Sunrise at Angkor Wat with a glass of champagne. What could be better?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The boats are all nosed into the wharf and jostle each other for a position, bumping and scraping. These kids help too.
The flashest house is of course, the Catholic Church.
This is a Vietnamese cemetery.
We stopped at a shop and scrambled ashore and were met by this smelly pit of crocodiles. Yuk!
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.
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.
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.
Starter - Pan grilled stuffed carrot in baby squid, seared scallop, deep fried vegetable purses with Khmer dressing.
Soup - Cambodian traditional pineapple soup.
Refreshment - Coconut shake on ice carving (which was flashing coloured lights - amazing)!
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.
Dessert - Assortment of Khmer sweets. Fresh fruit platter.
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.
Robam Chak Angkrong (Tree Ants Hunting Dance).
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!
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!