|Hello all!! So I am sorry I am a bit late getting started so I have to get 2 weeks worth of travels into one journal.I arrived in Saigon on August 31 and from there went to Phnom Penh as my first stop in Cambodia.From there I have been to the beach and up to Angkor Wat and just finished with Cambodia, leaving Battambang this morning.So here has what has been going on since I got to Asia...
Saigon: I got off the plane and got my visa and gathered my stuff and then stepped out of the airport only to realize that I had no money,no idea where my hostel was or how I was going to get there, and no way to communicate any of this to anybody. I started to panic but lucky for me I have the look of someone who has very little idea of what is going on and someone called me over to their little booth,exchanged my money, and got me a cab. Driving through Saigon (not Ho Chi Minh City, as I was informed in the cab)we finally stop and my cab driver points down an ally and tells me that was where my hostel was. I cross the street(no small thing considering the way people drive and the traffic) and head down a dark ally and sure enough-my hostel was there. I had made it and feeling very proud that I survived I went to bed at around 8 PM. The next day I woke up bright and early-ready to explore!! I put my ipod on and set out on the town. It took me about 10 minutes to discover that I was to afraid to cross the street alone. I had made it all this way only to be stuck on the side of the road stepping on and off the curb trying to find a good time to run between the cars and motorbikes.After realizing that people don't really stop while driving in Vietnam- they just swerve, I decided to hire a motorbike and have him drive me around and see the sights. So I found John and off I went-the market, the city center, War Museum.Finally my now good friend John dropped me off near my hostel and told me how much I owed him -which happened to be more then I paid for 3 nights in a hostel.John and I are no longer friends. I met some nice people in my room at the hostel so that night I went out with them and then I planned my next move which brings me to...
Phnom Penh: First stop in Cambodia!! Now my trip has really started!Crossing the border was simple, everyone was helpful and there was very little wait.I assumed at the time that this was how it would always be when I crossed into another country-I was very disappointed this afternoon when I got to Thailand. Anyway, I was excited because- as twisted as it sounds-I really wanted to see the Killing Fields. I had read about the Khmer Rouge and S-21 and I wanted to go. So, I hired a tuk-tuk driver and a few of us from my hostel headed out to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and Toul Sleng Museum. I won't get into detail, but it was very interesting to see and to know that all of this happened so recently(the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975)but overall it was horrific. So sad.Later that afternoon I went to the Royal Palace and the night market. I ate banana and strawberry ice cream-my first dessert in days and it was fantastic. After spending all day at places where people were tortured I decided I was finished with Phnom Penh. I needed some beach time so I headed south.
Sihanoukville: I had gotten a few recommendations to go here and I was ready for some sun and lucky for me I got the last 2 days of it-it has been raining ever since. I got there and booked a boat tour for the following morning and it was great. We went snorkeling and swam and had a BBQ on the beach. I laid in the sun. It was exactly how I had envisioned this trip being. I spent the next day wandering around the shops and eating good food and nursing the sunburn that I had gotten from all that time in the sun.(It was just my face and it was BAD-even my eyelids were burnt) But then the storm clouds rolled in and so I headed to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap: To get there I took a night bus so I arrived at my hostel around 5 AM exhausted. They told me I could check in but I would have to pay for that night and even though all I wanted to do was sleep I decided to be cheap and asked if there was anywhere I could wait to check in and they took pity on me and let me wander around a bit. I discovered what a great place I had picked to stay-there was a pool, a yoga room, a TV room. I was pleasantly surprised. Anyway, around 9 they took pity on me (again) and let me in my room and I spent the rest of the day being lazy and doing laundry(And by doing I mean paying somebody $2 to do it for me. It was wonderful, I got it back folded and wrapped in plastic. It smelled like flowers.)And then I went to bed early so I could get up for sunrise at Angkor Wat. I got up at 445 and headed to the temples. Because the weather was starting to get bad there was no real sunrise to speak of, but it was still incredible. To hear about something for so long and then to actually be there and see it-it was amazing. Even so, at around the 