AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Siem Reap: Day 3

Posted on Jan 5, 2014

This was to be our best day around the Angkor temples. We had deliberately left Angkor Wat to the final day on the recommendation that if you see the best first everything else would be a bit dull and not as impressive. We had also booked a tour so we had a guide for the day. Even better the tour was limited to no more than 8 people and included lunch. The tour was at the top end of the budget but worth it to be in a small group been taken around the fantastic site of Angkor Wat. The day started with the tuk-tuk arriving at our hotel at 7:45am. The tour guide was riding with us and we were to meet the rest of the group by the temples (they had been at Angkor Wat for sunrise). Our guide was telling us about the upcoming protests planned in Phnom Penh as workers demand a salary with covers basic living costs. In Cambodia the cost of living is very high compared with the local average salary, it may seem cheap to us but we earn over ten times the average salary of most Cambodians. Update: As I write this a week later the protests have taken place and the military police opened fire with live rounds on the protesters killing a number of them. Our first destination was Ta Prohm, colloquially known as “Tomb Raider Temple” because this was the location for filming the first tomb raider movie. Our guide described it as the baby of the temples because it is one of the newer temples in Angkor, built around the beginning of the 13th century. We then headed towards Angkor Thom, which took us through Victory Gate. Angkor Thom was the final and largest city of the Khmer empire. At its centre is the temple of Bayon. Our guide led us around the temple telling us about how, when and why it was built and also giving interesting information on Buddhist and Hindu beliefs and explaining the poses of the statues. He knew the stories behind most of the wall carvings and suddenly what we were looking at made sense and seemed real. We were looking at stories about battles, we could see who won and who lost. We could see which tribes and peoples from across Asia were involved in the battles and we could even see their fashions and weapons. The guide was certainly giving us our money’s worth… After Bayon we walked over the road to the temple of Baphuon. We had already been in here on our first day around the temples but...

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Cambodia: Mix & Match Currency

Posted on Dec 22, 2013

Paying for things in Cambodia is interesting. Everything is labelled in US Dollars and every price quoted is also dollars. But there are no coins, they only have the banknotes. Amusing that a country imported another country’s currency, but only bothered to use half of it. The Cambodian Riel can be used but it’s as if the money is tainted and everyone wants rid of if ASAP. 4000 Riel = 1 dollar. So anything costing under a dollar is paid for in Riel, or you pay a dollar and get change in Riel (no coins = no cents). Last night our meal cost $10.50. We gave $15 and got $4, 2000 Riel in change. Our lunch cost $9, we gave $5 and a 20,000 Riel note and got 4,000 Riel change. We can mix and match as we please and everyone is OK with this approach. Everyone wants to give change in Riel, it’s like a game; Get rid of the Riel and whoever has the least Riel at the end wins. I aim to ensure we have none left by the time we leave, but shops and restaurants keep using fractions of dollars so we always end up with Riel. We should only buy things which add up to whole dollars and no fractions… Posted from Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh,...

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Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Cambodia

Posted on Dec 20, 2013

It is 7 weeks since we left the UK and  today we left Vietnam exactly three weeks to the day since we entered. We have reached Cambodia and country number 10. Vietnam was a huge surprise. When we entered in the north it was cold and wet and didn’t feel much different to the UK. They have four seasons and could only grow one crop of rice per year. By the south of the country (over 2000km if you follow the curve of the country) the weather had changed to a tropical two season climate consisting of a wet season and a dry season and they achieve three crops of rice per year. The temperatures in the south hit a low of 21 and a high of 30 in December. Vietnam was far more developed than we had expected and far busier with Westerners too. In China (once outside Beijing) seeing a westerner (or someone who spoke good English) was a rare event so Vietnam where everyone spoke English and hoards of American and Australian tourists on every street and bus was a surprise. Restaurants serving heaps of meat, western dishes and western drinks were suddenly everywhere. Today we left Vietnam on the Mekong Express. We left Saigon only 20 minutes late, at 7:20 and arrived in Phnom Penh around 2pm. This bus was slightly cheaper at $14 each than the Giant Ibis which was $18 each and we got what we paid for. The bus was not the new one on all the pictures, it was quite a bit older and our window had a huge crack in it which had been taped over, so we had almost no view out of the window. The highlight of the ride was crossing the Mekong River, there are very few bridges in Cambodia crossing the Mekong and none on the route between Saigon and Phnom Penh (although one is supposed to open in mid 2014). Instead the road ends and descends down the river bank and onto a car ferry. The water was flowing fast but the ferry had no issue against the current and we crossed the river in a few minutes. Yet again we are in the tourist area. The hotel is very western (if we didn’t know better this could be anywhere in Europe) and the streets around here are packed with western restaurants and bars. We ate at the Aroma Chef which had among its many western dishes a full Sunday lunch! All prices are in American dollars, in fact that is the main currency here in Cambodia. This is known as Dollarization. Luckily the cash...

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