5 of us, Michael, Kristen, Yoni, Annette and myself signed up for a 4 days and 3 nights tour to Cambodia! Woot!
We went on a Vietnamese tour with Star Asia Travel for around $185. We traveled by coach bus with a group of about 25 people. The tour price included everything from transportation, accommodation (at 4 and 5 star hotels), meals, entrance fees, etc.
All in all, the trip was great! I was really happy with the quality of our tour for the price we paid. There were a few endearing people on the same tour as us, although the majority of them needed to learn some manners and behave more civilized!
Left Saigon in the weee early morning (5:30am) and headed to the border (Moc Bai). Stopped for breakfast along the way and had “Banh Canh Gio Heo” (gio heo = pig trotter) which I don’t really like…
Our bus was really blue and colourful
As expected, we got our complimentary gift – tacky hats!
You can try Yoni… but you can never really be cool with a tour hat on your head
Good bye Vietnam, hello Cambodia!
As soon as we crossed over the border, there were casinos everywhere! Casinos are illegal in VN, which explains it 🙂
View at the restroom stop on the way to Siem Riep!
Stopped in Kom Pong Cham for lunch!
Then continued on to Siem Riep… with Yoni watering the rubber trees along the way! (Haha, sorry Yoni)
Stopped at Kompong Kdei Bridge – the longest of 10 ancient bridges between between the Siem Reap Town and the Kampong Thom provincial boundary. It is 80m long and 14m wide with 21 axes.
Continued heading to Siem Riep, seeing the sunset from the bus. We checked into Angkor Holiday Hotel (4*) and headed out to dinner – ending the night early back at the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel… I love buffet breakfasts. Here are some views of our hotel
Then off to see many sights!
First up, Angkor Thom! The last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. We entered via the South gate and then proceeded to the Bayon, the state temple at the centre of the city.
Elephants by the gate… so cute!
Heading to the South gate
Into the gate!
Next up was Ta Phrohm Temple! Located about 1km East of Angkor Thom, this was a site of filming for the movie Tomb Raider. My favourite were the huge beautiful trees jutting out of the buildings.
The enormous tree growing out of the structure
Then Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building! Such lovely scenery as you walk in, along with monkeys everywhere!
Many Inukshuk-like structures made by others
I wasn’t allowed up because my shirt apparently didn’t have sleeves that covered my shoulder… *sniffs*
Eww, gross water!
A break followed, with an opportunity to visit a poor Vietnamese village at Bien Ho. We declined to rest instead.
In the afternoon we headed up a 65m hill to Phnom Bakheng a Hindu temple mountain. Apparently, it is a hugely popular tourist attraction for its sunset views so we were anxious to arrive early in time for sunset. Boy were we mistaken. After going up the hill as fast we could, we were confronted with a huge lineup to head up the vertical stairs to the temple. Sunset would occur any minute now and they were going to start turning away tourists in 10 minutes… no! Luckily, they started letting people up more quickly and in larger groups, we began to move up the line. Once we got to the front of the line, the employee divided up our group. Michael and I could go up, the rest had to leave because they were closing. After telling him that we were together as a group, he let us in and we frantically climbed up the stairs to the top of the temple.
Boy, we were disappointed. Sunset wasn’t even picture worthy because it was cloudy 😦 You could, however, see Tonle Sap Lake and Angkor Wat, which was cool.
View from halfway down the mountain
In the end, we grabbed a few pictures and then headed back down. By the time we got to the bottom, it was pitch black!
Time for dinner… buffet at a huge restaurant where we also saw a traditional Khmer (Apsara) dance.
Go back to hotel and sleep!
Breakfast and then checkout to head to Phnom Penh!
After lunch, we went to the Royal Palace.
In particular, we visited the Silver Pagoda. It’s too bad we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside! The description of the pagoda is exactly like this.
Checked into Nagaworld Hotel (5*) with a casino downstairs… awesome! Haha
We had some time off before dinner so decided to hire a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) for a ride around town, so fun!
We also stopped by Phnom Penh Central Market Phsa Thmay.
Ended the night with a few drinks, a stop at the casino, and eating crickets and spiders… yum!
Buffet breakfast with THE most delicious cinnamon swirl pastries I’ve ever had. I think we each had at least 3… I know I had 4.
Next on our itinerary was shopping at the Central Market, which we had already visited last night. Instead, we opted to go visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – a former high school complex that was used as the Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. It was a very solemn visitation, with reminders posted on the walls not to joke or laugh during the tour.
Tombs of the last 14 victims slain who were discovered by the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea
Faces of only a few who were tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge regime
Barbed wire to stop prisoners from attempting suicide
Some of the cells in the prisons
Shackle and torture devices
Out of an estimated 17 000 people imprisoned, only these 7 are known to have survived.
Remains of victims
Vandalism on pictures of Khmer Rouge leaders who are now on trial for genocide
And that marked the end of our Cambodia tour. We began to head back to Moc Bai border, stopping for a last meal (buffet again!) together on the way.