- Lara and Indy
( 4.8 ) ( 11 votes )
Dec 20, 2003 12:00
adventurous & exciting ancient city, lots of sightseeing
Greetings from the beach! We are now enjoying a much-deserved break
on the beaches of southwestern Cambodia after non-stop exploration
and tomb raiding throughout the rest of the country.
The adventure began with our flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem
Reap (ok, it was really pretty cush, but this just helps the story
flow better). Siem Reap, a city situated in the midst of dense jungle
is the gateway to Angkor, the former Khmer capital. From the airport,
we met our local contact that would guide us through this dangerous
ancient city (ok, so Dara, our guide, met us with a sign at the
airport and whisked us away in an air-conditioned minivan to our
very comfortable guesthouse).
On our first evening, we scaled a mountain (steep hill) to the remnants
of a temple where we watched the sunset over Angkor Wat, the largest
and most well preserved temple in the vast Angkor complex. While
the sun was setting, Dara enlightened us on the history, mode of
construction, and Hindu religious significance of the temple remains.
Excited for our next three days of exploration and discovery at
the side of our savvy and competent local guide, we headed back
to the teeming marketplace for our dinner of monkey brains and insects
(gourmet marinated fish in coconut shell with a side of eggplant
We spent the next three days tomb raiding (walking around) the ancient
ruins. Some temples, like Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, are preserved
in excellent condition. The external temple walls are covered in
bas reliefs depicting Hindu legends and Khmer daily life, while
the restored insides provide a sense of the strength and grandeur
of the ancient Khmer civilization. However, some temples are not
so well preserved and have been completely overtaken by the unrelenting,
encroaching jungle. Exploring these "jungle" temples is
truly amazing. The whole experience feels like walking through the
movie set of "Tomb Raider" or "Raiders of the Lost
Ark." Piles of rubble are intermixed with doorways draped with
massive roots and vines. Wandering around I had to watch out for
booby traps (souvenir vendors) and natives with blow guns (Japanese
tour groups with cameras). This was enhanced by Jordan constantly
whistling the Indiana Jones theme and jumping around like a mad
man. I think he may have actually scared Dara when he asked where
he could get a whip, fedora and leather jacket.
Beyond the temple exploration, the highlights of our three days
included watching sunrise over Angkor Wat, watching sunset every
evening from different temple vantage points while learning about
Cambodian life, politics and history from Dara, and traveling outside
Siem Reap to visit the "River of 1,000 Lingas" in a national
park. Overall, our time in Angkor was absolutely spectacular and
Dara and his family could not have been more welcoming even inviting
us for dinner on our last night.
From Siem Reap we caught the fast boat to the capital, Phnom Penh.
Now being well acquainted with large characterless cities in South
East Asia, we felt no need to spend anymore time here then absolutely
necessary. Thus, we embarked on our whirlwind Khmer Rouge/Cambodian
macabre tour. This included seeing the Killing Fields, site of mass
graves used by the Khmer Rouge to dump torture victims during their
devastating four-year rule between 1975-1979 and S-21 the former
high school converted into torture center/jail. While it was horrible,
we felt the need to be witness to such atrocity and to better understand
the devastation that took place in Cambodia during those years.
So, what does one do after such a depressing thing? Go to the beach.
Besides, we needed to recoup after all of our tomb raiding. So,
here we sit on the white sand beaches of Sihanoukville. It's a tough
life. We spend our days swimming in the ocean, sitting on the beach,
and eating - beach vendors bring fresh fruit, steamed lobster and
grilled squid right to my lounge chair. We spend our evenings watching
the sun set hanging out on the balcony of our bungalow just steps
from the beach. It is just as every adventure movie should end -
with the heroes contentedly gazing into the sunset with a tropical
drink in hand.
Lara and Indy
PS. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all! We hope you are all
having a wonderful time with families, friends, etc. wherever you
may be and whatever you may be doing.