Published: May 25th 2006May 3rd 2006
Well actually, we had already decided to fly to Siem Reap from Pakse on 30th April as we had heard some horror stories about crossing the border by land. So we flew Laos Aviation, which we had also heard horror stories about, but it seemed the lesser of the two evils. In fact the stories were unfounded; we had safety belts, and the plane did remain in the sky for the duration of the 50 minute flight. We were quite impressed really.
So, we began my birthday in Laos, and ended in Cambodia. We arrived early in the morning in Siem Reap, the nearest town to Angkor Wat, the mystic temples that I have been yearning to see for years. Matt had saved quite a bit of film for this part of the trip so we were all quite excited about seeing the temples. So were 5,000 other tourists that day.
We had been warned there would be plenty of them, but as this was the height of the hot season, and boy was it hot, we thought many would stay away and wait for cooler temperatures to arrive. However, there really were 1000s of people wherever we went.
In the end, we didn't let it spoil our fun as it turned into quite an interesting people-watching outing! Some of the funniest sights included the many Korean women in small shorts, big hats and 5 inch heels!! Sounds great, but just imagine them trying to manage their way through the ruins of the temples, especially when they had to try climbing up them. Remember that these temples are hundreds of years old, so they were a bit crumbly to say the least.
Yes, Angkor Wat is spectacular, especially when viewing it at sunrise. It must be quite a magical sight if you are alone to see the reddening sky silhouetting the three domes. However, I think we all preferred the visit to Ta Prom, where the jungle has grown over the ruins of the temples. Some of the trees were magnificent as their roots clawed over the crumbling ruins of the temple, an effect that has taken hundreds of years. We scrambled through areas not accessible to the general public and saw some wondrous sights.
In all we spent 2 days at Angkor Wat including a sunrise and a sunset, and unless you are a temple fanatic,
that really is all you need. It would be nice to think that the US$40 access fee is going to the upkeep and protection of the temples, however we did not see any evidence of that. There were independent organisations using publicly raised funds to do this, so we fear the most of the entry fees are going into someone's pocket. This is a feeling that we had on many occasions whilst in Cambodia.
This may sound very shallow of me, but one of my happiest discoveries in Siem Reap was the "Angelina Jolie Cocktail" that we had at the Red Piano Bar. I'm not telling anyone the ingredients, bit suffice to say you will all be trying it once I get back to Sydney!
As it was my birthday, Steve treated Matt and I to a divine dinner at a local French restaurant that served Aussie Steak! Oh-my-gosh, was it gooooood! Matt had kindly brought a couple of bottles of red over for our birthdays, so one washed down our steaks perfectly. It was a really great birthday to remember.
On our last day in Siem Reap, as Matt and I faffed around doing other things,
Steve took himself off to the local Children's Hospital to give blood. Cambodia really is in dire need of blood, and as Steve has the type of blood that is in greatest shortage, AB, he was a welcome sight at the hospital. He was given a box of chocolates and a bottle of coke as a thank you which he gave to the children sitting in the waiting room. Since then, Phil and Millsy and a few other people we have met a long the way have gone to give blood, so if you can give blood, and you go to Siem Reap, give a visit to the Children's Hospital.
There are more photos below