Off to Cambodia
May 26, 2016
|Up at a reasonable hour for once and down to a crowded breakfast room. Run into the other tour folks who are leaving tonight and said bye. Then back to the room and pack. We have a scale sent up from the front desk and weigh our bags (44 pound limit per bag) and shift a lot of stuff around and fill our backpacks full of the heavy stuff. We finally get it down to the right weight after discarding lots of stuff and wearing my jeans.
Down to the lobby at 11:30 and meet Peter, then pack up the van and off to the airport. Peter goes with us to the check in counter and drops us at security where we thank him for the great tour and into the line. We get through with our shoes on!
We make our way to the gate with a stop at Burger King for lunch (long chicken sandwich) but the flight was delayed. We left the airport about an hour late and got on a bus that took us to the plane. Plane itself was half empty. They brought us a box lunch with water, half a sandwich and a bun, all in a nice box.
The flight was uneventful into Siem Reap. We walked across the tarmac and found a guy with a China Spree sign who greeted us and took our passports for our visas. We went to get our luggage and by the time it arrived the visas were ready. We were then escorted through customs (they took our forms and didn’t even look at us) and were introduced to our guide for the trip – Phroney - which he informed us was his nickname (meaning Serenity) as he was a Buddhist monk for nine years.
We drove off to the hotel and he was explaining how he would change the itinerary as there was a holiday so we go to Angkor Wat tomorrow instead of Saturday. There was some confusion about an optional tour but we got that straight.
We arrived at the Victoria Angkor Resort which is in the middle of Siem Reap, right on a major park and across from the Royal Palace. The place was an old French Colonial hotel built in the 1920s and still has the feel of the colonial period. Dark wood, inner courtyard, tiles in the floor, old elevator. Made me want to go out and oppress someone… We were met with cool towels and a welcoming drink. We had an adjoining room with Alice but will keep the doors locked.
After an hour or so to relax we met Phroney in the lobby to go to dinner. He talked about the country and the reign of Khmer Rouge and how they had destroyed the culture in only three years. He lost his father and four other relatives in that period. But now the country is coming back and regaining its culture – and tourism is now one of the largest industries.
We got to the Crystal Angkor Restaurant and had a set menu which was quite nice. We had the local beer too, which tasted like beer. The drinks we had to pay for in dollars, which are apparently accepted just as readily as reils here (one dollar is 4,000 reils).
The dinner was followed by a traditional dance show called Apsara. Women and men in traditional costumes performing the traditional dance with intricate and difficult hand motions. There were five dances all together, starting with the Blessing Dance, then the Coconut Shells dance (probably not traditional but quite well coordinated) then a dance of good versus evil (good won with the aid of a crystal ball!), a peacock dance and the finale the Apsara dance, depicted on the walls of the temple at Angkor Wat, celebrating the goddess Apsaramera. Amazing hands
Once it was over we had our pictures taken with the dancers then headed back to the hotel. The streets were quite festive with many different colored lights. This promises to be quite the adventure!