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Last updated : Nov 2009
Love - Lara and Indy
Rating : ( 4.8 ) ( 11 votes )

Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Dec 20, 2003 12:00

Pros: adventurous & exciting ancient city, lots of sightseeing
Cons: none

Hi Everybody,

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 and tofu).

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.