Happy New Year. Welcome to the year of the Dog.
We left the luxury of the Raffles hotel in Siem Reap and took some country roads to our first temple at Beng Mealea. It was built on an extensive site at a similar time to Angkor. Now it is very overgrown and there is a boardwalk through the site. Owing to it being the Chinese New Year, it was crawling with Chinese tourists.
Returning to our cars we drove a broad, well-maintained road North to Preah Vihear. Our hotel was fairly remote and Claire the agent had arranged for a team of students from the Siem Reap cookery school to come up and cook lunch, dinner and breakfast for us. They were all very keen. The school has 300 pupils each year and such is the demand from growing hotels in Siem Reap that they all find jobs easily when they qualify.
After lunch we drove to a car park below the ancient temples of Preah Vihear on top of a steep hill. We were taken up in 4x4’s and enjoyed a lovely visit to this remote site, far away from the crowds- a big contrast to the morning. From the entrance staircase you look down into Thailand and from the highest point, join the monkeys to look down a high sheer cliff to the ground below on the Cambodian side. There are still soldiers up at the Temple as Thailand has not fully accepted the 1962 and subsequent UN ruling that this is Cambodian territory. We stayed until closing time at 5.30 and enjoyed the evening light on the impressive walls and beautiful carving of the temple. It was a lovely way to end the day.