The start of our cruise on the Mekong River

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa Siem Reap
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
The immediate surrounding including the old market

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, April 5, 2014

INTRO to this journey to Cambodia and Vietnam:
The total number of days on this journey was 14 days, but it seems much longer, because of all the sites and activities we participated in on land tours for our two days in Siem Reap and two days in Saigon and the seven days on the AmaLotus to cruise the Mekong River.  I must forewarn that I did not always keep notes on the places we visited because I was suffering from information overload, but I will post the pictures for their interesting architecture and art.
 
Brief History of Cambodia: The most recent history of this country has to do with the Khmer Rouge when they controlled the entire country from 1975 to 1979 and killed two million Cambodians.  Their leader, Pol Pot, wanted a country without any social institutions such as churches, banks, money or education, and shift its people into an agrarian society.   He evacuated the entire population of Phnom Penh in 1975 to camps in the countryside.   He began exterminating anyone who didn't fit.   
 
The killings continued until the Vietnamese invaded in 1979 and sent the Khmer Rouge back into the jungles.  Pol Pot was arrested in 1997, and died in 1998 in a jungle village – never having faced charges. 
 
The reason for this introduction is that as part of our tours in Cambodia, we visited the Killing Fields and prison S21.   

From Wat Joy T'maw:
Between 1975 and 1978,aabout 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum),
 
However, the main interest for most visitors to Cambodia are their magnificent temples in Siem Reap.
 
#1: Angkor Wat
 This complex was built between 1130 and 1150AD by King Suryavaraman II.  The area measures 4,250 by 5,000 feet and surrounded by a moat 600 feet wide.   It's enourmous by any standard, and the Hindu Khmer intended it to symbolize the universe, the moats for the oceans around the earth.  The galleries represents the mountain ranges that surrounds Mount Meru, the Hindu home of the gods.
One can only respect and admire the site of this temple – especially when viewed from the area where one can see the reflection of the temple in the water.    
In 1992, this temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
#2: Angkor Thom  
 Jayavarman VII began the construction of this temple in 1181 following his coronation.  It's divided into four parts that meets in the middle, the Bayon that links heaven and earth, the symbol of Mount Meru. 
There are many narrow passageways in the temple that once held statues of minor deities with a few still surviving, but the well-preserved bas-relief carvings that shows Hindu mythology and Khmer history are compelling for its story-telling of their times.  More compelling are the 54 towers bearing four large faces that faces all four geographical directions – totalling over 200 in all.
#3: Banteay Kdei
 King Jayavarman VII completed this complex at the beginning of the 13 century that combines Angkor and Bayon temples design.  Many tourists miss this temple's unique takeover by trees with its sandsstone structure collapsed in many areas.  The outer enclosure has been reconstructed using re-used stones, but they look artificial compared to their older counterparts.  
The rectangular with carved dancing girls on its exterior is known as the “Hall of the Dancing Girls.”
#4: Ta Keo
 The only reason I mention this temple is that our guide in Siem Reap, Serey, told us its name while we drove by, and Takeo is my name.  My family and friends call me "Tak."

AMA Waterways: My buddy, Alexander, and I booked this cruise and land tour with Kensington Tours based in Wilmington, DE, one of the best tour companies in the industry.   We were provided with a private driver and guide during our land tours in Siem Reap and Saigon (while all the others rode in buses), picked us up and dropped us off including transfers from the airport to the hotel, and hotel to the airport – one by one.  I call this real “luxury travel.”  

Serey in Siem Reap and Vu in Saigon were both excellent guides.  Our guide during the cruise was Son in the yellow group of 24.  
 
Alexander and I cruised with AMA Waterways in Portugal (April: AMAVida) and the Danube (Nov: AMACerto) in 2013 where we met CEO Rudi Schreiner (previously with Viking Cruiseline) on both cruises.  Since we were happy with our experience with this cruise line, we booked this third one on the 7-day cruise on the Mekong River from Siem Reap to Saigon – a 14 day journey for me, and a 13 day journey for Alexander.  
 
AMA was founded in 2002, one of the newest entrants in the European river cruise market.  They now have 17 ships with several on co-ownership.
   
We were on the AmaLotus on the Mekong River, an older boat, but with huge staterooms at 226 sq ft for all three categories.
 
Our hotel in Siem Reap was the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa, with its graceful, elegant, comfortable, colonial architecture of the 1930's.  I prefer this type of accommodation over the steel and glass contemporary lodgings of today.  

This was my second journey to Siem Reap and third to Vietnam, and my first cruise on the Mekong River from Siem Reap to Saigon.   
 
Travel to both Cambodia and Vietnam requires a VISA for each country.  Travelers to Cambodia can obtain a VISA at the point of entry for US$20.  Travelers to Vietnam may require multiple entry VISA based on how often one enters Vietnam while on tour.  Some begin in Hanoi or Saigon, travel to Cambodia, then return to Vietnam.  Vietnam VISA costs US$69 (plus fees and shipping), and must be applied for to the closest Vietnamese consulate. 

One important information for visitors to both Cambodia and Vietnam.  Both countries accept US dollars, but it's always a good idea to  have some small change in the country's currency where tourists don't visit.   Besides, you'll become a millionaire when you convert your money.   21,000 Vietnam dong to US $1, and 3,962 Cambodian riel to US $1. 

NOTE: I was trying to download pictures on the Angkor temples we visited on the following day, but it's taking hours just to label each one, a requirement for them to download on travelpod. You can see some of the photos at the end of this blog, but please continue with the date, April 6, Sun, to view the comments and pictures at the other temples and activities we saw on this date.  


Map of Siem Reap
 
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Siem Reap:My travel day actually began on April 3 when I took the shuttle from my home in Sunnyvale to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at 9:20pm, for my flight on April 4 at 1:15am.  I traveled on Singapore Airlines from SFO to Hong Kong to Singapore to Siem Reap – about 30 hours of travel time - passing over the international time zone for a loss of a day.  Talk about exhausted....
Chiang Mai airport.
 
 
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I arrived at Siem Reap at 3:25pm, and was picked up by a driver and guide to be taken to the Victoria Angkor.  By 5pm, I was walking towards the Old Market district.   
                                       
Map of Siem Reap:
Our hotell, the Victoria Angkor, is located just above the horizontal road (Road 6) in the center just left of the park, and the Old Market district is just above where the two roads meet near the bottom of the map.
 
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April 5, Sat: 
Since Alexander was not arriving until after 10:30, I went for a walk towards the Old Market district and returned on another route.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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After Alexander arrived, and he finished unpacking, we walked back to the Old Market district.
We went to the same outdoor cafe to have a beer, and the waiter recognized me.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
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April 6, Sunday: Today was spent exploring the two major temples and one minor temple. These temples dates back to the 12th century, and is the historical heart of Cambodia, and the reason for most to visit this fascinating country.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
  

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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