Holiday in Cambodia

Trip Start May 28, 2008
Trip End Aug 26, 2008

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

I would not wish to stay in Poipet Cambodia, and am very glad I thought ahead and made arrangements for a border escort. Our guesthouse in Cambodia arranged a contact to meet us at the border, walk us through immigration, get us past the mafia taxis, and take us to a private air conditioned taxi waiting a couple kilometers past the border. There are a couple of casino/hotels right on the border, but after that Poipet is a gambling border town with a main dirt road and three foot deep potholes.

Our A/C taxi was ready to go, and we had a very nice 2 1/2 hour drive up to Siem Reap, Cambodia -- the archilogical heartland of Cambodia, with dozens of Khmer Temples including the best known at Angkor Wat.

- Demian

When we got to our hostel we met our staff and talked to them for a while and then headed up to our room, and then had dinner in it.

The next day we hired one of the hostel's tuk-tuks and when to angkor tan, there we had a guide(student) show us around it and explain everything to us from painting to stairs to statues. After that we went up to the top of the temple and looked at the many statues and buildings there, they were all equally beautiful.

After that we came out and found a few more ruins around the other temple so we looked through those also, then our tuk-tuk driver picked us up and then took us to Angkor Wat, which turned out to be pretty big.

The next day we went to some more temples of which I cannot remember the names of but were were all beautiful. Then it syaryed to rain and what rain it was. It started when we entered a temple and by the middle the the whole place was flooding none of us made it out without getting our shoes soaked. Then while we were driving back the rain decided to stop and we got one more temple in before going home.

- Gailen

Siem Reap:
Most people come to Siem Reap for one thing: Angkor Wat. The jewel of Cambodia. This was really the only one that I had heard of, well except for which ever ruin was in Tomb Raider movie. Boy was I in for a treat! The amount of ancient complexes that surround Siem Reap number in the hundreds, in varied levels of recountruction/ruin. Some, the jungle has taken them back, others are still owned by the jungles, only visited by the Cambodians who live there.

Angkor Thom was the first complex that we visited, and for the record this was one of the locations for Tomb Raider II movie, recognized the faces on the monuments immediately. I realize that that displays my complete lack of education on the subject of the ancient world, and that I should crack open a few more books and put the DVD remote down. I was blow away by the vastness and detail of this place, not to mention the fact that one can just crawl through and explore to your hearts content. We had to talk to Gailen a few times about not bounding about what probably felt like to him a giant gymnasium. I could just imangine trying to explain to the Cambodian police that my son did not mean to knock down Angkor Thom.

I had a interesting conversation with another tourist about how something like this was possible. He just could not fathom how they could do this. I replied with what my microbiology professor had once said: our ancestors were as smart as we are today, and people have always found a way.

- Laura

Bayon in Angkor Thom is the best known for the huge faces on the towers, but we enjoyed many smaller sites and temples. Ta Prohm is a favorite - not just for us but for many who visit - due to the incredible trees grown in, on, over, and through the temple.

Depending on when they were built, the Kmer ruins here were either Hindu or Buddhist. In many cases, they started Hindu and later became Buddhist so the influeces of both can be seen all over the place.

We decided to skip Phnom Penh and stay an extra day around Siem Reap. This gaves us a chance to hire a motorbike taxi for the day and get 40 kilometers out of town on dusty roads to visit some Hindu sites at Banteay Srey and Kbal Spean.

Our concern about Gailen knocking over ancient relics proved unfounded. It was actually some dim-witted woman in a big tour group who felt the need to jump the rope around a fragile piece of Banteay Srey for that perfect picture -- knocking over a few wall blocks in the process. Don't know if her friends got the pic, but I sure did as I was simply aghast as small blocks came rolling off into the pathway.

Kbal Spean is a mountain stream over bedrock that has been carved with phallic linga -- around 10,000 of them actually. This linga river is still used for couples hoping to conceive. The hike is a great 1.5 KM jungle trail, and the river site and waterfall are a wonderful location to suddenly happen upon the linga riverbed along with many great rock carvings in the surrounding area.

By far, the best event in Siem Reap had to be getting caught in a downpour at Banteay Kdei just before nightfall on day 2. We were exploring our last temple for the day, hot, dirty, and very happy to hear some thunder nearby. Of course, in SE Asia nearby thunder means you have 1-5 minutes to run for cover or find a boat for the coming flood.

As the typical tropical storm shower hit, we took shelter in Banteay Kdei. I keep a waterproof bag in my daypack, so I took a moment to secure documents and cameras before we started the hike back to the main road. It was priceless to be in Banteay Kdei as it is getting dark and rain is pouring in on all sides of the open stone pillars and roof beams. When we did make a break for it, we were enthralled as our dry dirt road became a muddy stream and then a small river in just minutes. We all made an effort and hoping from roots to rocks in an effort to keep our shoes or sandals out of the mud -- to no avail whatsoever as we were soaked to the bone all over. The rest of the family managed to cling to a small stone ledge to pass through the final arched gate (now a moat). I failed on this one, and finally gave up (and gave in) - forging through 8 inches of water and mud in sandals to meet our driver. The kids were delighted, and in the end so was I.

- Demian
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aza on

Beautiful Khmer carvings
I am loving these blogs!
I was there last year an dreading all your thoughts and experiences totally takes me back! I forgot about those HUGE yellow spiders ! I do remember with much affection, those awesome cream colored geckos - they are in every room eh! Have you heard them barking at night- it is so cute. I remember that crazy monsoon weather too :)

Am looking forward to the next one :)

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