Ok, so this may not be a particularly epic post, but I’m going to lay down the facts with my less than perfect grammar and sentence structure.
First, as of now Lindsay and I are in Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a gigantic step up from Phnom Penh as far as we are concerned, and from the second we got into Siem Reap we both felt very positive about it. Though Lindsay’s two previous posts may or may not have given the impression, we had/have mixed and even negative feelings towards aspects of Phnom Penh (there wasn’t much to do, it was pretty expensive, it rained every day, etc) and our traveling souls were starting to feel traveled out. Siem Reap is a breath of fresh clean air and has lots to offer.
A few highlights, in no particular order:
1) Our guest house is called Bou Savy, and is in the Northern part of Siem Reap. It’s 13.50 USD a night and includes AC, a TV, free water, and free breakfast. This isn’t super cheap however the free breakfast and great location makes it a steal for us and we feel very positive about it. The people are incredibly nice and friendly here – plus there are two puppys that eat breakfast with us in the AM. Lindsay and I love the puppies.
2) There are a bunch of volunteer opportunities around here. OK, I hate the words “volunteer” and “opportunities” next to each other as to me personally it sounds cliche and canned, so I’ll call these things, “places you can work at.” But whatever you may call them, there are a bunch of them here and they seem to be well organized and generally attractive. Tomorrow Lindsay is meeting with a teacher from a school she is hoping to help out at, and I’m meeting with a guy who builds and installs water filters for poor people. Our general plan is to stay in Siem Reap until our visa expires at the end of the month.
I can’t speak too much about Lindsay’s volunteer program as neither of us know much yet other than she’ll hopefully be going to a local school to help out in a classroom with English related topics. I don’t know much either, but I know that I’ll probably be doing mainly manual labor, washing gravel I believe. The filters that this organization builds are actually something of an open source design I believe (feel free to google open source :)) and are used around the world in a bunch of third world countries. They are cheap the build ($45 USD will build 1 filter) and easy to maintain. They process around .6 L of water a minute. Basically they are 3ish foot tall cement structures that have several layers of different materials (gravel to filter some stuff out, sand to filter some smaller stuff, a section of specific bacteria which kill 98ish percent of harmful “biomass”, etc) and while I’m not going to kid myself or you and say I’m going to be doing anything romantic (installing these things amid shouts of praise from the village kids who smile and splash each other with clean bacteria free water after I’m done with my noble work!!) I am looking forward to doing SOMETHING physically demanding and hopefully it will help somebody out along the way.
3) Today we saw Ankor Vat, and a bunch of temples around the area. This is perhaps worth a post of it’s own, and certainly deserves some photos which we’ll post later, but for now I’ll say that it was incredibly impressive and yet hard to appreciate. Honestly this series of temples and ruins was probably one of the most amazing things I’ve EVER seen, probably at least in the top 10. (My) Words can’t do it justice, basically there are beautiful temples and ruins in beautiful forests. Big temples. We’ll post some photos later (see my next point).
4) For my fellow nerds, let me tell you how terrible the internet connections over here are. the computers themselves have been anywhere from incredibly terrible to ricer XP installs with Vista skins to actually pretty newish computers, but the internet connections have been universally terrible. I’ve been testing my connection speed everywhere I go and the FASTEST sustained download I’ve managed is 25ish kilobytes a second. More regularly I’m seeing 10-15 kilobytes down and 10ish up. This wouldn’t be a big deal as I don’t spend a ton of time on the computer, but call it a crime to humanity or not, I have been downloading podcasts and things for long (5 hour +) bus rides and trying to upload full resolution photos to flickr for archiving purposes and it’s impossible to do. More shamefully I want to give the iPod Touch 2.1 firmware a trial run, and have converted all of the latest season of house to iPod Touch format via VNC at home and uploaded it to webspace to download. Plus I lost all of my music last firmware update a month or so ago so am trying to replenish my collection somewhat. But generally I’m getting things like this:
5) Food is cheaper here then in Phnom Penh. In Phnom Penh Lindsay and I were shopping at a supermarket the last few days which was actually pretty nice but that was in part because the food was pretty expensive there (10 bucks or more normally for a meal). Here we’ve been eating for less than 5 bucks for the two of us.
6) It’s illegal to rent a motorbike as a tourist in Siem Reap, but Lindsay and I rented peddle bikes today/yesterday and have been putting on a few miles. Yesterday was 48.something kilometers, today was around 39 or so. My legs/knees actually hurt a bit today, but whatever doesn’t kill you…
Ok, my neck hurts and I’m off to drink water.
Miss you all back home!