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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exploring Cambodia

We woke up this morning to the lights on the plane being turned on!  Nothing like a 2:30am wake-up call!  When we landed, it was about 3:00am, 2 hours past our scheduled arrival, so we talked it over and decided to grab a taxi and head over to Morchit bus station, in Bangkok, and catch the 4:30am bus over to the Cambodian border!

Luckily we were able to sleep a little bit on the bus, so when we finally got the border, we were ready to face the hundreds of touts who met us there begging for us to buy their souveniers!   We quickly found a woman to take us to the border on her tuk tuk for $1.00!

After just a couple minutes, we were there and could see the border in sight!

We quickly moved through the Thai immigration office and then through the Cambodian one, but not without being grifted by the Cambodian police!  We were savy to their grift though, and only paid the $20.00 price that was listed on the wall (for our VISAs) instead of the outrageous price they told us to pay!  It’s sad when a country’s own policemen try to scam you! 

After getting our Cambodian visas, we jumped on the free government shuttle which took us to the taxi area! If weren’t for Aaron, I would have paid an arm and a leg during this whole border crossing fiasco! It’s REALLY easy to get scammed in this country!

Luckily, we found a really great taxi driver who drove us the two hours to Siem Reap for $40.00, which is a standard fare from the border. We drove through quite a few small towns along the way… This should give you a good example of how the Cambodian people live. It definitely made me realize how fortunate I was.


 The ride was llllloooonnnngggg, and we were sooo exhausted from traveling, hence Aaron's very sleepy eyes!

We arrived in Siem Reap around noon, and quickly found a tuk tuk to take us to Two Dragons hostel.  Aaron had stayed here last time he was in Cambodia and highly recommended it!  It’s run by a nice American guy and his Camobodian wife.

We both got settled in, ordered some lunch, read through some pamphlets on what to do in the city, and then rented bikes for $1.00 each and rode to Khmer Ceramics Center, an outdoor pottery place where we sat and made our very own pottery with some local teenagers!

For $15.00 (a bit expensive, but worth the experience), we were able to make 3 things! We could use the wheel, or sit at the table and create something! We both chose to start on the wheel!

… There was one table where some locals were crafting stuff to sell in the store’s gallery.  Aaron and I had a lot of fun here because it wasn’t touristy at all!  In fact, we were the only foreigners there! 

Playing with clay was a first for me, since I was forced to take Spanish as an elective in High School, instead of Ceramics! So, I needed a lot more assistance than Aaron! 

My pottery, sunbathing, and getting ready for the kiln!

Aaron’s pottery, sunbathing next to mine!  He kept trying to make something on the wheel for his 3rd thing, but ended up giving up and making a heart instead!  It is the week of Valentine’s, after all!  J  I thought it was a cute sentiment on his part!

We were assured that our pottery would be glazed, fired, and delivered to Two Dragon’s hostel the next day… so off we went to explore the city on our bikes!

This river runs right through the middle of Siem Reap and you can find lots of local Cambodians jogging in the late afternoon and evening… you can also see little neighborhoods, like this one, with wooden shacks, on stilts, in some areas of the river.

After exploring the town, we headed back to the hostel for a nap!  We were both so tired and worn out from the sun and bike riding! We immediately fell in love with Matthew, the owners ½ Camoboidan – ½ American son, who is one of the smartest and most creatuive 5 ½ year olds that I’ve met to date! His imagination is unbelievable! As you can see, he was deep sea diving tonight!

We had heard of a great place to catch the sunset, but decided to try somewhere different instead.  It’s a local street market, where tourists are never seen!  It sounded like just the kind of place that Aaron and I would be in to!  So, we hired a tuk tuk driver and off we went!

We spotted this guy, carrying a toddler, on his motorcycle!  This isn’t even close to the worst we’ve seen though!  Later tonight, we saw two guys and 3 babies on 1 scooter!  I kid you not!

When we got to the street market, the locals were just beginning to set up shop, so we stopped in at a little street food place and ordered some drinks!

This was the son of the woman who ran the street food cart!

She motioned for us to sit down at one of the tables she had set up for her customers!  (Yes, there were carnival rides set up!  None of which you should try riding if you want to live to see tomorrow though!)

This one was my personal favorite! A homemade merry-go-round, powered with electric extension chords, running under the dirt! The little cars where the kids could sit were actually plastic cards like big wheels, tricycles, etc… basically whatever the owner could find to put on the darn thing! It was classic!

There were even carnival games!  Aaron tried this one and was a big winner!  It was the game where you throw balls at cans and try to knock all of them over!  Being the athletic guy that he is, he knocked all of them down without using all of the balls!   He was given a bag of chips!  Haha

Here was another homemade merry-go-round, of sorts, with random cars on it!  They love these things!

As you can probably imagine, Cambodia is absolutely dirt poor...  It was hard not to want to help everyone, especially the little ones who are covered in dirt and walking, aimlessly, around the markets, with no parents in sight.

We met a little boy earlier in the day who said he hadn’t eaten anything that day and was really excited for his next meal.  Hopefully it wasn’t these crickets that were for sale in the street market!

… or these gigantic beetles that were also up for grabs!  I’ll eat bull frogs, but I was not about to try a beetle!  I have to draw the line somewhere, right?!

After the night market, we headed back to Two dragons where we ordered some dinner and called it a night!

Tomorrow morning, we’re both setting our alarms for 4:00am to go over to Angkor Wat to watch the sun rise! Should be amazing!

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