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Siem Reap - Cambodia

Our family holiday was to Penang in Malaysia for nearly a week and then a sidetrip to Cambodia to visit the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. The Malaysia part was to attend a friends 50th birthday party in his birthplace of Penang so watch this space for a first hand story about Penang and how it has changed over the years.

Our Cambodia sidetrip started with a short flight from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap on Air Asia which was on time, uneventful and very comfortable, contrary to what I had heard about cut priced airlines in Asia ! On arrival we got our visa, went through customs and within an hour we were checked in at our hotel.

Siem Reap is very popular tourist destination with a huge range of hotels that are incredibly good value. Our one had comfortable rooms, excellent facilities and very friendly staff but the most important feature of any stay in Cambodia is a large swimming pool as the temperature was 37 degrees !! We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool and taking advantage of the swim up bar !!

Up early the next day it was time to see the ruins of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat stands for City Temple and is only 5 kms from the city centre. These 12th century ruins are just amazing and I felt priviledged to be able to see them. To give you an idea of the size and scale of the site – It covers 203 acres , the outer wall is virtually a kilometer in each direction and it is all surrounded by a moat that is 200meters wide ! The tour guide was very knowledgable and went through the history of the area, details about construction and its importance to the Cambodian people. I just couldn’t believe the intricacy of the work and how it could have been achieved in the 12th century !

Early afternoon we went back to our hotel for a bit of a break before hitting the night markets. The kids were in heaven buying & bargaining for trinkets and the people were so friendly even if we didn’t always give them the price they were after !

The next day we did a tour to a floating fishing village and went out on a boat on Tonle Sap Lake. This is where the real Cambodia is. The people here are incredibly poor but are proud and extremely resourceful. I guess you have to be with so many competing to make enough money to live!! The lake (which varys from 2700 sq km to 16000 sq km depending on monsoons!) is crucial to the economy as it supports 3 million people and provides 75 % of the countries fish catch!! We had an amazing day which was full of mixed emotions . It was a real eye opener (particularly for our kids) to see how the people live here and I think it certainly made them appreciate how fortunate they are to live in NZ.

Up early the next day to visit a couple more temples (Ta Prohm where they filmed the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie and also the 10th century Banteay Srey) These were obviously not as vast as Angkor Wat but were really interesting and quite different. After lunch in a local restaurant we did some shopping in the afternoon and then back to the hotel for yet another dip in the pool. A lovely evening meal was followed by an early night before our morning flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

In summary our short sidetrip to Siem Reap was all we had hoped it would be with the visit to Angkor Wat the absolute highlight. It is a very hot & busy place with all the sights & smells of Asia but we always felt safe and welcome and enjoyed every minute of it !!

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