We flew from the sweaty heat of Singapore to… the sweaty heat of Cambodia! Actually getting used to it now, we walked through Siem Reap airport where a man holding up a sign with my name on it (very exciting) was to be found waiting for us. He was our tuk-tuk driver. A tuk-tuk is a small four seater covered carriage pulled by a moped and was to become very familiar over the next few weeks. Our man piled on all our luggage and we climbed in, we were then driven down to our new home, the Motherhome Guest House. Our first tuk-tuk ride was a bit nerve-wracking as we witnessed the apparently random driving of the Cambodians, it seems like anything goes, with traffic flowing in all directions at once, narrowly missing each other in a kind of slow ballet. Someone later described a tuk-tuk as being like a fish with all the traffic like water flowing around it.
We were greeted at Motherhome by the friendly staff offering us cold fruit drinks and blessedly ice-cool towels scented with eucalyptus. The staff were all beautifully dressed in red and gold tunics or long dresses and were very graceful and helpful. At over three weeks our stay was pretty lengthy by normal standards, the average time anyone spends here is one point eight days, how they fit everything in is anyone’s guess. We were to visit the temples of Angkor and generally hang out in the city.
Siem Reap is a mainly tourist town aimed at accommodating all the hordes visiting Angkor, it has loads of good restaurants and markets, massage places (including the dreaded Dr. Fish Foot Massage – I tried this but felt like the fish were finding my feet just a bit too tasty! Fran, after persuading me to take the plunge kept her feet in for about two seconds and squeaked loudly, refusing to repeat the experience.) There is also a night market where you can shop for silks and buddhas when it’s a bit cooler.
We went on a trip to the floating village of Chong Kneas. The huge lake, ‘Tonle Sap’, in the middle of Cambodia is home to several of these villages, when we went the water level was very low and the colour of buttermilk. We went on a short tour to see the villages and few disgruntled looking crocodiles, finishing up with dinner on an old boat anchored in the lake. We were hoping for a longer tour to explore the sunken forest a fews hour’s boat ride away but were informed that the forest hadn’t sunk yet as it was still dry season. (News to us – we thought it was rainy, but apparently the lake doesn’t rise until the mighty Mekong river reverses its flow later in the season.)
Other things we did during our stay included a traditional puppet show given by local kids and a cello concert and lecture by the famous Dr. Beat Richner, fundraising for the local children’s hospital. At the moment in Siem Reap, there is a terrible outbreak of Dengue Fever with many children being affected by this killer disease.
We also visited a modern Pagoda ‘Wat Bo’ near our hotel in the city. There we met with a young monk who was studying at the buddhist school attached to the Pagoda. He was a lovely young man dressed in stunning orange robes, he came over to chat with us and practice his English. We sat in the shade of a tree out of the hot sun and after a while some more monks joined us, one of them, another young man grinning from ear to ear was even trying to chat Fran up much to her amusement! “You very beautiful!”
We’ve had a good time in the city, we even managed to gate-crash the British Ambassador’s reception cocktail party, after being tipped off by an ex-pat in our local bar. “Just show up with your passport” he said, so we did. Free drinks around the pool at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, lovely, darling. Adding to the delusions of grandeur was the mistaken feeling of being quite rich, we went out with wads of 100’s in our wallets, but alas 100 riel is only about 2 pence.
Watch out for Fran’s post on the Temples, coming soon…
Gallery pics below: