From the Mekong River to Siem Reap

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October 22nd 2022
Published: October 24th 2022
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During the night I woke to what I thought was the sound of rain. It was hard to tell with the air conditioner running, but I thought it sounded different from the sound of a/c alone. Sure enough, this morning we were greeted with wet decks when we ventured out of our stateroom. There has been the threat of rain quite a few times during the week, but we have been so lucky that we have had no rain when we have been taken out on our excursions. Considering it is the end of the wet season, we have been blessed with beautiful, fine weather.

The R.V. Bassac Pandaw finished docking at Kampong Cham while we enjoyed breakfast in the dining room for the last time. Our early breakfast finished we raced back up to our stateroom to clean our teeth and throw our toilet bags into our suitcases before zipping them closed and putting them outside the Purser’s Office for collection.

Then we were all sitting around on the sun deck waiting for instructions to disembark, when Einar arrived on the sun deck asking what all of us were doing because he and Siren were on the coach ready to go! We have been accostomed to being told when we are to leave the boat, but this morning it seems we were supposed to use our own initiative and head to the coach when we saw it arrive?? Not to worry, we were still loaded and on our way by 8.15am.

With the weather definitely having taken a turn for the worse it was a good thing that most of today was be be spent in a coach on a road trip from Kampong Cham to Siem Reap. As we drove out of Kampong Cham the windscreen wipers were flapping away on the front windscreen to clear the view for our coach driver. There were big puddles (small lakes?) everywhere and quite a few sections of water damaged road that our driver had to negotiate. The rougher road prevailed while we remained on Route 71, but improved once we joined Highway No. 6, which is the main road between Phnom Phen and Siem Ream.

On the first section of road out of Kampong Cham there were lots of firewood yards with wood stacked everywhere. The wood comes mainly from the old rubber trees that have passed their productive life. It is good to know that these trees can still be useful as firewood even after they have stopped producing latex. More concerning was that Leng said rainforest timber is cut to burn if they don’t have enough from old rubber trees.

Closer to the river the agriculture was mainly rubber trees. Leng told us that rubber trees have overtaken cashew nuts as the crop of choice because in recent years the profit from rubber has been greater. As we travelled further away from the Mekong River the crops changed to paper corn, dragon fruit and kasava and, eventually, to mainly rice. Interspersed with these crops were occasional lotus ponds with big, round dark green leaves and pink blossoms. We also saw plenty of cows grazing from biers in their front yards and water buffaloes wallowing in the fields … and sometimes it was water buffaloes eating from biers and cows wallowing in the fields! And, of course, lots of dogs, chickens and small children by the roadside too. It seems a terrifying prospect to have a household mere centimetres from a major highway!

At this time of the year the villagers harvest some of their rice before it is fully ripe. This slightly under ripe rice is cooked and then pounded – in huts by the roadside – to make it into a crunchy and sweet rice snack that will be eaten during the Salutation to the Moon celebration that is held next month in conjunction with the Water Festival.

In addition to pointing out the countryside, Leng provided us with a demonstration of the krama, the traditional Cambodian scarf made from cotton that can be worn as a scarf, a bandanna, a modesty sheath when bathing and even as a cap. It’s all about how you fold it!

We stopped at a restaurant at Prey Pros River for a comfort break and leg stretch. This was a lovely clean establishment with plenty of clean, western-style toilets for our comfort. There was even toilet paper in the toilets which is definitely a bonus! The restaurant had bamboo hearts at the back and the front and encouraged travellers to pose in/with the hearts and post on social media declaring their love for each other. Awww … so cheesy, but cute??!

Our next diversion was a box lunch that had been packed for us by the chef on board the R.V. Bassac Pandow. We had a couple of sandwiches, two lady finger bananas and a mandarin in our box. We were also handed boxes of warm chocolate soy milk to wash down our sandwiches. Hmmn, no thanks, I’ll stick with water for my beverage I think!

Eventually, after 259km and approximately five hours on the road we arrived in Siem Reap. We were dropped at the FCC Angkor by Avani. We were collected from the hotel’s forecourt by tuk tuks that had been arranged by the Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel. Our tuk tuks whisked us over to the Baby Elephant in just a few minutes where we checked in while enjoying refreshing Pink Cadillacs.

With the formalities completed, Cathy and Steve were shown to their room very conveniently located just beside the reception/bar area. Bernie and I were taken down a corridor, past the kitchen, up a flight of stairs … and another flight of stairs (thank goodness we didn’t have to lug our cases up!) to our room adjacent to the rooftop terrace. Fancy! And it might help with our step counts if we have to walk up and down those stairs a few times each day?

The term ‘Boutique Hotel’ is a funny one isn’t it? All too often when you book a boutique hotel the reality is a hotel that is smallish and perhaps a little bit rustic or quirky!! Still, staying in a five-star hotel in Siem Reap is hardly going to be an experience that puts you in touch with the locals!! Here all of the staff are Cambodian because the hotel’s aim is to provide hospitality training for young locals.

It was hot and, after five hours cooped up on a bus, t was time to change into our togs so that we could relax down by the pool. Bernie and I also took the opportunity to book massages. We booked Swedish massages, but they ended up being Khmer style massage which was more like a Thai massage. No oil. Even without oil we had quite a few kinks worked out of our bodies.

At dinner time we ventured out to Pub Street where we ate pizzas at a Japanese Restaurant in Cambodia … as you do!

Steps for the day: 4,565 (2.93km)

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Our room at the Baby Elephant HotelOur room at the Baby Elephant Hotel
Our room at the Baby Elephant Hotel

Complete with towel elephants!

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