Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cambodia

A couple of months ago, my friends/officemate invited me to join them on a Cambodian tour. At first I hesitated since I thought I will be very busy packing my stuffs once I’m demobilized. But I changed my mind and it’s a good decision that I did.

The 3-day/2-night tour was organized by bondstreettour and cost 5990 baht. The tour is basically catered to Thais and I expected that all the instructions and explanations will be in their native language. I didn’t have a problem with it, my officemates tried their best to explain what was said from time to time. We left Bangkok at 0430H and arrived at Aranyaprathet / Poitep (Thailand / Cambodia) border at around 0930H. We proceeded then to Cambodian Immigration for passport stamping. Cambodia was just few steps away. LOL!

The first thing I observed in Poitep was that most people were manually pushing their stuffs by wooden carts. My friend told me it’s because the fuel price in the country is too high. It’s pretty ironic though since the place is filled with casinos.

We transferred to a local bus with a Khmer guide and off to Siem Reap. The travel was a bit tiring; perhaps it’s the road that made me feel that way. On our way, there’s nothing much to see except for barren land areas and occasionally, children in bicycles going to their schools. I can’t imagine how they can stay up the whole day after enduring the hot temperature and the foggy dusts on their way to school. Other children, instead of going to study, lead cows and other farm animals. And then I just fell asleep. LOL! They woke up after arriving at Siem Reap at 1300H and were greeted by flood of foods. Its lunch time – buffet style at Tonle Sap Restaurant! Yum! The food was great especially their steamed pork legs. Traditional Khmer desserts were also served. I can’t remember all the foods but its worth visiting again.

Around 1430H, we prepared ourselves to go to Tonlé Sap.

kampuchea

for Watery Wednesday

Tonlé Sap is a large body of water (Cambodian meaning Large Fresh Water River but more commonly translated as Great Lake) is a combined lake and river system of huge importance to Cambodia. It is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hotspot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.

On our way to the river, my colleague pointed out the wooden huts on the bank, and he said that during rainy season, the locals will try to transfer them to a much higher ground. It reminded me about the Bayanihan Spirit.

We had a closer look at the river life. Saw small children paddled their way across the muddied waters just to sell colas and fruits to tourist. Their eyes speak so much that I can barely look. I even saw one mother, carrying her little child, and never cared about danger of water and heat. The river had a floating church and a school that was built and donated by other country (I think its South Korea, if I remember correctly). Life there is hard but seeing the smiles of the locals is enough to conclude that they are doing fine. I hope so.

At 1700H, we headed to Phnom Bakheng, hoping to catch the golden sun.

Phnom Bakheng is best climbed at the end of the day or early in the morning, either by its immediate steep slope or by the gently winding path bearing to the left, formerly taken by tourist elephants - which is a classic and very pleasant walk. From the summit one can enjoy a view stretching across the plain - dominated by the two other peaks that are also each crowned with a temple by Yasovarman; - Phnom Krom to the south, close to the Tonle Sap lake, and Phnom Bok to the north-east, standing out from the distant dark line of the Phnom Kulen - and then the plain of water of the western baray, the forest of Angkor Thom and the majestic composition of Angkor Wat, lying golden in the setting sun.

Hundreds of foreigners were able to position themselves to catch the view of the golden sun. We climbed the not-so-steep stairs and managed to find our own spot. But, unfortunately, the sun was too tired to show-off or the clouds were jealous with the attention the sun is getting so they decided to block him. LOL! The weather was not cooperative, too bad for us.

For most of the day, I was a bit frustrated about the photos I took because its not the way I wanted to capture them, only to realize that I had it on shutter mode than aperture mode. Damn! I wanted to scream but I can’t. LOL! But hey, everything happens for a reason, go on totomai, console yourself.

Before everyone’s stomach complained, we arrived at the Mekong Restaurant (not sure about the name) at 1900H. We wasted no time in filling our stomachs with all the available foods we could take. Traditional Thai foods were served.

A few minutes before the clock hits 2030H, we were already at the entrance of Apsara Angkor Hotel. The place is cozy and it’s a gorgeous place. A bit of an old style hotel but I think that’s what I liked most. It’s a 4-star hotel and believe me, it deserved the rating! After I opened the door, I immediately went to the bed, hugged the pillow and prepared to sleep. I had a headache. My friends told me that we are going to have a small drinking session on the opposite room, I told them I will follow after taking a shower. Out of nowhere, I heard a ring and I opened the door, my roommate told me that they have finished drinking already. LOL! I told them I am sorry as I was too tired and wasn’t able to defeat the temptation of the soft bed.

I prepared to take a shower after our quick conversation but my eyes are too fast to close and lead me to a deep slumber.

/totomai
05/07/08

Day 2 and 3 as well as the slideshow of the photos will be on a separate entry.

15 comments:

  1. That's great you're taking time to see other places John. I too had similar experience about frustration with camera last Sunday. My brother was visiting so we brought him to the nearby State and National Parks. I was so complaining about my pictures, because they seemed to be not giving the right colors I wanted. I shifted from manual, to aperture priority, to shutter priority but it seemed the color still is more in the brown hue. When we got home, I found out I changed my white balance the last time I took pictures because it was too cloudy and most of the time we were in the shade. I forgot to change the white balance back to normal setting. But like what you said, everything happens for a reason, so, I took that as learning experience.

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  2. hi ms beth, though am a bit disappointed as i want to take photos of the locals on boats but oh well, everything happens for a reason, lol.

    thats good bakasyon da gali utod mo.

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  3. great travelogue! Made me excited about my own Cambodia trip in July :D

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  4. @alvin, kala ko sino si kid repetitive hehe. i think its much better kung sa july kasi di na maulan . hehe binasa ko ulit ang blog daming mali hehe. inedit ko na lang hehe

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  5. This is an awesome post. A great journey you got to take and one you won't soon forget.

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  6. cool. they also practice bayanihan in Cambodia. huwaw... re: your travels... i envy you! :(

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  7. @jadey, i guess so. the travel was pretty interesting.

    @tukayo, hehe wag ka na maiinggit. oo nga e, nagulat din ako :-)

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  8. am so curious now to find out more about travel in cambodia

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  9. @rambler, in a day or two i will post the remaining entry hehe

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  10. Totamai,

    This is an interesting journal-essay that chronicled your travel to an equally interesting country.

    It is my wish to explore asian countries when I retire. In my next home-coming in 2010, I promised my mother and siblings that I would treat them for a Hongkong-Macau tour. That's one of the reason why I have to work long hours, I need to raise funds.

    It is great to travel, especially when we are around our love ones.

    I wish you well.

    ~ Jeques

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  11. @jeques, thanks man. wow, if you have time, dont wait for your retirement to explore the asian countries. if i had the time, i should have gone to Laos...

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  12. great photo and a very interesting post on a country I would never have thought to visit.

    Gill in Canada

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  13. great trip, i too would love to see cambodia in the future.

    my entry is here: http://ewok1993.wordpress.com

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  14. I enjoyed the tour and photo.

    Your blog design is very cool. Love the neon green and the scrolling messages.

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  15. It's a part of the world that I would love to see one day. Especially interested in marine life there.

    Tink *~*~*
    Flower and Garden Festival Surprise

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any thoughts to distill?

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