Today was a proper travelling day. No more chilling in the pool, we hopped on mini-buses for 6:45am, and were off to the Cambodian border. Breakfast was strange again. Today there was beef in a spicy oyster type sauce, noodles, boiled fish and rice, as well as more western things, such as chicken sausage. Still not used to having such a big meal at the beginning of the day!
I also started reading today. Finally whipped out the kindles on the bus (there was 6ish hours at least of travelling) and began reading Delirium. I had never heard of it before, but so far it is fairly good. It’s of the same dystopian vane as Hunger Games and Divergent, and is so far better than the latter, and possibly the former in my opinion. On the first journey we encountered the first squat toilets. Not nearly as bad as I had feared that they might be! Ok I am always going to choose a western toilet, but they’re not completely horrific.
And then we arrived at the Cambodian border. Or so I was told. It didn’t look like a border to me. There were markets and street stalls everywhere, it just seemed like another normal village. We were split up from out Team Leader (well..CEO) Lek because of passports, and sailed through Thai exit immigration. Our visas were sorted sharpish, and we were hopeful we were going to be through the border immigration in no time. Oh how wrong we were. Cambodian culture and people seems to be very relaxed, chilled, going about life at their own leisurely place, which is great, except at the border. There were hoards of people, and the fella behind the desk was just having a conversation with his friend, going on his phone, having his dinner, not caring that it was taking his 4x as long to process his line (which we were of course all in). We got through eventually, a fair while after. The border itself was strange. There was a sort of no-man’s land you could wander around which had a casino, and stalls, and markets, and hotels, and people, but also had a strict quarantine for foreigners. It was just surreal. Mind you, the whole place is a bit.
We also experienced Cambodian food today, which is really nice. What little I have had I prefer to the little Thai food I have experienced in my life. We stopped at a little road-side café thing, and ordered food, and it was really nice. They don’t really do small portions, or snack sized meals, which is going to take some getting used to. Kev and Peter tried the hot chillies in the spicy rice, and their faces said everything. I think I am going to have to be wary of how spicy food is. I tried a bit and it was quite hot without the chillies, so I am glad I dodged them. Another bus ride, and we arrived at Siem Reap, and our hotel, which is absolutely lovely again. Not at all the basic travelling I thought we would be doing.
Tonight we had our first homestay/village experience, and it was absolutely unbelievable. We got a more rickety tuk tuk over dirt tracks to a little village outside of Siem Reap, and were welcomed in by the local people. They speak such good English in Cambodia! A lovely lady showed us all the facilities, what they grow, and how they live, and gave us a real insight into Cambodian living. It really was something special, and really made me think just how far away from home we really are. Bangkok is deceptive in it’s size and appearance, whereas Cambodia feels much more back-to-basics. I already prefer it here. The lady runs an open house and pays for schooling for 16 children, and after dinner we got to speak to them and play with them. It’s nice to see kids being kids, playing and laughing, and not buried on phones and ipads etc. (I realise as I write this on a computer that I have brought with me that I might sound hypocritical, but so.) They are all learning English and were eager to ask lots of questions and quiz us.
We also had a traditional Cambodian meal cooked by the locals, in a local wooden shelter. The food was brilliant. I was hesitant about my experience with Thai food, and how I didn’t really like much back in Britain, but this was just beautiful. There were different types of meat and curries and noodles, and vegetables, and it all just tasted wonderful. They even made special cakes that they only produce once a year for a special occasion. They were strange, and completely unique, but quite nice. I am really pleased we got to visit, really feels like the tour is up and running now.
Everyone is getting to know each other a little better now, and everyone is friends on facebook etc. One of the girls, Thuy, has brought a toy cow with her, which is included on many of the tour activities, and is present in many of the tour selfies, thus the title of this blog, and the unofficial title of our tour group: the moo crew. I think I need to start taking King Louis out with me! It’s another early start tomorrow (4:45am) but we are going to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, so definitely no complaints. That is as long as it doesn’t rain, but we have escaped it so far!