I think I left you all at the end of our Vietnamese "gluttony" tour and you will be pleased to know we have survived and even found some lovely Cambodian restaurants to extend our tummies some more!!
We had a few lovely days in Bangkok with our friend Anthony (in his apartment in the suburbs) it was just like home, lovely home "western" cooking, swimming pool and a few lazy days, then off to Cambodia for our first visit there.
We flew direct to Siam Reap and had quite a culture shock, it was very much like Thailand 35 years ago (yes I was travelling then too), very much a nation in waiting, the scars & traumas from the Pol Pot era and all the other assorted invasions they have had over the last century (China, Vietnam, French, Thailand) are still very evident! The country has 6 million people and the average age is 23, average age of death is 53 and all this from the 2 million left after the Pol Pot era !!
70% of the nation is involved in the growing of rice and the rest pretty much tourism. We met a Swiss girl who was volunteering at an orphanage out in the country and she said the difference between the very touristy cities and the rest of Cambodia is extreme with most of the villagers still going hungry with little health care.
Siam Reap was a lot of fun, food and drinks amazingly cheap...pasta meals $3, local food even cheaper + 50c beers and $1.50 cocktails are certainly helping tourism grow! (we need to spread the word to holidaying Aussies, Cambodia needs them!). There are market stalls and shops everywhere selling all sorts of Chinese made rubbish but the local craft industries are growing rapidly and some of their goods are quite lovely. Spas & massage places are on every corner and about $10 an hour max! The hawkers, shopkeepers, Tuk Tuk drivers all wanted your business, but a smile and a firm NO send them on their way with a bigger smile on their face, in fact they are an incredible happy race considering their troubles are not that many years ago!
We stayed at a 5 star very "old world" hotel which was a great spoil at the end of this trip! The tropical torrential rains fell every evening on cue so we could sit on our balcony overlooking the pool and sip a cold one, a lot like home really!!!
But the highlight and the main reason we went to Cambodia was to see Angkor Wat & the other amazingly preserved acres of walled old cities & temples dating back to the 12th century..it was just beautiful to walk around and imagine the lifestyle of these ancient times. These places are visited by millions each year and it is good to see the government is now trying to keep on top of ongoing restoration work and now charging US $20 for entry to help with this, but still it was lovely to just wander and even touch the ancient carvings and walls, as we know, soon all this will be stopped for preservation reasons. We were very lucky as we were advised to do the tour backwards to try to avoid the thousands there each day (bus loads driving at you from all directions!) and although I won't say we were alone, we definitely had times when we were alone, as hopefully the photos show! Within these walls there was a wonderful serenity & calmness as you wandered and, surprisingly, the incredibly thick walls allow strolling in coolness that certainly wasn't on the outside! A narrow corridor surrounds the main temple and the condition of the walls, carvings, statues etc were unbelievable considering their age. The lack of many other bothersome tourists was a great bonus, so a great few hours were spent here!
We had hired a tuk tuk driver for the day at a huge cost of $15 and for this he supplied us continuously with ice cold water and iced face cloths to keep us cool between sites!!! We were joined by our above mentioned Swiss friend (she knew the driver)..so that made it $5 each!! We did give him a $10 tip & those who know me well will be shocked at that! But he truly deserved it, especially when the porter at our hotel told us he could get us a good tuk tuk driver for only $30! You do learn a lot as you travel, some days you are ahead but many others days the scams are awaiting you, part of the charm of Asia!
I am finishing this on our plane trip home, we left Singapore about an hour ago after a whirlwind 24 hour visit (as Kev has never been there). We are travelling overnight and will be back on the Gold Coast at 6am tomorrow and we are looking forward to a month in our lovely home before doing a "home swap" in the North Island of NZ with Gary & Sharyn for 2 weeks......yes our passport pages are running out, but life wasn't meant to be boring! (or spent at home it seems!).
Hope to see you all soon in some part of the country or world!!