The name Siem Reap literally means “Siam Defeated”. These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This once quaint village has become the largest boom town and construction site in Cambodia. It’s quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples and a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to a large expatriate community. http://wikitravel.org/en/Siem_Reap
And yes, today we were part of the ‘rampaging hordes’ that arrived at Angkor Wat for the sunrise. Before I left the most comfortable Park Hyatt Hotel, I checked the sky for stars – none. So our ‘sunrise’ photos could be in jeapody. Disappointment is exaggerated when you get a 4:30am wake-up call only to find that the sun didn’t rise like you wanted it to, over a world renowned site at 5:55am.
Many photographers were on the edge of the small lakes in the foreground of the great temple, all trying to get that illusive picture that no-one else could share. After a fantastic opportunity in Rome a few years ago when as I opened the video camera to start filming, the background grey sky became a background blue, the same thing happened at Angkor Wat today. I was happy. It should make for a great start to the ‘final cut’ movie I am here to make. Next to me was a couple on their honeymoon from Madrid and so we struck up a friendship quickly – with a surname SPAIN it is very easy to strike up a conversation with someone from Spain, if they can speak English. (They have become another chapter in my book “You can sit there as long as you talk to me”.)
The long walk back to the coach revealed lots of tuk tuk drivers sleeping in their hammocks strung in their tuk tuks. Lots of breakfast stall holders are now waiting for coffee drinkers to be served. Our coach takes us to ‘another’ pagoda, where a small fruit breakfast and tea or coffee is served. The driveway in to the pagoda was lined with statue monks ‘protecting’ the entrance. We are free after returning to the hotel. Four of us had chosen a massage place last night offering 2 hours with 4 hands (two therapists) for $US27 and then they threw in a pedicure. So we turned up there for what turned into 3 hours. Not bad rates at all – yes, worth it.
At 2pm, our coach takes on a ‘free massage’ ride along some bumpy tracks down to the edge of a lake, Boeung Tonle Sap, for a boat ride around the village of Chong Kneas floating village. Most of the people are either Kymer or Vietnamese and have had a lifetime living on the water. It was interesting to see trade stores, schools, basketball courts, restaurants and tourist precincts on barges lined along the shore. We stop at one barge and find a crocodile farm within the shop. They are grown for leather ware.
Our evening farewell dinner is at another luxurious restaurant with a further 5 courses to try and fit into what has become a ‘noticeable’ extension of ‘overhang’.
Tomorrow we have a free morning to pack before flying into Laos, Another adventure awaits us there.