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Throwing up in Cambodia

>Since I last emailed you all, so much has happened … and as I posted my first travel journal home, I’m not sure that I will be able to remember more than a little. I think I left you when I was in Kunming, China about to head off to Bangkok and eventually Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Well, from what I remember, the room I took in Bangkok was the smallest ever although not the cheapest. It was quite easy to touch either wall of the bedroom with my outstretched arms and hands, and although it was long enough to fit a single bed, it wasn’t able to fit much else. Aside from this, the room was nice enough and it was in a better area than the dreadful Khao San Road.

Bangkok itself it a good place to stop if you need to stock up on toiletries but otherwise I think there are much better places to be. Whilst there, all I really managed was a trip to a Wat and to the Grand Palace, which I’m sure is so Grand because of the price they charge people to visit!

Next stop, Vietnam. This was a little tricky as I didn’t have my Vietnam visa with me, planning instead to pick it up from the airport having organised it on the internet. Could have been dodgy, but in the end it all worked out wonderfully and then before I knew it I was back in Ho Chi Minh City where I met up with Jens and Natsue. My time with Jens was amazing and I didn’t realise that two people could have such a strong bond in such a short time. To be with Jens when we heard of the terrible terrorist attack on the US was more than I could ask for.

For the first time in Vietnam I took time to relax on the beach at Mui Ne as there is basically nothing else to do there. If you did want to wander a little bit, there are some great sand dunes nearby and for 5000d (less than one aussie dollar) you can hire a piece of flat plastic to slide down the dune. We only did this twice, as walking back up isn’t near as much fun as going down, and I didn’t manage to slide down too efficiently anyway. We did hire a motorbike once or twice as well but the roads are usually too chaotic and it’s best to stay away. My riding isn’t the best either, as Jens will testify, but I did avoid one collision and almost popped a wheelie at the lights in another instance.

From Mui Ne Jens, myself and the remaining Germans I had met in my previous venture into Vietnam (Sabrina, Oli, Agate) headed south to the Mekong Delta. This was all very beautiful and different than anything I had yet seen, although the floating market was a disappointment … possibly because it was raining so hard all the locals thought it futile to be out trading in such weather.

Eventually it was time for my German friends to depart even though my German language was still in a poor state. So with many tears at the airport and great hopes for their safe flight home, I wished them well and embarked on the next leg of my journey – Cambodia.

If you haven’t yet heard, the roads in Camboida are amazing. I’m yet to be convinced that they are roads at all but as most of the alternative is water, there is little option. Always remember, never sit in the back of the bus unless you like a little bit of air time on your journey. More than a few times I was dozing off, only to wake up flying upwards before settling uncomfortably back down on the seat below.

The first stop in Cambodia was the capital Phnom Penh. This is a lovely city. For so many years it has been devastated by war but this hasn’t removed its charm. I can’t say exactly what it is about the place that appeals to me but I genuinely enjoyed being there.

Of the things to see in Phnom Penh, the things which rate most highly are the S21 Genocide Museum – where the Khmer Rouge housed many thousands of prisoners, torturing and killing them. The pictures of these attrocities are terrible and the fact that the Khmer Rouge took such pride in their brutality (by recording it all in photos) is just awful. Next is the Killing Fields where the victims of S21 and others were buried in mass graves. There is not much here apart from pits in the ground which represent the exhumed graves. There is also one building filled with the skulls of the exhumed. In general, the Killing Fields was so terrible that I was almost throwing up from the smell, even though there was no smell at all, just in my mind.

Also in Phnom Penh, travellers can head out to the Atillery Range to try a selection of weapons. From the horrific things I had seen so far in this country, perhaps this is not the most socially responsible thing to do, but at the time it seemed like a bit of fun, something I definitely needed.

Usually I am terrible at aiming so the fact that I hit the target at all was astounding. I tried four different weapons including a ruger22, shotgun, M16 and an MK57. Personally I think the M16 was the most fun, the shotgun seemed a bit too powerful and I still didn’t really manage to hit anything other than a few dregs of pellets landing on the target.

My last evening in Phnom Penh was spent alone as my new friends had already departed. Instead of eating at the local guesthouse I ventured off to the riverfront where there are many lovely and expensive restaurants (due to a large ex pat community). I hadn’t been sitting there too long when I heard what I thought was the repeated (four) backfiring of a car … frighteningly enough, it wasn’t this at all, it was real gunshots. Only 10 metres away from where I was sitting, someone had been killed. I was assured by the restaurant staff that it was safe to stay where I was for the moment so this I did until another gunshot was fired. At this point we were all ushered inside only to be told later that it was just the police firing to disperse the crowd. None of this made me feel particularly comfortable even though I was assured that westerners are “generally” safe.

Eventually I did manage to get safely back to my guesthouse, gave my moto driver a nice tip for his trouble and retired to my room. Unfortunately from this point onwards things haven’t been well. I spent the night throwing up, sorry for the detail, but dinner didn’t agree with me and have been unwell ever since. The following morning I thought none too highly of getting up at 6am to take a five hour boat ride to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) but what other option did I have given that the non refundable ticket cost US$22. So a wonderful journey it was. Fortunately for the horrible Frenchman beside me, who earned this title for cruelly elbowing me in the stomach, I didn’t throw up. If I did I was planning to simply turn his way and apologise pathetically just as he did when he elbowed me.

For now I am in Siem Reap. Kind of like base camp for Angkor Wat but for the moment I am unable to move too far as I am still quite ill. In two days I have managed just two cans of sprite but I’m sure I will pick up soon enough.

This is probably enough for you all, please get back to work, I’m sure I have bothered you enough already.

Best wishes to you all and please send me your tales and adventures too.

Love Cheryl

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