Lombok, Indonesia

We eventually arrived in Lombok in the late afternoon and made our way to where we’d be spending the next couple of days in Kuta. We’d booked a couple of nights in a homestay, which is essentially when Indonesian families open a bed and breakfast on their property. We were staying at Bule Homestay, which was owned by the famous chef of a famous local restaurant in town. We went to his restaurant on our first night and had some of the finest food we’ve had so far on our South East Asia trip.

After a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes the following morning (don’t think I’ll ever get tired of them!), we jumped on a motorbike and took to the hills. We drove 15km to an absolutely stunning beach called Mawun. As soon as we sat down on the beach an Indonesian man and his two children approached us. In very broken English the guy asked Kyle whether he could take a photo and Kyle understood that he wanted him to take a picture of the family. What the guy actually wanted was a picture of Kyle with his kids! We thought it was a little weird but saw they were asking all the Westerners on the beach for photos. Maybe they hadn’t seen many of us before?

Mawun Beach

Mawun Beach

Kyle with a fresh young coconut!

Kyle with a fresh young coconut!

The stalls on the beach only sold fresh young coconuts and pot noodles, so we got back on the motorbike and stopped at a restaurant nearby for lunch. The restaurant had AMAZING views of the bay and came highly recommended in the Lonely Planet. (Not sure why!).

Amazing view over the bay

Amazing view over the bay

 After the waitress took our food orders I was asked to change my choice THREE times! We waited an hour and 15 minutes for a salad and a sandwich!! I was livid that they made no attempt to apologise for their crap service. If there’s one thing that was starting to annoy me about Asia it was having to wait so long for food – I don’t want to think about all the time we’ve wasted. I can’t wait to cook my own food!

We came to Lombok to do some surfing, so the following morning we got up early and surfed at Gerupak, 10km away from Kuta. As you could only access the surf breaks by boat, we booked transport with a local surf shop. We got a lift to the port in Gerupak with these three Indonesian surfers in their car. They were pretty funny and were HUGE fans of Bruno Mars. They were going mad singing and dancing to every single song along the way. It was a VERY bumpy ride to the port. Somebody had told us that the road was way too bumpy for a motorbike but I think we totally underestimated them. The road was too much even for a car. You definitely needed a 4×4 to maneuver these terrible roads. The waves were huge when we got to the surf break! I was a little scared about surfing a reef break but I loved every second of it, even if I did get horribly wiped out on my last wave.

After our exhausting surf session at Gerupak, we headed back to Kuta and relaxed on the beach with this young Dutch guy we’d met at our homestay. He was a really interesting character and he enjoyed driving motorbikes around the islands. He was really passionate about getting to know the ‘real’ Indonesia and eating authentic food. He was, for example, really disappointed with the food at Bule Restaurant because ‘it wasn’t very Indonesian’. The chef had after all trained in France and the food was a fusion between the two cuisines – there was even confit de canard on the menu!

We spent the evening with our Dutch friend and he was full of stories from his travels. I told him I was a little concerned about flying in Indonesia because the airlines here have terrible safety records, and he told us that he took a flight with Wings Air and it was only when the plane was about to take off that he noticed there was a HUGE dent in one of the plane’s engines. The air hostess told him a van had crashed into it whilst it was in the hangar, but not to worry because there was nothing wrong with the plane… I’d have been off that plane in a second!

We returned to the homestay and had a beer with our Dutch friend and the homestay owner. Our Dutch friend had noticed two women always hanging around together in the mornings and asked the owner whether he had two wives. He smiled and told us that he had two wives and five children, but was hoping to have 12 children in total! He was very proud of his family and this little empire he’d built in Lombok. Kyle said my eyes lit up when he said this – I obviously find polygamy very interesting! Apparently polygamy is very rare in Indonesia because you have to be very wealthy to afford it. Although one Indonesian guy we surfed with told us his neighbor has seven wives and that he sends them all to Saudi Arabia to work while he sits on his bum all day!

Yummy Indonesian food!

Yummy Indonesian food!

