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"La Tahzan, InnaAllaha ma'ana" (Al- Quran: Surah At- Taubah- Verse 40)
Translation: "Be not sad (or afraid), surely Allah is with us."

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." ~Edmund Burke~

'It's not what the world holds for you, but what you bring to it' ~Anne of Green Gables~

Monday, March 16, 2009

Raiding Cambodia...

Trip in March, 2008.

Anastasia and I felt like Angelina Jolie in 'Lara Croft: The Tomb Raider' when we stuck our heads in between the giant tree roots in Cambodia's Takeo temple... hihihihiiii...

This Cambodia trip happened due to Anastasia's frequent nagging :P 'I want to visit the Angkor Wat' she said over and over. So I said, oklah oklahhh... let's go!

The truth? I was also tempted to see the ancient ruins. Hihihiii... and as usual... we are Indiana Jones wanna be. We couldn't settle for Siem Reap only. So, we planned to land in Phnom Penh and then take a bus to Siem Reap.

This is our story...

For this trip, I got a lot of objections from my mother. She was worried sick with our plan to go to Cambodia. My sister and brother was also infected by her worries :) and I of course asked everybody to keep this plan as a secret from my dad. I don't need more objections than I already had. Why was my family, especially my mom against this plan? Mostly because we knew so little about Cambodia... a country that is recovering from war. I'm not really sure about Cambodia's history but the place called 'The Killing Field' got into my nerves.

However, Anastasia had friends who already went there and they said there is nothing to worry about. Therefore, we decided to brave through the country.

I remember what I said to my mom when she kept persuaded me not to go. I said, 'Ma, if you're so scared, might as well I just stay at home and never leave'. Fuhhhh... eksyen betul! But, all jokes aside, I believe that you need to get your mother & father or parent's blessings in this kind of decision where you will be leaving home for a while . Their prayers will keep you safe.

We prepared ourselves for any possibilities during this trip. If people are so concern, there just might be a reason, even though unvalidated. So we planned carefully and left a copy of detailed itineraries and contact number of the hotels we were staying in, the bus company and even the contact number of Malaysian embassies in Cambodia. During our visit in Cambodia we constantly text our family of where and when we're going. If anything happened, it'll be easier and faster to track our whereabouts. I just believe that there are times when we should be paranoid than sorry :)

So as planned, we booked our flight which will land in Phnom Penh, and then we'll take a bus to Siem Reap. On the day, Anastasia casually waited for me on the floor of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal... we had McD for lunch (yummy!) and off to Cambodia. Wuhuhuhuuu!!!

Phnom Penh airport was small and quiet, but quite busy. Apparently there are a lot of people going in and out of the country. In the flight, there are a lot of muslims and the way they dressed, very similar to Malaysian muslims. I remembered seeing them on TV1 once... I thought the documentary was about Malaysians, but it was not. It was about Cambodian muslims. So, I thought there's not so much difference, therefore, no worries :)

We stayed in Cara Hotel, Phnom Penh. It was a nice small hotel in the middle of the busy Phnom Penh city. The view from our room's balcony was dusty. However, the room was comfortable, with a tv and clean bathroom (which is very important). The room comes with breakfast but I 'only' had bread and yogurt and fruits and coffee and milk and orange juice because I'm not sure whether the meat and the oil they used were from a halal source. Even though I thought, 'Lucky you Anastasia', I had the healthiest breakfast while I was in Phnom Penh!

In Phnom Penh, we went to Wat Phnom, to the Russian market, the Royal Palace where we met another fellow Malaysian, to the National Museum and rested under the shady tree by the river. It was a very hot and humid day. How do we go around town? By tuk-tuk of course :)

We had interesting experiences while we were in Phnom Penh. First, we casually talked between the two of us about the receptionist at the hotel. He had a pair of beautiful eyes. We conversed in Malay because we were confident that no one understands only to later found out that the receptionist had been working in Malaysia before and can understand our language a little bit. Then he smiled knowingly at us. Oh my God! Second, riding tuk tuk can give you adrenalin rush. We were shouting and closing our eyes when the tuk- tuk driver missed a cyclist by only inches. Pheww, that was close. Third, the cash register in Cambodia is high-tech. The machine can calculate your change both in Cambodia and US Dollar. Wow! We were impressed at the machine!

