Tomb Raider
in Angkor Wat, Cambodia on 1st March, 2012

Angkor Wat was pretty much the only hyped-up tourist attraction I heard of in Cambodia. One of the Tomb Raider films was shot there and the photos of the place I'd seen online looked good.

I got a cheap bus ticket and booked a few nights at a hotel in Seim Reap. I checked into my room and then decided to head out for some dinner. As I walked past the reception they had a Cypress Hill track playing and there was a knackered and ripped up pool table which guests were free to use. There were also some tables with some grungy-looking German hippy backpackers sat around them.

I ate dinner at a restaurant branding itself as being Macau cuisine and headed back to the hotel. I sat in the common area drinking beers and reading. The one Cypress Hill track from before turned out to be their discography and after five or six songs I couldn't stand that shit anymore. I took the opportunity to get the staff to come and fix the air conditioning in my room. As I walked up the two flights of stairs I could see about twenty little green lizards standing upside down attached to the roof. They could walk upside down and they were spooked as I got closer to them.

I had hired a driver when I arrived in Siem Reap to drive me around Agkor Wat for the day. We agreed on $15 for a day's worth of driving along a defined route. When I came out of my room in the morning i spotted my driver trying to play pool on the broken billiard table. We drove off and arrived at the first temple. He said it takes an hour to ninety minutes to walk around and we agreed to meet where we were when I was done.

The temples were impressive but it was early in the morning and already really hot out. The sun was coming down hard and wasn't letting up. Under the shade of the temples the heat relented a bit. I bought a lot of water off touts that day. I had a really hard time getting shots with no one in them; there were a countless number of tourists everywhere. It was downright crowded in some of the temples.

When I finished up at the first temple I came out to the spot my driver said he'd be waiting. He wasn't there. There were about ten other toktok drivers there begging to drive me around. I took about 15 minutes worth of hassling and waiting before agreeing to hire another driver for the rest of the day. He initially wanted $18 for the rest of the day and I could only bring him down to $15. I was cross that I was paying over the odds but I wanted to get a move on in the heat. I spent the rest of the day with my new driver Mr. Tom visiting the remaining temples.

To see these temples which are spread out over a 26KM radius, you need to buy a ticket which is $20 a day. At most temples there are a few cops checking tickets. When I approached one the police officer there asked to see my ticket. I showed it to him and he said "Hey, buy this from me" and pulled out a police badge which looked identical to the one he was wearing. I was shocked he'd be trying to flog something like this. I said no and walked on.

At the end of the day Mr. Tom picked up his sister and drove back into town. I paid him his money and wished farewell to the two of them.

I was relaxing in my room when I heard a knock at the door. I thought it was the cleaning lady. There was no spy hole in the door. I was undressed hiding behind the door when I opened it. I poked my head out and it was the original driver looking desperate and shocked at me. I slammed the door shut and told him to wait. I put some clothes on, opened the door, came out and locked the door behind me. An argument ensued. I told him to wait and I marched down to reception.

I read somewhere that I'm an ambassador for my home country when traveling abroad. Shouting "Who the fuck gave that driver my bloody room number?!" did little for Belarussian-Cambodian relations. The staff looked panicked as I quizzed them to find out who spilt the beans. The guests sat around the reception got quiet and moved away. The driver came downstairs. After about five minutes of arguing I offered the driver $2 for the initial journey out to the temples. He kept on demanding $5 but I held firm. I physically put the money in his front pocket and walked off back to my room.

My room door could be opened with a credit card. This is probably the best testament to the poor conditions of Cambodian prisons. When night fell I went to another guest house and bought a bus ticket back to Phnom Penh for the next day. I had seen enough temples to last a lifetime and I was concerned my room would be robbed if I were to stay on any longer.

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