Pano of Mawun

Pano of Mawun

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Gili Air, Gili Islands

After 2 days on crazy Gili T we wanted to see what the other islands were like and took a boat over to Gili Air. The difference between Gili Air and Gili T was very apparent when we arrived at the port. Gone were the hundreds of restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs and dive operators that lined the sea front in Gili T, and in its place were a few restaurants, green fields and little thatched roof huts. Gili Air seemed to be untouched by mass tourism – chickens and cows roam freely in the streets, and on our first day we only saw 5 other tourists! However, tourism has brought some developments/improvements to Gili Air such as a cash point and fresh running water… before that you could only have salt water showers!!

When we arrived at the port we found a horse-drawn carriage and went to the other side of the island to look for accommodation (luckily it wasn’t raining this time) and we found a cute little place with thatched roof bungalows close to the beach. The bungalow was really cute and I loved the fact that the bathroom was outdoors! It was pretty cool to shower under the stars as cliché as that sounds.

Inside the bungalow!

Inside the bungalow!

The outdoor shower!

The outdoor shower!

After settling into our bungalow we walked to the beach and spent the afternoon relaxing… we were the only ones on the beach! We stayed for sunset…

Sunset at Gili Air

Sunset at Gili Air

I was really starting to like Gili Air…

The following morning we cycled to the otherside of the island to do a bit of snorkelling. We swam 100-150m from the shore to the reef and spent a couple of hours spotting turtles, lobster, eels, puffer fish, some brightly coloured coral and some other beautiful fish. It was really quite special. We felt like we were on a desert island.

Gili Trawangan, Gili Islands

From Bali we decided to make a stop off at some of the Gili Islands before heading to Lombok. The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands located just off the coast of Lombok. They’re pretty much what you imagine when you think of paradise… clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.

We took a fast boat to Gili Trawangan and when we left Bali it was really sunny with not even a cloud in the sky. As soon as we arrived at Gili Trawangan the blue skies quickly turned grey and it started pouring it down. We hadn’t booked any accommodation either as we thought we’d just find a room when we got there but the rain made our search rather difficult. Kyle was laden down with his huge rucksack on his back, a rucksack on his front AND a surfboard… we very quickly got soaked. It was raining so heavily that we couldn’t physically see anywhere where we could shelter from the rain. A young Indonesian guy came up to us and offered to show us a room and we agreed to take a look just so we could shelter from the rain. The room was fine and we decided to stay there instead of trying to find somewhere in the rain. We probably could have found somewhere nicer had it not been raining, but hey!

Beautiful waters at Gili Trawangan!

Beautiful waters at Gili Trawangan!

The Gili Islands are pretty interesting because unlike Bali and the other Indonesian islands cars and motorbikes are prohibited. The only transport available are horse-drawn carriages and bikes, and it was a welcomed change after all the motorbike fumes in Bali. Gili Trawangan was a bit like Kuta and the sea front was lined with pubs, clubs and bars one after the other. It was weird though because the Gilis are predominantly muslim and just behind the main strip was a huge mosque. Whilst clubbers were stumbling home in the very little clothes in the very early hours of the morning, the call to prayer was blaring out to the island. It was totally bizarre!

Gili T

Gili T

Gili Trawangan was a very small island and you could walk all the way around in about 2 hours. The Gilis are also famous for the quality of the coral and marine life and we came here to do a couple of dives. On the island of Gili Trawangan there are 30 dive operators alone! We booked a scuba dive the next day with Blue Marlin Divers and were hoping to see some sharks, manta rays, turtles and some beautiful coral. On the morning of the dive I was having some problems with my ears, so when it came to the descent I was unable to equalise and was experiencing a lot of pain. I had to abort the dive and had to return to the surface, which was a shame because I could see huge turtles swimming around. It was pretty amazing!

A turtle Kyle spotted on his dive!

A turtle Kyle spotted on his dive!

Later at dinner that evening our waiter asked us if we wanted any drugs and he looked completely stoned. I was confused because I thought Indonesia had harsh punishments for drug dealing and use of narcotics. Drug dealing, for example, is punishable my death. We said no and the waiter said, ‘No worry! No police on Gili, so no problem here!’. The Gili islands are so small that there’s no police presence here so anything goes! The hawkers that were trying to sell you sarongs and bracelets in Bali were now trying to sell you drugs! It was insane.

