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The FCC Saved My Ass

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After several days of exploring the sites of Phnom Penh including Chuong Ek, the Russian Market, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda we decided to spend a lazy day walking along the Mekong River.  We stopped at several restaurants and roadside stalls for snacks during the trek.

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In Happier Times
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Potential Culprits???
    
     We had heard that the FCC had a great atmosphere and wonderful views over the Mekong River.  The rooftop bar had both qualities, yet at $2 per beer we were hard pressed to justify the outrageous prices compared to the 50 cent beers available in the squalor of the less pompous bars on the streets.  That would soon change.  The potent cocktail of street food started to wreak havoc on my American gut more accustomed to sterile vittles.  On the verge of certain disaster I raced for the throne.  Over the next few minutes I did not feel like a king.  As luck would have it FCC had the most beautiful and clean toilets I had laid eyes on since reaching Phnom Penh.  The soft toilet paper was a God send.  After 3 more gut wrenching episodes in the next 15 minutes, not to mention what must have been $5 worth of toilet paper, the writing was on the wall.  I realized that that $2 beer was the best deal I had ever gotten in my life!  The FCC saved my ass.
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You Get What You Pay For

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When leaving Battambang we booked a local bus for the 5 hour, several hundred kilometer ride to Phnom Penh.  It was a $4 ticket.  The bus arrived at the station 30 minutes past its scheduled departure time or as it is better known in SE Asia, “very early”.

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Beginning of the day- Ignorance is Bliss.

As the rattletrap pulled up Nug said, “I hope that’s not our bus.”  After a lot of pointing and attempting to communicate we deduced that it was indeed our transport.  We boarded the bus and entered another world.  It looked like a dirt bomb had gone off inside the vehicle as red dusty soil clung to every available surface.  Black mud was caked on the floor and most seats.  Gangs of giant flies buzzed around and harassed passengers.  The lime green and purple curtains and drapes had patterns from the 60’s and had obviously last been cleaned in the same decade.  People were eating and food crumbs, wrappers, fruit rinds and drink containers littered the ground.  I looked back at Nug and for a split second thought she was going to lay an egg.  Instead she flashed a James Dean smile at me and we found our seats to commence our ride through the bouncy, windy roads.  It was akin to riding a boat in rough seas.

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The decor

The only new thing on the bus was a small flat screen television blaring some horrendous Cambodian pop music.  After several hours the bus started running ragged so we pulled over.  Everyone was cattle prodded off the bus.  We had broken down.  An hour later another bus from the same company pulled up.  An absolute riot ensued with people shouting in Khmer and pushing towards the bus.  Nug and I were like deer in headlights.  We managed to work our way onto the bus which was packed to the gills.  There were 3 or 4 people in every row and in the game of musical chairs we were left standing.  The bus driver started yelling at us, “NO Seats!  NO Seats!!  You (pointing at me), You (pointing at Nug), off bus to wait!”  The thought of standing on the side of the road for an indeterminate period of time and sucking fumes was not the least bit appealing.  We shook our heads no and plopped down in the middle of the aisles on the muddy floor.  She stared us down and shook her head in exasperation before going to the front to take off.  We copped several smiles from other passengers and a nice group of women made room for Nug to squeeze in with them for the last 50km.  8 hours after we left Battambang we pulled into the bus station in Phnom Penh and were greeted by a torrential downpour.

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The turd

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Nug waiting it out.

A Day in Battambang

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A video from a day in the Cambodian country side with bats, skulls, and cricket eating.

Bamboo Train in Battambang Cambodia

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A short video from our epic trip aboard the Bamboo Train in Battambang, Cambodia.

The Story of $20

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After several days of pretending to be Indiana Jones at the Angkor Archaeological Park we decided to while away a day in the streets and markets of Siem Reap.  Even this far away the US dollar is accepted as the main currency.  Cambodia does have its own currency, the riel, but most people prefer not to use it and ask you to pay in USD if possible.  It was early afternoon when we decided to head into town and see how far we could get with $20.  We took a tuk-tuk ride from our hotel into town which took about 10 minutes and was free.  We spent the next several hours lazily browsing through the Central Market as well as a smaller market down by the riverfront.  Nug got a new North Face backpack for $5 and I got a sick Bayon Temple t-shirt for $2.

