A Travellerspoint blog

November 2015

Chill time

A relaxing day for a change!

Saturday morning saw a leisurely start to the day. Breakfast at the more civilised time of 7 am. However, it appeared that everyone else had the same idea. The buffet counters were so busy that negotiating them was like an obstacle course! We had difficulty finding a table for 6 and were relegated to the end of the dining room next to the staff rota!

The day soon improved when our guide Viesna collected us for a boat trip around Angkor moat. It was a beautiful, clear sunny morning and not too hot at 8 am. We had the water to ourselves. 4 to each gondola. We ghosted effortlessly along enjoying the peace and serenity of the morning. One of the boatmen started to sing local folk songs. He had a lovely clear voice and although we couldn't understand the words, it suited the mood perfectly. At the mid point of the trip we moored up and climbed a small hill to explore a ruined temple, then down a muddy path to see a hidden tunnel built by the local people as an escape route from conflict centuries ago. There was just enough room to enable an oxen to pass through. On the way back to the boats we saw a tall tree full of noisy fruit bats, some circling above us. The boatmen rowed us back to the jetty to our waiting coach which then took us into the centre of the city for a short walking tour.

This included a modern Buddhist temple and monastery and river walk. At the temple Brian was approached by a Chinese girl who wanted her photo taken with him and her bicycle! It could only happen to him! I think she wanted a good looking boyfriend to show the girls at home... (Cough!!!) The tour finished at the old market. Before more shopping we had a refreshing iced coffee in "I viva" a Mexican bar. All the markets seem to sell more or less the same things, but this one had a stall with an abundance of larger sized mens t shirts so all the boys made several purchases πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
We decided to return to I viva for lunch. The boys were particularly keen as Angkor beer was only 50 cents a half litre🍻🍻🍻. 6 became 8 when Clare and Brian from our tour joined us for lunch. The food was good and a very sociable time was had by all. Back to the hotel by our favourite mode of transport, the Tuk Tuk.

The afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool and some leisurely swimming to cool off 😎😎😎

For our last night in Siem Reap we went back to the city centre. First stop was the night market for a last look around. Rosie and Chris both bought cotton elephant patterned harem pants. I already had a pair that I bought on the boat. I was tempted to buy another pair, but resisted the urge.
Unfortunately we picked a dull bar for our pre dinner drinks and swiftly moved on to find somewhere to eat. The waiter at the Temple restaurant was very persuasive so in we went. Lucky for us the food was good as Frank and I had fancied trying the Chamby restaurant which was opposite and had air conditioning! A short stroll to aid the digestion and we spot the Blue Pumpkin cafe which does amazing ice cream. Some of the party indulged. You know who you are, 🍦🍦. What a great day 😬

Posted by China reunited 19:30 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Apsaras Theatre

Khmer Dancing

Despite the punishing schedule of 5 historic sites in one day, we were all ready to go to the Khmer dancing show and dinner at the Apsara Theatre. It was included in our tour, so we thought we might as well go. We had the best seats in the front row of the balcony. The dinner menu was interesting! Shrimp chips (prawn crackers) with yellow curry, lemon marinade fish salad, Khmer soup with lemongrass, Saraman beef with coconut milk and Kompong Chan cashew nuts, sautΓ©ed prawns with green peppers and caramelised pumpkin with coconut cream, fruit salad and ice cream. Let's just say it didn't suit everyone! The prawn crackers were good, soup okay and the sauce of the beef was strangely sweet.

The dancing was spirited and the costumes very ornate and colourful. Each dance had a story which was acted out and fortunately the programme explained each one or we would have been totally clueless. There were five dances performed by a troupe of about 20 dancers. An apsaras ballet, the dance of the fishermen, mekhala dance, the coconut dance and the legend of the remakes. The coconut dance was particularly loud with lots of shouting and crashing coconut shells together. My attention kept returning to the dancers feet and the way they curled their toes as they danced. So flexible.
It was a pleasant enough evening but we were glad we hadn't paid extra to see it!

Posted by China reunited 19:19 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Angkor Wat

The high point- literally

Left the hotel at 7 am to avoid the worst of the crowds. The world heritage site is so popular there is never a quiet time to go. We have to register at the entrance and have our photo taken. An ID Ticket is produced so it cannot be used by anyone else. Never come across this before. We get a lucky break and beat a coach load of Japanese tourists to the ticket office which was very fortunate as there are twice as many of them. Once we all have our tickets we enter the site. It is vast.

The coach drives us to the first stop at Angkor Wat as it would take us half an hour to walk there. Angkor Wat means the city which is a temple and was built in the 12th century. This spectacular building was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The 5 towered temple is shaped like a lotus bud. It is 699 feet high. Wow! The first sight of the temple is impressive, despite the many images we have seen in brochures and guide books, nothing prepares you for the majesty of the intricately carved sandstone towers. We skirt around the perimeter of the first level which includes a long gallery decorated with demons on one side and gods on the other, many of them in amazing condition.