Canggu, Bali

After two days in Kuta we couldn’t handle the hawkers trying to sell you something every couple of minutes. You walk down the street and every shop owner sits outside shouting at you to ‘Come and look!! Cheap! Cheap!’. You’re also constantly being asked whether you need ‘transport’ or ‘where are you going?’. It gets a little frustrating when you’re constantly being asked where you are going every five minutes. We weren’t too interested in blowing our money in Kuta’s bars and clubs, so we decided to go to Canggu, a small town by the beach an hour away from Kuta.

We also found a brand new 3* hotel that had just opened that were offering an opening rate for $22 a night with breakfast included. The hotel was probably the nicest hotel we’ve stayed in so far on this South East Asia trip… it was even a bit luxurious for us! By the time we arrived in Canggu, Kyle had been complaining of a sore throat for a couple of days and suddenly took a turn for the worst. He’d have such bad coughing fits that he’d throw up! Closer inspection of his tonsils revealed he had a bad case of tonsillitis. He had these huge white blobs on his tonsils so he had to take antibiotics and was confined to his bed for a couple of days. Kyle was pretty disappointed that he was so sick because all he wanted to do in Canggu was surf. He was even more disappointed with my nursing abilities and would get annoyed whenever I ordered him to keep hydrated or gargle with salt water.

The hotel room!

The hotel room!

The pools!

The pools!

When Kyle was finally starting to feel normal again we decided to go out for dinner at a nice dinner in town. (We’d been eating nearly every meal in the hotel then). The Betlenut Cafe in Canggu had good reviews and everyone in Canggu seemed to be raving about it. I ordered a chicken and avocado wrap and it came within minutes of placing the order, which I found a little strange. It tasted fine though and I couldn’t quite understand everyone’s obsession with this place.

We went back to the hotel and sat on the roof with the hotel’s Argentinean surf instructor and an Australian girl who seemed taken in by his ‘charm’. Marco, the hotel’s surf instructor, would tell stories about this amazing dietary supplement yet to be released in Bali and how it was God’s gift to the world. He even told us how a woman dying of cancer with 2 weeks left to live started taking the supplements and within weeks she was ‘instantly cured of cancer’… You can see the type of rubbish he came out with. He also suggested that Kyle go and see a local healer about his throat as Bali is own for its natural remedies and what not. He advised Kyle to ‘try anything they tell you to try’. He then told us how he screwed up his back in Argentina and the doctor told him that he’d never be able to surf again (pretty terrible for a surf instructor) and he met a guy in Singapore who told him about a guy who could fix it, so he booked an appointment to try ‘anything they tell you’. The suggested treatment was some kind of electrotherapy and he could hear the guy before him screaming the house down in pain. When his turn came he said it was the most painful thing he’d ever experienced because the voltage was so high. He said it wasn’t a proper clinic but just a house with a hard bed and some wires going into the power outlet. The ‘healer’ told him that one session wasn’t enough to cure his back so he came back for multiple sessions…unfortunately the treatment never worked.

Anyway we really couldn’t put up with Marco for long and we escaped back to the room. I started to regret that chicken and avocado wrap because an hour later I threw up and continued throwing up through the night. I felt absolutely awful and was confined to my bed the entire next day. I, however, had no one to nurse me back to health because Kyle went surfing! I was so glad though that we were staying in a nice hotel whilst we were sick.

Our time in Canggu was basically staying in a nice hotel, being sick, and a tiny bit of surfing… Oh well!

Kuta, Bali

After nearly 3 months in South East Asia, our final stop before Australia was Indonesia. We’ve decided to head to Australia and find some work for a couple of months, travel around Aus and New Zealand, and then come back to Asia – there are still so many places I want to visit. Whilst I’m relieved to be going to Australia and finding a job (travelling gets quite tiring after a while) I’m also a bit nervous.

