A Travellerspoint blog

cambodge

we had a free day in siem reap on tuesday. sharon and i rented bikes for $2/day and set off to see the city! we rode along the river, not realizing til halfway through our ride that it was a one way street the opposite way, oops. we came across a center for physical rehabilitation which was mentioned in our tour information as a possible tourist spot. supposedly they let you come in and learn about what they do there. but i popped my head in and it was more than awkward. they told me they no longer offer the tourist program and the organization is now run by the government. but they said i could just walk around and look. so i kinda stood around watching a therapist work with a man with a prosthetic leg stand on a basketball and another person in a wheel chair who's front end was basically just bike pedals. some therapist nearby finally talked to me and asked me what i did. i told them i was an occupational therapy student (at least soon to be, close enough) and he introduced me to a girl who was a physical therapy student there. he wanted her to talk to me about their program, but she really didn't want to talk. she awkwardly excused herself. all i got out of it was that the school program is 3 years there. so we rode on our merry way, passing through definitely some of the poorer areas. one thing i noticed was the petrol stations consist of a big barrel/drum of petrol with a small glass container on the top. if someone needs to fill up, they attach a rubber hose to the glass container and siphon it into their vehicle (most likely a motorbike). then some stands sold just the bottles of petrol. the bottles were all reused glass bottles of various sizes.

we had breakfast in town at a western style bakery called blue pumpkin. i had some delicious yogurt covered fruit that included dragonfruit and watermelon and i think mango or pineapple. and the most amazing ginger honey tea ever:) at the end of our bike riding extravaganza, i stopped at an internet cafe which was beyonnnnnd slow. it was only like 50 cents/hr. so can't really complain. but then the power went out, everywhere. i went back to the hotel and the power was out there. so i ate my leftover dinner from the night before and decided to join sharon over at this really nice hotel across the street just to swim in their incredible salt water pool with huge waterfalls. a few others from the group were there too. so we just lazed there in the pool and laying out til the sun descended below the buildings. at that point, i decided to make a shopping trip to the lucky mart grocery store down the street for some snacks for our day long bus ride to phnom penh the next day. i bought some mangosteens (yum!), pringles ha, and some little biscuits with chocolate. i also bought some lychee juice and this really yummy green tea with honey.

i joined allison and her brother rich (from australia) in a tuk tuk over to the orphanage for the khmer dancing show they put on there every night. the show is free, but obviously donations are accepted. an australian lady who is a volunteer there gave us a tour and introduction of the place before the show started. they are trying to start up a productive farm to make more money and to help the kids gain skills. but that is just starting. otherwise, the org is pretty basic: they have two rudimentary classrooms for the kids (70 kids in total!) the kids are not always orphans - they can be from really impoverished single family homes, or have some sort of disability. the wore the cutest costumes for their performance which was really impressive. they danced traditional dances like we'd seen the night before at our dinner show in town. some kids accompanied on instruments and 2 kids even sang. they were really good too. afterwards, they let us jump in and take photos with them and just talk to them and play games. they were all so cute and funny and really friendly. one little boy was my favorite - he had painted a fake soul patch on his chin for the show. i played some clapping games with a couple little girls, and took tons of photos. sadly my camera battery was dying, so i had to ration photos, but allison and rich got a bunch of good shots. i'll have to get them from them. it was sad to leave the grounds cause the kids all followed us out and waved good bye and would tug on your shirt sleeves. they weren't really sad looking, but you could tell it's not easy for them. overall though they seem well cared for and really happy. they're like a biiig family.

the next day we spent most of the day on the bus to phnom penh. we stopped at a market on the way that sold not only fried grasshoppers/crickets, but fried tarantulas! they even had a bucket of live ones just in case i guess someone wants one that is extremely fresh. they weren't the biggest tarantulas, but that doesn't really matter. they're still hairy beasts. gross.

last night in p.p. we had a quick walking orientation tour with our leader, then several of us were starving so we headed to the waterfront to sit at a restaurant and get drinks and appetizers before our group dinner. for dinner, we ate at a pizza place that was actually not too bad. sadly everytime you're sitting at a restaurant, kids and adults too will come right up to you at your table and solicit you to buy things they are selling. usually books, hammocks, or little bracelets and things. the restaurant owners don't shoo them away or anything, so it makes dining here a bit difficult at times. earlier on the bus at the tarantula market, i was swarmed by kids trying to sell me things. i said no thanks and headed to the bathroom. but this one boy followed me and kept talking to me. basically saying when i came out i would then buy from him. he sure enough was there when i came out, and followed me back to the bus. when i got back on the bus, he kept sticking his head in and looking right at me saying, "if you don't buy from me, i cry." then i think i even heard him fake crying. i feel bad, but c'mon. that's a bit too much.

