As of last night I am in Cambodia - the difference is almost immediately noticeable as pretty much every person in Cambodia speaks English, while in Laos the amount of English spoken is limited.
I was quite sad to leave my 2 British mates behind on Don Det. We had some good times and good adventures together. I ended up sharing a room with them for the last few nights to help save some money. They were absolute gentleman and wouldn't let me pay. My last day on Don Det island was a bit of a lazy day with all our injuries. I had my cut foot (which is still being held together with duct tape to hold out the sand), and Alex had a disasterous (but hilariously funny unfortunately) accident while on the push bikes trying to race me. Ironically Adam and I had been speaking about 1 minute previously to this about how much it would cane if you came off the bike on these roads because they were really rough rocky gravel roads. Then Alex tried to race me (while shirtless with his shirt tied to the handlebars) and his t-shirt unravelled itself and locked up in his wheel. The end result was a magnificent, abrupt stop that sent him flying over his handlebars to connect with the gravel road. We knew we shouldn't laugh, but it was so hard to. Thankfully he wasn't overly hurt (apart from many grazes and scratches), nothing was broken and we all had a good laugh about it over the next 2 days! So because of that experience we all had a quiet one, chilling by the river.
At night time we had dinner at local restaurant and then happened to walk past the crocodile bar which was screaming out some local music. We decided to give it a go see what all the fuss was about (it looked like a crazy birthday party or something). We immediately were given a free can of Angkor beer (cambodian brew) which I think I prefer to beer lao. The manager of the hotel (who was quite drunk) the boys were staying at is Cambodian and is mates with the boys so they were chatting with him. I learnt a few things over these conversations - that women are not considered equal and are inferior, that some cambodian men like to make sexist and crude jokes and innuendo about women and that when drinking in cambodia when one person picks up their glass/bottle everyone has to give cheers and have a drink at the same time.
Yesterday I left Laos and entered Cambodia - but as always the trip was not without any dramas. We all hopped on the little boat that took us off the island back to the mainland where we discovered that the bus we were meant to be on had broken down in pakse so we had to wait. We waited approximately an hour before they got us into a couple of mini buses and drove us to the border (about 20 minutes drive away). The border crossing was relatively easy, no major dramas there which was good. Getting a visa for cambodia as a pain free process as well, and quite quickly we were on the bus (which had arrived while we were walking through no mans land between the two countries) and on our way to phnom Penh. Thankfully there were no other issues on the way and we arrived safely at 8.30pm (I won the bet as i guessed 8.25). On the trip I made some new friends as always to hang around with and find and share accommodation with.
Today a group of 5 of us hired a tuk-tuk for the day to explore the city of phnom Penh and visit the killing fields, the genocide museum and russian markets. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, in the 1970s Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge conducted mass genocides on over 3 million cambodians - primarily those who were educated. Even wearing glasses would result in an individual being murdered. People living in the city of Phnom Penh were advised to pack up all their thing and move to the country for "3 days" to avoid being bombed by the Americans. They were then killed in barbaric methods over many years. I learnt today that Pol Pot had enough power even until 1997 where he ordered the murder of one of his previous official/generals.
Anyway, at the killing fields in PP (one of many) there were 86 mass grave sites discovered, one with 440 bodies in it. The skulls have been placed inside a big multi-tiered glass stupa (like a memorial) that serves the purpose of remembering the dead, preventing the same from happening again and ensuring the tragedy is never forgotten. As you are walking around, it is quite an eerie, surreal environment and you realise that there are actually fragments of bones on the ground as well where you are walking. Very sad. On the outskirts of the grounds there are kids laughing, a school and rice paddies.
I have noticed that, at least in Phnom Penh the people are alot more relaxed with their clothing and not as fussed about covering shoulders and wear more western styles of clothing.
Of course I have to mention the architecture.. in the villages on the outskirts of town (which i observed on the bus trip), the houses are still wooden and on stilts. However, the roofs are a bit different and have a little bit of a chinese sort of influence with little monuments and things stuck on them.
It is very very hot and humid here in Cambodia! I'm heading to the beach tomorrow at sihanoukville, kampot and Kep which should be good for a day or two, then on to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.