Anyway back to Bali… We flew from Singapore to Bali and we’d booked two nights in an area called Kuta to start off with. We’d heard that Kuta was VERY touristy and full of hawkers, but with the lure of surfing on the cards we decided to set up shop for a couple of days to see what it was like. We spent the morning walking around Kuta and it looked like a big clubbing destination like Ibiza. It was full of bars, clubs and pubs, and shops sending you the usual tourist tat. You couldn’t walk a metre without somebody trying to sell you something.

We thought if we went to the beach the hawkers wouldn’t bother us that much… we were SO wrong. Within minutes of arriving at the beach, hawkers were coming at us left, right and centre trying to sell us a massage, real pearls, sarongs, leather bracelets, and even a bow and arrow! One lady even sat down on the sand next to us trying to get us to buy some rings and jewelry, we kept saying no but she kept saying ‘cheap cheap’. She then noticed I was wearing rings and asked me where I’d bought them from and I stupidly told her I got them in Thailand because she then said ‘Why buy Thailand but no buy Bali? Buy Bali! Buy Bali!’ She then just sat there and started to cry, we felt awful but really didn’t just want to buy something out of pity. We were about to get up to move when she finally decided to pick up her stuff and bother some other tourists. Later on Kyle went and bought a bottle of water from one of the beach stalls and the stall owner said, ‘I give you bracelets instead of change’. Kyle said no and told them he just wanted his change and the woman said ‘ok buy one bracelet or for change I give you all of the bracelets’. (The woman had about a huge bunch of bracelets). Kyle was pretty annoyed by this point and gave back the water and asked for his money back. The woman then changed her mind and quickly gave up the change in the fear that she might lose a sale. It’s absolutely ludicrous that they think it’s okay to do that. Women are constantly going round trying to make you buy one bracelet, or 100 bracelets for 5 pounds. They don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want to buy 100 crappy bracelets!

We met two young Americans in our hotel who’d come to Kuta for a little ‘soul searching’ and culture. They told us how they were ashamed of being American and American culture. They said they preferred being in South East Asia because it’s so rich culturally compared to the US. I can see why people come to Bali to do some soul searching as it was made popular in the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, but not quite sure what ‘soul searching’ he could possibly be doing in Kuta, Bali. Kuta consisted of pubs, clubs, bars and beaches – not sure how these are culturally enriching…

It was also at this hotel that we heard first hand of the corrupt police and bribes. We heard one guy saying he’d been stopped by the police for no reason whilst riding a motorbike and they threatened to take him down to the station if he didn’t give them a bribe. The guy was pretty nervous and handed over 150,000 rupiah to the police (approx £7 approx) when the ‘standard bribe’ seems to be about £2.50. The same guy also paid £5 for a LITRE of petrol from one of the many roadside petrol sellers when the standard price for a litre is less than 50p! Doh! Luckily we’d heard all about the scams people pull and the corrupt police before we arrived in Bali so we’d been separating our money. We keep about 50k in our wallet for police bribes and keep the rest elsewhere… that way we can pretend we’ve only got 50k. Apparently the official police officer wage is less than £100 a month but they can bring home an extra £50 a month from bribes alone. We haven’t been stopped by the police yet…. Fingers crossed!

Singapore

From Kuala Lumpur we took an 8-hour train journey to Singapore in the ‘first class’ carriage for 12 pounds a pop. We thought ‘first class’ would be similar to what you’d expect of a first class carriage in England… it couldn’t be further from what we imagined. The train was really old, seats were very tattered and the toilets absolutely reeked – I was not impressed. I thought because the train connects Kuala Lumpur with Singapore that the train would be modern and somewhat ‘luxurious’. Seats in the third class carriage in Thailand were FAR better than this!

We finally pulled into Singapore at about 10 pm at a train station in the middle of nowhere with no cash points to be found. This was a real problem because we only had a few Malaysian ringgits and American dollars on us and we needed money to pay for a bus to get to the nearest tube station. We asked a man at the bus stop if he knew where the nearest cash point was and he said it was at least a 20 minute walk… The man was really friendly and he felt sorry for the two dumb travellers who’d arrived in Singapore with none of the local currency, so he kindly gave us 10 Singapore dollars. He got on the bus with us, showed us where the cash points were, helped us buy metro passes AND helped us find the right train. He wouldn’t even allow us to repay him the 10 dollars he’d given us! He told us we’d need it for Singapore, and he wasn’t kidding!

