A Travellerspoint blog

excuse me while i drive my boat through your bathtub

journey to and in battambang

semi-overcast 34 °C

from siem reap we took a boat to battambang leaving our hostel at 6:30 am. we were told the boat had air con and was a scenic 4 hours, however as with most of asia, we were told wrong. the boat was an old beater with not even a fan let alone air con or windows. and 4 hours turned into a 13 hr hot sweaty journey. in fact after i had heat stroke, so that was fun. the journey was scenic and beautiful, even though we kept getting beached on the side of the river bank as the water level was so low.

first it went through a floating village, literally schools, houses, churches were all floating on barges. a few kids boated up to us holding snakes charging $1 to hold it. no one held the snake but lots of ppl gave the kids candies, i gave them dentistry by handing out a toothbrush and paste. from here we went through many other floating villages picking up rural passengers as we went. the agriculture used here was pretty fantastic both in the water and along the river banks, so it was interesting to see this way of life. we towards the end of the day people were out bathing in the river naked (mostly the children) waving frantically as we boated by.

upon landing in battambang we grabbed a tuk tuk to phka villa and bargained down the room price from $50 to $25. in this fabulous hotel we got a poolside room with our own western toilet with hot water, a soft bed with 2 pillows, air con, a tv with western channels, towels, free water, and a free large breakfast. it was heaven. he first day we spent in the pool swimming, in our room watching tv (such as the movie bicentennial man) or reading our books. it was a great day and a welcome change to $2 lean to shacks with communal squat toilets. we ordered pizza to our room and got quite a chuckle when they brought it to us with ketchup (being as i had asked for ketchup to go on my eggs earlier they figured we were ketchup crazy), but soon enough we were dipping our pizza in it so go figre.

the next morning we swam until checkout then got pucked up by a tuk tuk who took us to the khmer rouge killing caves. we hired a a young boy (grade 6 he said) whom they called lady boy (yes he had painted toe nails, necklaces and braclets on) to show us around the caves. he spoke great english and was able to tell us a bit more about the caves. people were held here like concentration camps taken from doing something wrong, whatever the khmer rouge decided was wrong, tortured and killed being thrown down the entrance of a giant cave, some already dead and some left to die. the bodies have been for the most part removed only a few bones are kept in a shrine on site. we went back down to the base area to have a coke when another tuk tuk man joined us. he informed us he is studyng english and told us many jokes and told us many tricks. he also is the first cambodian to use the words "knarl├┐, cool beans, dope, easy peasy lemon squeezy, etc" he was very personable and we enjoyed his company as we waited for the bats.

our tuk tuk took us to another cave entrance that the bats come out of and told us more about the khmer rouge and burial rituals in cambodia of the differant ethnicities. we were shocked to learn that 50% of cambodians are part chinese and that is why their culture is very influenced by chinese tradtitions and art. soon the bats, millions of them he said, came swirling out of the cave and into the sky like snakes. it was crazy even as we drove away they looked like giant tubular smoke clouds. it was really neat.

after that we waited for the night bus at 1130 to come pick us up, got on to arrive at phnom pehn, then had to arrange another bus at 6 this morning to get to sihanoukville, we arrived around 1 this afternoon.

Posted by karen_411 03:04 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Angkor Wow

siem reap, angkor wat.

sunny 40 °C

we only got 2 days to explore this amazing set of temples, but they were fantastic!! the first day we woke up at 5 am for our tuk tuk to take us to watch the sunrise over the main temple structure which is the actual temple angkor wat. after watching the sunrise and the reflections dance on the pond outside of the temple we went in to explore. the bass releifs were incredible as well as all the intricite detail and carvings all over the place. next we went to the angkor thom complex that covers a ground of over 10 km! which has many interesting sub temples including the banyon temple (my favorite) which has 216 enourmous similing faces carved on it, looking in all directions to signifty power, control and humanity. this area of temples once harboured a population of 1 million. other interesting temples to note were the terrace of elephants; a large decorated wall with countless carved elephants that was used as a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies. the terrace of the leper king was next which archeologists now believe is to be yama the god of death and that this place acted as a royal crematorium. Ta Prom was next it felt almost secret and tucked into the woods where trees have grown through and on top of this temple, but alas it is no secret. its probably the most famous of temples as the movie tomb raider was filmed here. and throughout guides are yelling in various languages "angelina, angelina". these were the most note worthy of temples but we seen probably over 20 in total. in essence its amazing to be in a place to sacred and secret. in fact the irragation system used during the time of angkor was more complex and effective then the one currently employed here, demonstrating the shifts of up and down in society.