7 hour mark I was ready to go-it was the middle of the day and it was starting to get really hot. So I went back to the hostel and changed and set out for a place to eat. Now, since I got to Cambodia I noticed that sometimes people laugh at me when I walk down the street. Not in a mean way-some people just kind of giggle. I don't know why this is-if it is the way I dress or what. On this particular day however, I knew exactly what they were laughing about. My face had started to peel pretty badly from my sunburn and in an effort to not wake up everyone in my room at 5 AM I jumped out of bed to turn the alarm off and ran into the wall, causing a very large lump over my left eye. My hair had not been too bad but with the rain starting the curl and frizz were getting to be beyond what I could control with headbands and bobby pins. There were a few days there where I looked like lagoon creature. My tuk-tuk driver just pointed to my face and asked "What happen,is it OK?" The next day I had signed up to go on a food tour of Siem Reap, up until that point I was keeping it really basic. I had a lot of curry and noodles. I had pizza one night. So I went on a tour with Sia, a local who was studying tourism, he took us through the market and to stalls on the street and we tried all kinds of fruit and sat and ate lunch at one of the stalls in the market. Now I consider myself a brave eater but I realized that I am not. He picked up red ants and there was eel and the smell of raw meat in that hot air. A lot of what we tried was good, but I ate slowly and was unable to finish anything. Sia was great, it was a good tour and I met some another girl who was also on her own, Priscilla. We went back to the hostel and got a beer and waited for a final course which was....grasshopper, frog, and cricket. I ate some frog and a cricket but I could not bring myself to eat a grasshopper. For the record-frog does not taste like chicken and cricket tastes exactly how you would expect a cricket to taste. So I am now back to curry and noodles. That night Priscilla and I went to the night market and out to dinner on Pub Street. Walking down the street you are bombarded by people who want you to buy something, eat something, get a massage. I am still at the start of my travels so I am still polite about it and say "No thank you" and apologize. I have run into people a few months in and they are heartless at this point. I understand-you are not supposed to give people money, especially children. But it still breaks my heart when small kids put their hands out or beg you to buy something. At times I give in. I have seen grown men yell though. At kids. At poor, dirty, hungry kids.I understand the frustration but I wonder when it will be for me-the point when you go from "This is so sad, I feel terrible" to "Get the hell away from me-I don't want a scarf(or a flower, or coke, or a bracelet, or a massage, or a tuk-tuk....)." I will let you guys know.The next day I got up and did some yoga at my hostel and then headed out with a few others to the Flooded Forest. With all the rain Siem Reap itself was really flooded so getting there was a mission, but after a long and bumpy tuk-tuk ride and a long trip on a motor boat we made it. There was an entire village on stilts. People were fishing, going about their business. Kids would stop and wave and yell "Hello!"They always do, Cambodian children love to wave and talk to all the westerners, even when they aren't selling anything.So we went on and finally stopped for lunch.Then we hopped in canoes and rowed through the forest itself.It was really cool, going through the trees and we saw frogs and snakes. And it was so peaceful and relaxing. (For me anyway, probably not for the poor guide who had to do all the rowing.) On the way back we stopped at a school and all the kids there loved my digital camera. They would pose, I would take a picture and show them, they would laugh and squeal and beg "one more!One more!" As a result I now have quite a few pictures of kids making goofy faces at the camera. We went back and the rain at that point had caused such bad flooding that I was afraid that if I didn't get out of town soon, I would be writing about my 3 months in Siem Reap. So I booked my bus to Battambang.
Battambang: I had heard it was worth a stop and a fun place to see, but I am going to be honest-it was kind of a bust. What can I say? They can't all be winners. It wasn't all bad-there was a cafe I really liked and some nice people. I went to a bamboo train and a rice mill. Another temple. But when it came time to leave there was a bit of confusion with the bus and how I was getting there. There were tears. It was not my finest moment. But I made it in one piece and that brought my time in Cambodia to an end.
So, that brings everyone up to speed!! I am in Thailand now and excited to look around. I will write again soon-hope you are all well!!(and by all I mean my parents and Jess, probably the only people who made it through this whole thing ) :)