The first class carriage!

The first class carriage!

Throughout our trip so far we’ve been staying in hostels or hotels for not more than 5 pounds each a night, but a bed in a hostel in Singapore was a minimum 15 pounds a night (a taste of things to come in Australia?). We were staying in a 10-bed dorm and it wasn’t the cleanest hostel we’ve stayed in, it stank of pee everywhere. I hated the hostel so much that soon as I woke up the following morning we had breakfast and ventured into Singapore.

We started with a trip to the beautiful Botanical Gardens where we wondered around for a couple of hours. The gardens were really pretty and it was nice to see such a large green space slap bang in the middle of the city. We then headed to ‘Little India’ where we found hundreds of food stalls each with their own speciality. We shared a huge curry and naan for lunch which set us back 7 pounds (pretty cheap for Singapore!). After exploring Little India and a scrummy lunch, we jumped on to the metro to Marina Bay and spent the afternoon walking around the marina and gardens by the bay. We eventually had to seek shelter from the heat inside the Sands Casino/shopping centre and we found a ‘canal’ where you could pay for a gondola ride from one side of the mall to the other. People were actually paying to take a ‘gondola’ trip on a fake canal INSIDE a shopping centre!!

Sands Casino/Shopping Centre - where we sought shelter

Sands Casino/Shopping Centre – where we sought shelter

Gondola ride on the 'Grand Canal'

Gondola ride on the ‘Grand Canal’

After 2 days in Singapore we’d had enough of how expensive it was and how the city looked like an architect’s model – everything was squeaky clean and ultra modern. No chewing gum on the floor or under seats, no graffiti, no dirt, no nothing… Singapore was pretty boring!!

Selfie!

Selfie!

Singapore's answer to the London Eye!

Singapore’s answer to the London Eye!

A temple in China Town

A temple in China Town

Kuala Lumpur – Petronas Towers and Shopping Malls

I woke up feeling very unwell on the morning we were leaving Cambodia for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I felt very lightheaded and had a really bad pain in my chest. Our flight was at 8am and somehow I managed to pack my bag despite the pain and made it to the airport. I was having some difficulties breathing, but I really didn’t want to have to go to the doctor in Cambodia. I decided that if the pain hadn’t gone away once we’d reached Kuala Lumpur that I’d go to the doctor there. I was starting to feel better on the plane, but as soon as we’d landed in Kuala Lumpur and we were in the queue for immigration, I was starting to feel much worse and like I needed to see a doctor ASAP.

We went to the airport’s medical clinic and the doctor diagnosed me with a respiratory infection, which would explain the intense pain I was having in my chest. I told her that I’d just arrived from Cambodia and she said the high level of air pollution in Cambodia was probably the reason I was feeling so unwell. Cambodia was incredibly dirty – sewage poured into the river, rubbish piled high in the road, rats and dirty nappies everywhere AND all the motorbike fumes – it’s no wonder that I got so sick. The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics and some painkillers and was told to rest for a couple of days, which was a little annoying because we only had 2 days in Kuala Lumpur.

After checking into our hostel, we went and got something for lunch, but I didn’t have much appetite (for once) and I only managed a couple of spoons of noodle soup. We then walked around the city for a bit and discovered it pretty much was just skyscrapers and shopping malls. There were even air-conditioned walkways to take you from one shopping mall to the next! It’s great if you had loads of money and wanted to shop, but not so great if you were a backpacker and had no interest in splashing out in Gucci or Louis Vuitton. After Cambodia and the dirty dusty roads, we quite enjoyed being in a big city and feeling like we were back in ‘civilisation’.

