Cambodia

February 28th – March 6th: We spent the week in Bangkok doing what we always do: walking and eating. I’ll lump these photos in with a future Bangkok post 🙂

March 7th to 13th: We got picked up from the Siem Reap airport by tuktuk and I was so excited! I didn’t know I’d always wanted to ride in a tuktuk til we were in one.

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Thrilled!
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Our hotel (Areca Angkor Boutique Villa) had a pool! What a treat!

We had a couple of options for exploring Angkor Archeological Park: walk (ha!), rent bicycles, rent a tuktuk, or rent a taxi. Since the park is HUGE and 5km out of town, walking was out, especially in the 38°C heat. Biking was also considered but for only 10 USD more, we opted for a tuktuk rental.

The first day in Angkor, we did the Grand Circle Tour: Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah Khan Temple, and lastly Angkor Wat. The original plan was to watch the sunset from Phnom Bakheng, but after reading reviews of how horrendously busy it is, we opted for Angkor Wat. The sunset itself is not stunning from Angkor Wat but the warm sunset colours on the buildings were beautiful.

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Pre Rup
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East Mebon

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Ta Som

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Pants-less kid for scale

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The walk out to Neak Pean. It was so hot at this point! Neak Pean was interesting because it was a hospital in the middle of an artificial lake.
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Preah Khan

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At this point in the day, with the heat becoming quite intense, we went for lunch. It was a weird timing for the tour with a 4 hour break while we waited for sunset.
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Our lunch place had a termite mound inside the restaurant! Neat!
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Entering Angkor Wat. I am so glad we saved Angkor Wat for last. It is so impressive and huge that the other temples pale in comparison. Saving it for last meant that I could appreciate how cool the other temples are!
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South library (in Angkor Wat)

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The south library again

Our second day in Angkor (by tuktuk again) brought us to Angkor Wat (because it needs more than one visit!), Bayon, Baphuon, Prasat Preah Palilay, and Ta Prohm. One of the “must-do” things is to see sunrise at Angkor Wat but we opted for just after sunrise for a couple reasons: 1. The crowds were horrifying 2. Sunrise is too early 3. Sunrise is never as satisfying as sleeping. Maybe we missed out but I don’t think so 🙂

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Back to Angkor Wat
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We saw quite a few obese monkeys. Look at those rolls!! One monkey carried its fat rolls on one side, like a cape draped over its shoulder.

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Very steep!
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Bayon has around 200 smiling faces.
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So many tourists!

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Elephants do laps of Bayon.
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View from Baphuon.
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Prasat Preah Palilay was one of the most memorable stops. It is down a little path off the main road which means only a few people visit. It is overgrown and minimally restored so it is easy to imagine stumbling upon this in the jungle.

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Ta Prohm is one of the most popular temples. It has tree roots draped over many of its walls and buildings. It was also in Tomb Raider, the Angelina Jolie movie from 2001.
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This is the “line” to get your photo with the tree. Madness!

On another day we borrowed bikes from the hotel and biked to the APOPO Visitor Center. APOPO works in various countries worldwide, clearing mine fields of explosives. They use trained African giant pouched rats to detect landmines. The rats have super sensitive noses and are too light to set off the weight sensitive mines. They can clear a chunk of land that would take 4 days to clear using conventional methods in just 30 minutes!

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A demonstration: the rat started scratching where they had buried some TNT (or something that smells just like it).
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Our favourite place to eat – cheap and delicious! Les has fried rice and I’ve got lok lak (fried beef).
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Pub Street in Siem Reap is accurately named.

March 14th to 17th: We bused down to Phnom Penh, about 6 hours south.

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We really enjoyed our stay at Areca Angkor Boutique Villa! A lot of it was due to the wonderful hosts: Kathy and Khan.

While in Phnom Penh, we walked down to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Les had been twice before so he waited patiently outside while I did the audio tour. It is a former high school that was used as a torture prison by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. The prisoners and their treatment was all well documented by the Khmer Rouge. Many documents were destroyed but many still remain. It is estimated that 20,000 people were processed here (ie. tortured and sentenced to die). It is a hugely depressing place. It is horrifying that this happened and that this lack of human empathy still exists today.

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The rules of interrogation.
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A Vietnamese journalist discovered the prison in 1979 after it had been abandoned when the Khmer Rouge retreated from Phnom Penh. The remaining prisoners had been killed before the prison was abandoned. The journalist documented the gruesome discovery and the photos are on display in the corresponding rooms.
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Classrooms were turned into prison cells.
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Barbed wire was installed in the upper floors to prevent prisoners from trying to leap to their death.

It took a while to recover from the Genocide Museum.

We enjoyed walking around Phnom Penh despite the heat. There is a nice river walk where people do free aerobics/dance classes every evening. Lots of tourists wandering around. It was fun to try to guess where people are from based on stereotypes and their appearances 🙂

Next, we head back to Bangkok!

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