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November 9th 2013
Published: November 29th 2013
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Excursion to Cambodia

9 November

I have read about excursions from Pattaya to Cambodia in advance and, upon arrival to Pattaya, during our second day, we bought this rather expensive excursion of two days and one night. Departure was scheduled at 4-30 in the morning, and we arrived at the border several hours later. The border crossing was rather remarkable, there being no ordered or restricted passages (at least it seemed to me) as one entered the border town of Poi Pet. There was some boring waiting in between, and I was informed of the demand to pay 600 Baht because my passport was not valid for long enough. I was afraid it might be more or I might be denied entry. As of today, 29 November, I haven’t still decided to get a new passport, most probably I will wait till February and meanwhile visit some places in the neighborhood (Russian Centre).

We were waiting for the bus rather long, then it came and our guide presented himself. The whole group was Russian, so the guide was Cambodian but spoke Russian (he studied in Russia for six years; I remember his phrase ‘It’s better to have +35 Degrees than -35’). He told us many interesting things about the country, its people, customs and traditions, and the group asked him lots of questions. Our passports with visas came later (the guide said their issue took some 3-4 hours, but we would not have to wait). I was already afraid that I’d have to pay another 600 Baht when exiting the country, but fortunately that was not the case.

A portion of the road from the border to Siem Reap had mysteriously many potholes, making me think why people just do not eliminate them. On the whole, the drive was positive. It is always positive to find oneself in a new country, and the more so when a hearty dinner is offered (everything, the meals, entrance tickets, accommodation etc, was included in the excursion price). I also realized that, most probably, I would not go to Cambodia alone. It was just a country where I’d not like to solve any problems and make any arrangements.

We did not have a tour of Siem Reap’s sights, but the guide told us about them and we saw some from the bus window. Siem Reap, of course, amazed me by two places: Tonle Sap Lake with its fishermen village, and the temples of Angkor. I cannot remember, but the image of stones with tree roots creeping on them somewhere, at some time in my earlier years, had impressed itself in my mind. Summarizing the trip, I can say the fishermen’s village was my favourite. I do like water in any form!

We boarded the vessel intended for the lake cruise and it looked anything but reliable. However, everything went smoothly, though I am sure the arrangement of the propeller could be better, for the boats not to nose-up so dramatically (I mean the smaller ones we saw floating by). Soon after departure our boat was persecuted by kamikaze-like persons apparently begging for money, to whom I paid no attention, while Luda persuaded me to give a little girl some Bahts. The lake is a unique experience, with all those shabby shacks standing on God knows what and haunted in the night, I fear, by God knows what lacustrine creatures. Suppose you sleep and fall through a decayed floor board! This lake village attracted me so much that I decided to try and live in similar conditions sometime. The lake is very prolific after the rain season and brings lots of fishes to the population. The people in the houses were engaged in their own activities, paying little attention to us. It’s absolutely no use describing the lake and village, because it must be seen in person.

After the cruise, our group was taken to the excellent quiet hotel with a swimming pool and we had a large room, differing so much for the better from our Pattaya room that we both did not want to return to Pattaya… But, all the same, it’s a matter of careful selection. We were allowed a couple of hours before the visit to a souvenir shop and a dinner with performance.

In the souvenir shop we only looked at things, bought nothing (only Cambodian coins – for a friend of mine). I never like souvenir shops. Then it was time for the huge dinner (buffet style), with huge amounts of various eatables, sufficient to feed a starving army. I tried to have a bit of each dish, fruit, and pastries. I enjoyed three different kinds of soup. The large room, filled with many tourists, seemed a bit solemn, and I felt a participant in something big and important. It was not comfortable to wash the traditional Khmer dances, because we did not sit very close.

10 November

Angkor Wat and other temples

The tour of temples began at 6.30 to avoid the sun heat and better see the Angkor Wat temple. Any necessary information about the area can be found in the web, and any explanations or advice on my part would be superfluous. I will omit the description of the first and the second temples, because the readers of this site do visit Angkor often. However, we will dwell a little on the main temple, Angkor Wat. An immense and impressive structure, what more can be said. I haven’t seen the New York skyscrapers or the Dubai skyscrapers, but I will assume that buildings of Angkor type are far more impressive, because they have more culture, more sense, and more artistic labour imbued in them. You stand there and do not believe that ancient people in the XII century could have taken so many pains to build that, and devoted it to a god (Vishnu). The temple represents a combination of the Hindu ‘mountain temple’ (gods’ abode) and the galleries typical of the later periods. After the XV century the temple was abandoned, though not completely, and rediscovered in the XIX century. The stones making up the construction were laid without any mortar but fit very tightly to each other. Some stone blocks are held under their own weight.

The visit was very successful, and late in the evening we returned to our hotel in Pattaya.

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