Angkor Wat, Siem Reap… Cambodian Nostalgia

A friend has gone to Siem Reap, Cambodia today. Listening to her plans made me nostalgic so here are some journal entries from my time there Christmas 2012.

I’ve tried posting them in reverse order so you can read from the top down. Or just dip in as you like.  Enjoy

22/12… Santa Krishna’s in Siem Reap

Sing along please:- It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… there’s tinsel on the tree and a sleigh ride for you an’ me… yep Santa’s in shop windows, carols are blaring, war maimed beggars are wearing flashing Santa hats. Incongruous enough at any time, totally bizarre in 35C heat in Buddhist Cambodia, but I guess since the world didn’t end yesterday (21/12/12) we’re here in a multi-cultural multi-faith world a little longer. Also incongruous I must say was the tinsel and mistletoe adorning the Singapore Airlines plane interior yesterday – but if it’s good enough for Singapore Airlines I guess it’s good enough for Siem Reap, so Santa Krishna’s abound (local pronunciation).

Yes, you guessed it, I have arrived in Cambodia! Lara Croft and Indiana Jones eat your hearts out – coz I’m here!

Nothing much to say actually as I’ve not done any tomb raiding yet – I believe from the signs and themed souvenirs that Angkor Wat is somewhere nearby. Continue reading “22/12… Santa Krishna’s in Siem Reap”

23/12… Lady Croft

Ok I’m struggling. Clearly Lady Croft was a lot to live up to.

The day started dark, lit only by blue and white Christmas icicles and flashing stars adorning the trees around the hotel. Hot, but festive. Full of hope. All good.

We drove in the darkness at speeds never exceeding 30km/h toward Angkor Wat, bought my entry ticket, were dropped from the car in the dark and, leaving the world of artificial light, set off like good pilgrims in darkness down a track into the unknown.

Stars pricked the velvet blackness of the predawn sky, all was silent, the outer rock wall of the temple loomed in the faint light of the guide’s cell phone. We rounded a corner and gasped, just able to discern the towers of the great temple complex against the near black sky. Motorbikes passed breaking the moment with sound and light, flashlights popped as people tried to capture the dim moment in pixels. I adjusted my ISO to max, manually focused, sat the camera on what I think was a rock wall and 8 seconds later (no flash) had a moderately focused poorly composed silhouette of Angkor Wat with the evening star bright above her spires. Should have gone home then. Continue reading “23/12… Lady Croft”

24/12… Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve and those sleigh bells are still jin jin jingling too, coz its just fabulous weather for a sleigh ride together with you. 35C and somewhat crowded in the sleigh with the 150 Malaysian Lions Club members now over running my otherwise excellent hotel. I am a grumpy old fart really (farts not to be trusted or loo opportunities missed,)

Getting a bit frustrated with these full day tours that are finished by lunch time but I guess on the bright side that leaves me free time. Maybe this is what normal people do on holiday.

You will be pleased to know that The Blue Pumpkin cafe at which I am eating lunch and using free wifi has an Argentinian Malbec that is by all accounts (the menu) unctuous, fresh and with notes of cheery. Gotta be happy with that really. Me I’m sticking to iced coffee. What is unctuous when at home? And cheery wine? Continue reading “24/12… Christmas Eve”

25/12… Best Christmas ever

Well today will take some beating for best Christmas Day ever. What a great day 🙂

I met Mr Bun (long uu pronunciation not short u like fun, don’t know that we have equivalent in English) at 630 just as it was coming light and we headed off to Ta Prom in our open air Christmas Took Took chariot (sleigh) Mr Bun’s red motorcycle helmet shining out front like Rudolph’s nose. (Pls keep all comments re my resemblance to Mrs Clause to yourself, thank you!)

Well devoid of all but a handful of early rising tourists Ta Prom was just magic and utterly engaging, even offering time for a brief solitary Namaste at the shrine set up in the middle. Much better photos (racing a bit to stay in front of a bus load of Russians who arrived later, and succeeding courtesy of the first Cambodian older than me that I’ve met to date. He wanted a $5 tip, I gave $2.) After an enjoyable, mystical hour there I felt reconciled with Tomb Raider and even had a brief chat with one of the Indian archaeologists doing restoration work on the dancing girl’s hall!

Then back to Angkor Wat and a lazy two hours climbing more steps than I’d ever care to count.

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Continue reading “25/12… Best Christmas ever”

27/12… Mr Bun, my hero

Having sacked Sok yesterday and sent the redoubtable Mr Bun an email, swum, drunk, showered and grown impatient, I went in search of Mr Bun and found the poor man emerging from his afternoon bath! Poor love. At least he was dressed.

Reunited we made a plan for tomorrow. Then I lamented aloud that I needed a book so he drove me to a bookshop – 6 secondhand books later I asked him about traditional shadow puppets. So where am I now? At a buffet ($12 all you can eat) with beer (bottle for $3) in a front row seat for shadow puppets! Well done Mr Bun!

The tension is building ladies and gentlemen, but so far I am the only patron present. I’ve seen the stage constructed. I’ve seen the electricity connected – mind the water feature with that extension cord! I’ve seen a million insects make their stage debut. I’ve finished my beer! The band is now playing a little tune some of you know well – Tiu Ning. And so with tension aplenty but precious little action I am eating, waving for another beer and marinating myself in DDT. Continue reading “27/12… Mr Bun, my hero”

29/12… Departure time

Not sure how long I’ll have to write this but since I’m also not sure when I’ll connect again I’ll try 🙂

Well I’m all checked in for my Mekong River cruise and waiting for the bus (4 hrs to the boat from here apparently ugh). Bit nervous actually 🙂 as guessed I’m the only person here so far under 60. There are quite a few walking sticks and at least one white cane. Oh there’s a younger couple. Wave!

Yesterday Mr Bun took me out through rural rice paddies and villages on a bone crunching trip to Lake Tonle Sap. I had discovered that being dry season my cruise wasn’t going there. So off I went, intrepid, not wanting to miss a thing, boarding a boat down all that’s left of a river (dried drain really), then meandering out through one of the villages that in the wet sits floor level just at the water line, but now they are 6 m above dry earth like stalks on massive legs.

Lake Tonle Sap on Stilts
Lake Tonle Sap on Stilts

Continue reading “29/12… Departure time”