Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Trip Start Nov 15, 2008
Trip End Nov 18, 2008

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bewitched by the gracious and genteel people of Cambodia.  Bothered by the atrocities of the cruel and brutal Khamer Rouge.  Bewildered by the magnificance and mystique of the temples of ancient Siem Reap.

Saturday, 15th November.   - Arrived Siem Reap at 8am, as promised The Villa Siem Reap has a driver and tuk-tuk waiting to wisk me to the hotel, a quick introduction (Sivuth) and we were off.  On arrival I was met with what I would come to know as the welcoming smile of Cambodia, was given a cold towel, my room key and I was ready.  By 9am I was back in my tuk-tuk and on my way for my first look at Angkor Wat.  My first glimpse of Angkor as we rounded the corner was nothing less than awe-inspiring.  I spent the next two and half hours exploring the grounds and temples of Angkor (when you arrive at Angkor do not tell the charming and persistant stall holders your name, you will hear it being echoed around the causeway from about 75 meters from the parking lot).  After exploring Angkor Sivuth took me to a great local restaurant for some delicious Kahmer food before hitting Angkor Tom.  The next three hours were spent exploring the the faces of Bayon, the Royal Palace, the Elephant Terrace and the Leper King terrace.  Despite my feet feeling like they were on fire I visited the smaller and older temples of Ta Keo and Chao Say Tevoda, with few other visitors these provided a peaceful and reflective end to my first day.  Back to The Villa to another cold towel and a delightful pineapple shake before dinner and bed after a long day.

Sunday, 16th November - Rolous and Kompong Phhluk - This is an excellent full day tour offered by The Villa (is open to everyone, not just the guests of the hotel).  After about 40 minutes we arrived at Rolous markets.  Rolous was the ancient royal capital of Siem Reap in the 9th centuary.  The people here are quite poor and rely heavily on the market for produce and their livlihood, here you can have your knives sharpened, purchase some new clothes, chose your fresh vegetables for the day and decide between duck (eggs or meat) and water-snake for dinner.  You can also sample some of the delicious roasted banana and sticky rice in banana leaf or the tiny palm-sugar filled sweets the locals love. From the markets we headed to our boat and the 45 minute trip to the floating village of Kampong Phhluk.  As I visited at the end of the wet season this village was making full use of the 10 metre stilts the homes are built on, amazingly at the peak of the dry the canals we were cruising are compacted sand roads.  Photo-opps abound in this village, smiling faces, children rowing canoes, women preparing for market and the floating pig and chicken pens.  I also had the opportunity to canoe through the flooded forest in search of squirrels, macacks and birds.  From here we headed back to land and to the temples of Rolous.  These temples are not in the same state of repair as those in Angkor but are worth a look.  Bakong is beautiful, built in the late 800's and entered through a tropical plant covered causeway.  This temple is also home to a buddist monastery which from 1974 - 1979 was occupied by the Kahmer Rouge and was the torture and execution site of more than 1000 people. 
Monday, 17 November - Happy Birthday! - 4.30am wake-up call to see the sun rise over Angkor, it's worth it!   Back to The Villa for one of their awesome breakfasts and then on the road again explore some more temples.  We started the day with Banteay Srei, which is a good hour of town but worth the trip.  The carvings in the lintels of this temple are exquisite and it features ancient sanskrit inscribed into the pink sandstone.  From here we headed to Banteay Samre, I loved the simplicity of this temple.  Lunch at the Family Khamer restaurant and on to Ta Phrom.  This was my favourite of all of the temples, photographs (even those in tombraider) cannot do it justice.  The towering trees and root structures that have become the temples keepers and restorers are breathtaking.  After an early morning it was back to town for a quick meal on Pub Street and then a cool shower and bed.
Tuesday, 18 November - My last day in Siem Reap.  As I was taking a 3.30pm flight I decided to have an easier day.  In the morning we visited the silk farm and toured the production houses and then continued onto to Artisans de Angkor for a demonstration of the old crafts including stone-masonary, wood carving, silk painting and gilding.  I would highly recommend visiting this facility, many of the artisans have come from disadvantaged backgrounds (that is are extremely poor or have a disability) and are being coached in their craftsmanship.  The products available for sale are replica pieces from the temple bas-reliefs and make a truly unique memento.  It was then back to the airport to say goodbye.....for now.
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