'Civilisation' in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

‘Civilisation’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The following morning I was feeling a little better but not 100%, but we decided to go out anyway and try and see what Kuala Lumpur had to offer. We started off with a trip to the gardens by the Petronas Towers – we wanted to go up to the observation deck but the ticket was an extortionate amount. We decided given how expensive it was and my current condition that the trip wasn’t worth it. It then started pouring it down and we sought shelter in…another shopping mall. The torrential rain didn’t seem to be stopping so we had lunch and went to the cinema. We saw Bad Neighbour and a ticket was pretty cheap compared to England – less than 2 pounds! It was actually quite nice to go to the cinema after travelling for so long. I’m actually starting to miss home a bit now, especially being able to cook my own food. We spend so much time waiting for food in restaurants, I just want to cook my own food for once!! There was an even an M&S Food Hall in the shopping mall selling biscuits, crisps, percy pigs and alcohol. I got so excited when I saw it that I actually bought a pack of shortbread biscuits and they were so yummy. Nom nom nom.

I found one shop selling disposable knickers!

I found one shop selling disposable knickers!

When we had come out of the cinema the torrential rain had stopped and we went back to the hostel to lie down (I wasn’t feeling too well again). After a little nap we decided to venture out to Kuala Lumpur’s China Town for a spot of dinner. I’m not sure what I was expecting of China Town but it was pretty much just stalls and stalls of fake Rolex watches, designer handbags and the like. There were hundreds of Australian women stocking up on fake designer handbags, and one woman had bought so many bags that she had to chuck them into a black bin bag. Surprisingly there weren’t actually that many Chinese restaurants in China Town, it was mainly just shopping. Shopping is pretty much the only thing to do in KL!!

Lanterns of China Town

Lanterns of China Town

The Petronas Towers at night!

The Petronas Towers at night!

Beautiful Angkor Wat, Cambodia

After our ordeal with the bus we spent the following day relaxing and chilling by the pool. We took a tuk tuk just before sunset and went to one of the temples at Angkor. If you buy a one-day ticket to Angkor Wat after 5pm you’re allowed access to the complex to watch sunset at one of the temples as well as the ticket being valid for the following day. We thought we were being original watching the sun go down at Phnom Bakheng but it appears everyone had the same idea… there were hundreds of people perched on the top of the temple for sunset. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t waiting for the sun to go down and as soon as it started raining… the masses started leaving, leaving us to take in the view by ourselves.

Monks at Phnom Bakheng

Monks at Phnom Bakheng

The masses at Phnom Bakheng

The masses at Phnom Bakheng

Baby watching the sunset at Phnom Bakheng

Baby watching the sunset at Phnom Bakheng

We woke up bright and bushy tailed the following morning at 4.30am to be picked up by Mr Raya, our tuk tuk driver, for sunrise at Angkor Wat. Again, there were thousands of people standing across the moat from Angkor Wat waiting for the sun to rise. Despite all the people outside the temple, there were very few people inside the temple after the sun had actually risen. Walking around the temple complex left you in awe.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat was actually first a Hindu and then a Buddhist temple, and is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple is a classic example of Khmer architecture and has 5 massive lotus-like towers made of sandstone. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful watching the sun come up over the lotus-like towers. Unfortunately the tranquility and beauty was somewhat ruined by the masses of hawkers inside Angkor Wat trying to sell you anything and everything. We saw one German tourist being repeatedly bothered by a hawker trying to sell him an Angkor Wat guide. The tourist kept saying no and eventually lost his patience, so the hawker deliberately kept trying to piss him off on purpose – we watched the hawker follow him around the temple for at least 10 minutes trying to get him to buy the guide. Also, you’d walk into some dark parts of the temple to find people holding out incense sticks and saying ‘this is for Lucky Buddha’ or ‘Good Luck from Buddha today’, luckily we’d read all about the scams that go on inside Angkor Wat and knew if we took an incense stick they’d then try and make you pay $10 or some other ridiculous amount. There’s no way to stop the hawkers unfortunately because Cambodians are allowed to visit and be at the Angkor complex for free – only foreign tourists have to pay.

