I was excited to be heading to Cambodia, not least because our hotel was collecting us from the airport – no waiting for airport taxis….these little things add up 🙂
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the hotel because it was cheap – £23 a night, but they sounded lovely, they had been in touch to say they would be giving us a bigger room in recognition of us having a child and needing extra space – who does that?!
The hotel was called HanumanAlaya and had a Villa where we were at one location and a Colonial House close by. Our location was small and perfect! Our room was really big with a living area and two beds, one a King size four poster, and both with gorgeous white organza drapes to keep the mosquitos out. The bathroom had a freestanding stone bath tub and a large walk in shower too. The only downside was that it was fully open plan – no doors to the bathroom…..I was grateful I’d taught Ethan what privacy meant before the trip 🙂
The biggest and I guess only reason for coming to Siem Reap was to see Angkor Wat, a temple complex, the largest religious site in the world, dating back to the 12th century. It is rich in history having been a Hindu temple then a Buddhist one and surviving wars which left their scars in the form of deformed statues and ruins.
Although we were keen to see these temples, it wasn’t the only thing we wanted to do so we purchased a 3 day pass which we could use across the space of the week we were there. Looking through some TripAdvisor forums, it seemed there were a lot of TukTuk drivers advertising themselves, it seemed a good idea to reach out to one who spoke English and reviewed well. After contacting a few who were fully booked, I found a really nice guy named Chantra who spent a couple of days with us.
We visited Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple first, and it was really impressive, especially the big trees but it didn’t feel as spiritual as I was expecting, it was like walking around any monument, stopping to take photos, and moving on to the next stop. Perhaps it was because it was so unbearably hot and humid, the sun was relentless. Thankfully Ethan didn’t complain at all, he was happy to climb over the ruins and impressed by the size of the trees.
Angkor Wat was an impressive large temple, but again, just a lot of stopping to take photos, there was a buddhist monk sitting in there though who beckoned Ethan over and tied a red string around his wrist while chanting prayers and blessing him with holy water. Ethan loves anything of this nature – years of exposure by my mum, I think – so he was very happy to have received his blessed string.
We decided to pair Angkor Wat with a boat village tour, this ended up being the highlight for me. We were driven around an hour and then transported via a boat along the river that the village is formed around. The houses are built high up on stilts to keep them off the hot ground, this also provides the occupants with shade under the house in the daytime to relax in. We learned that they woke very early to fish in the river or work in the paddy fields, so slept in the afternoons. It was fascinating watching children as young as Ethan climb up into their houses on the steep ladders.
We saw women carrying water from the river up on the ladders to wash clothes and kitchenware with, and children swimming and playing in the river too. Back at home, the river would be deemed unsanitary but out here it was evidently the lifeline of the community. Seeing a group of young boys using a piece of discarded plastic as a half-sized surf board in the murky brown water, having the time of their lives was a very humbling experience and a great life lesson for Ethan.
Another lesson came unexpectedly when we stopped at a floating restaurant in the middle of the river where they kept crocodiles, snakes and rabbits in a trap, fattening them up ready to cook. It enabled Ethan to understand the concept of eating meat, as a Vegetarian family, it’s important that he makes conscious decisions if he decides to eat meat when he is older.
We were also able to visit a local school – complete with a woman selling packs of extortionately priced colouring in books to give to the kids – tourist trap came to mind. The children were exceptionally well behaved and reminded me of the children in the India school, they were almost robotic, sitting perfectly, no fidgeting or chattering. It made me feel sad in all honestly, they just didn’t seem like children.
There was one more place I wanted to see, The Elephant Terrace, it was a viewing platform on top of sculpted elephant heads. It was as beautiful as it looked in photos, it also had a little maze which Ethan enjoyed walking through and it was walkable to Bayon, the smiling faces temple and the route passed another temple which had steep steps to climb up to a higher level.
Siem Reap was a good mixture of activity and down time in the pool, eating or walking around markets, we used Happy Cow to locate vegetarian restaurants and managed to find plenty of food – making up for the lack of in Thailand. I fell in love with Khmer food, it has layers of fragrant spices, with lots of coconut and lemongrass flavours.
I was also lucky enough to have Mother’s Day out there and Lee made a lot of effort in giving me the perfect day, manicure, pedicure, hair colouring, afternoon tea and a delicious buffet dinner with Apsara dance performance at the Sofitel Hotel.
We were lucky to have this relaxing week before heading to Vietman which was going to be a busy schedule.