Woke up to pressie’s on Xmas morning – I got a new leather passport holder from T & she seemed to like the assorted scarves & lights I bought her… relief!!!
Beautiful day chugging about the backwaters in a variety of boats & seeing a bit of rural Cambodia. Great dinner & a few sherbets… only downside for T was that we missed the nightmarket… shame!
My first Christmas day in the sun! Pressies in bed, then off to Kamplong Pluk, a stilt village on lake Tonlé Sap, with a flooded forest to boot – really beautiful, Keir got to drive the boat for a while and I tried water snake for the first, and possibly last, time; it wasn’t really bad, just excessively chewy, and I didn’t think snakes had bones…. I hope the boatman wasn’t lying to me…
We tried some local food at the Khmer kitchen and I attempted a look around the night market, almost an impossibility with a recalcitrant Keir in tow, I think he managed a whole 15 minutes before I had to give in and agree to save it for Dina’s arrival…
Dina & Efrain arrived & we met them with a Moto-remorque & headed off to see all the temples around Angkor Wat – Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon temple,Terrace of the Elephants & Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm & then finally Angkor Wat for sunset. Slightly disappointed that we didn’t make it to the top of Angkor Wat – they shut the stairs just as we arrived, but we saw sunset in the lake outside over the gatehouse.
Great to see Efrain and Dina again, can’t believe they are the only people we have managed to catch up with during our grand tour; we were close to meeting Rob a couple of times, but that was it. I guess with a trip schedule as aggressive as ours it may not be so fun for a holiday :).
Luckily the four of us could fit into our rented tuktuk, so off we drove off to Angkor Wat, absolutely gorgeous! I took too many photos again…
Managed to score a last minute table at the Haven Training restaurant for dinner – great food, highly recommended, but you clearly should book more than a day in advance – and then off to a bar for an unnecessary Sambuca or two; our poor travelling companions looked so tired too!
Day 323, Fri 27th Dec
Final day in Siem Reap – another day with a Moto-remorque & we all headed off to Banteay Kdel temple, Sra Srang, Banteay Srei, Kbal Spean (River of Lingas) & back to see Ta Som, Neak Poan, Preah Khan & finally up Phnom Bakheng to see sunset over Angkor from a different perspective.
Feeling distinctly rough today, I initially thought this was merely a hangover, but it seems that relaxing my rule about not eating the lettuce may have been a mistake; my stomach is distinctly unwell :(.
We took our tuktuk to the out of town sights today (definitely worthwhile, and there is a lovely waterfall at the River of Lingas), but failed once again to make the tower at Angkor Wat; I guess it was just not to be…
Another quick dinner in Khmer Kitchen with Efrain and Dina, another missed night market opportunity :-( – and we were off on our Giant Ibis bed bus to Phnom Penh, we shall meet our friends again in Vietnam. The bed bus was pretty good – double beds, so that could go very wrong or very right if you were travelling alone! – and after reading reviews of the other bus companies online, I am glad we paid the extra!
Day 324, Sat 28th Dec
Arrived at 0530 in the morning in Phnom Penh… this must be the first time we’ve ever wanted the bus ride to last longer… we we’re both happily asleep next to each other in a bed-like arrangement. Moto-remorque to the hotel &, what do you know, they have a room already available – so back to sleep – Hurrah & Huzzah!!
Went to see the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek – very sobering what humanity can do to itself in the cause of doctrine/ religion… but in all intents and purposes, probably greed for power & money. Only 2/3 of the mass graves have been opened & they’ve already yielded nearly 10,000 skeletons… over only a 4 year period in power the Khmer Rouge killed nearly 4 million people out of a total population of only 8 million. What I didn’t realise was that this particular site is only 1 of hundreds of mass burial/ execution sites al around the country.
Spent the afternoon seeing the slightly more upbeat sites of the Grand Palace (complete with silver tiled floor, gold & diamond Buddha plus an emerald Buddha) & the Wat Phnom. Both were slightly disappointing – the former as most of the buildings were constructed in the 20th century out of concrete (including lot of the statues/ castings), & the latter as there wasn’t much of a view up there, nor the promised minkeys (from T’s perspective!).
Oh, how I love it when hotels let you check in early :-). Blissful extra nap, then a rather depressing, but moving, trip to the killing fields. Everyone is given an audioguide as they go in, and it is the individual stories, that you can choose to listen to, which are most affecting. Fortunately it also means that there are no noisy tours tramping all over the sites.
Day 325, Sun 29th Dec
Took the 2pm bus to Saigon today – and that is what most of the locals prefer to call Ho Chi Minh City, despite what the ruling party might say – we were warned of attempts to steal our stuff, mislead us, rigged taxi meters, and the like; I was slightly paranoid, but mercifully our hostel turned out to be 2 blocks from the bus station and no dodgy taxis were needed.
Settled in, ate, and then took the Lonely Planet walking tour – the city is bigger than I thought, so we sort of missed some of the sights… never mind, we have probably seen enough Buddhas, and neither of us really fancied a harrowing trip to the war museum after yesterday.
Another bus trip, another city. A nice walk around town, although twilight overtook us. For a communist city this town has every western brand I’ve seen & oceans of motorbikes & scooters… you just walk across the roads & the part around you… felt very biblical!