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Stoked on my pink shirt.

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Central Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After walking along the river a bit more our feet were feeling the pain so we stopped for a 30 minute foot massage and decided to go big with a 15 minute back/ neck massage as well.  This set us back $4 in total.  We had worked up an amazing appetite so we found a comfy café with lounge chairs set back in a tropical garden to have some dinner.  Nug opted for the green mango salad with chicken breast and I got some delicious, fresh spring rolls wrapped with local rice paper.  We had 4 beers between the 2 of us over the next hour and a half as well and gladly paid the $5.25 tab upon leaving.

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Boom!!!

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Sign me up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited the Night Market which was pumping.  I got a huge bag of assorted fruit including dragon fruit, lychee, and durian for 50 cents.  Ever the fat kid I had to throw in a donut (which was one of the most amazing, greasy things I have ever had) and some type of pastry with powdered sugar and mystery filling for another 25 cents.

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Night Market

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Yum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to wander down to Pub Street to watch the ruckus.  This is the main backpacker area of town where people go to get zero culture but to drink the 35 cent beers until they are blind and dancing in the street.  We found a bar with couches overlooking the melee and had 3 beers at 35 cents a pop which led us to a total of $1.05.  It was around 130 am by this point and we were heading to Battambang in the morning so we went about trying to find a tuk-tuk back to Golden Mango Inn.  We found a ride for $2 but this put us over our $20 budget by a nickel.  However, sometimes you just have to splurge.

Tuk-Tuks and Temples

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One of the biggest draws in Siem Reap is the beautiful countryside littered with ancient temples and ruins.  Angkor Wat is the most famous but hundreds more are in the region.  The tuk-tuk ride from Siem Reap to the countryside is absolute chaos.  Motorbikes, cows, dogs, children, semi-trucks, cars, bicycles, food carts and people are everywhere and move about in no apparent rhyme or reason.

Kollo and Nug

Angkor Archaeological Park Passes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To add to the confusion every driver lays on their horn for most of the ride.  It seems to me that it would be better to set the horn to blare continuously and the driver could then turn it off by pressing the horn.  It is incredible that wrecks don’t materialize everywhere.  The breeze in the tuk-tuk felt amazing because once it stopped we were in 90+ degree sweltering heat.  It was the kind of heat where you could drink 3 liters of water and still not have to relieve yourself once since the water is sweat right out.  The unlimited bottled water on the tour was a lifesaver.  Over 3 separate 8 hour days we visited a dozen temples and a few of these temples more than once.  Some like Angkor Wat were crawling with tourists while at others we were the only people around.  The unifying thread between all the temples is that they were absolutely stunning.

Ta Prohm

Angkor Wat Sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neak Pean

Bayon

East Mabon

Angkor Wat

Welcome to Cambodia

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The trip from the Gold Coast to Siem Reap required 11 hours of being cramped in a metal tube flying 500mph through the sky.  Nug and I went through numerous thunderstorms on our red eye flight.  Neither of us slept a wink; me from tweaking and Nug because every time she began to nod off I would tug on her sleeve like an infant to tell her I was scared of the turbulence.  She took it in stride even though I am sure she wanted to belt me in the nose.  We arrived in Siem Reap at 7am and zipped through Cambodian customs.

Our Tuk-Tuk Driver “Kollo”

The Tuk-Tuk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once outside we were surprised to see that our hostel had sent a tuk-tuk driver for us.  He took us to the Golden Mango Inn which is apparently a “flashpacker” hostel.  I had never before heard this term but I guess we fit the definition.  The Golden Mango price included a full breakfast, wi-fi internet, free bottled water, comfy beds, a killer pool, and free tuk-tuk rides to town.  Compared to the dives that were available for $12 per night it cost a fortune at $19 but at the ripe old age of 30 I am willing to part with the extra cash and can justify it to myself.

Riding clean

Nug happy that I’m giving her sleeve a rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus, after living in Australia for the past 7 months it was sticker shock in reverse.  We could not believe how cheap it was in comparison.  Within 5 minutes of arriving and on zero sleep we dumped our bags in the room and jumped on the first available tuk-tuk into town.

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