Stupefied in Siem Reap

Our first day here was a visit to Angkor and the surrounding ruins. Robin and I had really been looking forward to this part of the trip and we were not disappointed. Angkor Wat is truly deserving of its wonder of the world status. The fact that you are allowed to walk all through it and over it is more amazing still in this day and age. The ruins of the city are spread over 200 hectares. Angkor Thom – known to most as the temple of doom or the set of Tomb raider was just phenomenal. Trees growing out of all different points of the temple as the jungle slowly takes back it’s rightful space. We continued on to explore the mystical Bayon adorned with faces. The night market area was our preferred eating spot in Siem Reap, so we found yet another great Khmer restaurant in one of the little alleyways. A meal of BBQ frogs legs, luklok, and was nicely topped off with a tomb raider or 2 – I think I have become addicted to these in the last 4 days! Then it was time for a look around the market before a quick tuktuk ride home, to ready ourselves for tomorrow’s early start to the orphanage.

Jemima & Oliver were excited to meet the children and we were warmly greeted at the gate. Clare, the director of the orphanage, had already educated us on the history, the children and their basic needs before we left Australia. However it was still a massive culture shock to see just how poor they are and how little they survive on. They are NGO and therefore rely solely on donations of time and goods to survive. To see their reaction and receive such large smiles to the relatively small amount of gifts we brought with us was both heartening and humbling at the same time. 

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So much more needs to be done here and the personal stories of the children just break your heart. Despite all of this the children are resilient, they laugh, they play and have an absolute love of learning. Ka Sol, a 14 year old boy told us his dream to one day become a tour guide & earn enough money to keep a family of his own ( the guides are top earners at approx $100 USD/month) Our day ends with a much greater understanding of the enduring legacy of the Pol Pot regime.

Quad biking was Oliver’s main focus while we were here. We had a great day on the bikes traveling through picturesque rice paddies and small villages. The local children are gorgeous running out at the sound of the bikes madly waving and shouting hello. To the kids great delight it had poured down during the night and so mud puddles were the order of the day! Needless to say we all came back brown.  Jemima’s highlight in Siem Reap was the morning horse riding through rice paddies and Angkor ruins. A lovely relaxing way to see the countryside although Robin & Oliver weren’t near as confident on the horses as they had been on the bikes! They are only Cambodian ponies so they only get to approx 21 hands. It has definitely left Jemima even more determined to start pony club as soon as we get back.

Kompong Phhluk was our port of call today. Only 16km from Siem Reap it took us over an hour and a half to get there due to the state of the ungraded dirt tracks our poor had to traverse over. You can see why most tourist don’t make it this far! The next part of the journey was by boat up to the flood plains of Tonle Sap. The homes of this large village are on stilts, some 10 metres high at the beginning of the monsoon as they are now. By September these houses will have water lapping at the floor boards. The village survive on fishing in the lake which they are only now allowed to do in the rainy season. So for 6 months of the year it is net fishing only. Tonle Sap lake is the life blood of Cambodia. It supplies more than half the fish consumed in this country. is just amazing. It is so large that you can’t see the other side and we didn’t see it at full capacity! Cambodia is such a poor country financially but in our short time here we have met some of the happiest and certainly friendliest people in our travels.

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