A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore - Brisbane - Canberra - Saturday, 11 February 2017

Home again, home again, jiggity jog!

sunny 42 °C

The six hour wait in Singapore went relatively quickly, especially for Elfie and me as we were both coming to the end of very interesting books. Phil and I went "looking" for a new, updated Samsung Tablet, after the cracking of the screen incident. There are two later versions of mine, but they are ridiculous. One update doesn't even have a flash for the camera! And the camera is now located on the side, right where you hold the tablet to take photos. Lot of hand shots would be the result of that. They were both a bit thinner than my tablet but mine is thin enough for me. At least I have something to hold onto. Sorry - no sale!

We boarded on time, then taxied to the runway and there we sat and sat and sat, for at least 20 minutes while planes landed and took off - at least eight, if not more. Phil had watched half a movie before we were even in the air!

Our seats became flat, full length beds, so as soon as we took off, I snuggled down and went to sleep, after all, it was about 3.00 am Australian time. Phil slept quite a bit too but I woke up a few times during the night because it was cold, even under thd blanket.

Breakfast over, we landed in Brisbane at 9.45 am and breezed our way through Customs and Immigration, did some Duty Free shopping, called into the Transfer Desk and got our boarding passes for our flight to Canberra, all before Ingrid and Elfi appeared.

Kisses and hugs goodbye before they found their driver and we hopped on the transfer bus to the Domestic Terminal. Now having lunch in the Virgin lounge before our ─║ast leg at 2.00 pm.

We arrived in Canberra at 4.30 pm, and our limo driver was waiting in the terminal for us, all dressed up in a suit and it was 42 degrees outside!! Half the garden is dead and the grass is brown and crunchy.

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Now back into the routine of washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and work!

We had a great month away. Met some lovely people and saw some amazing things. Would highly recommend cruising the Irrawaddy and the Mekong, but only with Scenic, of course!

Posted by gaddingabout 17:18 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Siem Reap - Singapore Airport - Friday, 10 February 2017

Bye bye Cambodia

sunny 38 °C

Great sleep last night and for the first time in a long time, we woke up naturally, without having to worry about setting the alarm. All packed, now going for a late breakfast.

We checked out a bit early and went down to say goodbye to David and Margaret and Peter and Yvonne who are continuing on to Laos. Then our lovely black limo arrived and we had a smooth 15 minute ride to the airport.

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Check in, immigration and security were a breeze and now we are sitting in the Silk Air lounge waiting to board our flight. Ingrid and Elfie weren't allowed to come in as our guests, but we will try again in Singapore as we are there for six hours.

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I glanced up at the departure board and noticed our flight was boarding but it was a long time before the flight was due to go so we wandered into the terminal to find Elfi and Ingrid, who had noticed the boarding sign too, but weren't in a hurry. So we ambled to Gate 5 and suddenly found ourselves being ushered onto the tarmac and into the plane. Gosh, we thought, we nearly missed the flight! But the boarding process seemed to confuse a lot of other people too as they drifted onto the plane in dribs and drabs. Finally, when everyone was on board, we took off, 11 minutes before it was due to leave!!

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Bye bye Siem Reap.

The flight to Singapore was two hours and we were served a three course meal. Pity I wasn't hungry. Dozed and read my book and before we knew it we landed in Singapore.

We now have a six hour wait so we went up to the SilverKris Business Class Lounge and asked if Elfi and Ingrid could come in too. I am allowed one guest on my Platnium Virgin Card but the girl at the desk was SO nice and let both of them in.

Posted by gaddingabout 18:18 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Siem Reap - Thursday, 9 February 2017

Sunrise at Angkor Wat with a glass of champagne. What could be better?

sunny 38 °C

Up very, very early this morning - alarm went off at 4.20 am! yes, 4.20 am. Quick shower and down to the foyer to leave on the bus at 5.00 am to view Angkor Wat at sunrise. Of course, Phil stayed in bed.

It is pitch black, and we have quite a long way to walk, but Scenic gave us all a torch, which was fabulous. The road is very undulating and when we got to the causeway, there are a lot of gaps and holes in the bricks. Don't want a sprained or broken ankle at this stage.

When we got to the pools, most people turned off left but we went right. Still a pond for reflections but a lot less people but still a lot.

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And then we waited, and waited and waited. We all think we were probably there about half an hour too early, but we all took hundreds of photos of Angkor Wat and the reflections. It really wasn't much of a sunrise but just before the red ball popped up through the trees, our guide wanted us to leave, as we had an appointment at a monastery for champagne and pastries and a talk by an aerial archaeologist. "No", we said, "we didn't get up at 4.20 am not to actually SEE the sun"! So we held our ground and waited till we actually saw the sun. The sky also turned a bit pink then too.

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Back on the bus and we drove to a monastery, close to the airport for our champagne and pastry pre breakfast snack. The monastery was overlooking a huge man made reservoir called West Baray. Damien Evans, an aerial archaeologist from Australia then spoke to us about the area and the work he has been doing. He was once attached to the University of New South Wales. They are still finding "rocks" in the jungle but the last major temple find was in 1914. He still has to find funding every couple of years and this is becoming more and more difficult. Anyway, it was a very interesting talk and a lot of our group asked some very interesting questions. It was very distressing to hear that land mines still affect and maime about 200 Cambodians each year.

