A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

Another explosion, and the now inevitable monkey incident

The next morning, I was woken by some cracking, a huge bang and the smell of smoke. After braving opening my eyes to discover that my room fan had blown up (literally - it was in about 10 pieces scattered across the room), it occurred to me that I actually hurt like hell. My lower back which I'd banged in Vang Vieng and had been more or less better was on fire, whilst my neck felt like it had been wrenched in all 6 directions at once, and was not good. My right knee wasn't happy either, and the large pool of dried blood on my sheets was interesting as well, if only because I couldn't for the life of me work out where the heck it had come from. Which was slightly worrying in itself.

Ouch.

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Monks heading to the temple

But who am I to let a little pain get in my way. I have things to see and do, gawd damned it. Despite a chunk of pain, i managed to haul myself enough to spend a day around town. I watched a procession of monks, visited the National Museum (which concentrates mostly on artifacts instead of propaganda and the wars) and Royal Palace/Silver Pagoda (very pretty, if slightly overdone in places)n and retrieving my passport complete with visa. I can say that of all the embassies and consulates that i have ever dealt with in the world - and that's a fair chunk - the Russian consulate in Phnom Penh has been by far the easiest and most friendly, and is highly recommended to anybody. Especially when you compare it to the normal Russian/former soviet embassy experience. It's stunning.

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The Royal Palace (above) and Silver Pagoda, below

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I also got to the Independence monument, cool central market (a great art deco building), and had the now inevitable monkey incident. What is it with Monkeys this year?! Don't they know that it's the year of the dog?? At Wat Phnom, a large Wat on a small hillock in the middle of a large roundabout, fairly large Monkeys were wandering all around and enjoying themselves. A couple of female tourists appeared to stare too intently at one of the larger ones, who freaked and came and tried to grab one of the girls bag and camera. They shrieked, and with one monkey still grabbing on to her back, ran. Towards me. Great. So i ended up with several monkeys headed towards me making lots of noise, and two shrieking girls a couple of metres behind, using me as a partial screen whilst trying to remove the persistent monkey from one girls back. I managed to grab it off and get it away without a bite or scratch (although i yanked my neck in a direction which it REALLY didn't like), although by that point I then had a good couple of dozen advancing towards us. I more or less decided at that point that I had exhausted the possibilities of Wat Phnom and with my neck really hurting, hurriedly left taking the girls with me.

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Central Market

And randomly, and very oddly, the Cambodian queen looks scarily like Queen Elizabeth II. Actually, the first time I saw a photo it was on the Queen's birthday, and my first thought was that they were showing a photo of her in her younger days, before i realised who it actually was.

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Independence Monument

It's a shame that I've had such a short time in Cambodia. From what I've seen, i really like the country. However, I would need at least 3 or 4 weeks to do it even vaguely justice, and have ended up with 1, of which a few days have been written off due to traveling to hand in passports etc, and one which i was in too much pain to take full advantage. Phnom Penh is a cool city, and i think i could happily live there for a while. The mosquitoes around the lake are annoying, but otherwise it's a great little place, and the only city I have so far come across where elephants wander around and up and down roads entirely unattended. A vaguely surreal, but very cool sight.

The food in this country is amazing. I could quite happily live off Khmer food for a while, especially Lok Lak (sliced beef and veggies in an oyster sauce with rice) and Amok (a kind of fish soup). I will seriously miss both, and will have to add them to my list of foods to source at European restaurants. Deep fried tarantula had to be tried, and whilst it's ok (although the juice which oozes out when you bite into it is disconcerting) and I'd eat it again, it won't be the end of the world if I don't. But another random local culinary speciality added to my ever increasing list of strange things that I have eaten.

But sadly, and without further ado, I'm leaving. On a 13hour bus ride (yes, despite the protestations in BKK, i did indeed prove that there are direct BKK - pp buses, and several of them each day) back to Bangkok, with the aim of discovering whether their hospitals are as good as everybody makes them out to be.

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Local transport in Cambodia

Posted by Gelli 23:56 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

When hitch hiking goes slightly skewiff...

I don't know why it is, but I never seem to have a working camera when something goes properly wrong. My batteries were dying when coming down the North Korean coast in the typhoon on that 'ferry', so the best parts could not be captured. When I rolled the Landy into a Norwegian field a couple of years back (hi Morten) I had a camera with no film. Today, I had no batteries whatsoever, and no chance to get them because i had left early.

Mistakes like that should never be repeated. My first task now will be to go out and buy a dozen sets of batteries in order to make sure I'm never caught short again. Some things need pictures to be believable and sadly, i have none.

Sometimes, being a little adventurous doesn't pay off quite as planned.

