I don’t know why I never thought of doing this, but I love editing movies and often film my holidays and this is what I produced from my trip to South East Asia. I visited Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
All aboard the bus (yet again), this time we’re headed to Phnom Penh. With a driver who I swore should have developed repetitive strain injury from constantly beeping his horn, to the women sitting in front of me eating boiled eggs, to the air conditioning piling, and the horrendous amateur tv show blaring in Cambodian…it was tough. BUT at least we weren’t hungover like our new friends from America – Kyle and Peter – who have “yards” and eat “kebarbs”, and most definitely know how to party. Needless to say, we got on like a house on fire, and they were quickly initiated into our family.
After all hoping off the bus, and having a minor meltdown thinking they’d lost my bag, we all jumped on Tuk Tuks bound for Mad Monkey Hostel – Louis still shirtless at this stage, much to the amusement of the somewhat seedy Tuk Tuk drivers (Mr T in particular).
We checked in with no worries (as advertised), apart for a little hiccup with Louis and Anna who somewhat suddenly needed a private room for the night…hey hey! With good food, cheap grog, and a beer pong table, new friends quickly became best buddies. Kyle and I dominated at beer pong, and Peter and Suzie threw down some sweet dance moves. When it was time for the party to move elsewhere, Hannah was ready to go and Louis and Anna…well they barely made it out! Sharing a slice of Kati Perri’s famous pizza and a glass of Baileys, we welcomed in Christmas in style.
Next morning I woke early, no amount of alcohol will sway my Christmas spirit, and was excited to find Hannah awake in her bed too. After pulling Suzie out of bed, we raced to “mum” and “dads” private room to wake them up in true Christmas style. After opening presents each from our Kris-Kringles, and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, we stuffed our tummys like Christmas turkeys on all things delicious. A quick trip to some markets, and then to a supermarket (the first we’d seen in a while – Laos and some parts of Cambodia don’t have supermarkets, but rather small corner shops or street vendors).
Back to the hostel, where Louis enjoyed another chicken noodle soup ( it was not uncommon on this trip for him to eat in for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Back to the beer pong, where I flailed without my partner, but Suzie still had her moves, and the legendary hANNAh beer pong team from Prague 2012 made a comeback. A relatively quick trip to the Heart of Darkness club (a must do in Phom Penh) introduced some of us to the thriving gay and ‘ladyboy’ community. For once us girls could dance I. Peace, while Louis (for probably the first time) was seen with his shirt fully buttoned up. We had met a new friend that night, Matti, who had come along for the ride, and who I think was equally confused about the vibes flowing around that strobe-light and smoke machine-filled room. I’m pretty sure Anna had a good night though – getting to relive the whole night again the next day as we had to fill in her memory…
A huge change in the mood for the next day. We visited S-21 and the Killing Fields. While incredibly heavy, it is something I think every traveller through Cambodia needs to see. While I was aware somewhat of the atrocities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw and read that day. I won’t burden you with details, that’s for you to find on your own, but something I seriously recommend everyone to look into – to truly understand the meaning of the word resilience. To think it happened only thirty or forty years ago, Cambodia is an incredible place, with an incredible history.
A smooth, air conditioned ride to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon), including wi-fi and some quality B-grade movies. We met a couple from Alaska and Louis learnt that Alaska is actually part of America (oops). But the best part of the day was being reunited with our buddies, Kyle and Peter, who were able to show us the ropes of the city. And as for the night, I couldn’t even tell you what happened if I tried…ha!
Seriously ill with the travel bug,
Siem Reap – the city of food, drink, and a bit more drink. We have become regulars at the Central Cafe, enjoying breakfasts such a fruit salad, pesto scrambled eggs, french toast, and eggs benedict, plus a glass of Baileys to start the day (and end it most nights as well) never went astray. You can really feel the French influence here with the food, so we were all more than glad to be over our illnesses! I finally had a chance to prove to everyone how big my stomach actually is – and officially join the ‘Clean-plate Club’ with Jacob.
Walking around the pretty little town, we visited the National Museum and got a brief look at the history of the country, and more specifically the temples we would be visiting later in the week. I have found so far that while a lot of the culture of the countries we’ve been visiting has been incredible and long-lasting, so too have these cultures been affected so heavily by disease and warfare. This was evident from our stop-off at the Children’s Emergency Hospital where we discovered that 1 out of 15 child dies before they turn 5 years old. An alarming, and rather haunting statistic. And one that makes you truly grateful for the medical and health services we have available at home so readily.
