Hello Cambodia! | Bamboo goes Angkor What?

Posted on January 23, 2014Posted by Mark Foster-Murray

What’s the first thing you think about when I say the words ‘Angkor Wat’, now you are either a ‘Lara Croft from Tomb Raider’ kinda person (probably male, bearded, thumbs no longer work) or a ‘Mysterious temples, steeped in culture, what a lovely picture that would make in my loo’ kind of person. There is no in between, I challenge you to defy me.

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What the clever bods at Bamboo have created (i.e. Steve, a copy of lonely planet and a dart set) with the brand spanking new Thailand / Cambodia Adventure Volunteer Tour (or TCAVT this is a thing) is a new perspective on an old and established journey. Steve and I simply love Surin, it’s where we both started our volunteer life together working as teachers in this dusty market town in the middle of East Thailand.

Mark at our Elephant Project in Surin.

Now established as the East hub of our volunteer operations we decided to expand ever so slightly and pop across the border to Cambodia and the is-that-a-tree-growing-in-those temples of Angkor Wat, symbiotically supported by the charming city of Siem Reap (Where Lara kicked off her boots and had a pint after all that Tomb Raiding).

What is great about this tour is that we take out the headache of figuring out how to get over there from Thailand, and believe me an experience at Poi Pet (Thai/Khmer border crossing) is not only for the brave but those fluent in gonna-rip-you-off-ski (also a thing).

Poi Pet Border Crossing

Just a typical day crossing the border…

This 2 week Volun-Tour encompasses 3 volunteer projects (Village Elephants, Childcare or Teaching) with a weekend in the middle in Cambodia. Sound simple? Well for you it is. For Bamboo, however, we graciously swim like an elegant swan on the surface, whereas beneath the water a hive of activity is taking place ensuring everything is prepared for your stay. Hotels….we got it! Transport? Sorted! Border crossing….piece of cake, we speak their language! Entry to Angkor!? DONE! Elephants?…..37…38…39 all accounted for (+1 new baby girl, she’s really cute) you name it people, Bamboo knows it’s stuff and will work to make this happen for you, and for the communities we support along the way.

5 things to think about if you ever join us on this adventure or simply going to Cambodia.

1. Although Cambodia has it’s own currency (the Riel) they will laugh at you and call you silly names if you try to offer them their own currency. USD yo! Is the way forward. I wish someone told me that the first time I went as I tried to gain entry into the Heritage Site only to be mocked at by a coach load of French people (Nothing against French people. They may have been Canadian). So please exchange into US Dollars if you wish to stay in a happy place.

2. This is a MUST! Wake up very early, before the sun rises and the ‘Angkor Beer’ has just about worn off. Head up to the Sunrise Temple to get a good seat and bask in the glory where nature meets history in this spectacular show of God and Man. My personal advice put the camera down, turn your iPhone off, put your hands in your pockets if you have to and just use your eyes. Your memories will be far more stunning than a polaroid or an ‘Instagram’. If you want a photo of the sunrise just Google it, trust me. Lap it up, breath it in, you will never forget it….unless the Angkor Beer is still in full swing.

Although some photos are nice

We ‘googled’ it…

3. Siem Reap can feel a little commercial if you stick to where everyone else goes. Best day I had was when my friend (A burly American who got his underwear stolen whilst being pulled over by a policeman ~ long story, another blog) and I met a local chap in the hotel lobby called Mr. Bean (I suspect a pseudonym) who then cordially invited us to his house for dinner. Not at all suspicious at the fact it was still 9am and we were going for dinner. Only to find a large table that was only barely visible through the crates of ‘Angkor Beer’. By dinner time half the village had come to meet us, we could finally see the table, my friend had been married off to the local goat and we had successfully won the country in a lucky hand of Texas Poker (some of this did not happen). But to meet the locals, share a laugh and a drink, work through language barriers, meet new people, that’s what travel is all about, no?

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Actual evidence of Mr. Bean, my dear American friend (AJ) and the ‘table’.

4. Learn to say no….but politely. A lot of people live off of the Temple. By which I mean, the tuk tuks drivers who whisk you around, the tour guides who regurgitate all the important dates, the ice-cream sellers, the ‘real’ artefact traders, the souvenirs, the paintings, the can-I-take-your-photo-mister people. That’s the important word, the people. Because they are still people. Yes you don’t want all the tat they thrown at you but let’s remember to keep a smile because a ‘No Thank-You’ costs nothing. Here endeth the lesson.

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5. Prepare your clobber. Yes this is still a temple. So put the ‘Full Moon’ neon pink hot pants back in the 80s….I mean bag and dress to impress the Bayan faces of the temples. Keep it light and airy maybe a scarf for the ladies to cover up quickly if needed. Imagine your English Teacher at school. (the image in my head right now will demand therapy and gin) What would she wear? You got it!

There is just so much to do and talk about Angkor Wat it might just have to be in another blog. After all how many Tomb Raiders were there? Answers on a postcard to : I’m a bearded man with no thumbs and I know the answer to this question, Thailand. **No offence to bearded men, you are all lovely and useful in winter.

Find out in the next blog how Mark and his American friend escaped Cambodia in a taxi….tantalising. If you fancy your self joining us here in Thailand or Cambodia on one of our tours why not contact us for more information or leave a comment below and I am sure Mark will love to comment (he talks too much).

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