Temple within Angkor Wat

Temple within Angkor Wat

Lotus-like towers

Lotus-like towers

Lotus-like towers at sunrise

Lotus-like towers at sunrise

After watching sunrise at Angkor Wat, we found Mr Raya and went to Angkor Thom City, the last capital city of the Khmer Empire. In an area of 9km there are numerous temples and religious monuments. The first temple we visited in Angkor Thom City was Bayon and it was very striking because of the 216 stone faces in the towers that jut out from the upper terrace. This temple was more ‘baroque’ than Angkor Wat’s classical architecture. This is also the only temple that was built as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to Buddha – the other temples were originally Hindu temples.

Bayon Temple - one of 216 faces

Bayon Temple – one of 216 faces

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple

The 216 faces in the temple are apparently meant to be interpretations of King Jayavarman VII. On the walls outside the temple there were various historical scenes and scenes of every day life of the Angkorian Khmer carved into limestone such as the Khmer Army marching into battle. We then walked to the Terrace of Elephants, which was a former temple but there are only a few ruins left. The last temple in the Angkor Thom City complex was the ‘Terrace of the Leper King’. On top of the temple was a statue of the Hindu God Yama, the god of death. The statue is called the ‘Leper King’ because it’s discoloured and covered in moss, so it apparently looks like someone with leprosy.

Terrace of Elephants

Terrace of Elephants

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After exploring the temples of the city of Angkor Thom we decided it was high time for breakfast, so we stopped at one of the many restaurants inside Angkor for a bite to eat. We offered to buy Mr Raya breakfast but he said he’d already eaten and had a coffee instead. Mr Raya sat with us whilst we ate and told us about his life and family. He used to be in the Cambodian Army but now worked as a tuk tuk driver to earn a living. He explained that tuk tuk drivers could earn more money than any other skilled job in Cambodia. A seamstress earns about $70 a month, whereas he could earn at least $30 a day at Angkor Wat (we were paying him $15 to drive us around for the day). He explained he had to work as much as he could so he could pay for his children to go to school. It’s crazy that we can easily spend $70 in 2 or 3 days here, but that’s the monthly minimum wage for some Cambodians – I’ve never felt more grateful for where I come from and for the life I’ve lived.

We then got back into the tuk tuk to visit the Ta Prohm temple aka the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’. It was a really interesting temple because there were trees growing out of the ruins and it was being taken over by the jungle. Ta Prohm was made famous by the film ‘Tomb Raider’ so there were hundreds of people at the temple. It was by far our favourite temple because the trees growing out of the ruins gave it an eerie feel. The temple looks like soon it’ll be completely taken over by the jungle.

Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider)

Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider)

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Inside Ta Prohm

Inside Ta Prohm

Kyle pretending to be Tomb Raider.

Kyle pretending to be Tomb Raider.

Our last and final temple at Angkor was Banteay Kdei or the ‘Citadel of Monks’ cells’. The temple was architecturally similar to Ta Prohm temple without all the trees. The temple was was full of hawkers trying to sell you drinks, books and lucky Buddha incense. Some tourists avoided parts of the temple because they could see there were loads of hawkers waiting inside trying to scam you, which I thought was a shame. There were also ‘Official Tourist Guides’ just wandering about the temple offering tours for $10 for 30 minutes. We heard one ‘Official Tourist Guide’ taking a group of people around the temple and everything he was saying he’d made up. It’s a shame that these people have to scam people just to make a couple of dollars.

All in all we had a great day at Angkor Wat and loved exploring its temples. It was a real shame though that the temples were full of hawkers trying to scam tourists into a tour or with the lucky Buddha incense. They tell you the money from the incense is going to the monks and the upkeep of the temple… it doesn’t.

Nightmare Bus Journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia

After a couple of days in Phnom Penh we decided it was time to move on to Siem Reap for Angkor Wat. We booked a coach through our hostel to Siem Reap for $8 each and it was meant to take 8 hours. We were told by our hostel that the bus would be air conditioned, have a toilet and wifi… blah blah…it did not.

We got on to the coach to find the bus packed already and everyone covered in sweat because the air con wasn’t on. There were even 4 Spanish guys who’d taken their tops off because it was so hot. We figured that when the bus finally left the driver would turn the air con, which he did but it didn’t work. We spent the next 8 hours absolutely drenched in sweat.

