A Travellerspoint blog

Day 8 - Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and home

This was our last full day in Cambodia and most the day was spent travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.

We stopped first at the Naga Bridge for photos and we also tried a Palm Cake which is made from rice flour. The little cake has a custard type filling and is steamed. It was delicious.

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The next stop was a toilet break at a shop / restaurant overlooking a swampy area which may have been some type of sanctuary. There were meals available as well as snacks and souvenirs.

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The final stop was a lunch stop and visit to a spider market. The food was fairly basic - we had fried rice with pork - but nice and very cheap. After lunch the group wandered into the market where there was a lot of fruit for sale as well as fried crickets and spiders. The spiders are large and black and small children wander around with them in jars full of leaves and put them on people. They apparently ask first but I wasn't taking any chances and went back to the restaurant to wait. Several of the group had a spider wandering up an arm and Peter ended up with four or five on his upper body. Laurence took some photos but not everyone is comfortable with spiders so not putting photos in here.

From there we drove on to Phnom Penh, arriving at our hotel (the same hotel as our previous stay) a little after 4pm.

After relaxing in our room for a while, we took a tuk tuk to the river to have a look around. There is a lovely promenade along the river which runs a long way and there are restaurants and bars on the opposite side of the road. The local people come to the river and the parks and gardens near the King's Palace in the evenings for picnics, exercise and just to hang out. There are shrines where people come to make offerings and say prayers and street food stalls. It's a lively interesting scene.

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A local man approached us and asked if we would like to do a river cruise. It was $5US each and the boat was about to leave. We had been watching the boats out on the river so decided to go along.

The boat had two decks and most people sat at tables or on cushioned benches on the upper deck which was festooned with lights. Food, beer and soft drinks were also available. We chose a bench along the side, bought a couple of drinks and waited while the captain and crew rounded up a few more paying customers. There seemed to be a lot of monks.

Eventually they had enough passengers and we pulled away from the bank and began to move along the river. Even after dark it was still very hot but out on the river there was a pleasant breeze. The cruise lasted an hour or so and we cruised along both sides of the river looking at the lights.

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After the cruise we walked back to a restaurant / bar we had seen earlier where we had really good fried spring rolls and grilled pork chops with honey mustard sauce. Hardly traditional but very good. Also several beers.

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We caught a tuk tuk back to the hotel, had a drink in the bar and went to bed.

We had an afternoon flight on Sunday so got up early to visit the Russian Market for some last minute shopping. We took a tuk tuk from the hotel and he waited for us. We could easily have caught a different one back but we liked our driver. This was a more pleasant place to shop than the markets in Siem Reap; the stall holders were not aggressive and as long as we didn't ask for a price they generally left us to look. We probably should have bargained more but the prices were already so cheap it didn't seem important.

After the markets we went back to the hotel for a while and then caught the tuk tuk back to the river. We spent a couple of hours walking along the promenade and having lunch. It was just as busy as the previous night. Lots of Cambodians only have Sunday off work and children in primary and high school go to school Monday to Saturday. So there were lots of families out, visiting shrines for prayers, having picnics and generally enjoying themselves.

Cambodia has been an amazing place to visit. There is so much more to the country than the Angkor temples and it would have been good to have had more time to explore Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap and to visit some other parts of Cambodia. The people are very genuine and friendly and we felt welcomed everywhere (and not just because we were spending money). Because we travelled in the rainy season there were a lot less tourists, particularly in Siam Reap and the Angkor temples which was nice. But it was very hot and humid and we did have to consider the rain when making plans. We would definitely like to come back at some stage.

Posted by Gone Travelling 04:47 Comments (0)

Day 7 - Tonle Sap

Our last day in Siem Reap. On the itinerary this morning was a boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake. During a typical rainy season, Toilette Sap covers an area of 12,000 square km. It shrinks in the dry season but is still the largest lake in SE Asia.

