I said goodbye to Siem Reap early this morning on a bus. It also never happened after the bus left without me, but with my rucksack and guitar safely stowed away in the hold. Two Cambodian men saved me – one with a mobile phone who called the driver, the other with a speedy motorbike. My heart skipped a beat or two, but the crisis was over almost as soon as it had begun. The moral of this story? Never make a last minute diet-coke run.
Fully alert on account of the diet coke fix and heart palpitations, we set off on the 6-7 hour journey to Phnom Pehn. I have to say I wasn’t that sad to leave Siem Reap – it felt a lot like a trashy European holiday resort. Yes, I had a very large amount of fun there, but the town didn’t do it for me, and reminded me that I’m looking for other pleasures from my travels. I also have to say I found the temples an anti-climax. I know, not supposed to say that… BUT, there are a few potential explanations for this a) temple fatigue, b) very crowded temples spoiling the atmosphere, c) hangovers, d) extreme heat and humidity, e) all of the above. I am sorely tempted to swing by again on my way out of the country to give it another shot. Here are some pictures.
I have now arrived in Phnom Penh, determined to be able to spell it without refering to my guide book by the time I leave. I am checked into the Top Banana guesthouse (love it!) and have a rather spacious room with 2 double beds. We’re approaching tea time, so I’ll head out for a wander to get my bearings shortly. The bus journey over here warmed my heart a little more to Cambodia – beautiful countryside, and the usual assortment of funny sights (half a dozen cows enjoying a leisurely mud bath together, children chasing the bus, lush lush lush green rice paddy fields, horse drawn carts). This country is an insight into what Burma will become in the next 5-10 years – the buildings are sturdier, the motorbikes newer, the farming equipment fueled by petrol rather than cow-power, etc. It was also noticeable how much more plastic rubbish there was along the side of the road. A sign of things to come.
Tomorrow I am planning a sombre day of history, visiting the Tuol Sleng museum to see the horrors of the Khmer Rouge days and then onto the killing fields outside the city. No doubt harrowing, but important to see.
I have just had confirmation of my next move – I am heading for a homestay in the south Cardamon mountains. It is part of an eco-tourism project to protect the area from felling and poaching while giving local communities a sustainable livelihood. There is lots to see and do, including I hope, my first kyaking adventure. Have been wanting to do that for years but never got round to it. That’s exactly what this quartergapyear thing is all about.