Siem Reap, Cambodia
07.29.2013 - 08.02.2013
29 July 2013
It’s off to the airport. This flight will depart from BKK (Suvarnabhumi) the main international airport which will be another experience for Brenda. Two tuk tuks take us to BTS Skytrain station Krung Thonburi where we’ll take the train up to Siam station, change and then on to Phaya Thai station for the express train to the airport. It really is all quite easy….once one can get on the train. The first train comes and there is “no” room – not even for a small Thai person, and the same for the second train. The next train comes and we have a new plan!! The three of us split up and with more than a little pushing, we all make it on, feeling very much like sardines. The trip to Siam is quick, as is the next leg. 90 baht (about $3) gets us our tickets on the express train, which is almost ready to leave. Up the stairs, on to the train and we’re off. Jim and I have taken this train before and it beats sitting in traffic.
Our Cambodia Angkor Airlines flight to Siem Reap is a short one hour flight and we arrive through cloudy skies. $20 and a passport photo was all we needed for our VOA (Visa on Arrival), we pick up our bags and two tuk tuks await us. The ride to Siem Reap Rooms (SRR) guest house http://siemreaproomsguesthouse.com brings back great memories. We arrived just in time to beat the rain and were greeted by Vishna, ushered to our rooms and settled in for our five night visit.
The rain abated and we headed off to introduce Brenda to beers on Pub Street and a Cambodian BBQ for dinner. We found a little place on our last visit and fortunately it wasn’t far from SRR. What was a place filled with locals, on our last visit, was now about half westerners and half locals. Also the buffet wasn’t quite as extensive as I remember but for $4 per person (up from $3)- it’s still a good deal.
30 July 2013
0800 and our driver Mr. Ce is waiting for us. His plan for us (which is a good one) is to start at some of the lesser known sites, lunch and then to finish the day at the Angkor Thom complex.
First, we must stop at the admissions gate to buy our passes. We opt for the three day pass ($40) that can be used any three of seven days, which will work great for us. Each person’s photo is taken and put right on the pass which must be presented upon entering most of the temples. They are much more diligent about checking passes than on our last visit.
Our stops included Preah Khan, Ta Prohm, lunch and then the Terrace of the Elephants. Unfortunately, our last stop was cut short by, as our friend Jay would call it, “tarantula rain”. But not to worry, we still have more time and will get to enjoy it another day. The area is truly about the sites, so I hope you enjoy the photos.
31 July 2013
It rained hard all night but the morning brings some breaking sunshine and we’re off to Angkor Wat and again, Angkor Thom.
One slight hitch to our travels is a lovely case of hives all up and down Jim’s arms. The only thing new to his diet was the doxycycline (Malaria meds) that we started upon entering Cambodia. An email off to our travel MD earlier brought an immediate response that morning– stop taking them!! Even though we’ve both taken this same med for extended periods while traveling, I guess our bodies change. Fortunately, we haven’t experienced a lot of mosquito activity but we’ve got some DEET along if needed.
01 August 2013
Today, we’re off the temple route and heading out to the floating villages with Mr. Ce. The ride is about 30km outside Siem Reap and then down a side road to a rutted dirt road that when the river rises in a month or so, will be underwater. There is a large community that lives on stilted houses – often referred to as floating houses (which is what they do in the high water season). It is a very difficult way to live but we’re told by Mr. Ce (who is from this area) that it was one of the safer areas (not that any area was really safe) during the Pol Pot regime because it was a farming community and a bit off the charts.
02 August 2013
Our last day in Cambodia and Brenda and I took off for Banteay Srei with a side visit to the Landmine Museum, with Mr. Ce.
Our first stop was the museum and we were lucky to chat with Bill Morse, an expat, who helps (a lot) with the museum. He opened our eyes to the continuing struggle of the Cambodians and the still present landmine problem. Unfortunately, just that week, three people had died when they activated a mine while farming. They are making great strides but more needs to be done. Currently, still more than 50 people, each year, are killed by landmines in that area.
There is also what used to be a home for landmine victims but is now a home for young people who have nowhere else to go. The approach of this facility is one that I totally agree with. The area the students live in is not open to the public. This is their home and they are not on display – kudos!!
On to Banteay Srei, which is a much smaller temple and actually very quiet. It was nice to visit but I think our visit there was tempered by our previous stop at the museum.
Note on Mr. Ce….We asked for a driver on our first day in Cambodia and SRR hooked us up with Mr. Ce. After the first day, we knew that, if he was available, we would want him for our whole trip, luckily he was. He is a lovely, hardworking man with a wife, two children and one on the way, who drove in from Beng Mealea (about 20km) each day. When I mentioned to him, that it was such a long way to drive, he replied with his ever present smile “but that’s my job”. Thank you Mr. Ce for being such a great driver and also, for sharing your insights on Cambodian life with us!!
Off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia tomorrow - another new stamp on Brenda's passport.