The Cambodia Meetup
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
Despite the proximity of Cambodia to Singapore, there was never an urgency to visit the country as the ancient temples do not excite me as much as trekking in the beautiful mountains. So when Jon (Northlight) organised a Meetup in Cambodia, I thought it was a great opportunity to see the old friends and meet the new ones while visiting a country that I have not been before.
I decided for a whirlwind visit on the Siem Reap leg of the Meetup for the famous Angkor temples while skipping Phnon Penh altogether as the place is too heartbreaking for me to visit. The scars from the country’s dark chapter in history four decades ago where the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot tried to wipe out the knowledge and the elite of the country by killing more than 2 million innocents are still visible in the capital in the form of maimed people due to the land mines as well as the killing fields and genocide museum.
The short two and a half days in Siem Reap was a very fruitful one with 16 Travbuddies from 11 countries and all having a great and fun time together. They were:
UK : Jon (Northlight) ~ very important as he was the organiser of this Meetup!; Philippines : Lhea (lheaaustria) and Nolan (Nolan); Hong Kong : Amy (Kurama80); USA - Lee (lajohn24); Czech Republic : Brett (bitethelime); India : Bhushan (bhush2006), Jairaj (sky69) and Digvijay (diggy5ue); Belgium : Wouter (wouternet); Australia : Merlina (Merlss); Malaysia : Haiza (yayai); Indonesia : Maya and sister (mmeymey); Singapore : myself :)
One website wrote: “Nobody leaves Cambodia disappointed.
Indeed, I did not leave Cambodia disappointed! I had a very memorable visit to Bantaey Srei, a beautiful 10thcentury Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Cut from stones of a pinkish hue with some of the finest stone craving, this temple is considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art. And for the early birds (Bhushan, Digvijay, Haiza, Merlina and me) who left town at 5.30am as this temple is 40km away and we did not want to disrupt Jon’s plan for the day, we saw the most beautiful sunrise in a brilliant orangey hue on the temple grounds in peace without the hordes of tourists like those waiting for sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was a beautiful and special moment and the 5 of us were all mesmerised by it. With the entire group, we all had fun getting to know each other while enjoying the tuk-tuk rides, visiting the places of interests and having wonderful local meals and beer together.
When the entire Cambodian trip was eventually over, the best quotes came from Lhea and Nolan on the group chat which were so apt J
Lhea : “The friendship gained is just starting and continuing for some.”
Nolan : “It is an amazing feeling getting people from all over the world to converge in one place, travel together to a few and then head back home after it is over. And then repeat the cycle again and again.”
Arriving in Siem Reap on time at 9.50am in the morning, I was picked up by a Tuk-Tuk driver organised from the Shadow Angkor Residence hotel. The short 15mins ride from the airport to town was pleasant as the morning temperature was still cool. A city still under development, there is no tall skyscraper in the city yet and there are plenty of huge and beautiful hotels along the way into town.
Nolan who had unfortunately hurt his left foot in Hoi An did not join the others for the visit to a jungle temple that was discovered not too long ago. So on arrival at the hotel, we went straightaway to Royal Angkor International Hospital to get his foot checked which turned out to be a fracture. After about an hour and a half of professional treatment from the medical team including X-rays and cast, we were ready to leave the hospital to get back to the hotel to meet the rest coming back from their excursion.
Lunch was at Amok Restaurant within walking distance from the hotel and whose speciality is the most traditional Khmer food. We were impressed by the beautiful presentation of the food served nicely on plates with leaves and flower petals. However, most of us decided that the food was nothing special and that the nice presentation contributed to the higher than usual restaurant prices.
It was 3.30pm by the time the group was ready to leave. With different interest, half the group decided to forgo a visit to the National Museum for the purchase of ticket for the Angkor temples followed by seeing sunset at Angkor Wat.
There were nine of us and we decided to hire only two tuk-tuks. It was a tight squeeze and we had to reshuffle ourselves around in order to fit into the tuk-tuks. The tires of the tuk-tuk that Lee, Brett, Digvijay and Merlina were in had even to be pumped up for a better ride.
It was an enjoyable journey to the ticket office and buying the tickets was also a breeze with many counters being opened. Making our way to Angkor Wat after that, we managed to arrive just in time to catch the beautiful orange sun setting. There were many pedlars including kids selling cut fruits and postcards around the entrance to Angkor Wat.
We headed off for dinner at The Moon Cuisine that has a wide choice of tasty Cambodian food. The local Angkor draft beer at US$0.50 is so much cheaper than drinking water. We all had a great dinner with plenty of laughter and some of us including myself eventually left at about 10pm as we had to wake up early on the following morning.