The temples of Siem Reap

When visiting Siem Reap, it is basically a crime not to visit the temples there. Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world. There are so many temples on these sites, you can spend weeks there. But, for those of us who don’t want to look at temples for weeks on end, you can do a one-day trip as well. And even then, you can choose the short circuit of the big one.

I ended up doing the short one and even though  I would have wanted to see more, the price for a second day was too much for me, plus, the first day was so exhausting, that after that I was kind of done for a while. Maybe it would be best to go back again a few weeks later, but who has the time…?

The entrance fee is 20 dollar for one day, 40 dollar for 3 days and I think 60 dollar for a week. You get a personalized ticket, so they take your picture at the booth. My 20 dollar bill was actually rejected because it was not new and pretty enough, so I had to give them another. Ridiculous. It is unbelievable how much money a place like this must make. There are so many people and they all pay these high prices. It’s bizarre.

The best way to see the sights is to hire a tuktuk driver for the day. For the short circuit this shouldn’t cost more than 15 dollars, so find three other people to fill the tuktuk and it’s pretty cheap. You can also rent a bicycle, but I get the feeling that every single person who does that seriously underestimates the heat. You are fully in the sun, almost the whole day. It is insanely hot. For real.

So, the thing you all have been waiting for… The pictures.



Running into an old friend

After roaming Phnom Penh for a morning, I wasn’t feeling too well. My back was hurting (I strained it a week and a half ago, and it’s gonna take some time before it will be completely back to normal) and besides that, I was suffering from some thing that some women suffer from approximately every month, but about which I won’t go into detail, so the guys reading my blog won’t freak out.

Suffice it to say, I was not feeling so well. I went back to the hostel and waited there until it was time to get to my bus, which would take me to Kampot. I was feeling bummed, because I wanted to see more of the city. I was also feeling bummed because there was an earlier bus which I could have taken, and which a bunch of the people from my hostel took.

But when the time came for me to go to the bus terminal (which was really just an office), I was feeling a bit better. I walked in and looked next to me, seeing a guy in sunglasses that looked slightly like somebody I knew. This happens to me a lot while I’m traveling… I guess it’s my brains way of telling me I’m missing my friends.

So I walk over to the counter to ask about my bus and they tell me to just sit and wait. So I do. I put my stuff down and sit in one of the chairs, while sneaking peeks at the guy sitting there. He looks so much like him…

I open my Facebook app, to just look him up and see if maybe he could be in the area. He’s currently living in Vietnam, so it’s not that much of a stretch… But it still is.

And what do you know, he put on Facebook that he was going to Cambodia for a few days… But it couldn’t be. It could not be possible that I am actually bumping into somebody I know all the way across the world. It is not possible. It just isn’t…

“- Sanne?”

Oh my god. I guess it is possible. And it is the biggest coincidence I ever had in my life. It’s so weird to run into a friend in a country so far from home and it took us both a few moments to realize it.

And not only did we run into each other, we were taking the same bus, to the same place.

So we spent the next day together, riding a motorbike across some of the country. The views were beautiful and the freedom that comes with driving through such rough terrain yourself, with nobody telling you where to go, was wonderful.

We had a great day and saw a lot, and after having dinner in the evening, we went our separate ways.

Thanks for the fun day, Tom! Maybe I’ll see you somewhere in Europe the world again.



Phnom Penh

This capital city of Cambodia has plenty to offer to enjoy yourself for two days. One of the most popular things to do here is to visit the Killing Fields (which I wrote about here). But also in Phnom Penh itself are some sights. You can visit the Palace, or go to the National Museum. Or, you can be like me, and just walk around the city, which gives you the chance to stumble upon a temple and a few other iconic views that make for a few lovely pictures.


It’s not all fun and games


At first glance, this is just another tree. A very beautiful tree, one might even say.
Until you hear what it was used for.
This tree was used to smash in the heads of children, and after that they would be tossed in the mass grave beside it.


A beautiful building. On each corner is a Garuda (a kind of bird) and a dragon. They are eternal enemies, and when they appear somewhere together, it means peace.
And this is what’s inside the building.




A courtyard that looks lovely and peaceful. But inside these buildings, people were tortured until they admitted to things they had no idea about.



