Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Great Times in Cambodia

My first time arriving in Cambodia was by plane from Bangkok. Our approach into Siem reap airport was low and the scenery was stunning like something out of a 1960,s movie. The first thing people think of Siem reap is Angkor Wat ruins which every time you see, you see something different and it is a truly spiritual experience not to be missed. Photographers be ready!

Another must Do is a cycle trip around the ruins take the day to ride along at your own pace ensure you take water with you .If the heat gets to you at the end of the trip most tuktuks will take you and your bike back to the guesthouse.  Most guesthouses for which there are many to choose from in all price ranges will provide bike hire for the day at good prices or even free, however check your tyres before setting out!

The river running through Siem reap is also a great area to walk into town and to the main market, restaurants and bars. There is a wide variety of all facilities in the centre of town and it is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Do try the local Khmer food it really is fantastic with a true mix of flavors and spices try a *Amok*
A classic Khmer dish coconut fish steamed in banana leaves.

To travel overland into Cambodia must be the best and most interesting way to experience Cambodia if you have time. After taking the train from Hanoi South to Ho Chi Minh which is a fantastic way to see the true countryside of Vietnam plus get on and off the clickety clack train as you want to see the village’s enroute is a worthwhile trip.

The Mekong River border crossing is near the Vietnamese city of Chau Doc where you can then get the boat to Phnom Penh (5hours approx or longer on slow boat) again the scenery especially at the border on the river is stunning. After a hot and long boat trip the sight of Phnom Penh is much appreciated by all on board.

Phnom Penh being the capital is much bigger than and not as quaint as Siem Reap and again has all the attractions of bars, restaurants and facilities in the centre.

The alternative Boat route is from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on the Tonle Sap River which is fed by the Mekong. Durations of trip depend very much on the seasons. The lake sits only about 15 km south of Siem Reap town. If you take the ferry between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you will cross the lake and dock at the village of Chong Khneas. Attention this is a very big lake like being on open water so if you are not too good on boats be prepared. Also plenty of sunscreen and a hat as you may end up on top of the boats roof.

The style of Cambodia is very much “Old French” building style with the added Khmer culture which is a delightful Indochina mixture set in a tropical environment and climate.

During the stay I spent time at an orphanage in Phnom Penh where I sponsored 2 kids; there are many of these organizations throughout Cambodia where your help and time is appreciated. A lot of these kids have next to nothing but give so much and always with a smile and a hug for teacher. One tip though is don’t just hand over a few dollars to someone find out from the organization what do they really need and then go and buy it for them like that you ensure they are getting something of use and the money is spent in the good way.

Other key towns to see in Cambodia are:

Battambang:  Town is at the heart of Cambodia's rice bowl, and even though it is the country's second biggest town, it still has a very local, un-touristic atmosphere.

Sihanoukville: Was previously a port town it is the only coastal resort area of Cambodia and has a very basic feel about it. Convenient if travelling onward to Koh Kong on the west coast back into Thailand.

By Gail Thomas 

For more information about the contest, please access ATA Writing Competition 2011

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