the second day we went to see the larger loop and surrounding temple area of angkor wat. soppong our tuk tuk driver picked us up and was a lovely companion as well as the best looking cambodian man i have ever seen. all in all in our monster long hot days we barely made a scratch in the empire that is angkor but it was worth it. another crazy thing to note is while checking out some of the temples a group of girls asked us where we were from and turns out they were from north battleford, small freaking world.

while im siem reap we also checked out a bakery for ice cream and air conditioning, a night market, and a movie film explaining the history of angkor a little more in depth. oh, we also played with the hostel puppies for a significant part of our stay here.

Posted by karen_411 02:53 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

S-21 and the killing fields

phnom penh

sunny 35 °C

so we arrive here with very shabby smelly stretched out stained clothing that we have been wearing for the past few days and went shopping to replace our wardrobes. in the process i somehow ended up buying green leapard print platforms (a backpacking must) and some fall style boots, guess ill be sending home a package. we had some luck and are now looking a little less homeless. it was also the khmer new year while we were here, a 3 day celebrated festival that ushually involves big water fights. unfortunatly its been made illegal here due to moto accidents and so little was left to evidence the new year other then most restraunts and shops were closed. on our last night we went to a new year party that was a mixture of cambodians and backpackers.

we headed out to S-21 with a gal named nic from london early the next morning. this former highschool had been taken over by the khmer rouge and turned into a brutal torture zone in 1975. this inhumane prison held men, women, children and babies, all deemed a threat to the state. the documentation system used by the captors was immaculate and photos and written records were kept of all inmates (similar to those at concentration camps). wall upon wall of sad faces of men women and most heartbreakingly sad children stared back at us from the wall. most of which perished at the hands of the khmer rouge. up to 100 people here were executed a day, and out of the 20 000 inmates only 7 lived to tell the tales of horror that hid behind the prison bars. very depressing. by the time the prison was taken over 14 dead bloated corpses were found tortured and left to rot still tied to the beds on the ground floor. each room has a picture of the victim who was murdered in the room, the bodies were layed to rest in the courtyard after the khmer rouge were defeated. the graves lie beside a wooden arch taht held prisoners up by the feet while they dunked their heads in water until they passed out or simply died. bloodstains and fingernail scratches are still visable here reminding the visitor how real this attropcity really was. one room has expose's on all the khmer leaders whose trials have not yet come to pass. they showcase letters and evidence proclaiming the guilt of the leaders as well as inform the visitors of who their lawyers are representing them and where they are from. a very effective tactic to gain international public support for the next round of trials to bring these men to justice. the main leader pot pol was allowed to die at home, and another leader under charge of rape, genocide, murder, war crimes, etc has received only a 30 year sentance. blasphomy!!

from here the tuk tuk took us to the killing feilds, the area in which most of these people were brough to be killed. mass graves make poc holes around the ground. a 5mX6m area holding up to 400 corpses. most of the graves here have been excavated annd a temple has been constructed to honor the lives of the dead and hold the bones that are available for public viewing. one roped off area explained that this section had not yet been excavated and when it rains bone fragments and teeth often still surface, sure enough it didnt take long for us to spot a tooth. a sad reality of this not-so-distant past. further infeild lies the infamous killing tree. soldiers would hold babies by their feet and bash them into the tree fatally injuring them and then tossing them into the mass graves nearby. accounts describe this tree as bloody and covered in brains and other body matter. the pits were covered in chemicals before being covered back up in order to stop the corpses from smelling as much and killing those who lie in the pits not quite dead. disturbing to think humans have the capacity for this much evil.