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Back to the hotel for a late breakfast and then a free morning. Phil and I explored the salt water pool and the fresh water pool and decided to have a swim in the salt water pool. It was very refreshing.

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We then attended our Scenic Free Choice which was a cruise on Tonle Sap Lake to see the floating people. Tonle Sap Lake is huge - 160 km long. The water level is a bit low at the moment because it is the dry season, but in the wet, it can rise up to nine times its usual depth of one metre. The floating villages belong to the Vietnamese. They are refugees and have just arrived here and live on floating houses. Quite fascinating. Some have fish farms under their houses.

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The boats are all nosed into the wharf and jostle each other for a position, bumping and scraping. These kids help too.

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The flashest house is of course, the Catholic Church.

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This is a Vietnamese cemetery.

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We stopped at a shop and scrambled ashore and were met by this smelly pit of crocodiles. Yuk!

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It was a very relaxed trip and now we have a couple of hours to rest and get ready for our gala and farewell dinner at a temple.

We drove for about 20 minutes to the temple for our Farewell Dinner. Angela and I have the same coloured clothes on.

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We were greeted by girls giving out Cambodian scarves and we walked along a line of men dressed in ancient Cambodian soldier clothes. Then, in front of a magnificent temple, we had pre dinner drinks and nibbles while some dancers performed for us. On the front of the temple, which was flood lit, there were dancers standing.

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We were then led along a path to the other side of the temple and the most beautiful sight awaited us. Tables lit by candles - it was like fairy land. There were ice carvings that changed colour all the time and a Cambodian group playing music. We had reserved tables for each group and Mao led me to one of our tables which was in the front, near the stage. Most of our group had forgotten their cameras, so I was appointed the chief photographer, with a promise to email photos to everyone. I actually took 113 photos this evening!!

The menu was amazing. This is a photo of one of our courses arriving.

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The menu.
Starter - Pan grilled stuffed carrot in baby squid, seared scallop, deep fried vegetable purses with Khmer dressing.

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Soup - Cambodian traditional pineapple soup.

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Refreshment - Coconut shake on ice carving (which was flashing coloured lights - amazing)!

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Main Course - Grilled king lobster with curry sauce. Pan seared sea bass fish on green bass leaves served with Amok sauce. Cambodian pork skewer with green peppercorn sauce. Stir fried kalian with chili paste. Steamed coconut rice pilaf.

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Dessert - Assortment of Khmer sweets. Fresh fruit platter.

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Interspersed between courses, we were entertained by the most beautiful dancers whose grace and expertise were second to none.

The traditional performances included:
History of King Parade, Labokato and The Fan Dance.

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Robam Chak Angkrong (Tree Ants Hunting Dance).

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Apsara Dance.

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Then after all that, we were invited up on to the stage to have photos taken with the dancers. Our group went on stage and one of the staff took photos with my tablet. He took 24 photos!

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It really was the most stunning night imaginable. There couldn't possibly be any complaints from anyone. It was a magical evening and a wonderful way to finish a most amazing visit to Vietnam and Cambodia.

On the way back to the hotel in the bus, Mao gave us our group photo that was taken at Angkor Thom. It is great though Phil and Jaz are not in it.

Finally, into bed after a very, very long but totally memorable day. Thank you Scenic!

Posted by gaddingabout 08:20 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Siem Reap - Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm and temples

sunny 38 °C

Busy temple day today and early start. Phil decided not to come because we have been here before, albeit 10 years ago, but I went on the morning tour which left at 7.40 am and took in Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Our first stop, along with thousands and thousands of tourists, was the administration centre, where we had our photos taken, which were then printed on a three day ticket, which we have to wear all the time when visiting the temples. And the authorities are very strict in checking that everyone has a pass.

It was very humid today and we all felt the heat very much. I drank two bottles of water and still that was not enough. We visited Angkor Wat first and spent a couple of hours there. There are tourists everywhere. It is a very popular temple. It is protected by a massive moat and outer walls and reached by a long causeway. The temple was built in the first half of the 12th century under King Suryavarman II and it was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. We climbed up lots and lots of stairs and wandered all over the temple. There was also a higher level, but because the building is extremely old and needs protecting, only a certain number of people are allowed up there at a time. The queue, in the sun and humidity was a mile long and lasted about an hour. The steps were extremely steep and none of us wanted to tackle them, let alone stand in the sun for an hour. It is really, really hot.

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Back on the bus, Mao bought some sticky rice for us to taste. It had a black bean in the middle of the rice, then it is placed inside the bamboo and cooked in the fire. The heat burns the outside of the bamboo off and then what is left is peeled like a banana and pieces of sticky rice are broken off. We all had some and it was delicious.

