Published: June 1st 2008June 1st 2008
Hot. Very Hot. Boiling infact. That would have to be the first thing that comes to mind to describe our past ten days in Cambodia. Bring on the rainy season, which is apparently just days away!
Something happened to raise the already-high temperature as we took a boat from Chau Doc on the Mekong Delta (a very pleasant, oddly un-touristy spot) to cross the border into Cambodia, arriving in Phnom Penh right in the midday heat. We spent 6 days in the Capital, part of the time sorting out our visas for the next bit of the trip. Stepping off the boat, I was struck straight away by how calm and peaceful PP seemed compared to towns in Vietnam. For a capital city with over a million inhabitants, the quiet was almost alarming. Hawkers were still hawking, and the tuk-tuk drivers were still keen to drive you round the corner, but all at a much less pressured pace. We took a look around two of PP more upbeat tourist attractions, the Royal Palace and the National Museum. The latter was a beautiful building in its own right, and the treasures inside got us very excited about what was to come
around Siem Reap. We opted not to visit the notorious S-21 prison or the Killing Fields, but evidence of Cambodia's past is clear to see. I hadn't realised that PP was pretty much uninhabited during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror and many of the people that live there now, live in the delapidated colonial buildings which have been left to rot for so long.
We are now in Siem Reap and have been here for getting on for a week. We spent 3 days exploring the temples of Angkor in sweltering temperatures, thoroughly enjoying the tuk-tuk rides through the countryside between temples, providing a much welcomed breeze. The temples themselves are incredible, a definite high-light of our time in SE Asia. Dating from the 9th to 13th century, they are in various states of repair, some left to their own devices, some having been excellently restored, whilst others have fallen pray to a fair bit of cement and chemical cleaning during Vietnam's temporary rule here. The walled city of Angkor Thom was excellent, with massive faces carved into the main temple and fantastic stone carvings on some of the outer walls. Angkor Wat was impressive just in terms
of sheer scale alone (it is meant to be the biggest religious structure in the world, but I'm not 100% on that), and the bas-reliefs were incredible. Ta Prohm was also a highlight, with this temple having been taken over by the jungle, with trees growing out of the temples. It was also where we watched a massive crack of thunder fell a tree in one strike, fortunately nobody was underneath at the time!
We are now relaxing for a few days here. We tried to take a look at the Tonle Sap lake, the biggest fresh water lake in Asia, but given it is the end of the dry season, we failed miserably not realising the effort and cost it would take us to get there. The food here is excellent, and we've been enjoying the french open on frequently interrupted cable TV (no complaints - amazed we've got it). Frustratingly, after three hours of watching the Hewitt match the TV cut out for the final 2 games. Once again, it is a tough life.
There are more photos below