Keeping it Riel

Trip Start Jan 23, 2012
Trip End Jun 09, 2012

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, March 1, 2012

We left Bangkok early for our trip to Cambodia, first we sorted out the formalities and got our VISA and then it was onto the border.  On the Thai side of the border there was a massive market and once we were in Cambodia there were tons of Casinos - due to the religion in Thailand it is illegal to gamble so they come to the border and into Poipet in Cambodia to gamble.  After a few more hours on a coach and a lunch stop we reached Siem Reap mid afternoon.  In the evening our guide Pok took us to visit New Hope, a charity in Cambodia focused on teaching English, providing medical care and helping those in poverty and supported by G Adventures.  We visited the old school and one room medical centre, while local children played with us before visiting the new school, with a larger medical facility and out reach section.  At the new school we were shown around and invited to take part in one of the English lessons.  The children in the class were a mixture of ages and all seemed to take great interest and have fun while learning how to describe people in English.  Unfortunately organisations like New Hope are needed in Cambodia due to poverty and dealing with the affect effects of the Khmer Rouge (more on the next blog about this) leading to lack of medical care for adults and poor education.

The following day we woke at 4.30am to catch a tuk tuk into Angkor and watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  It was a very beautiful pink sunrise but definitely difficult to stay awake!  Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Angkor and has a concentric gallery of stone carvings (known as a bas relief) depicting the story of Lanka.  There were three levels to this temple with the top level being a square with the famous towers on each corner and in the centre.  

Throughout the day we visited a further 4 temples, Preach Khan (a Buddhist temple with a network of entry ways with courtyards of to the sides), Bayon (part Hindi, part Buddhist temple famously known for its towers of four Buddhas), Baphuon (pyramid temple that has only recently finished being renovated and is very steep) and Ta Prohm (the famous temple from the film Tomb Raider that is also being taken over dramatically by nature).  

Between the temples there were similarities, such as the three levels, the bas relief concentric galleries (e.g. Bayon's gallery showed what life was like doing the time of the Angkorian period) and the fact that they were all constructed using massive blocks of limestone and sandstone.  All the temples of Angkor were built between 8th and 12th centuries and the city of Angkor Thom at the time housed 1 million people (at a time when London only housed 50,000!).  Therefore the size of Angkor is unbelievable, so much that we were very glad to have a tuk tuk drive us between the different temples, particularly as it was very hot, something like 41C! 

In the evening we visited Temple Bar on Pub Street (a street full of restaurants and bars) for dinner which included traditional Khmer dancing.  Our favourites were the coconut shell dance and the Palin Peacock dance while enjoying local cusine of Lok Lak (similar to beef in oyster sauce) and Amok (similar to green curry).  Afterwards we wandered around the massive night markets of Siem Reap and even though very tired had to enjoy a drink on Pub Street as beer was only $0.50!!  Although Siem Reap was touristy, Neill and I really enjoyed Siem Reap and would have been nice to stay another day, but the next day we grabbed a local bus to Phnom Penh.
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