Is it possible to find Malaysian restaurant in Cambodia? Sure! Looks like we Malaysians are everywhere now :) Just ask your tuk- tuk driver. They just might know where to find our local food.

Room at Cara Hotel.


Street in front of Cara Hotel.


On the way to Wat Phnom.


 A lot of people resting at this park. Even though we were sure it was not weekend or public holiday, we assured ourselves that it might be some holiday that we were unaware of.

If remember correctly, this is Wat Phnom. I apologize if I'm mistaken :( This trip was last year and my brain neurons might have been blurring a Phnom Penh link.


Some of the artwork at the wat.

The National Museum. They have a lot of Buddhist related artifact collections.

Inside the Royal Palace compound.

A view from the palace. I think this looks nice :)


A photo I took while we were resting under the shady tree. He's cute :)


The butterfly and flowers staircase that we so admired at Cara Hotel.

In Cara Hotel, we met a couple of Indonesian girls who told us that they took a double decker bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. The top deck was for passengers, the below deck also for passengers... farm passengers. Chickens, ducks, goats... hahahaaaa... that sounded so interesting.

But for us, we took the Mekong Express bus to Siem Reap. This bus was for human passengers only :) The express bus there, provide another level of service than here :) The fare was USD10.00.

Mekong Express :)


Smile! You're on my camera!


Bus steward... he's a bit shy when I wanted to take his photo.


These were what we got in the bus. A bottle of mineral water, fragrance wet tissue and a box of...


breads! Again, I'm not sure the bread's halal status, so Anastasia got lucky again!

During the almost 8 hours trip, we stopped somewhere for lunch. I'm not sure what the name of the place was. There I saw a couple of interesting local snacks...
Grasshoppers and some kind of bug.

'Can I take photos?'
Nod.. nod...
Thank you!

We bought some...
... of the mangos! Gotcha!

When we arrived in Siem Reap's bus stop, there were a lot of tuk- tuk drivers there. However, our designated tuk- tuk driver already waited for us with our names on a cardboard. I didn't get his name, but he was a friendly man.

In Siem Reap, we stayed at 'Mom's Guesthouse'. This guesthouse is in the middle of the town, where you can easily get transportation and... Malaysian food was just a walking distance. Most importantly, it's safe.

Cosy and clean room, comfortable big single beds...

With cupboard, coffe table, dressing table, mirror and cable tv.


Clean bathroom...

All these at a very affordable price. Visit Mom's Guesthouse on the internet now!

D' Wau Restaurant. A halal Malaysian restaurant. Just a walking distance from Mom's Guesthouse. We had 'Nasi Goreng Daging Merah' and 'Nasi Paprik'.

Saiko Ang. A cambodian dish served at D'Wau. It's similar to our very own satay with a papaya salad.


Halal restaurant in Siem Reap.


Halal restaurant advertisement.



The next day, we're off to the ancient ruins! Wuhuhuuuu... Mom's kindly arranged for a tuk-tuk driver. Sothea was a friendly man with 2 children. He was around our age, so we clicked and we had a fun day! :p

We woke up early that day coz we wanted to see sunrise at the famous Angkor Wat. It was so dark when we got there, with no flashlight and direction we were unsure of where to go. Sothea waited at his tuk-tuk. So, last resort, we followed other people. Luckily, there were a lot of tourist there. Phewwww.... When we got inside Angkor Wat's compound there was a kind guy offered to show us the way. We felt relieved because it was not easy being a blind mice :P After he showed us to the best spot to watch sunrise, he asked 'Would you like some coffee?'. Hmmmm... luckily, I did need coffee. So, okay. A coffee with milk for me and tea for Anastasia. A dollar each. Something to warm our body and to show a bit of gratitude.

The beautiful Angkor Wat sunrise that we waited for didn't emerged. Not sure why. I don't think it was a rainy season that time. The day was hot and humid as always. Anyhow, we had fun. I was amazed at the steep stairs of Angkor Wat. I wonder how they climb those stairs back in those days. The Angkor Wat compound was spacious. I like it. During our visit, a lot of entrance was closed, due to maintenance and construction. Quite a bummer. I actually would like to try and climb those stairs.