There is a large floating village on the lake mostly populated by Vietnamese fisherfolk. They have a school (only accessible by boat), shops and houses and places of worship.

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We stopped at a shop to see live crocodiles - not as big as Australian ones but a decent size. The crocodiles were being kept for their skins and for meat but are also a tourist attraction. They also had two Civit Cats. These are about the size of 8 week old domestic kittens and they were very cute. Civics are eaten but we think these were being kept as pets (and probably also to show tourists).

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Travelling the lake we passed a boat restaurant called the Queen Tara. Apparently it's owned by a guest house in Siem Reap. It looked to be in need of some serious maintenance.

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Though it was hot, it was pleasant out on lake with cooling breezes; a really nice way to spend the morning.

After returning to land we headed back to Siem Reap. On the way we stopped at a local village and walked along for a couple hundred metres to see how the locals live. The houses are built on stilts since the land is swampy and prone to flooding. There are small shrines at each house and petrol is sold in any old bottle at a stall in front of someone's house. Of course there are petrol stations but not in these small villages.

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Back in Siem Reap we visited the King's residence and a temple where local people come to pray. The King's residence and the temple are surrounded by a lovely public park though there is some fencing put up during Covid to protect the King and it hasn't been removed.

We walked through the park under the trees where there are large fruit bats roosting during the day, then through a market selling flowers and small birds. Both are purchased by people to offer at the temple to gain favour for their prayers. The birds are set free as an offering.

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The temple is currently being restored and is fenced so no one can enter. The Buddha can be seen through an open door and an area has been set up for the local people to pray and make offerings. There is also a shrine near the front entrance.

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The King's residence is relatively modest for a Palace but with quite a grand area in front of it. A road runs right past the front door and before COVID people could just drive past the house.

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Lunch was at a Khmer restaurant; I had the best Spring Rolls yet and Laurence had a minced pork dish which he really liked. The traditional style food here has been very good, not too spicy so I can eat it. We've had Western style food (hamburgers, toasted sandwiches) a couple of times and it definitely isn't as good. The exception was the French restaurant where the food was excellent.

After lunch we visited the local market for an hour or so. I found the sellers more aggressive than in the Russian market in Phnom Penh though not as bad as some places I've been to.

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The market was our final stop for the day and we returned to our hotel by 2.30. The weather cooperated and I finally got my swim and a drink by the beautiful pool.

Around 5.30 we took a tuk tuk into Pub Street, an area of Siem Reap catering to foreigners, full of restaurants and pubs. You can get anything from traditional food to pizza in this area, there are places to dance the night away (for those young enough t be up past 9pm) or you can get a massage. You can also stick your feet in a fish tank and let the fish chew off any dead skin.

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We started at one end of the street planning to drop into a couple of places for drinks while checking out places to eat. We went into a bar / restaurant near the start for a drink and we were shortly joined by another couple from the tour Karen and Garry.

Just after they came in, it started to rain and boy did it rain. The gutters filled and the street was very quickly ankle deep in water and the water was up over the kerb and coming in the front of restaurants.

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There was so much water the cockroaches were afraid of drowning and came out of the gutters and into the restaurants. At first I was sitting in a bench seat against the wall but the cockroaches crawled along the back of the seat (high ground) and kept dropping on me. I had to move and put my feet up on a chair to keep them from crawling on my feet. The waitresses ran around with shoes and brooms killing the bugs or sweeping them away.

The restaurant, including the toilets, was very clean and once it stopped raining the cockroaches went back to the gutters and drains and we didn't see any for the rest if the evening.

We ended up being in this bar for over an hour and had several drinks. Karen and Gary were both wearing thongs so were able to splash through the water to the nearby restaurant the had chosen fir dinner during a break in the rain. Laurence was wearing joggers, his only pair of shoes, so we had to wait it out.

The rain finally stopped, the water drained away from the stree and we were able to leave and make our way to another restaurant Karen had recommended for dinner. We had spring rolls, satay sticks and fush cakes for appetisers. Then I had a really nice chicken curry and Laurence had Pad Thai. All delicious.

