To bus or to boat? Which is more expensive and difficult? Well that’s settled then. Good day.

7 Mar

After the whirlwind of the day before, we spent the next chilling out in the Gecko bar. They do an amazing drink – fresh limes and juice mixed with crushed ice and mint. Refreshing when the temperature is 37 degrees. It only falls to 26-27 degrees at night so sleep is very difficult…keep having to get up to have cold showers in the middle of the night.

We also booked the boat to Siem Reap for $19 each. The receptionist obviously thought we had a screw loose as the bus only costs $4.50 and takes a couple of hours, whereas the boat takes 8 hours, but we were adamant we wanted to go on it because it was meant to be a very beautiful stretch of river, leading into the Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia.

When we turned up the next day, we thought the receptionist might have had a point. The guidebook said get there early to try and get a seat away from the engine. Many people had had the same idea, and besides, the boat was crammed with people and luggage. Our minibus to the “port” was carrying an extra 13 people. I hopefully stuck my head in the boat only to see there was no space – even if people shuffled up it was going to make for a very uncomfortable and hot 8 hours so we took an executive decision and sat on the roof (factor 50 being in my bag).

This was the view on top of the boat so you can imagine how many people were inside. If the worst came to the worst and we had to swim, I would have preferred to be up here rather than trying  negotiate people and luggage underwater. So suncream came out, we stretched out on a bag of rice and enjoyed an interrupted view of the sights of the river

Flocks of seagull-like birds, two herons, catfish, eagles, hawks, snakes and eels joined us on the journey. Luckily our hotel had given us each a free scarf for staying there, which came in handy when the sun really got going after 12. This being a journey in Cambodia, it was obviously not going to be a smooth one. Our boat was overloaded to begin with, but because it is the dry season, the river was extremely shallow – far less than a metre in places. This meant slow going (so did the manoeuvering around the children swimming, fishermen waist deep with their nets and women washing themselves and their clothes)…especially when going past all the floating villages as anyone who’s been on a canal boat knows, it’s not appreciated when someone motors past you, created a massive wave. We also saw some of the poorest communities we’ve been past yet – tiny little makeshift shelters made from sticks and covered in plastic sheeting or just material. I am not sure whether these are permanent structures or whether they just live there in the dry season but even so, it’s not a way of life that looks particularly pleasent for even a few months.

After getting stuck a couple of times over the first few hours, we finally found deepish water so could go slightly above walking pace. But the slow journey meant we could enjoy the scenery and spend time waving at the hundreds of kids along the way who shouted hello to us. There were locals on the boat too, who along with their bags of comfortable rice (bye bye seat) and baskets of live roosters, needed dropping off at their doors or monks who needed picking up from their waterside temples.

We got to Siem Reap at the port where we had visited a floating village the year before and had bought the worst/best souvenirs ever – horrid china patterned plates with pictures of our faces stuck to them. They were so awful we had to buy them – I think they are now adorning Craig’s mum and nan’s houses…lucky them. We have been on a quest to better these and think we have got pretty close – matching teeshirts, the horror of which will be unleashed at a chosen point and of course, documented on here.

We found a little guesthouse here (well, we were customarily bullied into it by a tuktuk driver of course) for $6 a night. This one isn’t quite as fancy as the last one – the mouldering walls and stench of other people’s urine being new additions – but we’re only going to be here for another couple of days and most of the time will not be spent in the room. We decamped and then headed off to Pub Street for a welcome sit down and beer

Less welcome was the return of food poisoning for both of us, an allergic reaction (again for both of us, although to what we are still unclear) and an ear infection for me. Super. But SR is the best place to be to get medication I suppose as it’s a big city, so off we went to the pharmacy for antibiotics and antihistimines and for extra stocks for when it inevitably strikes again.

The next morning we went to the post office to pick up my new sim card (which hadn’t arrived, cheers Orange) and on the way back, saw a sign to the children’s hospital here. On our last visit, we were encouraged to donate blood there as the standards are very high and they “guarantee clean needles” (not sure how you’d rectify this if it was found to be wrong!) but I had only just given blood in the UK so couldn’t do it again. This time it had been 3 months since my last donation, we decided to pay them a visit.

We were assured that the various pills we had been taking wouldn’t cause a problem with donating, but for some reason they insist on a gap of four months between donations for women here (men are ok to donate every 3 months). The other checks they did were nothing like the NHS’s, which is a 2 page questionnaire of questions about where you’ve travelled, whether you’ve had tattoos recently etc but I guess as they only received 1,300 donations last year, they can’t afford to be too choosy. I explained that I was a regular donor in the UK and that I had given blood every 3 months with no problems, so they took a sample of my blood. Apparently I have a very high red blood cell count so I was in :)

I also have “fast blood” according to the nurse! Craig went next – his first donation ever and was told he had “warm blood” – and was a big bravey as usual

For some reason the nurse said that she didn’t need to test Craig’s blood, but me being the uncompetitive soul I am said it was probably a good idea. I had 4.72 million cells per microliter and Craig had 4.54. I managed to keep my elaborate victory dance to my imagination only, but it was a struggle.

