ANGKOR WAT - SIEM REAP
Up until this point in my trip, I have just been lolly-gagging about...going where and when I please for as long as i want. I enjoyed Indonesia so much that i could have easily spent another month or two there. After almost a month in Thailand...I can now see the end of the trip and a few things become apparent...I will not make it to Myanmar or Vietnam!!! the top two places on my list.
I find this funny.
Now I have an end-date and can see that i will hit a few places in Laos, then a few more in Cambodia and then home. With this in mind, I fly from Vientiane to Siem Reap for Angkor Wat...I enjoy this place a lot, the town, the surrounding villages, the liveliness, the temples, the Cambodians I meet.
From the airport, I take a hire a motorcycle to get me into town. Mao (my newest buddy below) upsells me to 3 days of a mix of moto and tuk-tuk. Mao has just gotten the moto but still has no helmet for his clients...my first job is to buy myself a helmet...which i later give to Mao..along with a 'contribution' that may help him buy the tuk-tuk we borrow for Day Two.
The deal is...if he gets the tuk-tuk..he has to put a sign on it that says..."SPONSORED IN PART BY BRUCE FROM CANADA". Less than one hour after landing in Siem Reap..I have been to the ATM to get US $$, got my dorm room at the hostel and am at Angkor Wat...a place i visit every day for 3 days. Cool
KRATIE - BANLUNG
After Siem Reap. I take a 2 day bus to visit Anna. I have done many hours of bussing in SE Asia. It is hard work. The little mini-van that does the last 8 hours crams 21 people into a space that might usually hold 12. Alwys fun. I rest a day in Cratie, which really has nothing going for it, even with the Mekong running alongside the town. You take the cell phone stores, hair salons and shoe stores and moto stores out of Cratie...you got nothin' left
We do get to a nice temple and the freshwater dolphins (left of photo frame with the boat). Notice the oil-can that the accolytes are supposedly praying to...cracks me up.
Banlung is a nice town. I get in a haircut, some swimming and a good 10 km walk...mucho locals to say hi to...friendly place. I get to see Anna for a few days and we catch up on things over food and a few drinks. She lives on a lake (pics below) that have little restaurants along the water's edge...so you can sit and watch the sunset while schmoozing. Very enjoyable.
This town is a lot of fun. The Tonle Sap and Mekong converge here, there is aerobics on the waterfront every evening, bustling markets and a decent nightlife along the Riverside. My enjoyment is tempered the fact that I am back in high heat/humidity land after a fair bit of time in northern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia. I find the heat difficult.
My newest buddy is Vana and he takes me around town, to the Killing Fields and the airport when i go. So nice to be able to buy a SIM card and cheap air/internet access when travelling. Allows me to contact locals, read my Gmail/Facebook anywhere and use Google Maps to find stuff when walking. Too bad North America is so far behind the times. In Laos I paid $4 for a week of access...in NY, they want a pre-paid first month ($50) and a startup fee ($30)
The Killings Fields are tough. I love how they present the site and the information and am very glad that i went. The reality is still quite mind-boggling. About 1/3 of the population of 8 million killed from 1975-1979. I saw the movie when it came out years ago and look forward to seeing it again.
I don't do a lot of reading ahead of my travels, but i do a lot after. So easy to take in information once you have visited a place.
I tried to ignore Floating Markets, but with a day to fill in Bangkok, i end up at one that is very touristic. We only have ourselves to blame, showing up in all these poorer countries with our fistfuls of cash and lack of restraint.
First time in Bangkok, I still have lots of jam left and it is as crazy as you want to be. I enjoyed myself a lot. Now, I am on my way back to NYC and Halifax and definitely a tad burnt out. I get in my shopping, am on the river a few times and then it is a 30 hour (20 air, 10 ground) odyssey back to NY.