Next stop - Angkor Thom - which is my favourite temple. Following the capture of Angkor in a surprise attack by the Chams in 1177, Jayavarman VII founded a new and final city not far from Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom. This is the temple of "faces" and everywhere you look, there are faces. Just gorgeous. We are all very hot. We scrambled over the ruins and one staircase was very steep. For both temple visits, we had to be sure our shoulders and knees were covered.

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Lunch was a very lovely event at the FCC - Foreign Correspondents Club - our first Western meal for a while and totally enjoyable. Good food in lovely surroundings - what more could you ask for?

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Back to the hotel, briefly, then back on the bus for our afternoon excursion to Ta Prohm Temple or as it is better known in the western world - Tomb Raiders - Lara Croft alias Angelina Jolie! This temple dates from 1186 and was built by Jayavarman VII as a commemoration to his mother. There is nothing unusual about this temple, but there are a lot of silk cotton trees in the area and their roots have invaded the temple and are stunning. There is a lot of restoration work going on in this temple because the roots are causing the rocks to become unstable and a lot of it is fenced off to tourists, which is a shame, but better than having it collapse on someone. There was a lot more open when we were here 10 years ago.

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We left the hotel at 5.45 pm for an early dinner and we had reserved seats in the VIP section of the Cambodian Circus. There were a couple of choices for dinner tonight - Cambodian cuisine or French fusion. We actually changed to the French Fusion and went to dinner at a lovely restaurant with Lam and three other couples. It was very nice food and our tummies must be wondering what is going on - two western meals in one day!

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A quick bus ride and we were at the Big Top. We had great seats in the VIP section and were all given a fan to keep ourselves cool, but once the performance started, huge air conditioners started blowing cool air from underneath our seats and we were very comfortable. Also, as a memento of the circus, we were given metal drink bottles. The circus was called Phare - The Cambodian Circus and they were very good. It was a circus without animals, a bit like CircusOz in Australia and there was lots of tumbling, juggling and acrobatics. They "performed" a story and it was about foreign tourists in Cambodia and we could all recognize parts of ourselves! It was very funny and very entertaining.

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Back to the hotel and straight into bed. Very, very early start tomorrow to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Posted by gaddingabout 01:17 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Mekong Cruise - Siem Reap - Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Drive to Siem Reap

sunny 37 °C

Sad day today - we are leaving our lovely Scenic Spirit for the five hour drive to Siem Reap. It's not really that far and the road is excellent, bitumen all the way, but we stopped a couple of times along the way to visit the "Happy Room".

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Our friends were out early this morning, loading their winter melons. (Doesn't feel like winter to me, but it is!)

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Our bags being taken off the ship to the waiting luggage van. They were passed from one to another.

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Although it is quite a good road, it is still chock a block with all sorts of traffic, driving from dead slow to dead fast and there is no centre line, so sometimes it makes passing a bit tricky.

Our first stop was a village where the stone cutters work. Their workshops line the road and there is dust EVERYWHERE! They make the most amazing statues, mostly of Buddah and you can buy a large one for about 350 - 400 USD. Goodness knows how much it would cost to ship it home.

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Back on the bus for about an hour or so and then we stopped at this amazing Khmer bridge. It was built in 800 and is a solid stone construction. Quite lovely. It is called Kompong Kdei Bridge. It is located on Highway No 6, the main road leading to the city of Siem Reap. It was built by Jayavarman the Seventh in Angkor period about 1000 years ago. It remains in good condition however the road No 6 has been diverted by way of a 1.3 km bypass and a new bridge has been built with the aim of preserving the Kompong Kdei and preventing heavy trucks crossing the bridge. It now only allows pedestrians and villagers on motor bikes or bicycles to use it. It spans the Chi Kreng River and is 86 metres long. The bridge is recognized as the longest corbelled stone arch bridge in the world with 21 corbel arches sustained by 20 pillars which all are made of laterite. At the beginning / end of the bridge are four big nine headed Naga. The figure of Naga is sacred to Cambodian people and they worship Naga as a god giving them love and protection for their life and their country.

While there, we met the Scenic bus coming the other way, loaded with passengers who would be taking our places on the Scenic Spirit. We briefly chatted with them and told them they were in for the trip of a life time. They were filled with excited anticipation, just like we were a week ago! I was sneaking a photo of this family and when I crossed the bridge, they all wanted to pose for me.

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We arrived in Siem Reap, and immediately stopped for lunch at this lovely hotel.

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After lunch we checked into our hotel. Mao took my tablet to try to get the cracked screen fixed, but brought it back in the evening saying that it would cost about 200 USD but the screen had to come from Thailand and would take a week to get here. I'll be home by then, so will check out my options leisurely when I have all the facts.

We had a free afternoon, and after sleeping on the bus all the way to Siem Reap, you would think we would be jumping out of our skins, but no, we lay on the bed reading and of course, dozed off.

We dressed for dinner and went to the restaurant Square 24 for dinner. It was a lovely restaurant, open to the garden so it felt like you were sitting in the garden, even though you weren't. It was Cambodian food again. We are slowly getting used to it, but people are gradually coming down with mild tummy upsets.

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The wifi is so fast in the hotel that I have been able to catch up with my blogging which was a few days behind.

Posted by gaddingabout 21:40 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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