Posted by karen_411 03:48 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

forgotten corner of cambodia

a few nights in ban lung

sunny 32 °C

after a frustrating a dodgy border crossing where corrupt officials milked all foreigners for all the cash we could muster and a 13 hr travel day we landed in ban lung. a real gem of a place, we met a couple on the bus from long island, allyson and mike who we found a hotel with. the next day we rented a car to take us to Ka Tieng waterfall. pretty much amazing. you follow a small trickling stream not even 6 inches deep to the edge of a drop off which creates a beautifully cascading waterfall. ive decided saskatchewan needs more waterfalls. we ran down to the pool of water below and jumped in for a swim under the waterfall surrounded by cave like crevices filled with dark stones and mossy grasses. it was definetly an eye popper. at the entrance to this waterfall were 3 elephants who looked fairly mistreated for hire for rides which made me pretty sad, so we opted not to ride them. there was also a baby pet monkey who didnt look that much better off, we snapped a few pics and pet him a few times before heading off, not much we can do for them.

from here we went to Boeng Yeak Laom, a volcanic crater lake over 700 000 years old. it holds much spiritual significance to the cambodian people. i was excited to dip into the lake until we arrived and there were no girls over 10 swimming only men and they were clothed so i felt out of place and didnt want to be offensive and just waded in the water. soon 3 locals came up to me insisting to take pictures and laughing so i obliged. they then dragged us all over to their picnic and had has as honored guests taking pictures and giving us free beer. the people were getting geared up to celebrate the khmer new year and were in celebration mode. it was a honor to party and celebrate with them, what a great group of people! they attempted to teach us how to say happy new year in khmer but its pretty hard to pronounce however the locals later seemed to catch on to what we were saying and have laughed and smiled with us. hopefully were close and not saying something ridiculous.

ban lung was certainly off the trail, a long dusty trail actually. but im very glad we made it here as it felt like a very authentic corner of cambodia.

Posted by karen_411 03:38 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

hammocks should be a religion

don det, 4000 islands, laos

sunny 30 °C

alison and i met back up in vientaine the capital city of laos but quickly jumped on a night bus after only one night here down to the islands of paradise. we took a night bus to pakse and then jumped on a minivan to a port town and then took a long tail boat to don det. once here we stumbled upon sunset bungalows a cheep shanty right on the waterfront, communal squat toilets down the lane. the best feature of this bungalow was the 2 hammocks on our porch that looked out onto the lake. fabulous.

the next day we rented a kayak and got a guide to take us and a couple other people out on an adventure. we kayaked down the eastern side of the island to don kong where we walked to Tat Somphamit Waterfalls. from here we walked to the base of the waterfalls and climbed up some hot slippery rocks to the base of the waterfalls and jumped off a very small cliff into the water to float down the rapids. i soon found myself seperated from the group and the safety standards not being very high the guides did not notice. i got sucked under the rapids in a whirly gig and went around 3 time before i was able to surface gagging and spitting up water. it made me a bit nervous for the rest of the trip to be honest. we stopped at another cliff to jump off of that was 10 m high. but i didnt jump, alison did and has a black bruised ass to prove it. we got back on the kayaks and paddled down stream, passing a swampy marsh where the aligators live but we werent lucky enough to see them the guides said they dont get spotted to often, crafty buggers. we hit some class 2&3 rapids on our kayaks which were fun but a bit daunting. then we came to a small island about 6mx6m and docked our kayaks to eat a picnic lake and watch for the endangered irrawaddy dolphins surface for air. we got to see a few of them but from quite a distance away. google what these dolphins looks like, i hate to sound politically correct but think 'retarded dolphins' and thats what they look like. we then illegally entered cambodia via kayak to check out another waterfall; Khone Phapheng the largest by volumne in all of se asia. we launched our kayaks one last time and paddled through the glassy water watching the sunset back to don det. it was a favorite of all excursions we have done.

the rest of our time in don det we layed in our hammocks taking breaks from reading our novels to grab fruit shakes and go for a dip not 20 feet from our bungalow on our own private little swim zone. we went out for drinks our last night here to this neat bar that an english bloke runs that shows free movies. i stumbled over to try and ask him about his bar being as you dont see many foreigners running businesses, i meant to engage him in a discussion on economics and commerce but instead something more like "i fucking love your bar" fell out of my mouth as i accidently knocked into some chairs. oh my too many lao beers, shamed we left to the reggae bar and then back to the bungalow by 11:30 as this is the nation wide curfew.

from here we went to cambodia, i was sad to leave laos and it has so far been my favorite country i have visted. my body may be in cambodia but my soul lies in laos.

Posted by karen_411 03:20 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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