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Cambodia - 2009


We flew to Siem Reap in Cambodia from Phu Quoc, in Vietnam, via Saigon by Vietnam Airlines. The flights were fine, but the transfer from the domestic to the international terminal in Saigon is a good walk and the directions to international departures are rather unclear!

Arrival in Siem Reap was interesting. Whilst you can get a Visa on Arrival, we had opted to get e-visas online and this proved to be a blessing. While 95% of the passengers queued for their visa we were right up front for the very slow immigration process, which seems to involve almost as many rubber stamps as getting OUT of India. Once again we had pre-arranged transfers to the Sofitel Phokeethra Angkor and were whisked off with great efficiency.

We had arrived in Siem Reap in the early twilight and, on the drive to the hotel, we had our first sight of Angkor. An unexpected bonus!

Ankor Wat
Sofitel Siem Reap

Ankor Wat

Sofitel Gardens - Siem Reap

As we had not pre-arranged any tours, we arranged with Diethelm Travel for a car, driver and English speaking guide for the next couple of days to take us round the temples and to the Tonle Sap. A good move.

The Sofitel was splendid and, whilst they made no mention, we were given an upgraded room with a large balcony. The room was large, spacious and immaculately finished with a mahogany floor in which you could see your face. We were on the top floor overlooking the pool.
We opted to eat in the hotel, after unpacking, and were rewarded with a delicious Khmer meal at a very reasonable price for a hotel of this standard (5*).

The following morning, after another wonderful breakfast and spread, we were off to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and other temples and ruins. Spectacular is a word that comes to mind, along with Stunning (and hot!).

By early afternoon we were hot and becoming overwhelmed, so it was back to the pool in the hotel followed by a trip into Siem Reap town in the evening.

We liked this town! A mixture of old and new, colonial and Cambodian, several markets, plenty of restaurants and even a road named "Pub Street". We ate a very good and relatively inexpensive meal, consumed 6 frozen margaritas each (purely to keep cool, of course), visited three markets - all of which catered for the local population as well as the tourist (possibly excepting the night market) and had a thoroughly good evening. Recommended restaurant Khmer Kitchen.

The history behind this area and the achievements whilst we, in England, were still little short of barbarism (OK I exaggerate) has to be thoroughly chewed over to be fully appreciated. I now wish that we had done a little more (or at least some) background research before we went. This area has to be seen to be appreciated, so I will not even begin to describe it here.

Cambodia- Boys Fishing
Detail Ankor

Cambodia- Boys Fishing

Detail - Ankor Wat

The following day another early start to go to Tonle Sap an inland lake which joins the Mekong and which occupies almost 3,000 sq. km. in the dry season and 16,000 sq. km. in the monsoon season when the flow from the Mekong is into, rather than from, the lake. Many people live on floating houses and work as fishermen - there are even floating schools and churches. We went out on the lake on a small boat (with an engine!) but, whilst it was interesting to see the fish farms and houses, we found this part of the trip to be touristy - visiting a floating souvenir shop, complete with captive catfish and crocodiles for the tourists to look at! The conditions in which these were kept can only be described as less than ideal.

On the way back from the lake we asked our driver to go off the main road and stop in a typical village. We are so glad that we did. Local children playing and bathing in the Siem Reap river; little houses for the local population, built of sticks and thatched leaves; all immaculately clean and tidy.

Snails, fish and all manner of things drying in the sun gave an insight to the real lives of the local working people. The immense friendliness of all the people, the genuine smiles of the children, came across more here than at any other time.

From the village we went to pay our respects at the local "Killing Fields" memorial. Apparently there are over 300 sites that have been discovered across the country - a time to pause for thought!

Back to the hotel, a final visit to Siem Reap town for shopping, a leisurely dip in the pool, another excellent dinner and the visit was almost over.

Cambodian Village
Tonl Sap Cambodia

Cambodian Village near Siem Reap

Tonl Sap Cambodia

The following morning (after the usual hearty breakfast!), it was off to the airport for a painless trip through immigration and customs (save USD25 each for departure tax) for our Bangkok Airways flight to Bangkok and London.

Bangkok Airways checked our cases through to Heathrow and seated us at the very front of the aircraft, so the transit at Bangkok was almost painless. Excellent seating, food and service on the EVA flights to London and then back to reality!

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