A holiday in SE Asia; Cambodia 2011
My wife and I visited Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in November 2011.
This was our first visit to Cambodia and Laos, our forth visit to Vietnam.
We had most of one day in Singapore – by accident.
This page is about the few days we had in Siem Reap Cambodia.
The purpose of these pages is partly as a short record of our holiday, partly
to show friends and others some of our better photos, partly to record
some interesting (at least to me) observations on SE Asian culture, and
partly in the hope that it might be of some use to others who are considering
a similar trip.
Written 2011/12/16, modified 2015/04/06
Contact: email email@example.com
|Angkor Wat at sunrise
Our only place of call in Cambodia was Siem Reap.
Probably if you have ever heard of Siem Reap it would be because it is the
city closest to the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat (Wat simply means
Where we stayed in Siem Reap
We would highly recommend the Golden Temple Villa.
The rooms were good (we had plenty of space, air conditioning, an onsuite and
a balcony – although the view was poor; we were not at the front),
the price was good ($20 per night), there was always someone at reception
who spoke good English, we had a free pick-up waiting for us at the
airport, free welcome drink, free (and reliable) Internet access, a free
20 minute massage and a good restaurant right adjacent.
As you can see from the photo, the decoration and landscaping were excellent
|Golden Temple Villa
|Golden Temple Villa staff, and us|
(855) 12 943 459, email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Oh, and the rooms have colour TV too; but Denece and I hardly watched TV
while we were in SE Asia, there seemed plenty of other things to do.
A curious thing about both Cambodia and Laos is that streets do not
necessarily have names.
This is apparently the case with the street on which the Golden Temple Villa
is on; so I can't give an address, but it is in the guide books and on Trip
Mey Mey Restaurant
On the same (unnamed) street Golden Temple Villa, even cheaper, and good food.
Their coffee, in particular, was good and was served in the genuine
Out of curiosity I ordered a Greek Salad at Mey Mey.
(Denece and I mostly made a point of eating local styles of foods rather
than those that we could eat at home.)
The Greek Salad had no lettuce nor any fetta cheese; the restaurant owner
apologised for not having olives, she had run out.
There are several ways of getting around Siem Reap and the temples.
In the old part of Siem Reap walking is highly practicable; distances
are small and finding one's way about is not difficult.
|Tuk-tuk transport – well ventilated, suits the climate
|Mr Kim Seng and his tuk-tuk at Angkor Thom|
Phone number 0977291328
For the wider area of the temple complexes, some people
travel by car (comfortable, fast, relatively expensive), bicycle (for the
fitter people, who don't mind working up a sweet), and tuk-tuk.
We used the latter.
(Compare with Luang Prabang
The weather at Siem Reap is usually hot.
My wife and I found travelling by tuk-tuk comfortably cool because we were
completely open to the breeze created by the movement, which was typically
around 50 km/h, at a guess.
Mr Kim Seng's services were good, and his charges reasonable; his English,
though, was very limited.
He could talk about places to go, but his very limited vocabulary made
anything beyond this difficult or impossible.
A trendy and probably quite new thing to do in Siem Reap is to have your feet
'massaged' by fish.
There were quite a few aquariums like the one in the photo set up so that
people could sit on the side and hang their feet in.
The fish would presumably nibble the dead and dry skin.
|Foot massage by fish
On the end of the tank is written "No pirahna".
Wat Preah Prom Rath is on the western side of the old market area of Siem Reap.
(There is another temple/monistery across the river; Wat Damnak.)
As can be seen, the scafolding is all made of bamboo.
It is interesting to note that the thin nobby columns in two of the visible
windows are very similar to those on some of the ancient temples.
Bricks similar to these seem to be used exclusively in SE Asia.
The people seem not to use the solid clay bricks that are normally used in
Western nations at all.
Compared to the solid Western-style bricks, these would have slightly less
load-bearing strength, but significantly
better insulation properties (because of the air spaces) and would be lighter
to transport and work with.
These were in Cambodia.
Bricks in northern Vietnam seamed typically to be thiner and have only two
holes, those in southern Vietnam were of a similar size to these and had
This is part of a temple, but similar brickwork was used on many other types
I don't remember seeing solid clay bricks anywhere.
Helmets and lights on bikes
Tuk-tuk drivers seemed always to wear helmets, while perhaps only about
half of other motor bike riders did.
If I remember rightly, few if any bicycle riders wore helmets.