On entering the main complex area we then have to decide whether to ascend further as although there are steps, it is very very steep. I think someone counted 104! We had to queue for 20 minutes but it was worth it. We saw the 4 Buddhas and the carved bas reliefs up close ..... The decent was more hazardous than the climb and some of us chose to do so backwards to avoid looking down. We are glad we were early as the queue is now twice as long πŸ˜€

Our next stop is the ancient city of Angkor Thom which is surrounded by a beautiful moat. The complex also dates from the 12th century. The central towers are carved on 4 sides with mysterious faces which gaze down from their lofty heights. The carvings inside are more representative of everyday life such as cock fighting! I almost break my ankle here and have to be rescued by two of the men from the group... I got it stuck in a crevice!

Outside the main building we leave passing the terrace of the leper king and terrace of the elephants, both with more beautiful sandstone carvings. Our last stop of the morning is the temple of Bayon. We do a lot of climbing up and down in an attempt to see as much as possible. The crowds are growing and not everyone is patient and polite. Our photos are frequently photo-bombed by those more impatient than us. It is almost impossible to get a shot without someone in it! Part of the temple is undergoing restoration by a joint Cambodian and Japanese venture.

Off to the famous Jungle Temple next which you may have seen in the Lara Croft film 'Tomb Raider'. Real name is Ta Prohm. Our guide has been fantastic, at each temple he has taken a different entrance to every one else avoiding the crowds and seemingly gliding us through the throng of visitors. This visit is no different as we enter via the jungle trails past termite nests and calling birds high in the trees, and huge spiders... We then come out into the ruins of the temple with the amazing tree roots clinging to the walls, it's all quite spooky in a way.

After nearly 6 hours of soaking up culture in the baking sun we are ready for a rest. Lunch is taken at a local village cooperative restaurant which provides employment for many locals. The food is good and reasonably priced. The cold beer is particularly welcome!

On the way to our final temple there is an almighty bang. Our driver leaps out to discover the rear suspension has gone. As we are only 10 minutes away from our destination we limp on slowly. A replacement bus is hastily requested for the return journey. The temple of Banteay Srei, also known as the ladies temple is much smaller than the previous ones. It dates from the 10th century and is well preserved. Surrounded by a moat it's quite stunning! A slow walk back to our poor old coach we decide to limp home and after 20 minutes are relieved to see the replacement bus ahead.

Back at hotel many of us just crash out for afternoon as we have a theatre and meal arranged (talk about always being on the go!!) But I'll leave that for the next blog....

Posted by China reunited 03:06 Comments (0)

Siem Reap

A little night market, music and a meal

The 6 of us braved Tuk Tuks to the night market which was just starting up at 7 pm. Rosie, John and I spent a few anxious moments on the pavement as the others got lost in the heavy traffic. A quick trip round the night market for souvenirs. The boys all tried on shirts but some went away empty handed. One stall holder told Brian to write to the manufacturer as they don't make 4XL! Everyone bought something and most of us came back with a woven cotton scarf or a t shirt. Opposite the market we found Beer Street. So many bars so little time. We plumped for Banana Leaf as it had 6 free seats. Beers all round and then a male vocalist started singing rat pack songs which we joined in with. Only time for one, as we were hungry and acutely conscious of the fact that we had a very early start again. Enterprising Rosie asked a local chap if he knew where Amock restaurant was as the guide had recommended it. He obligingly took us there and was reluctant to accept when we offered him a tip for his help. The restaurant was very busy but they found us a table upstairs. Very plush in style with vibrant red and green decor. We did have a bit of a wait but it was worth it for all of us except Rosie. The curry she ordered was bland as she had been put off a spicier one by the waiter who was probably wary of western palates. A short stroll and back to the hotel by Tuk Tuk. All shattered!

Posted by China reunited 02:36 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Tonle Sap lake

Goodbye Mekong Prestige II Hello Siem Reap

Up very early this morning for breakfast at 6.15 am. Bags already packed last night.
Time to say goodbye to all the staff on the boat who had looked after us so well. It was a lovely experience, but time to move on.
To cross the Tonle Sap lake takes about 4 hours by speed boat and you can't see land either side for most of the trip. So we settle down in the air conditioned cabin for a doze. Some brave souls including me, go out on deck for a breath of fresh air and a photo opportunity. There is only a low handrail to save you from the murky depths. Having just read about the British woman who drowned when a tourist boat sank on the Mekong River in Laos I can't wait for the journey to be over!

We arrive at Siem Reap just before 12 noon and are taken to our base for the next 3 nights the Tara Anchor Hotel. First impressions are good. We are greeted with glasses of iced tea with a stick of lemongrass for a straw and chilled hand towels to refresh us after the journey.
Our new local guide whose name I can't pronounce or spell is very efficient. Although it is only just 1 pm and we are not due to book in for another hour he persuades reception to get us in early. We unpack the basics and head for the pool which is quite peaceful until the 6 of us turn up! First stop the pool bar for a beer (soft drinks for the girls) then all in the pool. A snack on the pool terrace is very welcome. No sooner have we returned to our sun beds the heavens open for the first tropical rain since we began our trip 🌦 It only lasts 10 minutes and in half an hour you would never know it had rained. Time to rest and regroup before we hit the town.

Posted by China reunited 01:29 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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