After four months in Thailand we headed off to Cambodia with a six day stop-over in Kuala Lumpur.
As much as we’d loved the seclusion and peacefulness of the Thai islands, it was great to be back in the hustle and bustle of a big city again with all its choices of restaurants, shops and great hotels.
We stayed at one of our favourites, Trader’s Hotel, with a room overlooking the beautiful Petronas Towers and spent the time emptying our PO Box, storing various bits and pieces in our newly acquired safe deposit box and generally taking advantage of all Kuala Lumpur has to offer before it was time to head off to Siem Reap.
The 30 day visa for Cambodia can be obtained on arrival but we decided to take advantage of the e-visa. After uploading some passport photos, filling in an on-line form and paying a small fee, we had the visa within 24 hours. When we arrived in Siem Reap we were through immigration in no time – Love e-visas!
We took a tuk tuk from the airport to our first accommodation Bayon Villa. A really lovely place and ended up staying there for 8 days. I keep saying it, but just when we thought it couldn’t get any hotter – it did. The first week in Siem Reap we experienced the highest temperatures yet.
Our intention had been to head South but the rains started early down there so, as we were enjoying ourselves so much, we decided to look for a place with a swimming pool and stay in Siem Reap. We spent a couple of days checking out different hotels and negotiating prices and finally decided on Viroth’s Hotel. What a lovely place! Spending 3 weeks here is going to be a total pleasure.
Siem Reap has changed a lot since we were last here and the choice of restaurants, bars and hotels is totally overwhelming. We’ve managed to eat in a different place every day. The famous “Pub Street” really was just one street back in 2007 – No longer. This must be the only place where a beer costs less than a soda water (0,50 US$ as opposed to 1,50 US$). We’re being forced into bad habits😀.
Cambodia does have its own currency (the Riel) but everything is charged and paid for in US Dollars.
Of course not everything is all sunshine and cheap beer. Because of the land mine situation in Cambodia, there are many people missing limbs, trying to scrape together a living by selling books or postcards or just begging.
Then there are the scammers, the most common of which is the milk scam where a “mother” complete with tiny baby on hip asks tourists to go to a supermarket with her and buy formula for her baby. She then sells it back to the supermarket at a reduced price. These women are mostly not the mothers of the children and are normally working for a “pimp” who is quick to appear and relieve them of cash after a successful scam.
A lot of tourists think they’re doing a good thing by visiting orphanages and donating rice. Again, most of the time it’s a scam and the advice is always against visiting these institutes as it condemns these kids to a life of poverty, dependance on unscrupulous people and leaves them open to abuse.
We’d delayed going to Angkor Wat in the hope that it would get cooler and finally, just one week before we were due to leave Cambodia, it started to rain and temperatures dropped to a mere 35℃😀
After negotiating a price with a tuk tuk driver we headed for the Bayon Temple, part of the Angkor Thom complex. A half hour drive and we arrived at the entrance.
The place takes your breath away! Archaeologists are constantly working at putting the millions of stones back together again, so it had grown since the last time we were here.
The size of everything is awesome and the great thing is that nowhere is blocked off and you’re free to walk everywhere.
A couple of days later we headed for Preah Khan – my favourite temple. It’s smaller and fewer people go there because it’s further out. Huge slabs of sculptured rock lie everywhere just waiting to be put back together again – Though sometimes the rebuilds look a bit precarious:
Unfortunately, dark clouds started rolling in and we had to cut our visit short, tuk-tuking back before the storm started.
We left Angkor Wat itself for last:
Even three days is not enough to see all the temples, the Angkor Archaeological Park stretches over 400km²! However, after three days of clambering around ruins in this heat and humidity we were templed out. We’ll save the rest for our next visit.
Time is just about up in Cambodia. Had we known how much we would enjoy Siem Reap, we would have taken a different visa and stayed longer. Still, every cloud has a silver lining and we’re off to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam this afternoon!