey started by Minibus to the border, we had the tour company arrange our visas, at an inflated price but it saved the hassle  of trying to figure it out myself.  It cost a thousand Baht (33 bucks) and I needed an additional passport picture to get into Cambodia as well.

We crossed the border without mishap, you could immediately notice a difference between the two countries. In Thailand the roads were populated with trucks and minibuses, in Cambodia there were hand carts being pushed by people, and tons more motorcycles.  We boarded a creaky bus to the main Bus Terminal, and waited there for two hours as our bus filled in (slowly) with tourists.  Another three-hour bus ride got us from the border to Siem Reap relatively painlessly.

The town was lit up for an evening of party debauchery – we were accosted at every turn by overly friendly tuk-tuk drivers, massage ladies, and shopkeepers as we tried to get our bearings and figure out where our hostel was.  Turns out it was a short tuk tuk ride away, across the river and separated from the noise of the main tourist area.  Still walkable though, but my favourite way to get around was riding sidesaddle on the back of a moto, which would set you back about a dollar to get anywhere in town very fast!  After finding our little 6 bed dorm in Angkor Thom Guesthouse to be quite comfy, we ventured out into the night and checked out The Red Piano, where Angelina Jolie created a cocktail while filming her flick Tomb Raider a few years ago.  The food was delicious and prompt too!

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Our journey took a lot of us, so we opted for an early night to get ready for some temple action the next day.  Our friendly (aggressive) tuk tuk driver from the night before was parked outside of our guesthouse ready to pounce, so we got him to take us around the temple complex area for the day for $20US – 5 bucks a person.  We also had to pay for tickets to the actual temple complex as well, a one day pass gave us access to all the temples, even though we only got to see three up close.

Our guide took us to see the “Tomb Raider” temple as he called it, which is named Ta Prohm and is famous for the ancient trees growing out of the ruins – the sunlight was pouring in on the day we visited and made for a spectacular viewing of the place!  We were allowed to climb in an around the ruins on the platforms set up for tourists – we marvelled at the facet that we were allowed so much access and freedom to wander through such a sacred and ancient place.  Us and every other Asian tourist group, of course 😛

Our “tour guide” tuk tuk driver took us to The Bayon next inside the bid temple complex, an impressive pile that featured many four-sided faces of the Buddha. – very serene.  Our last stop was the actual temple of Angkor Wat. We wanted to catch the temple at sunset, and spent the last remaining daylight hours exploring the huge temple and grounds, imagining what it must have been like in its glory days.  After a few attempts at catching the sunset in some memorable pictures, we headed to the NIght Market for delicious indian food and a night out at Angkor WHAT?! a tongue in cheek name for a sweet bar on Pub street.  Dancing the night away is always a good end to the day, I think!  We joined the touristy crowd and danced until the wee hours on the tables.  It was a very fun day, to say the least!

Categories: Cambodia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Epic Travel to BKK and Goodbye Chelsea!

The 5 am ferry seemed like a dream – none of us had slept and we were all feeling sad to be leaving Ko Pha-ngan and Bottle Beach.  All four of us missed the epic sunrise and woke up with the Pier in sight and the sun blazing overhead.  One of the hardest goodbyes was next – Chelsea and I said goodbye to our friend Park who lives in Railay and our friend Carter who is a tour guide and country manager for Beach Travellers and also one of the coolest people I met on my travels and someone who helped to make our trip as amazing as it possibly could have been.  Chels and I just looked at each other, waiting together in the train station so early in the morning, and burst into tears.  I’m not sure whether it was a combination of sadness, being so tired, and sleep deprived, but we were super emotional that whole day.  Our last full day together as platonic wives and we would be spending it on a fifteen hour train journey to Bangkok together.  Euchh.

The train journey was something new – we had both done this journey before, but overnight both times.  It was a completely different experience during the day.  The country rolled by our window – verdant, lush and never-changing green.  We reminisced over our experiences together, laughing, crying and comparing stories.  That ride was one of the longest I took while travelling – all I can say is thank Buddha for air-conditioning!

We finally noticed the scenery start to change about two hours outside of Bangkok and veryyyy slowllyyy made our way into the heart of the city for one last tuk-tuk ride to Khao San Road, our home away from home.  I found a very cheap and clean room for the night at the 7-Holder Guest House and we shopped for  bit until I felt like I was going to pass out from exhaustion.

We had our tearful goodbye that night when Chelsea went to the airport. When I started my journey alone a month and a half before, I had never dreamed I would meet so many fantastic and interesting people on my journey, and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy than the one Chels ended up being to me.  It seemed at every turn we were on the same page with what we waned to do, see and experience on our trip.  She was incredibly easy-going and fun, easy to get along with and full of life.  Our adventurous spirits we definitely matched – and now I not only have all of these incredible memories but a new friend for life!  Needless to say, our goodbyes were pretty emotional – silly girls! We are already making plans for our next adventure – we shouldn’t have been so sad!

I spent a strange night in BKK that evening alone. But I wouldn’t have to worry, I would be meeting new friends soon on my trip from BKK to Siem Reap in Cambodia!

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Categories: Cambodia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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