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East Cambodia: Done & Dusted

Dusted & Stoned

sunny
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Ban Lung
Whilst stopped at Stung Treng for three hours ("only one hour sir for next bus"), I met two Canadians, J & C. They were heading the same way and wanted to see same sights so immediately struck up a conversation. The eventual bus took off, like a rocket, down an unsealed road, me sat in the middle, my cheeks flapping somewhere near the back. This trip, apparently should take four hours but the way it was hurtling, tree branches zipping past my window, I was thinking maybe 30 minutes.

Four hours later, in the relatively early darkness of the evening, we arrived in Ban Lung and clamoured past the hoards of guest house reps all badgering for our custom.

The road on the way was made of red dust which got everywhere. The trees outside were cloaked in red, giving somehow a proper northern hemisphere November feel to them. Even with the windows closed, the dust was getting in the bus. My throat was lined with it, so croakily asked about the wares of each hotel on offer on arrival.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos of Ban Lung: here

We opted for an out of town abode overlooking the lake, appropriately called Lake View Lodge. It promised free internet access and a swimming pool. It was a nice guest house but they no longer had internet access and the swimming pool was full of fish.

It was dark, I was tired and my room had cable TV so I dropped my dusty backpack off my back, kicked off my dusty shoes, removed my dusty shirt and settled back for some Planet of the Ape action.

In the morning, I saddled up to the restaurant and had breakfast where the manager offered me a trip to see the surrounding waterfalls and crater lake, "your friends are also doing it", he said. Cool, it's always better with others, I was in.

Jen & Coll came down and had brekky too. The manager looked at Jen and said with an honest and straight face, "Do you like cock?". In a flash, our eyebrows raised, jaws dropped and then uncontrollably fell into hysterics. Poor guy, he eventually caught on, but purely and innocently was referring to the toy rooster she had with her.

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ooh, here comes more dust

I'm not a great bike passenger but dug in and spent all day on the back of a moped, going over all types of terrain, driving literally through roadworks, into ruts, breaking down, seeing waterfalls and taking a trip and a dip to a nearby lake which is an old volcanic crater. It's amazing how clear and how warm this lake is, which is allegedly 50m deep. It was good to get rid of some of the dust from myself too, which now lined, not only my airways but the complete surface area of skin too, possibly even some more layers of epidermis. Nice tan effect though.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos of Ban Lung: here

We were going to do a three day trek the following days but the heavens opened that evening and a quick squizz at the web showed it was to be relentless for a few days in this region so plans changed to catch a bus down south.

I ummed and ahhed about the merits of going straight to Phnom Penh or stopping by Kratie. Kratie did have the option of possibly seeing the worlds rarest freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins but the chances of seeing them are somewhere between slim and none and even then you may see only a fin popping out of the brown waters of the Mekong, so I opted against and booked a minibus straight to Phnom Penh. As it happens, David Attenborough showed me the teamwork and fish catching skills of freshwater dolphins in the Ganges on cable TV that night.

Phnom Penh

What a long bus journey, broken up at a few rest stops to see two mad women fighting (it looked like the wasted one with the ripped shirt and bra showing hadn't paid the bill and the owner was beating her with a rubber hose - mental note, pay the bill) and another stop to have a taste of fried tarantula. Hmmm.. well the legs weren't that nice - a bit chewy - but the body had the texture of olive and a taste of liver.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos of Phnom Penh: here

The minibus made a few stops in PP (Phnom Penh) and with it came mad running tuktuk drivers all wanting a piece of our action. It's the same walking about the city. It's ok and I don't despise them because it's their job but it's so incredibly annoying and after being asked 56 times in the span of 4 minutes if you want a tuktuk, it really gets on your tits, especially after the peace of Laos.

In PP, I stopped at one guest house near the Boeng Kak lake and the ground floor room had paper-thin flimsy walls and it was right next to the bar and the stuck-on-permanant-loud TV. "No worries", I thought as I'd be up to watch the United match that they told me they had on. I hadn't reckoned on mob rule later on when a crazy Israeli guy thought it'd be better to start banging on about democracy and that he and his mates should watch the wacky (and Israeli?) Zohan instead.

