A Travellerspoint blog

Giving blood in Seim Reap- The Angkor Children's Hospital

sunny 38 °C

The three day pass permits tourists to visit the temples of Angkor three times in the space of one week so we decided today to have a day off and recooperate before we set off on our bikes again tomorrow. Yesterday at the ticket booth buying our ticket we had seen a sign asking for blood donors at the Children Hospital. We had previously read about this back home before we set off on our trip so knew it was a good cause and was safe.

We had a late brunch at a local place and ordered a set for two people of Khmer food. We ordered fresh spring rolls which came with a spicy peanut dipping sauce Amok and a curry. Amok is fragrant curry heavily flavoured with coconut and the curry was a creamy orange coconut based curry that reminded us of the Thai curry masaman. It was yummy and we set off to the hospital. Upon arrival outside the hospital was a mob of vendors and tuk-tuk drivers clustered around and inside the gates was packed with people. It was overwhelming and we didn't know where to go. A guard approached us and told us that it would be better if we came back after 2pm as it was lunch time and they were short staffed.

We went into a cafe and had a cold homemade lemonade and did some blog writing and before we knew it 2pm had arrived.

We were quite nervous since our last visit and Liam was threatening to back out. We had read a lot about the hospital and so knew it was clean and safe and it is funded by the NGO. The hospital provides free healthcare to any child under 16 and is committed to the improvement and quality of free healthcare in Cambodia and the training of doctors and nurses.

Upon arrival and guard showed us where to go and we were taken through a maze of buildings into a small lab with two beds. There are so many patients at the hospital and all around are women with their babies waiting to be seen. As we walked past the children said hello and waved and it was hard to see such a big group of sick children and underprivileged families.

In the lab room we were greeted by a young and professional doctor. We filled in a form to check if it was safe for us to donate, he took our blood pressure and he took a sample of our blood to make sure we had enough iron.

He then took our blood in turn, Liam was first and he was nervous, making the doctor chuckle at him. It only takes about half and hour and at the end we were presented with a little card with our blood group on and a gift to say thank you, a t-shirt, some crackers, a can of cola and some multi vitamins.

It is a really good way to give something back when in Siem Reap and we think that rather than give to the street kids or buy the postcards everyone should just spend half an hour and give blood. Last year less than 1500 people gave blood to the hospital and this is the most they have ever had. The doctor told us they get a maximum of around two or three people per day. Considering the amount of people visit Siem Reap every year this is hardly any.


Posted by Chelsandliam 03:00 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap Comments (2)

Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor by bicycle

sunny 38 °C

We arrived in Siem Reap bright and early at 7am and were greeted surprisingly by an organised tuk-tuk desk rather than a rabble of shouting men tapping us to go with them. It costs one dollar each for the drive from the bus station into town which we thought was reasonable. We couldn't find our first choice guest house, mainly because we had the wrong address so ended up at a dirty hole called Red Lodge. It was our own fault, we hadn't done the research where to stay so we picked one out of lonely planet..... Always a mistake. We checked in but the upon closer inspection to the bed covered in ants and the sheets were dusty and the whole place was discusting, even the uncleaned toilet so we decided to leave and find somewhere else. We wandered towards town and found the original place we were looking for, Boomerang guest house but by this point it was full. We carried on a few doors and checked into Popular guesthouse for $10 a night.

Next thing was to shower as we were not exactly fresh after the night bus and tackle our bags. Half our clothes were damp and dirty from our five days on Koh Rong and we had a massive bag full that needed laundering. Our first day we spend getting our bearings and having a look around the town. Siem Reap has shocked us. We expected a general town, popular because it is so close to the temples of Angkor but it is a lovely town in its own right. There are lots of beautifully restored colonial buildings and small alleys filled with bars and shops. In the centre in the old market. It is a working market, not filled with all the usual tourist tat but filled with local produce, meat, fruit sausages, veg and everything else.


We found an Internet cafe and did some errands. We have bought a kindle guide for Sri Lanka and India so we decided to print off the maps we might need so we don't have to carry the iPad around. We found a cafe after walking around in the blazing sun for a while and printed off what we needed, our flight e-tickets, maps and visas. We spent the rest of the afternoon in a cafe, drinking and people watching.

