Day 78: Three Finns in Cambodia

 

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Moments before the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

As I and the enginerd’s 3-month trip is getting closer to its end (NOOOOO!!), we are delighted to tell that an old friend has joined us for the remaining time on the road 🙂

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Our friend in a full tourist mode.

She is my colleague from the hospital I’ve been working at on and off the past couple of years and this is not the first time the three of us are sharing hotels and Airbnb’s. In the beginning of last year (OMG, almost 2 years ago!!!), she kept us company in Vietnam (read more about the trip here, here and here). This time, we’ll be discovering Cambodia and Thailand together.

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Grumpy old men?

The decision to visit Cambodia was mainly made by me since I just really really wanna have the same number of countries visited as the engineer, and this way I could get one more point, and he none. I scored my first new country point in Laos, so we’ll be even soon!

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Carvings in Angkor Thom.

My friend arrived in Bangkok airport after an exhausting 16-hour trip from Finland. Dark circles under her eyes and swollen ankles were clear signs for her needing a good rest, so after check-in, we took her with us to an airport lounge. (I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again, if you’re travelling a lot, Priority Pass is a life-saviour.)

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Checking out sunrise at Angkor Wat.

She wasn’t the only person to accompany us to the lounge, though. Remember our trip to Laos? Funny enough, we ran into a Spanish guy we had first met on the slow boat to Vang Vieng, and to whom I had (very drunkenly) told probably everything I know about anything. He seemed happy to see again, and the enginerd invited him too to join us for free food and drinks, as he was heading to Siem Reap on the same flight with us. Super cool, super fun!

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Srah Shrang.

After a more or less exhausting day, we finally arrived in Siem Reap in Cambodia. The heat was crushing, we were super tired and sweaty and so ready to get to our Airbnb, but first, we had to survive immigration. Luckily we had already applied for and received e-visas, so entering the country was really easy and fast. An e-visa to Cambodia costs USD 36, and once you get it, you’ll have to print it out in colour or black and white and bring two copies with you. Simple as that! Our Airbnb host had booked a tuk-tuk for us, and the driver, Peter, took us to our place for USD 9. Yes, in Cambodia you can pay either in US dollars, or Cambodian riel. A tad bit confusing, but it does simplify things when trying to convert prices to euros.

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A small engineer or big trees?

During our short visit to Cambodia, it became very clear that tourism is a huge business there. Streets of Siem Reap are full of westerners buying cheap clothes and alcohol, riding tuk-tuks and enjoying the hot weather. However, if you look closely, the scars from very near history are still visible everywhere. In short, in 1975 dictator Pol Pot launched a genocide in Cambodia. Around 2 million people were murdered and buried in mass graves by the Khmer Rouge. A country with a rich cultural and religious history, Cambodia was nearly destroyed during the time. It is very difficult to realise this while walking around in Siem Reap, but it is not a secret. Books about the killing fields are being sold everywhere, and tourist attractions such as Angkor Wat don’t hide the destruction done to them during the war.

You can read everything you need to know about the genocide in Cambodia on the internet or visit the killing fields. However, as the country is still trying to recover from the most horrifying event in the history of the modern world, right now what we can do is remember the consequences of dictatorship, totalitarianism and inhumanity, and do our best to stop anything like that from happening ever again. You can watch this documentary to learn more how such nighmarsihs events affect indviduas, the victms and the murderers alike.

Luckily Cambodia is so much more than its near history, and while there, we wanted to concentrate on the cultural heritage. The most famous tourist attraction probably in whole Cambodia, Angkor, is not just a UNESCO world heritage site,  but also the original capital of the Khmer Empire. It is an area of 400 square meters and it’s located near Siem Reap, attracting busloads of tourists every day to admire the sunrise over the massive towers of Angkor Wat.  Just a few days ago, we were amongst those tourists, and it was magical!

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Columns in Angkor Wat.

You can get to Angkor Wat by bike, car or tuk-tuk. We opted for the latter. For USD 28, the driver to picked us up at 4:30, and drove us around Angkor the whole day. The entrance tickets to Angkor cost USD 37 per person for one day. Our driver, Phearak, was super awesome and basically wouldn’t allow us to skip any temples or places worth seeing. The famous sunrise was really beautiful and watching it with a crowd equally as much in awe as we were was already worth the entrance fee.

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat.

After the sunrise, we headed to the Angkor Wat temple itself. Getting up into one of the towers required some queuing, but since they’d let 100 people in at the same time, it didn’t take too long.

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We were not the only ones at Angkor Wat early in the morning.

To be honest, after that it was mostly hot and sweaty and a temple after a temple. An architecture enthusiast or someone in love with history would probably find it more exciting, but we were quite happy we had opted to stay there just one day, instead of paying for a three-day ticket.

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Stone piles at Angkor Thom.

Fun fact: In 2001, Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider in Cambodia, namely, in Ta Phrom temple in Angkor. To be honest, I was not aware of this important piece of history but to celebrate it, I decided to pull a stunt of my own at the same location 🙂

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Good enough for Angelina Jolie, good enough for me.

We have already left the beautiful country of Cambodia, and are now, as our final leg of the trip, visiting Bangkok in Thailand. Before leaving Siem Reap, we enjoyed the food and drink selection in the bar street area, as well as did a ton of shopping. We fed fish with the dead skin from our feet (fish spas are a thing and something to try), pet some kittens, and swam in the swimming pool at our Airbnb. Siem Reap was insanely cool, and people really, really nice.

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Sunset in Pre Rup.

PS: Currently in Bangkok, our 3-month trip is almost over. Less than one week left, we’re trying to enjoy the sun, cheap food and drinks, and the swimming pool in our Airbnb, before going back home. How could time pass so fast?

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Our faces when we have to back home 😦

 

 

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