Hello chaps and chapesses!
So we've just spent 3 days in Siem Reap, Cambodia which we thoroughly enjoyed. Read on for the lowdown...
We arrived to the worst floods Siem Reap has seen for over 10 years (maybe even ever!). The town is on a river which had burst it's banks so the streets were swamped in water which came up to our shins! Although it wasn't very practical for getting around, the town looked really pretty and the kids were in their element playing in the water! Despite the amount of water it was business as usual for all the locals, even the tuk tuk drivers, although their mopeds kept breaking down!
We stayed at Rosy Guest House in Siem Reap which was really nice. It was on the river front so there was water coming right up to front terrace as though we were on the beach! It was really chilled out and the guys running it (Ana and Smiley) were really welcoming.
After checking in to the hostel and putting our waterproof gear on, we headed into town. It should have been a 10 minute walk to the central area of town, however, having to wade through the water and stopping at every photo opportunity, it took us more like 40 minutes! There was a really nice buzz, especially from the children who were really excitable playing in the water. Once we made it to the town centre we went to a restaurant for our first taste of Khmer food. We both had noodles - it was cheap and really tasty!
On our first evening the tuk tuk driver who had picked us up from the airport (called Si-Lan) took us to Angkor Wat which was about 5km away from our hostel, so that we could get our tickets for the temples for the next day. By doing this we were able to enter the temples that evening for an hour with the idea being that you get to see the sunset over Angkor Wat. Unfortunatley it was raining so we didn't get to see a sunset although it was still beautiful to see the Angkor Wat in the rain.
For a bit of background on the Angkor temples....
Bbetween the 9th and 13th centuries, the Cambodian god-kings strove to better their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry. This culminated in them constructing the world's largest religious building, Angkor Wat. The hundreds of temples surviving today are the skeleton of the vast political, religious and social centre of an empire that stretched from Burma to Vietnam; a city which at its peak boasted a population of one million.
After exploring Angkor Wat that evening, we went back to the hostel for some food which was cheap but really tasty! We had planned to venture out to pub street although we decided that it probably wasn't a good idea to leave the hostel as wading through the water on the streets in daylight had been bad enough!
On our second day we got up at 5 (yes 5 a.m!) to go back to the temples. By getting up so early we were able to watch the sunset over Ankgor Wat which was absolutely beautiful. Angkor Wat is the most complete temple in the complex and the most famous.
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and really is very beautiful as you approach it. It's even more impressive once you get inside. It's the epitome of the high classical style of Cambodian (Khmer) architecture and the detail on every wall, column, ballastrade etc was just incredible. We can't begin to imagine how long it must have taken them to design and build!
After exploring Angkor Wat we went for some breakfast at one the shack like restaurants next to it. Si Lan had recommended a particular restaurant on the basis that he didn't want us to get ill.
After breakfast Si-Lan dropped us off at the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was built by Angkor's greatest king, Jayavarman VII, and is made up of the temples known as Bayon, Baphuon, Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King. I was surprised at the state of disrepair all of the temples were in but I don't know why as it's probably a miracle they are still there at all. Bayon is in a better state than most and really is a beautiful temple. There are literally hundreds of tourists though and you really have to fight for your chance to get the good photo opportunities.
After exploring Angkot Thom we arranged to meet Si Lan in the restaurant where his sister worked. Although we weren't hungary we took the opportunity to have a much needed drink and rest! Whilst drinking and resting we got swamped by kids trying to sell us goods. We resisted at first but eventually they got to James and when a young girl, no older than 10, asked if we would buy one of her "brass" ornaments if she could name the capital of any country in the world James agreed. So after some careful thought, James asked her what the capital of Latvia was and surprise surprise she got it right! Incredible! Her English and knowledge was absolutely flawless. The kids told us that they all learn English just by speaking to tourists. That's amazing. We continued 'templing' before finishing by visiting the Ta Prohm temple which was "enchanting". It's where they shot Tomb Raider. The temple is in a terrible state of disrepair and many areas are cordoned off as they are too dangerous. It doesn't seem like there can be much done to save this temple as it is completely consumed by trees going out of every edifice. It is truly a sight to behold though. You really have to see it to believe it. We finished visiting the temples mid afternoon and Si-Lan was keen to take us to the local killing fields before taking us back to the hostel. When we arrived there, the mood changed drastically.
The site houses mass graves and information about what they know to have taken place there, as well as pictures of some of the victimes. Si-Lan told us that many of the victims were tortured, thrown into the graves and buried alive, often with their families even children. We spent about 15 minutes there trying to process what had happened. We decided that we'd seen enough and headed back to the hostel. As the floods had not subsided, we spent the evening at the bar in the hostel.
The following day we went for a trip out to the floating village which was about 40mins away by Tuk Tuk and our driver Si-Lan took us there and was to be our guide. The trip there was very bizare we drove down a clay track for the part of 30 minutes which had little wooden huts with all the children playing outside and waving to us as we went by in the Tuk Tuk. One thing that cracked me up was this little hut no bigger than a small shed at home was a little barbers with an old man getting his hair cut complete with barbers chair, mirror and overcloak so as not to get any hair on the customer! It did tickle me!
Once we finally arrived at the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake we got onto a narrow boat which would take us out to the floating village I thought it might not be to far from the shore but was in fact about 40 minutes away by boat. Si-Lan our Tuk Tuk driver got to come as well to be our tour guide, which was good! Once we got there it was bigger than expected there were loads of people settled here in the middle of no where surrounded by water, with the nearest shop a good hour away at least.
After about 20 minutes or so we moored up at one of the floating houses (Built on Stilts) and we were offered food and drink tho we just opted for a quick drink (which was needed as it was very hot!) was good to get off the boat for a bit and get a different perspective of the village! There life seems a million miles away from our's but at the same time they seem more than happy enough and very contented!
That's about it for now
James and Laura x