Day 9 Sunday 29 December. Wat Hanchey, Kampong Cham

Our shore excursion this morning was great.  The ship nosed into the bank again and we were assisted off the ship and up the steep bank by the crew.  The two of us and the rest of “the yellow family” (this is what our guide calls our group) followed our guide, Lovy, up a fairly step path to the top of the hill to explore Wat Hanchey, a beautiful hilltop pagoda, overlooking the Mekong River.  The pagoda is made up of many buildings where the monks worship, learn, eat and live.  We saw an old temple that was built from sandstone in the 6th – 7th Century, characterising the architecture of the Chenla Empire, which predated the Angkor period.

We wandered around the large hilltop area, looking at all the buildings and hearing about the history of the pagoda. We saw some monks sitting on the back of a truck and when Lovy asked them where they were going, he was told that they were heading off to the village to collect food (probably just rice) for their lunch and then the monks would not be allowed to eat for the rest of the day.  Wat Hanchey is on the bend of the river and there is a huge island opposite, in the middle of the river, which has paddy rice farms belonging to the village.

Two little girls, Sieyne and Sieylan, both aged 10, attached themselves to the two of us when we disembarked the AMA Lotus and walked with us the whole way.  Sieyne spoke some English as she is having English classes but Sieylan’s family could not afford for her to learn English.  They were very happy when Richard showed them the photos that he had taken of them and Sandy together! They were very grateful to receive a pen and exercise book from us for school. Sieyne told us that they do not have to attend school on Sundays but they go to school on all the other days.

When we had finished exploring, we walked back down to the ship via 380 steps, where we were met by the crew who assisted us down the slope to the gangplank and then other crew members welcomed us back on board with the usual cold face washer and cold fruit juice drink.

The AMA Lotus continued her journey along the Mekong River and tied up at Kampong Cham.  The three of us boarded our bus for a tour of Kampong Cham. We visited the Twin Holy mountains and our first stop was at the boy hill, Phnom Pro Mountain, where there was a large pagoda, with several monkeys hanging around – we were very wary of them because we were told that sometimes they try to pinch your glasses or camera and we certainly didn’t want to get bitten or scratched either. Our guide told us the historical information about the pagoda while we toured the many buildings, which was quite interesting.

From there we walked down to the Monkey Garden where there were many statues of the Lady Wings and statues of Buddha through the ages as well as a big gold Buddha posed in the “teachings’ pose.  We also saw a reclining gold Buddha and visited a temple where there was an 80 year old man who found one of the mass graves of people who were killed in the killing fields. He said several members of his family were killed.

The bus then took us to a sandstone Buddhist temple built in the 12th century to honour Buddha.  We walked through the temple of three galleries and saw a Bunyan tree that was over 100 years old.

On the way back to the ship, Lovy asked the driver to stop the bus so we could get out and take a photo of a bamboo bridge being built.

We had our AM Lotus farewell dinner tonight and were served a special dessert that the waiters paraded, carrying sparklers and with the lights turned off, through the dining room. We thoroughly enjoyed our last day on the AMA Lotus.

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