At night motor bikes had lights, but less than half of bicycles had head
lights; almost no bicycles had tail lights or even reflectors on the back.
This is a free evening school for children wanting to learn English; on
the same (unnamed?) street as the Golden Temple Villa.
English is seen as the international language by people in SE Asia.
In converstation with several university students at Dalat, Vietnam, I was
surprised to learn how much lower on the desirability scale Chinese was;
English was seen as being far more valuable as a second language.
Jimmy Chan Sarath had set up a little school in front of his Aunt's house.
(Jimmy's Aunt did laundary; she did ours while we were in Siem Reap).
|Jimmy's Village School
|Jimmy is on the left|
Image credit: Jimmy's Village School
Denece and I felt that Jimmy's Village School was a valuable initiative
and that Jimmy was doing great work with the kids.
Email Jimmy at email@example.com or look up the Facebook group
"Jimmys Village School".
|Angkor Wat not long after sunrise
On our first day we stayed with the crowd and waited near the main entrance
on the western side for the sunrise (see top).
On our second day we walked straight around to the eastern side, the side
that would be illuminated by the newly risen sun.
The photo above was taken from the northeast.
This gallery runs around the outside of Angkor Wat and is lined with
bass-relief carvings all the way.
A photo of a few of the carvings is below.
Modern stone carvings in the same style can be bought at Artisans Angkor.
|Stone carvings on Angkor Wat
The Angkor Wat compound enclosed a number of buildings other than the central
temple; this is some of the outlying buildings, looking toward the west.
Angkor Wat and its outlying buildings was surrounded by a wide, tree lined,
moat; which was itself quite beautiful in the early morning light.
The northern side of Angkor Wat
Inside the Angkor Wat moat and wall, in an part away from the temple and
subsidiary buildings, is a refreshment area (on the left in this photo).
There is a line of large tables, each with a name and number and each served
by a separate group of people in a family business.
The table we sat at was number 6, "Spider Girl".
In Southeast Asia one doesn't have to go to the shops, the shops come to one.
Here Denece is looking at clothes to take home as gifts.
The coffee and food on offer was very good; although, for some reason most of
the multitude of people who were wandering around Angkor Wat did not seem to
avail themselves of it.
An interesting point in the Angkor area relates to the toilets.
Very near this refreshment area was a line of not particularly good toilets.
One had to pay to use these, while near several of the other temples (Angkor
Tom and, I think, Pre Rup) there were better toilets that were free.
This may well have been a work in progress.
Going from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom one pases over a causeway before going
through the gate in the great wall surrounding Angkor Thom.
The walls on the sides of the causeway are decorated with these fellows
who are busy 'churning the ocean of milk'.
(See also the image below.)
The churning of the ocean of milk is a common theme in Cambodia; it must be
an important part of the Kmer creation mythology.
What foolish things we find in religions!
I hasten to say that Western religions are just as foolish, consider the
creation myth of Scientology and the golden tablet myth of Mormonism; for
that matter the way that women were created in the Bible.
This is a modern statue of a single figure (god, demigod?) working at the
churn; this one is at the front of a building in Siem Reap.
Imagine a continuous line of such fellows.
That is roughly what is on the causeway near the Angkor Thom gate (above).
|The faces of Bayan
To the north of Angkor Wat is Angkor Thom, which includes a temple called
Angkor Wat does not have giant faces on it; Bayan has them in enormous
It seems that the Kmers, like the ancient Egyptians, didn't use arches in
The opening shown in this photo would have worked better had an arch been
It seems surprising that people who were obviously so skilled in working with
stone did not happen to discover the arch with its valuable structural
Pre Rup is a temple that is passed on the way from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat.
The main courtyard of Pre Rup.
The steps were steap, the weather hot.
Work was under-way removing the vegetation on the temple.
Note the very long ladder.
According to Wikipedia
the archiological site "is situated along a 50 metres
stretch of the Stung Kbal Spean River, 25 kilometres from the main Angkor
group of monuments."
It is posible to get within a couple of kilometres by road; the last part
must be walked.
It's a rocky and steep scramble in places, and the weather is usually hot
This temple was close to the River of a Thousand Lingas.
Wikipedia gives the
name as "Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey".
The carvings on this temple were sharper than those on most of the other
ancient temples; probably due to a different rock type being used in
Neither my photography nor the space available on this page can do justice
to the Angkor complex of temples.