The first time I’ve ever been out from my home country was Christmas Island (a territory of Australia) back in 2003. Cambodia came second in 2007, to be exact 15/08/2007 to 18/08/2007. Of course I didn’t include Singapore which I first been there since a kid back in 1962 (I was 2 years old then). From 1962, on and off during school holidays especially, and I would say at least 3 times a year as we have relatives in Singapore. This continued up to 1972… OK, not about Singapore here, so back to Cambodia.
It was Siem Reap, again planned by our friend Yin in 2007. So thank you Yin. As mentioned in my other blogs, I was not a writer nor in the habit of keeping a journal or diary, so again I didn’t record or jot down anything about this trip. I just went, had fun, ‘look see, look see’ then go home… For this write-up on our Siem Reap holiday, I will just post photos and try to recall as much as I could, mind you its 2015 now – 8 years ago…
All I could remember while we were there, I was quite surprised on what I came across – even if Cambodia is one of those littlest countries in South East Asia in terms of popularities, developments, technologies etc, but when it comes to marvellous sights, ‘must see ones’ places, it plays in the big league to say the least! I was surprised because based on my knowledge back then about this country, I thought nothing much of interesting places, life there probably quiet, simple, easy going village style, so I thought. Yes, Cambodia was out of luck in the last hundreds of years as there was some sort of wars or civil war before. But when I reached there, I would say Cambodia can be classify as something “once in a lifetime” experience to explore while there. I also learned that Siem Reap is actually Cambodia’s main tourist destination.
I will not be describing every little encounter or thought from my trip there but will try to recall as much as I could as mentioned earlier. I remember once we touched down, we were picked up by a van or mini bus (can’t remember) and headed to a simple restaurant for lunch. I think one of the dishes was a crocodile soup! Then we checked-in to our hotel – Nokor Phnom Hotel, Airport Road. Forget about what we did after checking in because I can’t recall anything, total blank now…
Later in the afternoon we went to Phnom Bakheng, some ruined temples atop a hill, and there were many tourists around as well. Many went there in the late afternoon waiting for its spectacular sunset view as well as the beautiful bird’s eye view of Angkor. I remember our van dropped us off at the base of the hill and it was quite a long hike up. We were not alone as many other tourists were doing the same. I could remember our guide told us that we could actually take an elephant ride up the hill (I think USD15.00 if not mistaken). The hike up was a combined of trail and steps. Some of the steps were steep and uneven. Once we got up there, we were greeted by a throng of other tourists waiting for the sunset, some ready with their camera on tripod. For me and my group, we explored around the area with our guide telling us about the temple.
Day 2 (16/08/2007), Bayon Gate, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.
Also can’t recall much here, only have some photos to show off, but I remember Ta Prohm because of Angelina Jolie. I will come to that later. Bayon Gate I remember there was some sort of a bridge (or was it a bridge) because there was a river there and on both side of that ‘bridge’ were statues lining up all along. Then Angkor Thom, if not mistaken is a temple area with huge chilling and smiling faces statues everywhere. There were numerous entrances with faces (statue) everywhere. Or ‘Faces of Bayon”? can’t remember.
Then, Ta Phrom – walked along a long untarred road to get there. This is where you can find trees, some were huge and tall growing out of the ruins. Roots of those trees sprung out everywhere. Ta Phrom was the film location of Tomb Raider, that was why I mentioned about Angelina Jolie earlier. Well I guess that is about all I could recall, please refer to the photos to have a clearer picture.
Then after lunch, in the afternoon, our main attraction – the famous Angkor Wat. Been hearing a lot about this place, in fact one of the reasons we went to Siem Reap. It was drizzling that afternoon but our guide have umbrellas ready for us. We didn’t actually used them as the rain stopped shortly after.
Angkor Wat is a huge building or complex…? What to call it? OK, let’s say it is a huge structure with a lot of ground and spaces to cover before reaching the main temple. I remembered our guide told us something like – Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious building with roots stemming from Hinduism and Buddhism… if I am not mistaken. It was also the largest monument or structure of the Angkor group. We walked along a stone causeway that lead to the temple. There was a ‘reflecting’ pool with Angkor Wat Temple reflected in it. A popular area for taking photos. When we stepped into the temple, I remember our guide saying something like 1000 Buddhas… the walls and surrounding were so unique, with religious images and remnants, very beautiful. It is sad that I didn’t write down what our guide told us about this temple. Then I remember we walked through some sort of a hallway, then came the Angkor Wat Tower.
I remember too about something like first, second, third level… and to get to the highest level, we climbed up some very steep steps with a railing on one side. Be very careful when ascending and descending those steps, they are very steep and narrow. There have been casualties before on these steps, hence the railing on one side. Going down is even scarier than going up. Once at the top, we enjoyed some great views…
The time we were there, it was having some renovations or restorations as we could see some structures covered with scaffoldings and also surrounded by support beams. Other than that, I would say Angkor Wat is amazing, a must visit if in Cambodia.
The following day (Day 3), Tonle Sap Lake and Angkor National Museum or Cultural Village…
I have not heard about this lake until the day before the visit when I read our itinerary for this trip to find out where we would be going on our third day in Siem Reap. When I saw Tonle Sap Lake in the itinerary, I thought it was just another normal lake with some sceneries with stalls selling souvenirs , people walking or jogging around the lake. But as the van was going through some villages enroute to the lake, I know it is going to be something extra ordinary, not just some sort of normal lake, and I was right. During our journey there, we came across or should I say learned the many activities of their villagers’ life style. We even came across a lorry transporting a complete build wooden house with some of the pots and pans hanging and dangling by the side. Our guide told us someone was shifting house!
As our van came into a dirt road more shacks, huts or houses emerged from both sides of the road. It was on this dirt road that our van hit something that caused the engine oil to leak and finally it came to a stall leaving a trail of leaking engine oil behind. While our guide and the van driver were busy looking into the problem and engaging for a replacement van, we had the opportunity to scout around the area and mingling with the kids who gathered around and curious about us. We gave them some of our tit-bits, some chocolates and biscuits. While they were happily munching on those stuffs, I can’t help but felt pity for them for what they were going through. One thing for sure, they were poor people.
After about an hour, another van came to pick us up and we continued to the jetty to board the boat for Tonle Sap. While the van was approaching the jetty, the lake came into sight, a huge lake, not what I had imagined earlier. I can’t remember how long the boat ride was, but it was an experience I will never forget. Nothing much of those beautiful sceneries or natural formations etc, but something we could ponder about, something that tell us how lucky we are…you know what I mean?
What we came across during the boat ride, was something to me a water village with people living in their boat. They did everything like washing, bathing using the lake water, cooking in their boat, everything… the boat is their house. They have floating food stalls, floating grocery stalls, floating school, even a floating Catholic Church.
If I am not mistaken, as per our guide, this Tonle Sap Lake is the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia. Those people living on floating houses catch fish and agricultures to make a living. Yes, they have small floating farming plots. The lake is also sort of a commercial resource, providing fishes that are consumed in Camdodia. They move their houses from place to place according to the water level of the lake during different season.
Later in the day we visited Angkor National Museum or Cultural Village (which is which? Are they the same, can’t remember). All I could recall are – miniature National Museum, miniature Royal Palace, and a Khmer wedding ceremony…
Day 4, go home… but of course between those visits above, we went shopping too, not in a shopping complex but those street markets looking for souvenirs, handicrafts, t-shirts etc. Unfortunately I can’t remember the market or the street name.
I will go back to Siem Reap again. I think we didn’t cover everything there. This time with proper recordings of those places above and others. Siem Reap, a nice place to explore. So Yin, when…??? …/tham.