We all jumped in a tuk tuk to greet Paula, it was really lovely to see her. After giving Paula a small amount of time to recuperate after her epic flight, we then dragged her to the local museum that focussed on the history of the Temples and Angkor Wat! We decided to let her go have a proper lie down after she fell asleep in the museum!
The next day, Mitch set out to go and look for a friendly tuk tuk driver to take us around the Temples, he came back with the fantastic Mr Be. We decided to start with the small Temples, known as the Roluos Temples. They are the oldest collection of Temples in the area and were very beautiful.
Mr Be then suggested we went to take a look at a local floating village, Kampong Phluk, so he dropped us at the dock and we then got in a boat for an hour. The village rested on the edge of Tonle Sap lake and was completely water-locked. All the buildings including the schools, shops, restaurants were all on stilts and the only way around was by boat. We were surprised at first to see very young children driving the boats, but soon saw why.
We left our first day of Templing and then headed for a few drinks down Pub Streat, awful place!!
Mr Be promptly arrived the day after at 8.30 and we headed off. Today’s Temples were extremely impressive and some of my favourites, I don’t think either words or pictures can do them justice. Built around the late 12th centry Angor Thom was the last capital city of the Khmer Empire.
What an Empire it must of been. They are probably the most awe inspiring structures built by man that I have ever seen (apart from Mitch in his pink poncho)! They are incredibly decrepit but remain beautiful, with thousands of intricate carvings still visible while other temples have trees eating away at them.
We were very lucky to have a great driver who seemed to be able to keep us away from the hordes of Chinese tourists and sometimes it felt like we had the Temples all to ourselves.
Freda lasted exceptionally well and really enjoyed clambering over all the ruins, although towards the end of the day, we needed to resort to ice cream bribery. Early to bed that night ready for our 5am start!
We and the rest of Siem Reap headed out in a procession of tuk tuks in the dark in search of a magical sunrise over Angkor Wat. We found a quiet spot to watch the light gradually reveal the 5 famous towers. Unfortunately, due to a bit too much cloud coverage, there was little sun to be seen, but we were happy just to watch Angkor Wat emerge in the beautiful dawn light.
(Although it was slightly ruined by the most irritating American woman, on a mission to take the perfect shot, brashly shouting about her ISO and the Exposure of her camera. Bloody Americans always pop up and ruin the most peaceful of scenes!) Anyway she moved on and peace was restored. We then took our time exploring the Temple, the best preserved and still used in the area. It was of course impressive, but I felt it slightly lacked the atmosphere and charm of the crumbling ruins from the previous day (Bayon, Ta Prohm etc.).
We then headed out on a final circuit of Temples, we had no idea how many more we saw, but Freda quickly tired and had had enough. She was bribed around the last few with the promise of a piece of dried mango after each Temple. When we ran out of mango, it was time for home, to be honest I think by then we had all had enough.
Back at the hotel, we forced Freda to have an afternoon nap! It’s a dirty word in our family, but after some strong words she gave in and we all got some well deserved rest before we went out for a late night at the circus. Phare, the Cambodians Cirque du Soleil, is a charity that provides education and employment to young Cambodian artists. We all really enjoyed it, although it was quite dark and depicted Cambodias bloody and cruel history. Thankfully this went over Freda’s head!
We had one last day before we flew out, but now templed out we decided to take it easy and took some recommendations on the sights to see from Mr Be! Maybe not the best idea, as we first of all ended up in a very over priced outlet with shop assistants following us about in their dozens. We hastily left, which was tricky as it was bucketing it down and being happy to escape the first recommended attraction, we were then taken to the Cambodia War Museum! We gave it the benefit of doubt, thinking it would be a good educational activity, and we were all in the need to brush up on the more recent parts of Cambodian history. However, we got more than we bargained for with our macabre guide. It’s hard to describe the experience, but it was definitely unsuitable for children and very uncomfortable for adults. As we walked around tanks, guns, land-mines, anti-aircraft machinery, RPGs, pictures of a war too horrific to contemplate, we were given graphic detail of the life our guide had experienced. Unfortunately, he told us little about Cambodias history, the war, the reasons around it, but instead focused on the fact he had “died 13 times”, was known as the Cat on TripAdvisor and the last time he died was a few years ago when mid-way through a tour a hornets nest fell on him. He died this time for 8 hours (!), but when he came back to life the good news was that his Type 2 diabetes and Arthritis had miraculously cleared up……this story was told to us maybe 5 times over the tour. I had to disappear when he started to show us scars from the stings and he got out his prosphetic leg, having lost his left leg due to a land mine. Mitch and Paula were then treated to burns from a bazooka, shrapnel embedded in his arms and Mitch was brave enough to fondle the ball bearings lodged in his leg after another land mine incident. Paula and I were struggling to hold our composure, but we were all in for a final surprise as we walked past one of the old tanks……almost theatrically as thunder rumbled above, he told us of the bones of his dead buddy which were still in there from when he was killed in battle……again only Mitch went for a closer peek. Luckily it all seemed to go over Freda’s head.
During our short time in Cambodia we have gained a small insight into the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, part of the history that has shaped this country. The people here though are amazing in their courage and determination…..it’s a bloody hard place to live.
But on a brighter note, Mitch has discovered Angkor Beer and has added to his beer tshirt colection!!
And Freda has learnt to swim, check out her Vlog!
After Siem Reap, we headed off to the capital Phnom Penh on a late night flight. This may have slightly broken Freda…..on the plane as it approached 11.30, she decided to watch the same few seconds of a kids progamme over and over laughing each time maniacally, luckily for all the flight was only 30 minutes!!!