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March 05, 2005

Onwards to Angkor / De camino a Angkor

It's now two weeks since we left the waterfalls of Tadlo (Lao) and even though the days are flying by, we're still left with a very good taste from this beautiful part of the world.

Our plans of entering Cambodia from Lao took a bit of a diversion after we did some investigation into the practicalities of doing this; and then compared the crossing from Thailand. In the end, we decided to briefly go back into Thailand, before then crossing into Cambodia.

Why would you want to do that, I'm sure some of you are thinking? The answer was "simplicity" really. We would have required a prearranged Cambodian visa before attempting the crossing from Lao, whereas one can be easily obtained at the border with Thailand (less waiting around and less cost). Also, the more we looked into it, the more the route through northen Cambodia was starting to sound like a hassle-filled "pain-in-the-ass" (in this case you can take that literally, given the state of the roads). Let's just say that, at this point in our extended travels, the limited options of getting around were not too appealing.

On entering Thailand, we were a bit in awe of how well things seemed to be set up. Having got used to the small, simple shops that are found throughout Lao, the supermarkets here seemed a bit on the extravagant side. I'm sure the space-age malls in Singapore would have been way too much for us to handle at this stage!

We made some good use of our time in this Eastern part of Thailand by taking a day out to see our first Khymer ruins at Panom Rung. On top of that, we stocked up on as much cash as possible because Cambodia still does not have any ATM's (that we could use)!

Feeling refreshed from our stopover, we were ready for the adventure to come...

As soon as we crossed the border from Thailand to Cambodia (at Poi Pet), we were bombarded with all kinds of hangers on trying to "help" us get around. Ridiculous figures were being thrown around for how much it was going to cost us to get to Siem Reap (which was supposed to be about 4 hours away), so we stepped past all this madness to see what we could find in the town. Unfortunately after a hot, sweaty walk through the dusty, rubbish-covered streets, we hadn't come up with much else. The choice was either an expensive taxi now or a few hours wait for a slow (and still quite expensive) bus to whisk us away. When a taxi rolled up beside us and an English guy (who had crossed the border at the same time as us) asked if we wanted to share, we were only too happy to accept. From his passenger seat, he confirmed that it would take us about three and a half hours to reach our final destination. Little did we know, but our driver was about to shatter this estimate down to nearly two hours!

Taking off at about ninety along the bumpy, sandy road we were pinned to our seats, trying to take in our first sights of Cambodia. In a style of driving that could best be described as a mix of Colin McRae with Michael Schumacher, we were jolted around as the driver used whatever part of the road he saw fit to continue the way forward. His technique of using the horn as an alternative to the brake was certainly resourceful, if nothing else. We later found out that this fits the normal description of driving in Cambodia, although the speeds are not usually so high.

We took a day off to recuperate from the journey, but the next day we bought a three day pass to visit the famous ruins of Angkor Wat. People from all over the world come to see this symbol of Cambodia, so there was a fair number of buses rolling up on a daily basis here. Not surprisingly, this also meant that there were many locals selling all sorts of things around the area. While they were quite persistant, they were generally good-natured and added more to the experience than they took.

The first day, we got up at 4:30 am and took a remorque-moto (a carriage drawn by a motorbike) to catch the sunset at the most famous of the temples here, Angkor Wat. Barely able to keep our eyes open, after the early start, we struggled on. The rest of the day was used to go around one of the circuits of the area, where we caught most of the main sights.

While this was all well and good, to allow ourselves some more freedom to explore the surroundings, we rented some bicycles for the next couple of days. Thankfully the area was all flat and over our remaining days we racked up about 80 kms under our own steam. Our curiosity about the ruins, was well and truly satisfied by this stage.

The temples that we most liked were those that were least restored and one in particular, Ta Phrom, stood out above the rest (incidentily, this was used recently enough for scenes in "Tomb Raider" and 'Two Brothers"). It was amazing to see the awesome power of nature at this temple, as many ancient-looking trees had taken over parts of the buildings and engulfed them with it's roots and branches over the years.

I'll leave you with some of our favourite photos so you can get the idea.


Hace ya dos semanas que dejamos atrás las cascadas de Tadlo (en Lao) y aunque los días nos pasan volando aun nos queda el buen sabor de boca y los buenos recuerdos que este espléndido rincón del mundo nos dejó.

Después de haber investigado un poco sobre el tema del cruce de fronteras y haber averiguado que es más fácil entrar a Camboya desde Tailandia que desde Lao hicimos un rápido cambio de planes y decidimos tomar la primera opción. La razón por qué? Para entrar a Camboya desde Lao nos hacía falta un visado que tan solo se puede arreglar desde la capital y nos costaba más caro que si cruzábamos desde Tailandia. Además de eso, las carreteras del norte de Camboya son muy malas (por no decir inexistentes).