today we spent our morning on a guided tour of the killing fields and genocidal museum and s-21, the site where cambodians were interrogated, tortured and killed during pol pot's regime in the mid to late 70's. there were some very graphic photos and descriptions of the torturing that was carried out there. everything seems to have been left almost as it was, making it very eerie inside as you walk through the cells. the killing fields were just as somber - there were umpteen pits in the ground that were once mass graves. many of them have been excavated and the bones and skulls are places on display in a tower on the site, another gruesome site. what was the most disturbing was a killing tree which served as a place where khmer rouge officers bashed the heads of babies before throwing them in the mass graves. even more disturbing was that in several of the sectioned off parts of the mass graves, and even just on the areas you walk around, you see white things in the ground. yes, they are bone fragments and teeth. they rise to the surface of the soil when it floods. our guide said that awhile back chinese tourists would pick up things like that and put them in plastic sleeves as souvenirs. so wrong. now they have more or less a deposit box where if you find any you can place them there. so atrocious the things that went on there, for no reason. it was very eye opening and distrubing, but all the more important to see.

on a more lighthearted note, after that we visited the royal palace and silver pagoda. it's nowhere near as good as the grand palace in bangkok, but it's still quite extensive and impressive in its own right. back at the hotel now for some down time. several of us are heading to a charity restaurant for dinner. tomorrow we're off to hcmc vietnam! my tour leader laughed at me taking photos of the crazy amounts of motorbikes here, but he said vietnam is insane. i have a hard enough time crossing the streets here, so hopefully i'll survive vietnam where you are supposed to just counter-intuitively just walk into the traffic and they flow around you...hmmm.

p.s. people always talk about thai food being so good, and i don't disagree, but surprisingly (sorry sokphal) i am liking cambodian cuisine the best so far! who knew?

Posted by shlee 02:44 Archived in Cambodia Comments (5)

"fungal like chicken!"

and other stories

for the record, i diagnosed sharon with ringworm at the beginning of the tour. i've only seen one person with ringworm in my life, and i'm no doctor, but i mean a weird itchy ring on your skin seems kinda obvious right? anyway, we finally went by a pharmacy today and she decided to ask for something for it. the pharmacist first thought it was a bite. then when sharon said "no, it's itchy," she said right away, "oh, fungal!" so she led her to a box with a hideous image of some fungus-ridden toes on it (just to remind sharon of how disgusting her disease is;) sharon is pretty hilarious and this is all in good fun) and gave her some pills to take for 2 weeks. according to the pharmacist apparently "fungal love chicken" so sharon is not allowed to eat chicken. should be fun since that's basically all she's been eating. anyway, good times in cambodia. (ps she picked up the ringworm somewhere in s. america cause she was touring there for a few months before coming to se asia and has had it for a couple months.) sharon cracks me up. but this is bit gross. so let's move on.

so i succumbed to peer pressure and joined most of the rest of the group at 4:45 am this morning to see sunrise at angkor wat. i originally wasn't going to go, hoping for some sleep instead. i figured the sunrise can't be that spectacular right? but then i didn't want to take that chance and miss out on it if it were like the most spectacular thing on the trip, so i agreed to go. and guess what? it sucked! we watched the sky brighten, but that's about it. no pretty colors. nothing. no sun to speak of. it was just brighter gray clouds. yay. after getting attacked by some bugs listening to our tour guide, we downed a decent breakfast. then walked back to angkor wat for the full tour. it's a pretty cool complex. there are some really neat carvings in the walls. the best part was climbing up some ridiculously steep steps to explore some of the upper courtyards and such. it's sad though that a lot of the buildings were either under reconstruction (i mean that's good for the future, but bad for present photos) and so many of the buildings are in ruins. there are just heaps of blocks with carvings and stones lying around the courtyards of the buildings. our guide said they won't do anything with them cause they don't have the money. yet they charge every visitor $20 entry fee and they get i'm sure millions of visitors every year, so i'm not sure why that's the case...