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After dinner we finally got to walk up the rest of the street and have a look around but we didn't feel like any more beers so found a ruk tuk to take us home. There was a lot of flooding on the road back to our hotel and it was quite difficult for our tuk tuk driver so we gave him a little extra.

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Our visit to Pub Street was quite an experience, we were so glad we did it even with the cockroaches.

Posted by Gone Travelling 03:43 Comments (0)

Day 6 - Angkor Temples

On our second day at the Angkor Temples we visited Angkor Thom, one of the largest complexes and Ta Prohm, made famous by the movie Tomb Raider.

The first stop was the south gate of Angkor Thom. There were originally five gates, North, South, West and two in the East but the South Gate is the best preserved. The South Gate and North gates were used by people to enter and exit, the West Gate was for criminals. Of the two East Gates one was for taking out the dead and the other was the King's Gate. An identical number of demons and gods guard the West Gate.

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There is a lot if history here but I knew I wouldn't remember it so I bought a book. I'll read up on it and answer questions when I'm home but fir now I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Also, we met a local who seemed very comfortable with having his photo taken.

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The second temple was Ta Prohm which is famous because it was used in Tomb Raider. The jungle has grown around and through Ta Prohm and though a lot has been cleared it would be difficult to remove some of the trees without bring the temple down as well.

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It was very hot so after lunch at a good local restaurant we decided to return to the hotel instead of continuing on to the last two temples. Several others also opted to return.

Back at the hotel we had hoped for a swim and drinks by the pool but it's the rainy season and the weather didn't cooperate. It rained all afternoon and into the evening so we decided not to go out as we had planned. We had drinks and dinner in the hotel restaurant. Another couple joined is for a drink and it was pleasant and relaxing.

Posted by Gone Travelling 03:13 Comments (1)

Day 5 - Battambang to Siem Reap

We are heading to Siem Reap today and need to be there around lunchtime so we have the afternoon to see some temples before dinner and a show (traditional dance) tonight. Another early breakfast before heading out at 8.00.

The last part of our Battambang program was Ek Phnom Temple and that was our first destination this morning. On this site is the ruin of an old temple in the Angkor style and a newer Buddhist Temple. The ruins were really interesting from an architectural perspective. There was also a little schoolroom on the site which was interesting.

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We had one other short stop at a stone carving village. There were some really colourful small things, probably made of plaster and some huge stone statues. We bought an ice cream.

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We arrived in Siem Reap about 12.30 and met our Siem Reap guide at the restaurant where we were having lunch. Pollim is a specialist guide for Angkor so he takes over from here and Rin returns to Phnom Penh. The restaurant served Khmer food and we had a nice pork dish with cashews.

After lunch Pollim took us to the Angkor registration centre where our photos were taken and our tickets for Angkor issued. Your photo is on your ticket and you have to show the ticket at every temple. Once we had our tickets we continued to Angkor Wat. This is one of the most famous and often photographed temple complexes but really seeing it is very different. It's much bigger than I expected and altogether more impressive. There are three levels in the main temple with the top level reached by steep wooden stairs which are a little scary. But the views are spectacular and worth the climb.

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We spent about 2 hours in Angkor Wat and just made it back to the bus in time to beat the rain. It was spectacularly hot and by the time we got back to the bus most of us were soaked in sweat and ready for a shower. The group has split across two hotels again and we are staying at the 4 star Metta Residence & Spa which is just beautiful. The shower is almost as big as our bathroom.

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A shower, change of clothes and a drink at the bar and we were back on the bus at 6.30 for dinner and the Apsara dance show. The dinner was ok but the tradional dancing was lovely.