On our second day we decided to start sightseeing the temples of Angkor. We went for a slow breakfast in one of the lovely back alleys of the town and were ready to set off obviously at peak time..... in the midday sun. We rented a bicycle for $1 each and were on our way. It is 6km to the temples and about half way there is the ticket booth on the main road where you buy your entrance pass. We bought a three day pass costing $40 each but you can get a one day pass or a week long pass also for $20 and $60. They take your photo to put on the ticket and print it out there and then. There was no queue so it only took us around five minutes. By the time we got there we were unbelievably hot and bought some cold water, parking at the vendors shop for free. Around Angkor Wat is a moat and as it was Sunday all along the water were locals relaxing in the shade and children playing in the water.

As we approached Angkor Wat we were excited. We decided to set off traveling maybe two years ago and have wanted to see the temple for this entire time. It doesn't disappoint. There is a long walkway over the water to the huge stone gate. As you walk through you can see Angkor Wat. Another long stone walkway leads you closer to the iconic image.


We stood infront of the lake and admired the view for a while. We then retreated to a small ruined building that was void of any tourists and sat in the shade with a view of the temple through the doorway. It was just lovely and it was a bright and sunny day so the reflection in the lake was beautiful.


After we had cooled off and admired the view we walked towards the huge temple and spent a long time exploring the inside.


Inside shocked us. You are permitted to explore almost all of the interior, the small rooms, corridors and courtyards as well as climb inside one of the towers. This almost never happens and we saw quite a few people clambering on the ancient ruins with no regard. When visiting the temple you have to cover shoulders and knees, but almost no one showed respect in this way. No hats are allowed on inside and there is no smoking, spitting, pets or touching the carvings allowed. A lot of the inside is still very intact and a lot of the wall carvings and beautifully carved pillars and ceilings are still in very good condition. It is low season at the minute so although there was still quite a lot of visitors it was not packed and no touts bothered us.


We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the temple and loved the fact that is it sat in huge green gardens. Along the side of the complex there are a row of shacks set up as shops and cafes. We dodged the people trying to sell us loudly patterned trousers and postcards and went to one of the cafes for some lunch and a cold drink. The temperature must have been close to 40 degrees and we were making sure we had regular breaks and cold drinks as we knew we would have three more days to see the archeological site and against our own nature was trying not to cram as much as possible on the first day.


After cooling off (as much as possible in afternoon Cambodian heat) we set off on our next leg. We headed left towards Angkor Thom, an ancient city which houses many temples and palaces. It is around another 1.5 km to the gate of the city which is a huge stone archway with a face carved into it.


Along the bridge leading up to it the road is lined with sculptures that they are currently renovating so some sculptures have ancient looking bodies with brand new heads on them.


Once through the gate it is around another 1.5km to Bayon, another important temple in the centre of Angkor
Thom. On the way along side the road there were small troops of Longtail Macaque monkeys. They were all playing in the grass and their were little babies running around, along the road and up the trees. We stopped on our bikes to watch them for a bit as they were the same species as Gramps, Chelsea favourite monkey from the Safari Park we volunteered at in Thailand.


Bayon is at the end of the road in the dead centre of the city. We parked our bikes up at the side of the road in the shade next to two official employees who jumped at the chance to sell us tuk-tuks for the following day which we had to politely decline. Bayon is amazing and very different to Angkor Wat. All it's towers have huge faces carved into them so everywhere you look towering above you are huge heads looking in all directions.


It has amazing stone wall carvings inside and out and we are not sure our photos can really do the intricacy of the place justice.


We wandered around the outside admiring the architecture and then headed inside the cool stone rooms, getting lost in a maze of dark corridors for at least half and hour.


By this point it was late afternoon so we decided to do only a few more places before heading to a sunset spot for when the sun went down. We carried straight on to an open plane beyond Bayon that houses several different archeological sites. We bought some water and sat on the grass in the shade when we arrived to cool off again. There were thousands of dragonflies around this area and the locals and the local children were out catching them.


We first went to Phimeanakas. This has a long stone pavilion and then behind it is a shaded tree lined spot with a temple set back within the trees.it was a nice quiet spot and it felt like a forgotten place. When we got closer there was a group of Cambodian youths who were obviously unofficial guides and who wouldn't leave us alone so we didn't explore behind here for long.

Next a bit further back towards Bayon we visited Baphuon. It's again has a long pavilion at the front and set back it a tall levelled temple with steps up to the top. It has a long thin walkway leading up to it and stagnant water either side. It was pretty and is also set in a cluster of huge trees.