Another tree. This one was used to put speakers on. For a party? No. To cover the sounds of people screaming while they were being brutally murdered.


This may just look like a traditional offering place, and it is. But if you look at the box behind it, you will see the bones that came up from the grounds years later. Bones of all the people that were murdered and buried at the Killing Fields in Cambodia. During the period when Pol Pot decided he wanted to rule the world with some kind of idea of the perfect species (sounds like someone else we know from the history books?) he killed many Cambodians. They were all tortured and questioned about possible affiliations with spies. Even if they were innocent, they would be killed, because “it is better to kill an innocent, than to let a guilty person live”.

As you can imagine it was quite a shocking day. The things that were done and the stories that were gathered at these memorial sites were unbelievable. Not only were innocent people tortured and killed, also babies and children. They didn’t want to take the risk of them seeking revenge later and made this clear with the saying “it’s better to pick out a weed by its roots”.

The one thing that really stuck with me the most was a quote from one of the survivors. A few people lived because they had skills that the Khmer Rouge needed. There was a mechanic, and a painter, and a few others… So they lived longer than the rest and because liberation came just in time, some of them are still alive today. And one of them said that because of their hobby, or their job, they stayed alive. And now he was reaching out to the world and telling his story, to prevent things like this from happening again, but also to encourage the youth to develop their skills, because one day…

It just might save your life.



What to expect from a bus ride from Vietnam to Cambodia

That’s the short answer. Because if you expect nothing, it can only be better. Actually no, scratch that. Expect the worst.

Let me paint you a picture.


I could do this verbally, but I’ve heard that a picture says more than a thousand words and there are no thousand words to describe the bus that I was in when I wanted to go from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

I booked my ticket at one of the many tour operators on the street where my hostel was located. I don’t remember the name, because there was only one name in Ho Chi Minh that I could remember and that was the one of the main market where they sell the souvenirs, for no reason other than that it was the easiest one. But Vietnamese is not a language I will ever understand, so I could not remember anything.

They said to be at their office at 23.15, and we would leave at 23.45. I already knew that 23.15 would be very early, so eventually I arrived at 23.20. I’m such a rebel.

Of course, when my phone told me it was 23.45, there was still nobody there. Oh, and the office was closed, but I knew the busses stopped on the other side of the street. I know I should not have had any expectations, but during my days there I had already seen some busses drive by and they looked really comfortable. Chairs that could recline, soft lighting and individual seats.

Around 0.00 a big yellow bus that did not have the name of the bus company I was supposed to go with, stopped very close to me. I decided to ask if by any chance they were my ride. I showed them the ticket and I didn’t really get a confirmation, but they just gestured that I could get in if I wanted to. I asked around frantically to at least assure myself that the bus would be going to Phnom Penh, and it was. So, I handed in my passport, paid the fee for the visa and gave them my backpack, when I got in.

You had to climb the stairs to go in and the sight when you arrived upstairs was something else. A few of my fellow travelers had been in several sleeping busses and they said this one was the ghetto of sleeping busses. Well… That was promising.

I hopped on one of the beds and laid down, trying for a long time to find a comfortable position. In the meantime, I was joined by a guy and while we were laughing about the shadiness of it all, I actually felt good, because I knew this was going to be one of those awful backpacker experiences I had heard so much about. Sometimes I’m too positive for my own good.

After talking with the guy for a few minutes, I distinguished a slight Dutch accent, so I asked him where he’s from, and what do you know? The Netherlands. So we continued in our native tongue and quickly realized that we had both been in Indonesia for almost half a year. He had been there for his studies, and was in Yogyakarta, not Jakarta, like me. We swapped some experiences while the bus driver started on our trip. The lights were turned off pretty quickly and because of the lack of space I got up close and personal with this guy from Rotterdam who I had just met, while we were both trying to catch some shut-eye.

Emphasis being on trying.

For me anyway, the Dutchie next to me was snoring like the sound the bus was making while driving. Even my favorite sleeping music couldn’t get me to fall asleep and it was 3 AM when we came to a stop. A full stop.

I had heard about it, and I knew it was going to happen, but it still seemed ridicilous. We left at 0.00 and had reached the border in three hours. The border… opens at 6 AM. So we were going to be standing still for three hours. I saw a few people sitting up in their beds and I just knew they were thinking what I was thinking…
Can we please go to the toilet?

