In our last blog post we announced that we had a surprise. To all our dear friends and family who read our last blog post: we are not getting married. 😉
Our big surprise is that we decided to change our journey schedule. We were planning to spend 3 weeks in Cambodia, but talked to 2 good friends of us, Miel and Laura, who were on the road for over 8 months. We decided to travel with them, shorten our time in Cambodia and as such added 2 more countries to our list!
But first up, Cambodia.
After our time in Laos, we had some difficulties crossing the border. Apparently, the border police at the Laos-Cambodian border is corrupt. Next to the 30 dollars Visa fee we had to pay, they told us we had to pay for the exit stamp and the ‘Medical check-up’ too, while it’s all over the internet that this should be free. We easily skipped the medical checkpoint, but the exit stamps were ‘another cookie’ (credits to Louis Van Gaal). When we refused to pay these additional costs, the police just refused us to leave Laos. After some negotiating we could half the price of the fee.
When we finally made it to Cambodia, we chose Siem Reap as our first stop. Siem Reap is one of the biggest cities in Cambodia and well-known for the nearby Angkor temples. We spend 5 days in Siem Reap at a great hotel run by Japanse people with a lovely swimming pool, which was very useful since it was extremely hot in Cambodia.
As always, we did a lot of different things, but the most impressive was by far our visit to the Angkor temples.
Angkor is the world’s largest religious site and was once the biggest city in the world. The UNESCO world heritage measures more than 400 square kilometers and used to be the capital of the Kmer-kingdom between 900 and 1400 aC. There used to be more than 1000 temples in this site and after some reconstructions some temples are in a good to very good condition.
Next to Angkor, we found out Siem Reap has quite a lot of other things to offer:
– Pub street: the heart of restaurants and pubs, and also the place where the slogan is ‘Save water, drink beer’ and beers are 0,5 dollars
– A vivid centre with a big and diverse night market
– Cheap cosy restaurants: some good recommendations lead us to lovely and very cheap restaurants with a huge diversity of food: oven-baked pizza’s, local food, Taco’s..
On our last day in Siem Reap, we brought a visit to the Phare circus.
The idea behind this Cirque Du Soleil-like group is that they take poor kids of the street to make artists out of them. They get a free bed, free food and a lot of art, circus and dance classes. At the moment, the Phare School contains 1200 students, of which 150 make their living as professional circus artists.
The show we saw, was called ‘Same same but different’, which is a well-known slogan here in Asia. In the show, the artists tried to reveal the differences between Cambodian people and tourists. They did it with a mix of acrobatic stunts, dance, comedy and music. Lovely!
Our second and last stop in Cambodia was capital Phnom Penh. We didn’t know what to expect and we must say, the city disappointed us. PP is a city full of cars, bikes, cranes and garbage all over the streets. The combination of the tons of exhaust and the disgusting smell of trash doesn’t make it a nice place to just walk around. Anyhow, we spent our short time in PP well by visiting ‘The Killing Fields’ and the Tuol Sleng museum.
Time for a little bit of history: In 1970 the Khmer Rouge, consisting of followers and soldiers of the communist party in Cambodia, entered the capital Phnom Penh. Under the guidance of leader Pol Pot they were responsible for up to 2 million deaths over the following 5 years. During that time they used a nearby school (which is now the Tuol Sleng museum) as one of their prisons. Fighters of the regime of Pol Pot were put in the prison to get tortured, locked and executed. The audiotour through the museum taught us what a terrible thing happened to the Cambodians not that long ago.
At a certain moment, the prison was getting too small so a lot of prisoners were transported to The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, an area just outside the city of Phnom Penh. The area contains a lot of mass graves and still, every year, skeletons are making their way to the surface. People were beaten to death because bullets were too expensive, little children were slammed against trees.. The way prisoners were treated here reminded us of the things that happened in WW2 in the concentration camps. It was definitely not a feel-good trip.
We didn’t spend a lot of time in Cambodia, but the things we visited will be stuck in our minds for a long time.
Next stops: Malaysia & Singapore, where we’ll meet our friends Laura and Miel and travel together.
See you soon!