the second temple we went to was in angkor thom (the town of angkor) which is surrounded by several gates with cool buddha faces in them and a row of weird, but cool warrior statues lining the way into the gates. the temple was called bayon temple i believe. it had a lot of buddha faces in the towers and fun little coves to explore in the stones. a cambodian lady asked me if i wanted good fortune and health and offered me some incense sticks. i just said, "no, thanks" and she laughed at me. like how could i refuse such good things? but i just didn't want to pay her. everyone here begs for money or is really persistent on trying to sell you stuff. seriously, the second we get off our minibus, we are swarmed by children and adults alike trying to sell us shirts, books, fans, hats, etc etc. it's sad especially when it's the kids who obviously come from poor areas, but it's too hard to give them money. if you give one money or buy something, 20 more will come and swarm you. and they follow you and keep asking over and over and over for you to buy something. heartbreaking!

the third temple we went to is the jungle temple, aka the one featured in tomb raider. it was most definitely my favorite. i haven't actually seen the movie, but i could totally envision it being a movie set. many of the buildings and stones are green with moss. and several trees have intertwined their roots into the walls and buildings. one in particular is a triangular tree that is actually made up of 3 trees. apparently it's from a famous scene in the movie cause everyone wanted their photo there at the door that goes right through the tree roots. pretty cool stuff.

the rest of the afternoon consisted of a nap, a shower, lunch (mmm pumpkin soup and ginger chai!). sharon, a brother and sister from australia (allison and rich) and i all got massages at this parlor our guide martin recommended. i did the 1 hour tradtional khmer massage for $5 (insane right?). sharon and allison opted for 1 hour oil body massages, though sharon detested hers. allison said it was good. so perhaps it just depends on your masseuse. i actually really liked mine. i mean, it was similar to the traditional thai massage, but way less violent. so i wasn't in pain afterward. though, it prob could have been more intense so i'd feel more relaxed afterward.

tomorrow we have a free day, so we're planning on hiring some bikes to get around and visit a nearby orphanage which everyone recommends. we may (weather dependent since it's been raining all afternoon) go to a pool too. tonight we are joining our group for dinner where they will have traditional khmer dancers! i think we leave day after tomorrow for phnomh penh. i walked around the night market here last night after our group dinner and i really like the stuff better than markets in laos or thailand so far:)

Posted by shlee 04:33 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

khmer time

cambodia!

my day trip to ayuthaya was more or less successful. as in i went, i saw, i conquered. though it wasn't as cool as i was imagining. i was showing some people the pictures afterwards and they seem to be impressed, so i guess it wasn't all bad. lots of temple ruins, a palace where we rented a golf cart to drive around, and a hideous elephant circus tourist attraction (they made the elephants dance and do stupid things and people were incessantly feeding them corn cobs - do elephants even eat corn?). that was my least favorite part. the ruins were all interesting. the first temple we went to reminded me of a big mayan temple with lots of steps up it. the rest of the temples we saw were mostly ruins of bricks and buddha bodies with no heads. there is one famous area though that has a big buddha head that is entwined in the roots of the tree, which is pretty neat. you can't stand by it for a photo because it is disrespectful of the buddha to stand above it. so you have to squat by it. there were a mixture of people on the tour for this day trip: an aussie, a couple filipinos, a couple americans, a japanese man and a korean woman. when i got back, i had my meeting with my new group and it wasn't as bad as i was anticipating. i thought it was going to be all old heads, but it's not. it's mostly couples or brother and sister pairs, but they're all very nice. mostly aussies, a couple south africans (moving to oz) and i think a couple brits. they're a little more quiet than our previous group, but they seem cool. our tour leader martin is a good guy as well, he's from england. i seem to be picking up some british/aussie/nz lingo on this tour since i'm surrounded by so many. at least i'm becoming more familiar with it and some of the way they say things, like "the loo" or "a wee" instead of the bathroom. a "jumper" instead of a sweater. "ta" is short for thanks. "no worries" and "cheers" are some other key phrases. i personally enjoy the word "dodgy" when describing something sketchy. though, i kinda used that before this trip anyway.