Since our slow recovery from each of our illnesses, we have all been anticipating a night out on the town, and that was indeed what we got (as far as we can recall from the millions of blurry and distorted photos on the camera the next day). I have discovered a passion, let’s say, for Baileys (only$2.75) and thoroughly appreciated the barmen’s free pour. We also found a litre bottle of gin for a measly $12 (that’s payback mum for posting a photo of the Christmas ham!) It was a night of dancing in the street, singing along to terrible cover bands, dancing on stages, finding Anna a girlfriend, late night pizza binges, and meeting heaps of cool people – a night not to be missed.
Louis arrived the next day, and it didn’t take him long to acclimatise to the holiday vibe – with an unbuttoned shirt, happy pants, and a scarf wrapped around his head to keep his hair, which is the longest of the group, out of his eyes. While missed one awesome night out, he made it for the best dinner EVER! Each of us purchased a Cambodia BBQ set (that was intended to serve two). It included rice, noodles, salad, onions, capsicum, and a meat of your choice. You were provided a hot plate with a bowl around it where there was a broth boiling. You then got to cook you meat and accompaniments accordingly. Both delicious and fun! Plus, we got a whole grilled frog each which was surprisingly delicious.
And of course there was Angkor Wat and the temples. You can spend hours running around (and climbing) the temples that scatter the area. Each of them unique but equally amazing. We got to see the temple where Lara Croft was filmed, and Chang, our Tuk Tuk driver was a legend. A lot of restoration work was happening, and unfortunately at one of the temples, 300,000 stones had been removed to be restored but somewhere along the lines the plan on the temple and where all the stones went was lost and subsequently, more than half the temple was gone and will never be rebuilt.
We have spent the longest in Siem Reap than we have in any other town, and it was worth it. Lots to do and see, and drink. Sad to leave, but just as excited for what Phnom Penh has to offer! And Christmas! Hoping it will be a merry merry Christmas for all. Will be missing my family and hope they have something amazing planned. But also, that they save some of the ham for my return! Haha
Lots of love,
Before leaving for this trip, and even throughout, I have been warned time and time again about the tricks and scams that are often played on tourists. Though I knew all the tips from home would never be a full proof plan, and sooner or later I’d experience it firsthand. Welcome to Cambodia, or Scambodia as we have affectionately dubbed it.
A definite sketchy start – following the ‘day of death’, we were hustled and bustled countless times. Tired, frustrated, and still in the same clothes we’d been wearing two days beforehand, we were not in the mood to be messed with, and I think it showed.
We jumped off the bus, quite literally, into a sea of Tuk Tuk drivers. As the saying goes; things that seem too good to be true, most often are just that. Thinking we’d scored and beaten the common scam of overpriced Tuk Tuk’s, we fell straight into another. Instead of arriving at the border, we were taken to an ‘office’ that informed us that this was the place to get our visas. Hmmm…few alarm bells started ringing: the border was no where in sight, we had not yet passed through Thai immigration, no one in the office was wearing any sort of uniform, and every time we asked how much the visas were, we were given a different price. After discussing with some fellow travellers, we all decided something was up. YES! Travellers: 1, Scammers: 0.
Another thing I’d been warned out Cambodia was that they like to run on their own time, which seems to run about ten times slower than everywhere else in the world. When they say “two minutes” it’s more like 10. When they say “five minutes” it can be anywhere between half an hour to an hour wait. The immigration office and connecting bus ride into Siem Reap was testament to this, and also some of the most frustrating moments of my trip.
The immigration office was like Noah’s Ark, but instead of two of each animal there were two of each nationality, and instead of a boat it was a tiny cement room with no form of relief from the heat. I cannot even put into words what happened in that room, but it is enough to say that it was one of the greatest tests of my character to date.
Once passed there, we learnt that nothing in life is ever free. A ‘free’ shuttle took us, and our new friends (Sarah, Jacob and Robert) who helped us beat the scam, to the ‘bus station’ where we had the choice of all of one bus. After being promised it would take only 2 hours, it was 5 hours before we reached Siem Reap.
Fingers crossed that was enough scams to last the rest of our trip.