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After changing guesthouses we take a long walk through the city of Chiang Mai. We stop at several of the Wats and leave contributions for the monks.
We see a lot of interesting things, such as schools and people working. A lot of friendly people give us advice, about where to go, and where to find good shopping. People here are really friendly.
In the evening we head over to the market, which is cheap, but doesn't have much for us. Then we continue to the night bazaar, which although tourist orientated, has plenty of things for us to buy, and we have a great time.
We wake up on the train and call a guesthouse to collect us from the train station, which they do. They guesthouse is OK, but not as good as we had hoped. They have a swimming pool though, which is what we were after. We decide to take a good look around town and try and find somewhere better to stay. We walk miles checking out lots of places with pools, but none are very good. We get back to our guesthouse a bit disheartened. After dinner we try a guesthouse across the road called the Britannia, which is great. So we pay a deposit for tomorrow night.
We head off towards the palace and monuments today but a chap tells us that we need to properly dressed to visit these sites. We decide to just chill out for the rest of the day, as we are catching the overnight train tonight to Chiang Mai.
We relax in a nice local park for a while and kill some time walking around.
We have some dinner and collect out bags from the hotel. We eventually find a taxi who'll use the meter and head to the train station. We find our train and settle in for the night ride to Chiang Mai. The train is comfortable and the staff are nice.
After breakfast we buy tickets for tomorrow nights overnight train to Chiang Mai. We head over to the river to walk to the forensic museum, which has been recommended by friends. The two sketchy maps we have are difficult to follow, and after crossing the river by bridge we ask a tuk-tuk driver for directions. We doesn't speak English, but a chap we had spoken too before tries to help. They don't seem to know the museum, but do seem to know the hospital that the museum is part of. We agree a price and head off in the right direction. Soon though we are going the wrong way. I realise that we are going the wrong way and ask the driver to stop. We can't communicate the problem, he is obviously heading to a different hospital. We ask him to head back to the hotel, but he calls over another Thai man.
The man is really helpful and after chatting for a minute he says he will drop us at the hotel as he is going that way. We accept his offer and pay the tuk-tuk driver. We get into his nice car and chat whilst he drives. He is a book manufacturer and he shows us some of his books. He is a really nice guy and we chat a lot. He calls his girlfriend and I try to chat whilst he drives, but the line is bad and she is difficult to understand. He gives us a lovely address book, which ironically was designed by a girl in Oxford, England, but is published by him in Thailand.
We effortlessly get us to the hospital, pointing out a political demonstration on the way. We doesn't just drop us nearby, but drives inside the busy grounds, asks the guards and delivers us as close as he can. Situations like this prove how something that can good bad (the tuk-tuk ride) can have such a nice ending. We thank him very much, and he does us. We exchange bows and I take his photo.
We enjoy the museum, but it's fairly gruesome. Preserved infants and photos of serious accidents are a bit hard to stomach. Some of the displays are interesting, especially that of the Tsunami and malaria.
We leave and grab a taxi back to the hotel.
Up early and we pack for the bus to Bangkok. I have read many horror stories of this journey. Apparently an airline has been paying a Cambodian official to stall the modernisation of the road to the Thai border. So the road remains unsealed and slow.
Our guesthouse tuk-tuk drops us to the bus at 08:15. The bus is packed, and everyone's luggage is in the isle running down the bus, as there is no proper luggage storage. We jump in and find seats; at least they haven't over sold the tickets.
We get going and we find the road isn't actually too bad. It's a bit bumpy in places, but is nowhere near as bad as the roads in Nepal or India. In fact the worst bits are where the bus makes a detour around the works where bridges are being constructed.
We stop several times on the trip, maybe a bit too much. We get to the border and we make it easily, albeit fairly slowly, out of Cambodia and into Thailand. This is our last land border crossing, and our last country of the trip.
Through customs we find our bus company and wait just over an hour with drinks and sandwiches. It's quite pleasant to be in Thailand, sitting in the shade. The time goes really quickly. We notice a young Thai boy, about 10 years old, collecting plastic bottles and cans. We give him ours, and notice he has ink on his face. He is a funny lad who catches my attention. We watch him interact with a few people, and it seems he may have some learning difficulties. I notice the staff from the bus company looking out for him. I them realise that he looks quite similar to my nephew at home. This makes me feel very sad. I have seen so much poverty on this trip, from Nepal, India, Indonesia and Cambodia, but I haven't found it so difficult to deal with. Yet today, when a young lad reminds me of my own nephew, I feel very affected. We watch the lad and see that many of our fellow travellers are giving him food; chicken, biscuits, noodles and water. He is well looked after I think. I don't know his story, but he seems to be here on his own, and whilst his clothes are old, they look fairly clean. He doesn't hang around with the big gang of kids we have seen fighting for money when people give them coins. He collects bottles and sits with the western travellers. He comes over to us and we share smiles with him. We notice he has quite a large belly, a good size for his age, and especially a Thai. We give him our drink and he smiles, walks away and has his drink.
I'm still feeling sad when we get onto the bus. I think about the lad and my nephew some more. I also think of the monthly donation I make at home to the NSPCC. I am looking forward to going home and seeing my family again.
It's good to be back in Thailand, where the buses are modern and clean. But, we have loved Cambodia, it is sad to leave there.