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Posted by Gone Travelling 00:51 Comments (1)

Day 4 - Battambang

Our guide recommended an early breakfast to beat the crowds so we were down at 6am. He was right, about 6.45 the place really started to fill up but we were nearly finished. Our hotel is full of wood - panelling, furniture, wall carvings - it's everywhere and beautifully worked. Cambodians seem to love beautiful things; there are coloured lights on bridges and lights in fountains and the temples and shrines are richly decorated.

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We are on the 6th floor and we have a little balcony - the view is pretty good but I'm a bit unsure about standing on it for too long.

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The first stop today was the Governor's Palace. We only looked from the gates but the buildings were lovely. Apparently the King also has a residence in the compound but we couldn't see it from where we were. Rin needed to take a group photo here for his company. There were a lot of young people having graduation photos taken, apparently they had just finished a teaching degree but they kindly allowed Rin to take his photo first.

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I tried to take some photos as we drove through the City to get a flavour of the place but it's quite hard to capture from the bus.

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The city is built around the river which seems to be a common theme in Cambodia and there are quite a lot of trees and some lovely parks and open spaces. Coming back into the city at the end of the day we saw lots of people in the parks and walking along the river promenade. Battambang is less built up than Phnom Penh and has kept more of it's architectural history; unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to explore the city.

After the stop at the Governor's Palace we drove to Wat Banan Temple, an old Khmer temple about 25km from Battambang. The temple is said to be similar to the Angkor temples but the 400 steps were too much for me so I only saw part of the temple from about half way up.

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The grounds were lovely - there were lots of pavilions around and over the water which can be used for picnics, celebrations etc.

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Next was a "cellar door". This farmer grows grapes and makes red wine, brandy and grape juice. We had a tasting but since I don't drink either red wine or brandy I couldn't tell whether they were good or not. The wine is apparently award winning.

On our way back to the city we stopped at a place where they make Prahok, fermented fish paste. I didn't make it past the door; even holding my nose and breathing through my mouth didn't help with the smell. Laurence went through with some others from the group and took some photos.

We returned to Battambang where the bus dropped us off in an area with restaurants and shops for lunch and free time. We had lunch in a Khmer restaurant - Laurence had satay chicken and I had delicious eggplant and mushroom dumplings.

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After lunch we walked back to our hotel. It was only about 10 minutes but very hot. The humidity is very high and the afternoons feel stormy but we've only had serious rain once, on our first touring day. We found a small art gallery as we were walking along so of course we had to go in and of course I bought a picture. I'm going to need a house with more walls.

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Back at the hotel with a couple of hours to relax before the next round of sightseeing we decided to visit the pool bar. I considered a swim but decided that would make me sleepy. So we had a drink - beer for Laurence, banana smoothie for me - and chatted to one of our group for an hour or so before heading upstairs to our air-conditioned room.

At 3.30 Rin and the bus picked us up for a visit to the Khmer Rouge "killing caves". On the way we stopped at the side of the road at a stall barbecuing rats. Several people tried the bats which are a traditional food for the Cambodians.

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There is a temple at the site which the Khmer Rouge took over and used as a prison. About 100 metres from the Temple are several caves which were used as execution sites, using various methods to kill prisoners. Rin told us that based on the bones found in the caves around 10,000 people were killed at this site.

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The biggest draw of this place however is not the "killing caves" but another cave. At dusk every evening millions of small bats swarm out of the cave in clouds. There are chairs and tables set up and looypts of stalls selling street food, soft drinks, beer and snacks. Every night people sit and wait for the bats. Rin had reserved seats for us and we passed a pleasant hour talking too people while we waited. The bats flying from the cave were actually an amazing sight but hard to capture in a photo.

By the time we returned to our hotel, it was after 7pm so we decided to eat in the hotel instead of going out. We wandered up to the restaurant and they directed us up another flight of stairs to the Panorama Lounge where they were serving dinner. This was a wonderful area to eat. It was open on three sides and there was a lovely breeze to keep us cool. The views were amazing. We had hamburgers (huge) and a couple of drinks before heading to bed.

Posted by Gone Travelling 13:31 Comments (0)

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