April 2023 - A trip to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

During our 2-month trip to Asia, we've already been to Singapore (where we have an apartment for the duration of the trip), drove 1,000 miles through Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca, we went to Bangkok and Cambodia.  Next up Laos and two weeks in Vietnam, always with our base in Singapore to do laundry, relax and go on the next trip.  I will post photos from the other countries soon, but these are just from Cambodia. In our first month out here in Asia, we have walked 122 miles in hot weather.

Go to see the Bayon Temple, to the overgrown Ta Prohm Temple and to see our guide, Mr. Kong in 1997 and 2023

See also our photos of the trip to Laos a week later.

Arriving at Angkor Wat from the back, avoiding the crowds, especially large during this week, the Khmer New Year.

 Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure on the planet, covers 420 acres and is surrounded by several large sites built at the same time, starting in the 12th century, about when they started building Notre Dame in Paris and more than 200 years before someone discovered America.

Several internal courtyards inside Angkor Wat.  Spectacular.

 It is 37 C, like 98 F.  Hot!

Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple, but over time converted to a Buddhist one.  It was the seat of the king of the Khmer Empire, which in its day covered much of South East Asia.  On the walls are endless carvings showing various battles to protect it against enemies, with horses, elephants leading the armies.

Two days before we arrived, Angkor won the Guinness Book record of the most hearts planted, 3.9 million. 

Awesome, spectacular, what else do you call it. We have an expert guide, Mr. Kong, who took me and my family around 27 years ago. 

Although there are tens of thousands of local visitors here for the Khmer New Year, there is a way to avoid them.

Out of Angkor and on to the other huge temples in the area. 
The great thing is that with a local guide, you get out an air-conditioned van, see the temple, and it meets you at the other end, Que COOL!

Now off to the Bayon Temple.  It was the last temple built here, in the 12th century.

The gate entering Bayon.  There are 5 gates through the 3 km x 3 km wall around the temple.  Colossal.

The Bayon was a 12th century Buddhist temple with over 200 huge heads of a serene and smiling faces of Brahma.

Some 216 faces on the Baryon temples faces of Brahma.

Extraordinary.  Over 1,000 years old.

Bayon, near Angkor Wat.

Bayon, see the face above Lorraine

And now, the next, overgrown temple, Ta Prohm, with hundreds of years old banyan trees strangling the 1,000 old ruins.

Ta Prohm is also called the Tomb Raider temple, after the movie that was partly shot here.

These tress are supposedly several hundred years old.

One of the most spectacular temples that we've ever seen.

Ta Prohm temple.

Our guide in Siem Reap, Mr. Kong.  An old friend.  We were here in 1997, after a visit to see the British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese.  A one-day visit to Angkor Wat.  Over dinner, we said thank you, we'll be leaving in the morning.  "No you won't, a war erupted in Phnom Penh between the armies of Prince Norodom and that of Hun Sen the prime minister".  We got stuck in Siem Reap for the rest of the week and Kong and friends took us on motorcycles around the neighborhood.  The boss of Diethelm Travel lent me $500 when we ran out of cash.  No ATM's at that time.

After several days, the U.N. was going to send a convoy of tourists to the Thai border and our Bangkok office sent a car to meet us there.  Convoy cancelled.  The hoteliers of Siem Reap did not want to support the stranded tourists and booked a helicopter to take us out.  A Russian tank-carrying helicopter, which took like 250 people.  When landing at Phnom Penh, the airport control towers shot to pieces, as we were landing, someone was holding a sign "Diethelm Travel welcomes the Cernikovsky family".  They were loading everyone onto trucks to take them to far away hotels (where they spent a long time), but our Diethelm manager said he had a friend, the Thai ambassador.  Royal Thai Air Force transporters were landing every few minutes taking all the Thai citizens out of the Cambodian war to Bangkok.  He got us on one of the Hercules C-130 transporters and Jenny and David got to sit in a Jeep that was inside their aircraft.  We continued our vacation, several days late.

Booking the 2023 trip, I told the Diethelm Cambodia office the story. 26 years later, "Mr. Kong is our most experienced English speaking guide in Siem Reap" and he was our guide this week.  See photos from 1997 and from this week. 

This time, we have used Diethelm Travel in Thailand, in Cambodia, we will use them this week in Laos and then two weeks in Vietnam.  The guides are first class and knowledgeable.  The great thing at the hot ruins is they drop you off with an air-conditioned van at one end and after you are exhausted, pick you up at the other end.

Our guide in Siem Reap, Mr. Kong, in 1997 with Jenny and David.  See photos from 1997 and from this week. 

Our guide in Siem Reap, Mr. Kong, in 1997 with Jenny in the floating village.

Our guide in Siem Reap, Mr. Kong, in 2023 in the floating village.

Bantean Srei, some 35 kilometers north of Siem Reap, one of the most beautiful carvings all over it.

Before going to Siem Reap, we spent a couple of days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, to see the old, the Royal Palace and the fabulous National Museum ...

... and the new Phnom Penh, here on the 43rd floor in the "Celeste Rotating Skybar" and Phnom Penh's new skyline with skyscrapers and shop.  Asia is changing rapidly for the better.
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This page was last updated on 05/07/23.