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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cambodia

Travel Dates 8th - 10th 2008.
Please click on a picture to see the larger version.

I was a little nervous about using Bangkok Air for the flights to and from Bangkok to Siem Reap. I shouldn't have worried. The aircraft was an almost new MD90, the check-in staff accepted my Discovery Airpass e-ticket booking with no problems and the pilots (Russian going and English returning) were professional and smooth. Both airports were almost new.

I was booked into the Two Dragons guesthouse after good reports on the web. Again I had been nervous about staying in a guest house instead of a hotel and the reliability of arrangements made over the net. Again I should not have worried. My host, Gordon, had arranged for a tuk-tuk to meet me; it is such a feeling of relief to arrive in a strange land and to see your name, or something close to it, on one of those boards held up by the drivers. I got to know "Mr T", spelt "The", well over the next three days. He was also my driver around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom the next day and took me back to the airport when I left.


The room was clean, the bed comfortable, the toilet and shower worked (although a little oddly:-), the aircon worked reasonably quietly and there were some English language channels among the 80 available on the TV. What more could you ask for US$22? Well, actually, there was more - to have a host who keeps promises and who spoke English and could add those little extra bits of advice on local customs, prices and things worth seeing made a tremendous difference. Thanks Gordon.

I ate most of my meals there although I did eat a couple in the Old Market. The food was better at the Two Dragons; the picture is the Khmer favourite of Amok, a spicy fish dish served in a scooped-out coconut.

The wines available in Cambodia surprised me, both with the range of French and Australian wines and with their moderate prices and good quality.

The only slight problem at the Two Dragons at the time was the construction going on over the road. I shuddered watching them working at height, ignoring the four-storey drop or relying on the bamboo scaffolding. It wasn't until later in my trip that I found this form of scaffolding and building practices also common in Hong Kong and India.


It seems that the term "Occupational Health and Safety" doesn't translate into Khmer, Chinese or Hindi.

I had expected the rural nature of the trip into town from the airport, but I hadn't expected to see the high number of four- and five-star hotels after a couple of kilometres.


The extremes of income sometimes were dramatically displayed when shacks were built beside the resorts.

I got the impression from some of the tourists I later met at Angkor Wat that many of the groups go by bus from the airport to the hotel, then to the "set" tourist sites and the special "Western" shopping centres and back to the airport without ever seeing downtown Siem Reap or meeting a Cambodian not working to service tourists. Hermetic Tourism. Not for me. But hey - whatever floats your boat.

These are just some representative shots of traffic and the town, taken while I wandered with Mr T in his tuk-tuk. All day cost US$12, a quick trip was $1, the Airport $4.





The last couple of shots, by the river, are only a few hundred metres from "downtown".



The Old Market section of town was surprisingly clean and reminded me instantly of those small back streets of Paris full of restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Many had french cuisine, or a Khmer/Thai/French fusion version although most were Khmer.


During my short time in Siem Reap I kept wondering how such a happy, industrious, energetic people could have allowed the sheer terror of Pol Pot. I didn't go to the killing fields nor to the museum at Phnom Penh. The only indicators of the horrors of the '70s were occasional roadside signs giving thanks to various international organisations for clearing the mines in that field. Those did remind me to stay on beaten paths and not go wandering on the grass when taking photos. I wondered along similar lines when wandering Czech, Slovakia and Poland. Why did the people allow this to happen? I still don't have an answer; I suppose I never will.

I am glad I went, not just for Angkor. A fascinating country and wonderful people.

Cheers, Alan

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