By this point we were tired and it was getting closer to sunset time. We have seen pictures of Ankor Wat at sunset so assumed the sun set behind it but looking at the position of the sun it was clear this was not going to happen. On the way back there was an area off the road that was extremely busy with tourists and vendors and on our map around this area was a sunset viewpoint. We had no idea what we would be viewing or what it was but we decided to check it out. We parked up our bikes and set off climbing a big hill, not knowing what was at the top. There seemed to be a lot of people so we weren't sure if we would like it. At the top was a temple, Phom Bakheng which is being used as a platform for people to watch the sun go down. There were literally hundreds of people sat on the ruins and we didn't like it. It is not a pleasant experience and we feel not a very apt use of a temple so old.


We're not even really sure what everyone was looking at. There are views accross the fields but most of it is obscured by trees and you can see Angkor but only as a spec in the distance. It is safe to say that we quickly left and clambered back down the hill. Another thing we didn't like are the elephant rides. You can pay for an elephant to take you up the hill using an elephant chair.

We need to look more into sunset to find a better option on one of out other sightseeing days as we really didn't like the circus at Phom Bakheng. After our climb down we set off on our journey back into town. It didn't take long to ride the 8km home and its not too hard as it is mostly flat.

We were totally done in when we got back and after showering and a clean change of clothes we went out to fill our hungry bellies. We found a place that had the Man United game on and Liam was happy drinking his 50 cent beers and watching the game, while Chelsea was happy eating cheese pasta. Finding cheese in Southeast Asia has been a subject we could write a full blog on..... We will save that one for another time.

Posted by Chelsandliam 02:23 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap Comments (2)

Island paradise in the monsoon season.... Wet in Koh Rong

storm 32 °C

We have spent the last four nights on the Cambodian Island Koh Rong. After our first day of sunbathing and relaxing by the sea we awoke the next day to find that it was absolutely pouring and it did for most of our time on the island. It is well and truely monsoon season and the rain in the tropics is not like the cold wet drizzle we are used to in England. It seems to come in sheets of hot, heavy downpours coupled with strong wind. Surprisingly the rain has not effected the relaxing island retreat we were determined to have.

Most of our days have been sat either laid on our balcony hammock reading and drinking or sat downstairs in our guesthouse cafe watching the sea and rain, reading and drinking. It has been very laid back and quite nice to sit on a dry comfy chair watching the storms at sea. There was a puppy called fudge to keep us company and the occasional kitten.



A few times in the afternoon it has brightened up and we have gone for a swim. The sea is beautiful on Koh Rong, the cleanest and bluest we have ever been in. It is calm and must have a high salt content as we enjoyed floating around and swimming.


The only downside to the beach is the sand flies. Since Langkawi when Chelsea got covered in sandfly bites we have been cautious but they are surprisingly resilient on Koh Rong. No matter if we put repellent on or not we seemed to be getting bit, until we couldn't stand it any longer. We have both left the island with at least twenty or thirty bites each.


On our last day after the rain had eased up late afternoon we decided to go on an explore. We walked the full length of the cove and clambered over the rocky outcrop at the end which revealed another cove of yellow sand. We walked along, past some bungalows built into trees and walked all the way down to the other end of the beach. At the end was another rocky outcrop, a boat and a cluster of men sat around huge piles of litter. We decided to walk back at this point.


We really like Koh Rong. At the pier that ferrys tourists to and from the island is the main cluster of places to eat and stay but this is the least pretty area. We went in low season so a lot of building work was being done but it was still very dirty, a lot of piles of rubbish, uncleared building materials and general litter everywhere. Further down the beach it gets less developed, sparser and cleaner. About half way down is a resort called Monkey Island. This we think is the best place to eat and drink on the beach. Inexpensive food and a friendly atmosphere meant that every night at sunset, sometimes before we ventured down here, ate good food and drank way too many cans of Klang! They also have a friendly pack of dogs who love attention and Liam fell for one in particular called Poppy.


After five fun days in Koh Rong we were sad to leave and slightly hungover packed our bags ready for the 10am ferry back to the mainland. We paid our running tab, said bye to our new fluffy friends (were not talking about the rats running around our rooms) and caught the ferry. The boat ride takes two and a half hours and the upper deck is bare, everyone just lays out over each other and falls asleep.

