Archive for January, 2014

Summary of Vietnam and Cambodia trip

The three of us have had a wonderful 13 days in Vietnam and Cambodia.  We have been extremely lucky with good weather for the entire time we were away – some days were a bit overcast or foggy/smoggy – and while it was certainly warm, it wasn’t excessively hot or humid.  We stayed healthy and had no major issues.  We ate well (maybe too well) and enjoyed meeting Vietnamese and Cambodian people, learning about their culture and day-to-day lives.

For the two of us, this was our first adventure into Asia (Eenie has travelled in other parts of Asia several times before) and while we found some of the visits to poorer communities to be a bit heart-wrenching, we thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience.  This is the second trip that we have done with APT and we are very impressed with the standard of the tour as well as their attention to detail.

The modes of transport on this trip were quite different to any on our previous trips – we travelled by planes, coach buses, local buses, river boat, small local boats, cyclos, rickshaws, tuk-tuks and elephants!!  One of the many highlights of our trip was our tour around Saigon in a cyclo in morning peak hour traffic!  We found Saigon to be an amazing city, particularly with the festive decorations and atmosphere just prior to Christmas and this was where we experienced our first huge local market.

We really all thoroughly enjoyed our time on the RV AMA Lotus. As we had previously discovered in Europe, touring in this form meant that we were able to unpack and use the boat as a base where we could be assured of good meals, great service and when we went on shore excursions, we only needed to take our hat, water bottle and camera. We visited many villages and small towns and were able to see how people in Vietnam and Cambodia actually live.  We also enjoyed the times when we just floated along the river and were able to see little villages and river traffic floating by.

We loved exploring the ancient temples in Siem Reap and hearing many stories of ancient times.  We were amazed at how big the temples are and also how well-preserved they are.

We were surprised that everywhere we went we were greeted by people who gave us the impression that although they are poor, they are happy.  Most appear to work extremely hard for very little financial gain and under very poor conditions.

While we missed being with our family at Christmas, we were blessed to have had such an amazing experience.

Our photos are now in the gallery on our blog.

Day 12 Wednesday 1 January Sunrise over Angkor Wat

Today was an early start with a wake up call at 4.10am so that we could get ready for our short bus trip to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  We walked from the buses with the aid of a torch each and gathered around the lily pond in front of Angkor Wat, with thousands of others, and waited patiently.  The last few days have been quite overcast and foggy/smogy/smokey but we were quietly confident that we may get some spectacular views/photos because the sky was clear and we could see thousands of stars. APT had organized champagne, tea and coffee and a biscuit while we waited.  

As the sky started to change colour, we took lots of photos and were extremely excited when the sun appeared behind one of the five towers!!!  At one stage, Richard was leaning over the pond, with his foot balanced on a rock in the pond, taking photos, which were well-worth his acrobatics!!

The area of Angkor Wat inside the moat is 1.5km by 1.3km and is made of up several galleries and an esplanade or avenue area around the 5 temples.

At about 7.20am, our guide gathered us together and we walked up into Angkor Wat, past the incredible Gallery where many stories were depicted in the reliefs that were carved into the stone.  There were also over 3000 Apsara (nymphs) carved into walls throughout the site.

We climbed up several stairs into the Central Temple area – there are 3 storeys, which enclose a square surrounded by galleries.  The stairs to the upper level (Bakan) were extremely steep (because reaching the kingdom of gods was no easy task) and was well-worth the climb!  There were so many rooms with views of the temples and of other parts of Angkor Wat, as well as extensive views over the whole area.

Our photos are not going to be able to do the absolutely brilliant scenes justice nor will our words ever be able to describe just how amazing Angkor Wat is!!

The buses returned us to the Sofitel at 9.30am for breakfast and then we met up with Eenie to organize what we would do for the rest of the day until we are collected at 4.00pm for our transfer to the airport.

This is our last post from Cambodia  – we will do a summary of our trip and post the rest of our photos when we get home.

Day 11 Tuesday 31 December. Siem Reap

This morning the bus took us to the World Heritage listed Angkor Archaelogical Park where we explored the temple of the 12th century Bayon, which is surrounded by a deep moat.  Bayon was built with 6 metre deep foundations of rock, which was floated to the area along the waterways – elephants pulled the floats and hauled the blocks into position.

Our bus stopped in a car park and we transferred to a smaller shuttle bus because the bigger buses don’t fit through the South Gate entrance, which was carved out of rock and only big enough to fit elephant with the king and his crown on its back.

We walked through the galleries where there were stories carved into the rock and we were able to climb up several levels and look down over the site and into some of the older passageways and rooms of the temple.

We were amazed at the size of the site and were impressed with how well preserved it is – one can only speculate at its original grandeur!

From Bayon, we drove past the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King back to our original bus for the 20 minute trip back to the hotel.

The area that we visited today is only one of many such sites in and around Siem Reap.  The whole area is one of Cambodia’s most popular tourist attractions and on the two occasions that we have now been into the Archaelogical Park, we have been overwhelmed by the number of other tourists that have been sharing this experience with us.

After lunch at the hotel, the three us caught a Tuk Tuk to explore the Old Markets.  These markets were similar to those in Saigon and Phnom Penh and needless to say, a few more things jumped into our shopping bag.

We spent the rest of the afternoon posting our blogs and photos now that we have fast internet that cope with uploading photos.

Tonight was our Farewell Dinner, which we had around the pool, with all the other guests at the Sofitel to celebrate New Year. The hotel provided entertainment in the form of circus performers who performed different acts at different locations amongst the guests.  We celebrated New Year at the same time that our family would be celebrating it in Brisbane and shortly after that, we came back to our room to finish our blog for today, post it and also the photos that we took yesterday and today.