(Disclaimer-This post is out of chronological order but I’m sure you don’t mind)
Siem Reap, Cambodia-This is as close as I’m ever going to get to feeling like Indiana Jones.
Cambodia is probably the poorest country we will probably visit on this journey. Its a country that has been to hell and back, just a brutal recent history. The six days we spend here though-all in Siem Reap-was pretty awe inspiring. We were here to mainly visit the Temples of Angkor and they did not disappoint.
Its hard to convey the scale of it all. Kinda mind blowing to think that this was probably the largest city in the world a 1,000 years ago, with a population close to 1 million at a time when London had a population of about 50,000. All built without the use of mortar, several stories high, in about 30 years. European cathedrals took hundreds of years to build. What the hell? Then the whole place gets abandoned, the jungle swallows it up, and it’s then rediscovered (by Europeans at least) in the mid 1850’s. Could you imagine stumbling onto this place?
It gets to a point where you just keep taking pictures and everything looks so amazing to you that it gets downright silly. Not that any of the pictures really do it justice.
We hired a great guide named Picheth. The tour guides here remind me of Park Rangers back home, they all wear the same uniform, but they meet you at the hotel. They charge about $40 a day. Having a guide with us made a world of difference. Picheth was great!1 We tried to avoid the mid day head and spend time in the hotel or by the pool. It’s the most oppressive heat I’ve experienced in a while-and it wasn’t even the hottest time of the year. By 10:30am or so you pretty much feel like you are in a sauna. We had plenty of meltdowns due to the heat- I would too if I were only 8. Thankfully our driver had cold water and cold towels at every stop.
We visited the 3 main temple sites- Angkor Tom (lots of Buddha heads), Ta Prohm (still covered by the jungle), and Angkor Wat (the most famous, the most well preserved). They were all cool for different reasons.
Here is Angkor Tom-
Ta Prohm was my favorite as it showed how the temple probably looked as it was rediscovered by Westerners. It is also where the film Tomb Raider was shot.
Angkor Wat (all the pictures on the internet are better)
This is not a river-its a gigantic MAN MADE moat
The precursor to Uber
We also went on a trip to see a floating village. There are two seasons-wet and dry. When the rain comes, the river gets too full, that it pushes back up towards Siem Reap and floods, making the river a lake for part of the year. During the wet season they fish, and when the water recedes, they plant rice. You have to build your house on stilts. It was crazy to see a wooden boat full of uniformed school kids heading to class on the river.
We also visited an orphanage in Siem Reap. Our hotel arranged it and we brought them a huge bag of rice ($30 worth) and some school supplies (Notebooks, pens, colored pencils). We hung out with the kids (of all ages) for a couple of hours in the afternoon. They all spoke pretty good english. We all sat down with the head of the orphanage to ask him questions. It was pretty heavy hearing about the all the situations that brought the kids there, but it was good for the girls to hear it and see how they lived. It was just one afternoon, but they all seemed pretty happy, they did tons of origami and made paper airplanes with the girls and they played monkey in the middle with them as well.
We really didn’t wander around the city too much. We were busy seeing the temples and swimming to save us from the heat.
Our hotel lobby had giant lily pads. Go ask Alice….when she’s ten feet tall….
Double Trouble-happy times in an air conditioned room
Random thoughts on Cambodia
-Everyone here uses the good ole U.S. Dollar and the prices aren’t as cheap as I thought they would be-probably because it’s the biggest tourist oriented city in the country.
-Every room in our hotel had a copy of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider.
-Sad to see the decapitated Buddha statues in the temples, a product of foreign demand and people trying to make a living during/after a brutal civil war.
-Our guide mentioned that the global real estate bull market is alive and well in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is a really cool place. Really glad we could see it, especially at this time. With the increase in tourism to the temples you would have to think at some point they wouldn’t just let you walk around where ever you wanted. I hope that Cambodia can continue to move forward.
Until Next Time Cambodia! From the Funky Pants Club