Thursday, 12 June 2008

Cambodia (non-foodie) part 1

Cambodia, wow!

Approaching Siem Reap (that's Tonle Sap - the world's largest freshwater lake at the top of the photo)

Before going I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had sat through classes at university and wrote papers on the Khemer Rouge and Khemer life after the atrocities but what would it really be like? And I think 'wow!' says it all. To be fair I didn't see huge amounts of the country..really a tiny bit of Siem Reap and some surrounding areas but I definitely loved what I saw. Despite the boom in tourism in recent years, there is still an amazing charm about the place and the people. To think how I 'ooo' and 'ahhhhhhh'-ed and 'emmmmm'-ed before deciding on Cambodia when I was planning this trip (as Jo decided to let me plan the majority of the trip - being from the region and all... for good or bad... I think it all turned out pretty well in the end :) Now having been there I would jump at the chance of going back..yes, definitely!

Padi/Paddy fields

How did we (myself, Jo, my mum, my sister - Candice, and her 2 friends Edwin and Way Cheng) get there? On the disgustingly early morning flight from Kuala Lumpur - Siem Reap at 7am. Yup, one of those budget airlines where you have to wake up at 3am to get to the airport and everything that can be considered 'comfort' is an optional extra :) Want to be the first 10 people to board the plane? Cough up the dough! Other than all that hoop-la it was a comfortable flight - sunny skies and minimal turbulence all the way.

Upon arrival -watch as all the cameras emerge. Haha yes, they were taking pictures with the plane! Is it a remarkable aircraft? Well, I didn't think so - it's a plane! But what I did find remarkable was the airport building, it was a beauty! I've seen (and stayed at) nastier looking holiday resorts! High ceilings, sandstone statues, even a large fishpond and a manicured garden in the courtyard. And for such a little, developing country they sure do have some sophisticated immigration hardware! But beware - all this is charged to passengers departing on international flights from the airport at a rate of US$25. Pretty steep I thought.

Picked up by the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) hotel driver, we were given lovely cool (scented with jasmine) towels to freshen up with as we were driven to the hotel - the long way - via Angkor Wat. I thought the approach was lovely - the tall trees, the quiet-ish road - and suddenly the famous towers of Angkor are in front of you. Surrounded by the moat, and the slow pace of life, it is really is quite tranquil (just ignore the constant beeps of the tuk-tuks). No pictures I'm afraid - still slightly rusty at the whole 'touristy' thing, I didn't whip out my camera fast enough. I did 'ooh' and 'ahh' alot though :D

Our hotel is in town - the former summer residence of the French governor- and by the river. Thank heavens we stayed away from the larger hotels, all which are situated by 'Airport Road' - a hot, dusty and much too commercially driven stretch. The FCC has 30 rooms in total making it very pleasant. The staff were really friendly and the rooms were lovely. All very 'boutique'. A perfect base for lots of temple visits. More on that coming up soon!

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