Así que nos dirigimos hacia Tailandia. Como ya estábamos acostumbrados a caminos de tierra, al no tener supermercados y en general a una vida más sencilla, el cambio de un país al otro nos sorprendió. Una vez cruzada la frontera empezaron a aparecer calles asfaltadas y tiendas casi tan decentes como Cualquier tienda en Europa. Aprovechamos nuestros días en el este de Tailandia para visitar nuestras primeras ruinas Khmer y de paso sacar dinero suficiente para durarnos un mes entero (no hay cajeros automáticos en Lao o Camboya!).

Después de la refrescante parada nos lanzamos de nuevo a la aventura (literalmente!)

Tan solo cruzar la frontera de Tailandia con Camboya nos encontramos con una muchedumbre de gente preguntándonos si queríamos un taxi hacia el próximo pueblo (que se hallaba a unas 4 horas de donde estábamos). Nosotros, con nuestro espíritu ahorrador, decidimos andar un par de kilómetros para ver si encontrábamos un autobús a un precio más razonable y después de caminar y caminar bajo el sol ardiente sin encontrar nada que valiera la pena coger, un coche se paró en frente nuestro y un chico inglés al que habíamos visto cruzar la frontera previamente nos invitó a ir con él a un precio muy asequible (y solo 1 euro más caro que el autobús). Nos pareció genial así que aceptamos. Le preguntamos cuanto tiempo se tardaba normalmente y el dijo que de 3 horas y media a 4; ese día lo hicimos en 2 horas y media y pensábamos que no íbamos a llegar!!!

El taxista fue a mil por hora por los caminos de tierra pitando a todo aquel que se le pusiera por delante. Su estilo de conducción se podría describir como algo entre el de Carlos Sainz y Fernando Alonso excepto que no íbamos en un coche tan caro y tampoco llevábamos casco ni cinturón (no por que no quisiéramos sino por que no había!).
Más tarde descubrimos que la gente en Camboya conduce así, a lo mejor un tanto más despacio, pero no hay normas de circulación ni carriles y en vez de utilizar el freno utilizan la bocina!

Después de tal viaje nos tomamos el día libre, pero al día siguiente compramos una entrada válida por tres días para visitar las famosas ruinas llamadas Angkor Wat. Diariamente gente de todo el mundo visita este enorme complejo de arquitectura Khmer y la verdad es que fue el único lugar del sudeste de Asia donde vimos turistas españoles!

El primer día nos levantamos a las 4:30 de la mañana, cogimos un 'Remorque-moto' (básicamente una moto con un carro remolcado y un conductor) para ver el amanecer en el templo más famoso y luego hicimos uno de los circuitos que tienen estipulados. Pero nosotros queríamos explorar las ruinas a nuestro aire así que alquilamos un par de bicicletas para los días que nos quedaban y nos pusimos a inspeccionar la zona. Dos días más tarde y 80Km a nuestras espaldas fueron suficientes para satisfacer nuestra curiosidad.

Los templos que más nos gustaron fueron los que estaban menos restaurados y en particular uno llamado Ta Phrom (fue utilizado en las películas 'Tomb Raider' y 'Dos hermanos'). El templo reflejaba el poder de la naturaleza mostrando las raíces de árboles arcaicos atravesando la estructura milenaria causando su desmoronamiento.

Os dejamos con algunas de nuestras fotos favoritas.

Panom Rung, Thailand / Panom Rung, Tailandia

Entrance sign of Angkor / Señal a la entrada de Angkor

Sunrise at Angkor / Salida del sol en Angkor

Angkor tower / Torre en Angkor

Remorque-moto / Moto con carro de remolque

Bayon Temple / Templo de Bayon

Details on wall at Bayon / Detalles en una de las paredes de Bayon

Coconut break / Tomando un descanso con un jugo de coco

Ta Phrom temple / templo Ta Phrom

Us at Ta Phrom / nosotros en Ta Phrom

Posted by Nate on March 5, 2005 01:04 PM
Category: 14 Cambodia

hola chulos! he venido a ver a tu papi un ratillo y a gastar unos pocos de dineros. tanto rafa y yo tenemos muchas ganas de veros!!!!!!!! tengo noticias! cuando vengais ya no estare en el slender, estamos realizando mi sueño, montando una peluqueria!!!!!!! cuando vengais, vemos nos tiraremos todo un dia hablando pero fijo. os quiero un monton.

Posted by: Jose Antonio Mateu on March 18, 2005 08:13 PM
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