When we arrived back in Sihanoukville we decided to book our bus straight to Seim Reip for that night. We booked a sleeper bus which set off at 7pm and spent the rest of the day in a cafe, eating and drinking and reading. We were picked up at 7pm by a minibus which then took us to a main road and dropped us off with a load of locals on the side of the street. Two big buses came, one was crap and one looked amazing. Guess which one we were on......... For the first time ever we were on the good one! It was to our surprise a hotel bus. Inside there were small booths big enough for two people, curtained off. Inside the booths were lights, plug sockets, a tv and air con. It was a smooth journey which brought us to Seim Reip at 7am. We are very excited about being in Seim Reip and visiting the temples of Angkor and can't wait to get sightseeing.

Posted by Chelsandliam 01:26 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia koh_rong Comments (1)

Sihanoukville & Koh Rong

sunny 36 °C

After three days in Phnom Penh we were eager to back to the more relaxed atmosphere of the beach. So our third bus in seven days picked us up outside our guesthouse, early, so early in fact we were still in bed when our reception phoned us to let us know they were here, they were not due until 7.45 and arrived at 7.15. We should have probably not still been in bed thirty minutes before our bus was due but as you may be able to tell, we do not like early starters.

In keeping with the trend the bus journey was long and completely weird. We went through the DVDs of Cambodian stand up and Cambodian pop artists and then as if this was not bad enough, a DVD of modernish songs but instead of the proper music video the TV showed videos of water buffalos fighting. It was the most random thing we have ever seen. Fortunately though Gangnam style was only on three times.
After six hours we thankfully pulled in to Sihanoukville. We then had to tackle the onslaught of tuk tuk dirvers that ran towards the bus as it pulled into the depot. We collected our bags and waited for the drivers to surround us then start out bidding each other until we were happy a price someone called out. We ended up getting a motorbike taxi each to the beach for $3.

We had booked ahead so we were soon in our room at our guesthouse. It was nothing special but cheap and a stone’s throw from the beach. It was 2pm by this point and we had not eaten nor drank anything all day so dumped our bags and went to the beach to find somewhere to eat. Our guesthouse was in between two beaches, Serendipity and Ocheteaul. We chose Ocheteaul, the beach is long but really busy, most restaurants spill out onto the narrow beach and there is so many people both tourist and local. It is not the prettiest beach we have ever seen but was heavenly compared to Phnom Penh. We sat and ate a meal, shared a jug of beer and watched the sea go in and out. As with Phnom Penh there were a lot of beggars, both children and adults aswell as vendors selling handmade bracelets, food and offering massages that we were constantly dismissing from our table. That was until one lad turned up, he was about two and a half feet tall, must have been no more that six years old. He was selling bracelets and he was like a mini Cambodian Del Boy. His sale pitch was you play ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ with him, if you win you get the bracelet for free, if you lose you pay. Liam loved the kids attitude, and his English was great so managed to banter a bit, got the bracelet for half he was charging and then played ‘Rock Paper Scissors’, he could not help it. Needless to say Liam lost and had to pay for the bracelet but the kid was fun and Liam did not mind giving him the dollar.


We went back to the room for an hour to let our jug of beer settle, but we were still hungry and were out again as the sun was setting for dinner. We chose the opposite direction this time and Serendipity beach, not so much a beach more of a rocky outcrop but it is peppered with nice bars and restaurants. We had a drink first in an outdoor bar over the sea and watched it get dark. Then we moved on to another restaurant for something to eat. Sihanoukville is not exactly up market but it is a lot of fun and nice places can be found. We had decided to spend the one night there as we wanted to go the Island of Koh Rong 3 hours of the coast.


We booked the ferry ticked with Koh Rong Diving, $10 each for a return and we were picked up from the dive centre at 7am……that’s two early starts in a row. The ferry was ok, there were comfy seats on the top deck where we could lay down and enjoy the scenery, although Chelsea slept for most of it. As we approached the island it looked like paradise, white sand turquoise waters and swinging palm trees. Disembarking the ferry on to a very small pier that led straight onto the sand, we went in the search for accommodation. Chelsea was not up for a cheap bungalow like Koh Phayam and the nicer, enclosed bungalows are out of our budget so we have found a room, on the beach which is cheap and cheerful. Again we had left it until we arrive to fill our stomachs so we checked in and went in the search for food. The beach at one end is quite congested with guesthouses, and there is a bit of building work going on which ruins the image somewhat, but the other end is more tranquil, with only one or two guesthouse/restaurants. We ate lunch, and then went to change into our beach clothes for an afternoon doing nothing. It did not disappoint, we lazed in the sun, swam in the sea and drank beer in a bar on the beach. The sea is the nicest we have seen so far. It is flat as a pancake and turquoise blue clear water. We spent most of our day in the water.