To save myself the 4usd bus fare (and for some variety, having spent most of the last week on buses), i decided to hitch back to PP. There are lots of local transports, and i figured that even if it cost me a couple of dollars and a couple of hours longer, the experience and variety would certainly be worth it. I got a moto to the edge of town, then started walking, awaiting the inevitable pickup or minivan. Barely 5mins later, and a Toyota minivan (of the 8 seat variety) pulls up, and offers to take me all the way for 50cents. Great news. So ignoring the 22 passengers in the van, I climb on to the roof to sit on top of a precariously high pile of assorted luggage (including 3 motorcycles), along with 7 others and off we go.

In many countries, manufacturers seating capacity and number of passengers conveyed are not exactly the same. One of my favourite memories of Morocco was a Mercedes taxi which had 9 of us in the back seat, plus 3 in the passenger seat, and then we watched half amused and half incredulous as a final passenger got in, sitting between the driver and the drivers door. In Cambodia, a simple pick-up can have 5 in the cab, and up to 30 or so standing in the back and sitting on the small roof. And so in something already designed to carry 8 passengers, 30 or so plus all their luggage and a few motorcycles isn't actually much of a big deal. All was great for the first three hours or so. The locals delighted in having the farang - or Gaijin, in Japanese - on the roof, and we laughed happily and traded snacks whilst whistling through the wind. It was at a moment not unlike that that we rounded a corner whilst being overtaken by a bus to discover 3 lanes of traffic (plus a couple of cyclists) heading towards us. My maths has never been that great - to all those who remember my exploits whilst trying to pass (on 9 occasions) 'Mathematical basis of cartography' will know what I mean - but even I can work out that 5.5 into 2 doesn't really go all that well, and that something had to give.

To cut a long story short, together with a car (which was the middle of the three lanes bearing down on us) we drew the fold card. Sitting so high on the roof (i was probably 3.5metres in the air) gave me an excellent view of the impending situation, and after a split second analysis of my options - the passing bus was rejected as it shot past quickly as we slammed the brakes on, and i didn't fancy jumping into the truck heading the opposite direction - did the obvious. More or less in tandem with two of the other roof passengers, I jumped off the side of van, aiming just to get as much distance between me and the inevitable collision and praying like hell that I would miss the tree (i grazed it) and that the ground would be soft enough (i got covered in cow sh1t) not to break too many bones.

I'm not entirely sure what happened in the next few seconds, as things were happening extremely quickly in all directions and I possibly blacked out for a second or two. However i do remember there was a couple of huge crunching and banging noises, rolling over to look up and seeing a huge cow standing over me looking down curiously, seeing a bus disappear at speed towards PP and a lorry and minivan towards SR. A cyclist had stopped by the roadside and was looking bemused, and a couple of motos and some locals were fast approaching excitedly. The car was on it's side down in a ditch on the other side of the road having embedded in a tree, whilst the van that I had been on, was perched at an unlikely angle of about 70degrees against another tree, having shed it's load completely and careered down a metre high embankment and through a small pond. One of my fellow roof passengers was hanging in the tree, a couple were on the floor (one spread eagled under a large suitcase, looking like something out of a Wile-e-kyote cartoon), the rest nowhere to be seen.

I pondered my situation a little. I could see that the car passengers were being helped out and seemed to be mostly OK. So after managing to scare the cow away enough that i could move, and investigating my body (I still have the requisite number of limbs in approximately the correct number of pieces, although much of me hurts like heck) I forced my way up, wiped some of the sh1t off me and staggered over to the van.

What happened next was utterly astonishing.

Completely on queue and in perfect unison, bodies appeared out of the windows on the left hand side of the van and with a couple of locals arriving perfectly to push, the sudden shift of weight righted the van. 10 seconds later, the engine started and the driver drove up to the road. Everybody got out, looking a bit dazed, and shook themselves off. A little blood, a little crying. Nothing more. The van had been so packed that there was no room for people inside to actually fall around, and as it hadn't toppled completely (although how it didn't topple falling down the embankment, i have no idea), there were no serious injuries. Luggage was recollected from it's scattered place over the field. The boot was bent back in to place. The guy dropped out of the tree. Those missing from the roof magically appeared off the grass, and although we all had a few bruises, all were mostly fine if shaken. The motorcycles (one now utterly fecked), bags and crates were hauled back up and reattached to the roof, everybody re-boarded. With nothing more to do, and no camera to use, I got back on to the roof.

Thus barely 5minutes after we had all nearly died a messy death, to the cheers of locals and some utterly, utterly bemused cows wondering what all the fuss was about, leaving a wrecked car on its side in a ditch, we were barreling back down the road towards PP. Albeit in a somewhat bashed up van (the right hand side of the van was, shall we say, not in pristine condition anymore...) and with more black smoke bellowing out than is possibly healthy. We even caught and passed the offending bus to a chorus of waves and beeping.

Excepting a small crash where we knocked over a (riderless) moped, we reached Phnom Penh without incident.

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A minibus similar to the one I had to jump from, if not quite as full as my one, in the streets of Phnom Penh

Posted by Gelli 07:30 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Angkor

And by that I mean the whole thing, not just Angkor Wat.

Wow!

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Nuff said.

Posted by Gelli 07:21 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

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