so after the meeting, sharon and i crashed our prior group's dinner since our new group wasn't having one. i was super tired, so after that said my goodbyes and called it an early night. we had to meet our tour group at 6:30 am anyway for our transport to the bus station for cambodia, so that was better anyway. the bus ride went really quickly and voila! i'm in siem reap! it's not wholly different than the other countries i've been too so far, they're all somewhat similar. the people seem very friendly and i had some good veggie amok with rice tonight. they also use the us dollar as their main currency which is both odd and convenient i suppose. things here are even cheaper than thailand, so that's a plus! i hear vietnam is also very cheap huzzah! time to do some shopping! so far i've seen two, not one, but TWO people holding iv bags with attached iv needles in arms on motorcycles on the street here. i tried to snap a photo but they were too quick. gotta have my camera ready at any moment here! i hear the fish foot massages here are cheaper and the fish are bigger. i'm afraid they may take my toe off or something, but figure for a buck or two it's worth a shot. a full body massage here is only like $5, so i will probably do one tomorrow:)

we're waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow for a sunrise tour of angkor wat. 4:45 am to be exact. so heading to bed shortly. ciao!

Posted by shlee 07:24 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

What to do when it rains in Bangkok

Why get a massage of course!

Oh, and a pedicure:) it was raining buckets all morning. So fabienne, sharon and I decided some wellness was in order. I partook in an herbal Thai massage for 30 minutes followed by a pedicure. I've started having some pain in my back again so I thought this might help. I was right! This massager did not try to rip my bones out like the first lady. The added moist, herbal sachets on my back were also amazing. The lady had me put my hands behind my head while sitting up. Then she turned my body at the waist to each side and literally every vertebrae in my back cracked. She was pretty impressed I think. Or maybe it was disgust. Either way I feel better! My pedicure was equally great. They basically shaved my feet-the skin, not hair. I feel like my feet have been reborn! All for just about $10. Sharon did a full Thai massage. And fabienne did the foot fish massage where they eat your dead skin. Mmm...

Once the rain subsided, I visited a nice wat aka temple called golden mount. Waterfalls and purple flowers cascaded down the stairs as you walk up the hill. The golden stupa on the top of the white mount is also surrounded by bells. It was a cool little retreat in the middle of the city. I walked back to my hotel after and stopped to shop along the way. We have our final group dinner tonight:( tomorrow I'm doing a daytrip to the old Thai capital ayuthaya. It's a unesco world heritage site with lots of temples. Tomorrow night Sharon and two other girls from the group join martin's group. I think they're all gonna be old heads, lame. We saw some of them in the hotel lobby today. Oh, well. Should still be fun.

Posted by shlee 04:12 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

thai cooking class

and onward back to bangkok

photos are uploaded! i'm also slowly trying to update captions. we have a big time window available now until our bus tonight back to bangkok, so trying to take advantage.

today a group of us took a thai cooking class. they picked us up and took us first to a market. this market was much more organized and cleaner than all the other markets i've been to. they explained things about rice, curry and other ingredients in thai cuisine like coconut milk. they showed us the process of making some of the items. then we milled around a bit. the tour guide collected the ingredients we would need from the meals we each selected that we would like to make.

back in the truck, they drove us to an organic farm. there they had a pretty sweet kitchen set up. we put on our aprons and our guide led us through cooking 5 different dishes. i made yellow curry first, then coconut milk soup with tofu, then papaya salad. at that point we took an hour lunch break to consume our delicious dishes. after lunch we made dessert. for me i chose mango with sticky rice. and lastly we made one more dish. i chose to make spring rolls. they were similar to the ones i've made at sokphal's house so i had a little bit of practice:)

my food turned out pretty tasty indeed! although it was interesting to taste other people's dishes which were the same, but tasted differently. there are so many flavors involved, that if you open more of the pepper in one dish it'll change the flavor. or if you add more lime. or what have you. but either way, they all turned out well. and we have leftovers for dinner tonight! i really enjoyed the class. they really had a nice set up, the ingredients and everything was fresh. and they walked us around the farm and showed us the different ingredients growing. at the end he even gave us a little cookbook with all the different recipes in it:)

tonight, we will board the bus and ride overnight to bangkok. we should arrive early like 6 am yikes. we have a free day i believe, then our farewell group dinner. i'll have one more day in bangkok on saturday (several of us from the group want to go to the floating markets) and then i meet my new tour leader and new group members. sharon and a couple other girls from my current tour will be joining this new group to head into cambodia and vietnam. the rest of my current group will either be going back home after bangkok or continuing on south through thailand and malaysia and singapore. it'll be interesting to see what new characters will be in our new group.

Posted by shlee 02:38 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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