We are not sure how long to spend here, we enquired about doing a dive with a local dive company as we are now in a different sea to Vietnam but that is too expensive so will give it a miss. We will just be sunning ourselves and relaxing. Its not a bad way to spend a few days, getting ready for the mayhem that will be Angkor Wat.

Posted by Chelsandliam 04:29 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia sihanoukville koh_rong Comments (1)

Some sights in Phnom Penh

overcast 35 °C

Since we have been in Phnom Penh for more than a day and not seen anything we thought we would have a look around the city today. There are some main sights such as the Grand Palace, the democracy monument and the National Museum but we are a little fed up with a constant stream of pagodas and palaces so decided on some alternatives. The first stop was brunch and we went to a cheap local place that we have noticed has been busy everyday. We had pork ribs and rice served with broth and beef curry served with bread with two iced coffees for $5 and it was really tasty. It was raining when we had finished so we walked round the the riverside and had a drink until the rain eased up. Whilst sat we heard a girl upset and a man shouting and everyone came out of their restaurants to see if everything was ok. A lady had her bag snatched as she walked along the row of places that line the riverfront and she was obviously very upset. The criminals were on a bike and she had tried to hold on so had been dragged into the road. It was a horrible but apparently all too common event and all the staff in our cafe looked wholly disappointed. Phnom Penh has some major problems, there is a lot of poverty, a lot of children sent out to beg and mothers and babies. There is also a LOT of sex tourism and protitutes line the streets and bars. Many of these bars are not subtle and one has the selling point of 'no loneliness only fun'. It's not all bad though, there are some budget local eateries, a lot of choice with regards to bars and cafes and all the tuk-tuks are motorbikes with cute wooden carriages on the back.


We then set off to Central Market, politely declining twenty to thirty tuk-tuks drivers on the way. It started to rain about half way there but it did not take long to get there. It is definitely in walking distance to the riverside. The central market is a big domed building. The centre is mainly jewellery stalls and then branching off are stalls selling anything you could possibly want.


Around the outside of the building stalls set up under umbrellas and sell everything from crockery, clothing, electrical goods and fresh produce. We walked around, browsing all the stalls and were very surprised to find that it was really pleasant. No one heckled for us to buy anything and we were left to look around at our own pace. Liam got some new headphones and Chelsea got a bracelet.

After our shopping we decided to walk to Boeng Kak lake. We had read that it was lined with cheap places to stay and quirky cafes over the water but we were not sure if it was still there as our guidebook talked about the possibility of it being bulldozed for redevelopment. It took us a while to walk and we walked through some poor intimidating areas as well as some very upmarket places with skyscrapers and posh hotels. When we got near the area we needed the streets were particularly bad. It was a very poor Muslim area which meant that not just men but also women stared at Chelsea as her legs were not covered. People literally stopped talking and stared and it is one of a handful of times in our many months in Southeast Asia where we have not felt safe (bear in mind we worked hands on with tigers, leopards and lions for five months). We decided to turn back and headed to a temple we had seen on the way.

Wat Phnom is a short walk from the riverside and it set in a shady public park. We climbed the old stone steps and there are a few stupas and the main temple. It is picturesque and costs $1 for foreigners if you want to go inside. After a look around we realised we had gone up the back steps and walked around to the front which were much grander steps framed either side with snake sculptures. Also in the park is a giant wicker king cobra sculpture. We had read that there were little monekys in the park but we didn't see any.... It didn't stop Liam worrying about monkey bites and rabies shots though.


We headed to the riverside and walked down the river, calling in a place for a cheeky happy hour drink and we ended up coming back for 50 cent beers and frozen margaritas for dinner. The riverfront is not very picturesque. It is a row of eateries and bars on a wide, busy main road . The river is very polluted and lined with a lot of buildings still under construction. At night there is a night market which we browsed around and mainly sold the usual tourist fare, t-shirs, souvenirs, scarves and brick-a-brack. We are glad we have seen Phnom Penh but we are eager for clean air and open spaces. We have booked onto the local bus for the next leg of our journey. We are heading South in search for a beach paradise for a few days before we tackle Angkor Wat.

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:56 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia phnom_penh Comments (1)

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