This didn’t seem like something the driver and his buddy had contemplated, because when I ventured outside of my bed, I noticed that the entire aisle was filled with our bags and suitcases. When did that happen?

I looked and was dreading the prospect of climbing all this stuff to get out, but my bladder was torturing me relentlessly and so I moved out.
I asked a girl in my area if she needed to go also, and together we went for it. The way to get out is pictured below. My leg muscles are still a little sore (because we had to go out at least two times more – and back in).


When I got out, I felt good to know I was not alone, because about ten more people stepped outside. We faced the warm night air, and while typing this I realize I forgot to mention something very distressing about this trip.

The cold.

They were blasting the airconditioning like they were trying to recreate Antartica and everybody was shivering in their seats (even though they provided us with thoughtful blankets that were too small to cover the body of a child, let alone adults).
So the warmth was welcome. We all ran off in different places to find a private place to relieve ourselves

I popped a squat at the border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia.
And I can only assume I am not the first.

We faced the jungle gym again when we got back inside and I was so relieved. I was comfortable, I didn’t have to pee anymore and I was warm again because of the nightly exercise.

Yet my dear friend sleep did not decide to grace me with a visit that night.
So I lay and listened to music and let my mind wander to all the places my mind decided to go.

And before you know it (no, I’m kidding. It took forever and I was waiting for the moment for three hours), the bus was moving again.
And I had to pee… Again.

Nobody knew what to expect, which you could say makes these trips all the more fun. Or at least more adventurous.

After a while somebody came up to our beds and yelled something. I didn’t know what, but some people were getting up and getting out. Great… More climbing. But I’d gotten the hang of it by then and was out before I knew it. Time to cross the border.
But first I ran in the other direction when I saw a sign saying there was a toilet present.

We stood around for a while, waiting for who knows what, and then we could pass the immigration officer who did not seem all that pleased to have a job that made him wake up before the sun had risen. He flipped through my passport and gestured for me to move on.

Because I have lived in Indonesia for five months, the one thing I have learned and is ingrained in my current life, is to smile. So I smiled at the officer and thanked him, but he did not return the favor and just focused on something more interesting behind me.

I looked through my passport and saw an exit stamp for Vietnam, one more lovely addition to an already large collection of art pieces in my little book of life. But I had expected a little more, namely a new stamp that would remind me I had gone to Cambodia.
Later, we realized that this was just the Vietnamese border and we still had to cross the actual Cambodian border.
Guess what that means…
Yep, more climbing in and out of the bus.

But eventually we also lined up at the immigration officer who was in charge of the stream of travelers wanting to enter Cambodia and when I smiled and thanked him, I actually got back a small smile. I noticed my fellow travelers were tired and exhausted, like me, and with that had lost their manners. I was glad to be rewarded for not forgetting mine.

At this point, I was really, very tired. And when we got back into the bus, I felt like I could sleep easily. I was told that it would be a six hour drive to Phnom Penh and my cognitive function allowed me to calculate that this meant we had three more hours to go.

Oh, my sweet naive past self.

It turned out to be six. Six more hours! So even though I did sleep for maybe half an hour to an hour, I was still awake for most of it and just listened to music, trying to let Damien Rice and Ludovico Einaudi soothe me.
And even though they soothed, they did not make me sleep.

Finally we seemed to arrive somewhere and after paying too much for a tuktuk (which is really all part of the Asian experience, I would say), I arrived at my hostel.
And I slept the day away.

And yeah, I could make myself feel bad about that, because I am not making the most out of the experience and I am wasting an entire day. But really, it was the damn Ankor Express Yellow ugly ass bus that wasted my day and I refused to feel guilty for wanting a nap. However, I had not anticipated sleeping through my alarm that was set for 3 o’clock and waking up at 5 instead.

But we live and learn. And we deal with it.
I’ll explore the city tomorrow.

And yeah, to all those friends of mine who are reading this and wondering: what about the guy? “Was dat niet wat voor jou, Sanne?”

We went our separate ways after getting off of the bus, because that’s just how these things work. And that is more than okay.