There was also no toilet on the bus, so we had to stop at ‘service stations’ along the way. I say ‘service stations’ because your idea of a service station at home is nothing compared to the service stations in Cambodia. The ‘service stations’ consisted of an open air restaurant where the food had been sitting out all day and then at the back there were some toilets. The toilets were just holes in the ground – it was that basic.

We got talking to a couple from Hawaii and they were looking VERY pissed off. They’d apparently paid to go on a ‘luxury’ tour of Cambodia from Vietnam and somehow they’d ended up on this bus. They’d been told some cock and bull story that because it was a national holiday in Cambodia some of the transport options weren’t available. When we told them that we’d paid $8 for the bus they were absolutely furious! They said they’d paid over $500 each for luxury transport and 5* hotels. The coach was FAR from luxurious, and was the WORST coach I’d ever been on in my life.

I was just counting down the hours until we could get off the bus and we’d be in Siem Reap. After 8 hours had passed the bus seemed to be stopping so we thought that we must have arrived – hurrah! It was yet another ‘service station’ and it was the worst one yet. There were cockroaches and flies EVERYWHERE. I was busting for the toilet (no toilet on the coach) and the toilets were just another hole in the ground, but this time there were cockroaches everywhere. I cannot stand cockroaches – they make me squirm. I nearly didn’t go to the loo because of the cockroaches but the driver said it would take another hour and a half to get to Siem Reap. I was so desperate for the loo and so disgusted with my surroundings and standards of hygiene that I tripped and fell over. I finally put my big girl pants on and went to the loo in the company of loads of cockroaches – I ran out of there as soon as I could. It was only then that I realised I’d cut my toe really badly when I tripped and there was blood everywhere. Unfortunately the ‘service station’ didn’t even have any running water to clean my wound :-(.

I was feeling pretty miserable by this point and just wanted to be in Siem Reap already, but it took another 2 and a half hours! Total journey time was nearly 11 hours! When we finally arrived at the bus station in Siem Reap, the Hawaiian couple had a pick-up waiting for them from their hotel. I looked up the name of their hotel the next day and found it was nothing more than a crappy hostel. I felt quite bad that they’d been ripped off so badly.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

On our final day in Phnom Penh we decided to check out the Royal Palace. I’d read some reviews on tripadvisor before we went (it’s often quite amusing) and somebody had written that the Royal Palace puts Buckingham Palace to shame…

The entrance fee to the Royal Palace was a bit steep at $6 a person. (You had to pay $3 to take your camera in with you!). We thought it was pretty expensive considering you only really had access to 3 buildings and the gardens. Also, despite paying $3 to take your camera in with you, you couldn’t take pictures inside the Throne Hall or inside the Silver Pagoda.. which basically meant you paid $3 to take pictures of the garden. There were scary guards inside the Throne Hall and Silver Pagoda shouting at anyone who was even holding their camera inside these buildings.

Throne Hall at Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Throne Hall at Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Throne Hall at Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Throne Hall at Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Having just complained about the entry fee, I must admit that the Royal Palace was very impressive – there was so much gold. It was amazing that the streets outside the palace were dusty dirt roads and yet inside the palace walls was all this grandeur!

The Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

The Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

We then went into the Silver Pagoda and we were rather confused as to why it was called so and wondered whether we were in the right place. Kyle asked the guard and he confirmed that sure enough this was the Silver Pagoda and lifted up the red carpet to show us the silver floor underneath. 95% of the silver floor is covered to protect it, which seemed pretty pointless to me. Why have something as lavish as a silver floor if you have to protect it?
Obviously there are no pictures of the Emerald Buddha or the 2048 carat gold Buddha inside the Silver Pagoda because you weren’t allowed!

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After an hour or two we decided we’d had enough of the Royal Palace and decided to go back to the hostel before our coach left for Siem Reap. As soon as we walked out the Royal Palace we were greeted by beggars and children with amputated limbs asking us for money. They kept saying to us ‘please, please. we need eat. please’. I thought it was incredibly sad that the King of Cambodia lives in this grand palace covered in gold and just outside the palace there are hundreds of people begging for money and living in poverty.