12.07.2011 29 °C
Vang Vieng - Vientiane - Siem Reap
So after a alcohol fueled trip to Laos I decided to take a flight down to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The next few days after my birthday were stunning - the sun was out and everyone was still in full party mood. So we man'ed up, got a tube each and got tuk tuks to the first tubing bar. We were all donned up in crappy party clothes - I didn't even wear glasses because we were told we'd lose everything - so I had a bright yellow pair of fake Ray Ban's for the day. We got down to the first bar which was more of a bench next to the river and got our first of many drinks down us before participating in mud-volleyball.
At the first bar
After a little while we grabbed the tubes and took our first plunge into the river, it wasn't as fast flowing as I expected - at first - then it sped up quite a bit. We had a group of about 14 all flowing down the river until we got to the first bar which had a huge slide flying drunken louts into the river. All of us set up here for the majority of the day - often going to the bar singing Happy Birthday to someone random and getting a free bottle of whiskey for the birthday person!
We floated down the river a little more and stopped at another couple of bars, before heading back to the center - thankfully when it was still light.
Spent the next few days relaxing and heading down to the tubing bars for some more carnage. But the time was looming and it just so happened that yet again the majority of people I was with were heading down to Phi Phi. So I managed to bump into a couple of new people who were with Ben (the UK runner I stupidly went "jogging" with in Chiang Klong), and we all decided that instead of getting the 3 hour bus journey down to Vientiane (capital of Laos) it would be so much better to canoe down the river to our destination.
This view from our balcony never gets old!
So the next day we got up early (Ben had a huge hangover) and took the bus with a few others down to the river before getting in our canoes. We left all our stuff in the bus which was going to meet us further down the river, had a brief safety check and then got involved. Unfortunately Ben ended up sharing a canoe with Lizzy a Kiwi who does kayak racing - so I was jealous, but I was sharing with a Laos guy who was wearing a smart shirt and a top hat!
We drifted effortlessly down the river until we stopped off for lunch on some rocks - the guys with us made an awesome makeshift BBQ and started cooking our kebabs which were served with some rice and bread. Then we got down to the rapids - which in my opinion were pretty rough - we made it through 2 sets, but the last one was too much and our canoe flipped. Once out of the rapids it was clear that everyone else had fallen out as well - except Ben and Lizzy who were happily chanting "WE DON'T FLIP, WE DON'T FLIP!"
Ben and Lizzy
After the rapids we quite easily floated down the river - even jumping out and drifted down in our life jackets. Then we had an incredibly uncomfortable 1 hour bus ride down to Vientiane. We relaxed and then the four of us (Ben, Lizzy, Jules (from our epic journey from Chiang Mai - Luang PerBang) and me) treated ourselves to some beautiful Indian food before taking an early night.
At the end of the Canoe trip with all the gang
In Vientiane - plenty of beautiful beer
Next morning we got up and challenged each other for a jog - strictly a jog! Lizzy, Ben and I jogged down the Mekong river at a nice pace before Lizzy and I turned round and Ben just kept going. It was a hot jog, but we were all well chuffed we had had the motivation to do it. Once back and showered we headed down to an amazing cafe for breakfast - Blueberry scone and a Breakfast Burrito - Happy Days indeed! We then went over to a travel agents to book our flights to different places, Ben & Lizzy were off to Hanoi (Vietnam) and Jules & I were off down to Siem Reap (Cambodia). It was here that I got to hold over 1Million Kip to pay for my flight!
What an epic breakfast
Over 1Million Kip!
Forgot to say - we bumped into a Malaysian football team!
We then went to the Laos national museum which was very interesting seeing as I've never been taught anything on Laos's history. Afterwards we found an expensive hotel where we could use their pool for the afternoon - it cost twice as much as our accommodation but was so worth it! We chilled out and Ben made his best attempts at jumping in to the pool. That evening I had to go under some "Lizzy Surgery" - basically I had cut my foot while tubing and it was killing me, so I was sure there was some glass or something in it. Lizzy got the pen knife ready and Ben shat himself. After the blood, the tears, the hospital (jokes - Lizzy did a fantastic job) we had a walk around and found a food market and then a shop selling alsorts of cheese - so we all chipped in and got some Stilton, Brie and a stupid amount of crackers and headed back to the guesthouse to indulge!
Ben - LAD
The girls at the operating table
Pen Knife Action
Man Up Ben! He couldn't stand the look of the pen knife
Market Pork - fantastic!
Piggy in the middle with some kids outside a shop - they put me to shame; after 10 minutes of me being in the middle one of the kids just gave me the ball and went in the middle!
Jules and I were up at 4am to get to the airport for our flight - we both slept pretty much the whole journey down to Siem Reap. That day we lounged around and took a Tuk Tuk round the town, before we realized that Stella and Dmitry (from our epic journey and song writer of "No Tourist, No Cry") were in town. So we of course celebrated our reunion that night - great to see them again! We had arranged to be picked up at 4am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, but it just so turned out that we didn't get back in until 5am - Whoops.