Rather sweetly, we got a free teeshirt, a coke and packet of biscuits afterwards. Craig handed round some of the biscuits round to children in the ward and then we went and had a sit down – missing 350ml of blood in this heat meant this was a good idea. We’re now sitting in the guesthouse bar and planning what to do tomorrow – we saw Angkor Wat last year so would like to see what else SR has to offer before we go to Bangkok and then off to Sri Lanka for three weeks…just waiting for the e-visas to be approved before we book our flights sliiiightly off course but for the price (£100 return each way), seemed an unmissable opportunity. After that, it looks like I will be volunteering on an island in Thailand for 4 weeks (Craig will stay there too but will not be required to work, lucky boy), before heading off to explore the rest of the country. This is probably the most we’ve planned ever so I am sure it is bound to change!

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10 Responses to “To bus or to boat? Which is more expensive and difficult? Well that’s settled then. Good day.”

  1. Mary Durante Youtt 7 March 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I assume you went to the Angkor Hospital for Children… My husband and I donate our fine art photography prints to Friends without a Border which benefits the hospital through art auctions. The foundation for the hospital was a dream of photograph Kenro Izu. We learned of him and his cause when we were in Siem Reap in 2008.

    We fell in love with the people and knew we had to do something to help. I’m sure they appreciate and need blood. I thank you for giving.

    • toaustraliathelongway 7 March 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      It was the Angkor Hospital for Children. We watched a film about what Kenro has managed to achieve in such a short space of time – nothing short of amazing! It is a shame so many tourists (and Khmer) pass through the city without a visit but we can highly recommend the facilities there. We will be wearing our free teeshirts at every opportunity!

  2. jumpingpolarbear 7 March 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Seem like you guys have had an eventfull trip so far. Stay safe and enjoy, we are following you :)

    • toaustraliathelongway 8 March 2012 at 1:18 am #

      Thanks for your comment, will do. Yes it’s been an eye-opener but that can only be a good thing :)

  3. melissaspellen 8 March 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Love your blog! Question for you – I am heading to Siem Reap in 12 days – I am currently in Thailand. How did you get the antibiotics with the language barrier? Thinking it would be a good idea for me to get some ‘just in case’ drugs. I have been lucky so far but I am thinking my luck won’t hold out forever.

    • toaustraliathelongway 8 March 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. They’re pretty well stocked in the big cities here – Phnom Penh and SR have good facilites and are used to Westerners coming in clutching their stomachs! There was no problem at all with the language barrier as we went to a well-lit, air-conditioned chemist….however they are very expensive compared to their smaller, dingy counterparts. We have found a good strategy is to find a big pharmarcy, buy one packet of what they said we needed ($6.90) and then go to the smaller ones for exactly the same brand ($2) to stock up. For food poisoning they prescribe Cipro-Denk 500 which has sorted us out completely, so if you ask a couple of packets of that in some backstreet chemist you should be alright! When we were in Vietnam last time, we were lucky as googletranslate sorted us out but unfortunately they don’t have the same service for Laos and Cambodia so definitely stock up now!

  4. wheresphil 8 March 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Touch wood I have been on the road for two months and no illness, bummer for you guys. I have just done eight days in SR, lots of temples which I have loved.

    can recommend Beng Mealea as a good site to visit, in ‘original’ condition, so very “indiana Jones” with trees growing through the site. Does not require an Angkor pass, but it is 60km out of town…. But I enjoyed the countryside as well.

    • toaustraliathelongway 8 March 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Ah we have weak English stomachs obviously! We went to the temples last year and have got a limited time here so have been chilling out before flying to Sri Lanka from Bangkok. Wish we had more time here (and in Cambodia in general) but our visa runs out in a few days’ time sadly. We will be back though! Last time we came we said we have to come back…this time we’re saying we have to live here!

      • wheresphil 10 March 2012 at 2:44 am #

        Damnit – I spoke to soon… my first day in Phnom Penh and I am not leaving the hostel! I know what you mean about Cambodia I have really liked it here so far.

        I will follow your blog as I am thinking about Sri Lanka as well, though I am travelling the opposite way to you and heading to the UK, slowly.

      • toaustraliathelongway 10 March 2012 at 3:11 am #

        Oh dear, it really does happen to everyone then! At least in PP you are very near lots of good pharmacies if it doesn’t clear up! Good luck!

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