The bus gets us to Bangkok in good time. We ignore the touts and find a nice hotel room.
A 4am start to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. When we get to the sight the light and colours are starting to come through. It's a little cloudy so some effect is lost, but it's still a great sight. There are a surprising amount of people around, but still nowhere near as many as on our previous visit a few days before.
We grab some breakfast after Angkor Wat and head back to our favorites. We stop at Bayon, where we discover a bit we had missed before. After chatting to a local guy for a while about the restoration projects we head over to Ta Prohm, my favorite temple in the site. The first time we visited this temple it was raining, so now we get to visit in the dry. We find and notice several things we missed the first time, in particular several more massive trees that are engulfing the temple, which are probably more spectacular than the other trees. There are several tour groups visiting whilst we are there, so we take our time and wait for them to thin out a bit so that we can get some good photographs.
We're feeling pretty tired and templed out by the afternoon, so we ask the tuk-tuk driver to drop us into town. We grab a drink and head into the market. The market here is a pleasant mixture of shops, and a much more chilled atmosphere than the markets in Phnom Penh. We go shopping crazy and by a lot of things to take home.
An earlier start today as we head back to Angkor and explore more of the many temples. We start by taking the long ride out to Banteay Srei. It's a great temple with a different style to others in the complex.
We stop at the landmine museum and take a look around. The work done there is very impressive. They have cleared tens of thousands of landmines in Cambodia, that were laid by Khmer Rouge during the civil war. Amazing almost all of the landmines have been cleared by one man, using a stick and a screwdriver. His costs are a few dollars each day, whereas international groups and military forces charge about US$1,000 per landmine. Impressive stuff. We make a donation.
We head to more temples on our way back to the main sight. We stop in a cafe for a drink and the heavens open. We wait about 30 minutes before the rains finally stop.
We explore more temples in the main sight before heading back to the guesthouse.
After breakfast we jump in a tuk-tuk and ride out to the Angkor main site. We stop at the modern entrance office and get our photos taken for our 3-day passes. Back in the tuk-tuk and we start an amazing day-long exploration of the main Angkor site.
The entire site is a lovely combination of dirt roads, hidden monuments and glorious temples. It's a real pleasure just driving around. We stop first at the Bayon temple, and move onto many more.
Each one different but just as amazing as the last. Many of the temples have undergone restoration, most being sponsored by contributions from different countries. Some of the temples have been left to let nature take its effect. It has been 1000 years since these temples were built, but they have stood the test of time well. But nature is impossible to stop.
The temple nature has the biggest grip on is Ta Prohm. So many massive trees are growing out of the temple that the restoration projects have decided to nature reclaim the building.
It starts to rain just as we are about to explore it, so we hide under trees and inside the corridors. The rain stops, and the shining walls and floors add to the atmosphere. As we are leaving Ta Prohm I see an imagine I have seen many times, the massive tree than has engulfed an entire wing of the building. We stop for quite a while waiting for a good photo opportunity.
Out final stop is at Angkor Wat, the biggest, and for many the best of the temples in Angkor. We explore whilst the sun sets.
Up early for breakfast and the bus from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap. The shuttle takes us to the bus depot, were we jump on to the main bus. The bus station is opposite the Central Market and we enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of Phnom Pehn.
Soon enough the bus departs and we are on the road. The scenery is similar to what we have seen before. There is a lot of rain on the journey and we see some bad flooding. Thankfully though we don't breakdown, despite the fact that the bus seems likely to overheat at any moment, as the driver hoses down the radiator as soon as we stop.
After a few stops we make it to Siem Reap. There is no suggestion of Angkor's sights as we travel through the town. The bus yard is saturated with water when we arrive. But, the crew do a sterling job and pass everyone their bag without any getting muddy or wet. We pre-arranged a guesthouse, and a very friendly guy has arrived to meet us. We jump in the tuk-tuk and make the ride across town.
The guesthouse is nice and run by a very friendly family.
We head over to the Central Market again, to try and get some more treasures to take home. We only have 20 days of the trip left, and only a few more places to stop, so we are collecting as many nice things as possible now. When we came to the market before we didn't find much to buy, but this time we were much more successful. I manage to find 3 t-shirts and a very bright shirt, and Abs finds several bags. We're really enjoying the battering that comes with market shopping. Although we do have a bitter experience when buying drinks, when not only do they overcharge us, but they try to short change us as well.
We have found the Cambodian people to be the friendliest, most helpful and the most honest of all the people we have met on this trip. A contrast from the aggressive people of Vietnam. It's amazing how the Cambodian people, who have suffered so much in recent times, are the most forward thinking and considerate. I think Cambodia is set for great things in the future, maybe more so than her neighbours.
In our guesthouse there is a sign advertising software developer jobs, and English teaching jobs. Something that appeals to us both, if only we had more time.
After the market be get a tuk-tuk to the National Museum. It's a wonderful building filled with wonderful artifacts from all over Cambodia. Many from the Angkor region, which is a shame, but at least they are safe in the Museum now, rather than being sold into the wrong hands.
We don't have time to visit the Silver Pagoda or Palace, so we will have to leave them for next time.
In the evening we venture away from the guesthouse and have a great dinner by the river. There are many people relaxing for the evening by the river, and it's fun to watch. We get approached by some funny characters whilst we are eating.