Sunrise take off
Look who we found! Dmitry and Stella
Next day (around 11am) we got our Tuk Tuk driver to take us down to the temples with an English speaking guide "Rom". Rom was fantastic, his English was perfect and very knowledgeable. Our first stop was Ta Prohm - a fascinating temple which has been overridden by trees which slouch happily over the walls and buildings. It's actually where Tomb Raider was filmed - so we did some good impressions of Lara Croft for the camera.
How on earth did that tree get up there?!
Awesome (and the tree)
Rom and I doing the best Lara Croft impression ever - oh look behind us as well!
Ta Prohm all over
After being amazed with Ta Prohm we went over to Ta Keo, a temple which while being built the King died. It's Cambodian heritage that if an owner of a building dies before the building is completed then building is stopped as it is a sign of bad luck. Thankfully Ta Keo was very nearly complete, so we climbed the steep steps (let me repeat STEEP steps) to the top and took in the views. We jumped back in the Tuk Tuk and went into Angkor Thom (a huge square full of different temples) and straight in to Bayon - it has 54 gothic towers which are famously decorated with 216 enormous smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara (which embodies the compassion of all Buddhas). Truly amazing temple!
Relaxing at the top of Ta Keo with "Ram" a security guard I met
Yes, I had to walk down there
The gateway leading into Angkor Thom - believe it or not, at one of the other gateway's all the heads are missing from the statues (which you can see just to the right of this photo) - cut off by the Khmer Rouge just over 30 years ago.
Fantastic carvings at Bayon
Bayon - simply stunning
It was after this that we finally got round to visiting Angkor Wat itself - it's set in the middle of some huge grounds, surrounded by a moat and walls. It's really sad but some of the outside main gates are damaged by bullet wounds - believe it or not but the Khmer Rouge actually used the place as shooting practice! The walk up to Angkor Wat is inspiring as you look up at this huge religious structure, once we got up to it we were explained the background and all the fantastic carvings which circle the temple. However it was around this time I had pure "Temple Fatigue" and felt like I was 10 years old again being dragged around another bloody cathedral by my parents. If I was to do it again I'd certainly split it over a few days rather than trying to cram it all into one day.
Admiring the view which is Angkor Wat
One of the ponds in the grounds of Angkor Wat
Inside Angkor Wat
Rom - what a legend, has kindly invited me to visit his village an hour south of Siem Reap - if I have time, I'm all over that!
Once back at the hotel we shot into the pool to cool off and then headed into town to meet Stella and Dmitry - once 12pm came we celebrated Stella's birthday with more drinks! It was also at 4:30am that I realised my watch was missing, looking back on it - being drunk and playing/dancing with tiny begging children at 3am isn't such a good idea. The next day we lost a day - pool day - then went out again for Stella's actual birthday. Two other Americans had joined us and we went to an amazing restaurant called Beaches before - yet again - another heavy night out in Siem Reap.
Khmer BBQ - Chicken, Beef, Squid, Pork and Crocodile meat!
Yesterday we got up and had lunch with Stella and Dmitry before waving them goodbye and then had our driver to take us over to the Land Mine museum, it was a good hour drive away but totally worth it. It's run by a Cambodian guy who actually used to plant 1,000's of land mines across Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge before switching to the Vietnamese army and finally the Cambodian Freedom army. The museum is full of safe land mines and tells the whole story of why they are planted, who now get injured by them and lot's of stories from the owner himself. This included one story, when he was in the Vietnamese army he was in a trench with a few others shooting at the Khmer Rouge, when all of a sudden he spotted his Uncle (who was in the Khmer Rouge). He stopped shooting and when asked why he explained he had a headache and couldn't shoot straight, in the end he shot just above his Uncle's head which scared him off. It wasn't until years later when he was reunited with his Uncle did he tell the story and they still laugh about it today! After the museum trip we stopped off at a side village where we were shown how to make sugar.
Bye guys! And I thought I had packed too much!
At the Land Mine Museum
The way to make sugar, the liquid is collected from the palm tree (which was right next to us), then heated and stirred and then hardened to make candy!
Sugar Candy - Cambodian style
Today I got up early and had my first day working at the CDO (Cambodian/Childrens Development Organization) Orphanage. It was a hot a sweaty day, where I had to do quite a bit of teaching (What are Vowels and Consonants? - I don't know?!) and a hell of a lot of playing and laughing with the kids. It's a great little centre where the kids have sleeping areas, showers, kitchen, garden and a class room. I'm looking to spend at least a week here helping out where and when I can - it's bloody shattering though! If you want any more information on CDO you must see their website - cdochildren.org
Can't wait to get back there tomorrow! :D