Hi everyone! Terry and I loved Siem Reap! We were too busy to get a chance to upload a new journal until now. Our connection in Cambodia is so slow that even though we have read our email, we don’t have time to reply to all of them. So thank you everyone for the travel ideas and the birthday wishes. Also, I am not able to upload all of our Siem Reap pictures. Based on the current speed, we would need another 4 or 5 hours to upload the remaining 35 pictures. Ok, on with the journal...
From Japan we flew to Bangkok, Thailand, the location of our meeting hotel. We arrived at about 1am. The airport baggage storage wanted 350 US$ to store our SCUBA gear bags at the airport for 6 weeks. So we brought them with us, booked our last day in Bangkok at the same hotel, and they will store them for free! The following day, traveling light, we arrived in Cambodia via the Thailand/Cambodia border. We walked across the border and took a 10 hour bus ride to the Freedom Hotel in Siem Reap. It is hot and humid here. And unlike Japan, where I was able to stretch a shirt out for 3 days, here I go through 2 shirts a day.
Our first day in Siem Reap was busy. We visited 4 temple complexes; Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei, and Pre Rup at sunset. I was most impressed with Ta Prohm which is where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. Actually Tomb Raider was filmed at many locations in Siem Reap including Angkor Wat, but the scene where Angelina Jolie plucks the Jasmine and drops into the temple below is probably the most famous. Our guide brought us around to a secluded side entrance. We hiked about 5 minutes past hordes of spiders and through a stone tower entrance garded by a four-headed god to center of the temple. It just screamed of Tomb Raider!
The official currency is the Cambodian Reil, but the good old US greenback is accepted every where and there is no reason to exchange money. No US coins are used so if you pay for your lunch of ‘$1,5’ ($1.50 US) with a $5 bill and it yields $3.50 in change, you get three 1 US$ bills and 2000 Reil in notes. You get use to it pretty fast since the everyone uses the straight-forward 1 US$ = 4000 Reil exchange rate. Pricing is done on a ‘two tier system’ which basically means that tourists pay more for everything. But it is still way cheap!
The next morning we were up at 5:30. The group went to the world famous Angkor Wat for sunrise. An unexpected treat for me was the mine museum. Cambodia has more mine fields than any other country in the world. Some estimated 3-6 million UXO, unexploded ordinances, still exists and about 3 people every day are killed or injured by UXO. The 19-year old boy that guided us through the museum told us his story. At age 8, he wander 400 meters from his home to play with his brother and sister. He stepped on a land mine, lost his leg and his brother and sister were killed. He said he was the lucky one. Later that day, we toured the floating village of Chong Kneas, an entire village on a lake. During the wet season they fish. When the wet season turns dry, they move the schools, churches, police station, basket ball court, markets, homes, and all other floating buildings further down the lake and grow rice. At one point two boats rapidly approached. It appeared that these out-of-control and inexperienced boaters were going to ram us. Just before we collided, they skillfully maneuvered there boat aside ours, grabbed and held on to our boat, and got out there goods to sell. I was impressed so decided I would buy one of their beers.
We travel by bus most of the time. Drivers in Cambodia use hand signals to warn other drivers that there are cops ahead or to let them know the coast is clear.
On our last day in Siem Reap, we had the morning free, so 6 of us decided to visit the Beng Mealea Temple. A fellow traveler suggested the temple and helped arranged transport for everyone. This was even better that the Tomb Raider Temple. First, because it was an hour away, there were few tourists. We only saw about 8 other people. Also, it is not maintained the way the other temple are so is consumed by the jungle. I will not try to explain in words, hopefully more pictures to come...
- Oh no, it’s over ;(
- There be whales here!
- Bad, bad Leroy
- Killing time near Suva
- Handicap Diver Below!