My favourite of all was the Bayon Temple. Maybe because of its smiling faces :)

One thing I noticed, the ancient wats in Cambodia have a lot of entrances. Doors and big windows. I thought, this is good architecture. Great for ventilation and emergencies.

Waiting for the bright sunrise that never came :(

Angkor Wat in the morning.


 The steep stairs.


The smiling faces of the Bayon.


The trunks of Lara Croft.

After the temples, we went to Tonle Sap lake. On the way there, we got a complimentary 'massage' and faced a reality that reminded us to count our blessings. We took a boat, navigated by a lady. Life on the lake was... as normal. They have boat houses, school, basketball court, a shop, snooker, church, restaurant etc. The most interesting view for me was the pig sty on the lake and also children paddling in a basin. I guess life was not so easy for them. They sell everything from canned drinks and fruits. Some children stopped by our boat hoping that we gave them some money. But at that time, we were afraid to be generous because we worried that more will come :(

Free 'massage' :)


Lets count our blessings...


Floating pigs :)

Paddling happily....


'Buy my cola'

A determine young girl :)

As usual, in all our travels, we always save a day for... shopping! Of course. This is among the things that we love about travelling. I bought a lot of things. Table cloths for my mom, my grandma and my aunties. The table cloths looks like songket. I love it! I bought cambodian scarves for my friends. Then, fridge magnets, bags, wallets, tooth pick holders (it's a carved wood, very cute). Anastasia bought a beautiful wall hanging... it's an embroidery of Angkor Wat complete with the elephants & coconut trees. It was just beautiful.

There are a lot of places to shop in Siem Reap. Our favourite is the night market. It was nice to shop there because we found a few stalls with a friendly seller. It was also because shopping at night was more comfortable. If you need to exhange money, there's Western Union just across the entrance of the night market. It also has lower exchange rates as compared to the other local money changer. You can also shop at the old and new market in Siem Reap. Just be careful ok. Don't go too crazy with the shopping. Oh, by the way, Cambodian silk also very nice and not that pricey... Don't say I didn't warn you :)

Siem Reap night market.

New market..

Shopping marked our last activity in Cambodia. Actually, there are still a lot of things that we haven't seen and places that we haven't visited. Obviously, we needed more time, but 5 days were good enough. We can now say we have been to Cambodia and have seen the great Angkor Wat :)

My best buy in Cambodia? A Kipling slingbag. Even though it's an imitation (original Kipling bags are sooooo expensive!), the bag is high quality and has proved to be waterproof. I should've bought the backpack as well!

On our last day, Sothea sent us to the airport. After we said our goodbyes, we checked in, boarded the flight and came back to our beloved country... tanah tumpah darahku.

Sangat patriotik...

Inside Siem Reap's airport.

Bye bye Cambodia. Until we meet again!

Lesson I learned from this trip:
1. We will be afraid of things that we're not sure about. But, if you really want to do it, get the facts & information, be prepared. Taking risks is good. It gives you a sense of adventure. Just make sure it's a calculated one.
2. Be careful when you want to say something. You may think that people don't understand your language, but they just might. In our case, fortunately we were complimenting the guy :)

Some notes on travelling to Cambodia:
1. When travel to Cambodia, make sure you get an accurate information about tipping. If you over tip for a service and this was noticed by another, they'll be expecting the same thing. At least this was my impression :)
2. People of Cambodia, as per my experience, are nice & kind people. I didn't have the impression that Cambodia was a dangerous country But to be safe, anywhere you go, avoid suspicious, dark and dangerous looking areas. Follow your instinct :)
3. Wear something light if you're travelling during the hot & humid season. Bring a hat or umbrella and wet tissue help to cool down your burning face. Don't forget to bring some drinks.
4. The roads were dusty when I was there. You will need something to cover your eyes, nose & mouth. For us, we opted for the colorful Cambodian scarves for this purpose.

I'll post some more when I remembered them :)


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