A guest house that allows a dictatorship of on-demand movies, or more especially one that doesn't allow me to see a 5-0 drubbing of Stoke after promising it would, will do well to secure my patronage so I waited for the heavens to stop and the two foot deep street rivers to dry up (ie. the next morning) and chose a far better, quieter and sturdier walled hotel round the corner: Grand View Guest House, Tel: 012 666 547, www.grandview.netfirms.com

Security Office 21

Anyone who comes to PP visits the killing fields and S-21 and I was no exception. I was briefed to go to S-21/Tuol Sleng first to get an understanding of the horrors of the genocide in the 70's here. S-21 used to be a Tuol Svay Prey High School but it was turned into a prison by Pol Pot's forces, impressionable children also used as staff, and the classrooms were used to interrogate, torture and execute "new people" who had western influences, crazy things such as education or wearing glasses. The Khmer Rouge wanted a country with simple folk working on rice fields.

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--see more photos of S21: here

I watched a sad movie there then wandered round in silence, unable to comprehend, as with Auschwitz months before, how any group of high ranking individuals can force their obscenely mental and tortuous plans onto subordinates to carry out these fucking horrific plans of theirs.

Afterwards our tuktuk driver took us to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where thousands upon thousands of individuals were cold-bloodily executed and buried in mass graves. All around the craters of the graves dug up are there to see and there is a huge but tasteful and moving monument there full of only a fraction of the skulls that have been excavated from the graves.

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Our tuktuk driver wasn't the fastest in the city but it gave us time to reflect what we had seen on our slow journey back to the centre.

Unconditional Love

We paused at a market to buy some supplies and then Villa took us to a local orphanage: National Action Culture Association (NACA) Orphanage / www.myspace.com/peaceandfreedom_sm. The younger ones ran straight up to us to see what we'd brought them and immediately went about colouring in the books with the brightly coloured pencils that came with them.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos of Phnom Penh: here

Some of the older ones were a bit more restrained (seen it all before I guess) but an hour later when it was time for us to leave, after several piggy backs and helping them with their drawings, even these wrapped their arms around you in appreciation of just stopping by.

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One girl even ran after us and gave us a paper flower she'd made. Bless them all. There was a folder inside the orphanage which told you about each kid and how they ended up being there which made for sad reading but funny too as they each described themselves and their favourite colours and food. Mostly pizza. The lady that ran the place is an angel. I do hope they have successful futures ahead of them. They sure are happy.

I got dropped off at the Royal Palace which after the full day before me, was a bit of a come down. The highlight was supposed to be the Silver Pagoda, so called because the floor is composed of solid silver tiles, but they had carpet over it all. The highlights, if I really searched to find themha to pick them, were seeing clothes donated by the Fab Four (possibly not true and maybe just in my head) and seeing models of a royal procession which reminded me of Kim Jong-il in Team America..

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I'm so ronerey..

The next day I went for a wander, a read, the museum (many statues of Vishnu or Buddha) and a few draft beers. I think I like this city better than Bangkok but they have to sort their waste management out. It looks like a tip in most places. That night we had half a happy pizza each and asked if we could put the rest in their fridge till tomorrow morning. They were ok about that. The following morning I tried to get up to go to the animal sanctuary and could hardly lift my arms and legs - they were seemingly made of lead. Nine hours and was still stoned. I went downstairs in case the others were there and was relieved to see Jen walking into the restaurant like a zombie who's head looked as vacant and cabbaged as mine. What was in that pizza?

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I want a mate

Needless to say the rest of the morning was written off but then we forced ourselves to go out and took an enormous tuktuk ride to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary, the sister site to the Luang Prabang one. It was bigger and less intimate. Obviously they still had cages but it didn't seem as friendly nor as much effort put in. The guide was just after money to feed what he would have been feeding them anyway, but the animals as ever were amazing. Monkeys crawling about everywhere. One gibbon looked so sad to be without a mate inside while the otters were happily frisky and playful.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos of Phnom Penh: here

After a long ride back during rush hour, we stopped by the restaurant to see if they still had the other halves of the pizzas for us (don't ask, we were starving). Not only did they, but they also heated it up for us again and never charged us. How great is a restaurant that will store your leftovers and reheat them for you the next day? BKM Cafe I think it's called.

Today, as I am finally up to date on my diaries, it's a day of chilled out wandering around again, (maybe bump into Ben as he's around) ignoring the calls for motos and tuktuks, sitting in the aircon web cafes and avoiding viruses, nipping to the post office (who's the lucky one?) and sipping a couple of Angkor and Anchor beers before relaxing for dinner, a movie and heading up to Battambang on an early bus tomorrow. I've had my fill of Phnom Penh.

Next update: sam wat time, same wat channel...

Love n hugs
Suggs x

Posted by suggs69 15:11 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking

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