Cambodia - Land of The Khmer- South East Asia 18

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 24th July 2001

Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Coming from Myanmar via Phuket and Bangkok. A last minute side trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia and the amazing twelfth century Angkor Wat. It’s very quiet in Siem Reap, but I can see that this situation will change very shortly. The whole tree lined approach from the airport, is a hotel construction site. It looks as if they are building hundreds of them. We're staying in delightful bungalows with flower filled gardens. I  can't see any more of these being built.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

  • This Khmer temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world. It is colossal and incredibly fulfilling, one of the most rewarding archaeological sites that I have seen. It was discovered in the jungle and partially cleared. Garuda birds compete with elephants. The bas reliefs are fantastic. Huge tree root tentacles grasping onto the ruins only add to the atmosphere. I expect Lara Croft to appear at any moment. It's reminiscent of the Maya pyramids, though grander. There are steps galore. We climb up the appointed monument for stupendous sunset views across the jungle.
  • We have a day in Angkor Wat to be proper tourists. The souvenir shops around the site all look very similar,  mainly packed with wooden carvings and friezes depicting aspects of Angkor Wat. There is more variety in the old market with beautiful (but expensive) baskets and a good selection of silver. Elaine buys up the whole mall. In the evening a cultural show at the Angkor Village. Japanese tourists leap about in front of the stage with their cameras, obscuring every one else's view - and ruining opportunities for photographs.

Tonle Sap

  • We also take to a boat. Tonle Sap is the largest salt water lake in Southeast Asia. It fluctuates in size over the year, expanding considerably during the monsoon. This area is hugely important for growing the staple food, rice. There’s a lot to see, the floating village, the dirt and squalor of the grinding poverty, the long boats as folk ply their wares, the fish farms with their tethered cormorants and pelicans, humming life on the lake shores and children waving from stilt jetties.

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