Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Welcome to Cambodia

First impressions count and so far Cambodia is the bee’s knees.
Beautiful Grounds at Sonalong Hotel

We flew into Siem Reap International Airport in the early evening. Being tater heads, we had told our cousins (and ride) The Von Troxells’, that our arrival time was 730pm, when in fact it was 630pm. What’s the old saying, “If this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium.”

Escape to the pool. Cocktail anyone?

Seim Reap International is a beautiful, clean and open building with maximum air conditioning. Having gotten our visa’s online, we flew thru the checkpoints and were at the money exchange counter, tout de suite. Then we proceeded outside into the hottest, thickest soup of a climate to wait on the relatives. Oy!
I haven’t spoken yet about the Weddings of SE Asia. There are lots of them, all loud, all day (sometimes all night) affairs. When I say “lots of weddings,” you-sitting at your computer in America, cannot grasp the sheer numbers to which I refer. It is not unusual to see 5 or 6 daily. Yesterday, on a 3-hour drive from Battambang to Seim Reap, I counted 15. That’s right, 15! Just on the one road we were on. I digress. Back to the airport scene where there was a large wedding going on across the street from the Airport. There was a stage, a really big stage with professional lighting and a 5-piece band playing. Must have been rich folks. They were playing lots of 60’s music so at least, there was entertainment whilst we waited. We tried to dance, but it was too hot, too thick, too sticky.
Gas Station - pump or bottle

Siem Reap is like a Gold Rush Town in the old west. It has sprung up just to handle the tourists and adventurers who are here to explore the Ankor Wat complex of Temples, which are the largest complex of Religious Temples in the world. It’s crazy here. Loads of young backpackers all the way up to the upscale traveler, hanging here for 3 or 4 days, crowding the streets walking, riding in Tuk-tuks, drinking from the complete bars on push carts-the carnival is the crowd.
Discussion on directions for the Tuk-Tuk driver.

We had one “down day” in the Reap lounging around the pool. After which, we were off to the provincial capital, Battambang.  This city is situated by the Sangkea River a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Provence providing its nice picturesque setting. As with much of Cambodia, the French Colonial architecture is an attractive bonus of the city. It is home to some of the best preserved French colonial architecture in the country. It really is a great looking city! Virtually free to tourists, this lovely little city deserves more attention or perhaps, that would ruin it.
Our cousins, Princess Marissa and her husband, Baron Von Troxell, have made several visits’ to this serene little town and have our first day planned out. 

View from the Classy Hotel - high above Battambang
First and foremost, there will be massages. Massages given by Blind People. The Cambodian Association for the Blind in conjunction with the Japanese Association for the blind, trains it’s students in the art of Shiatsu Massage and has massage locations in several Cambodian cities. The masseuses are able to make a good living for themselves and their families. The remainder of the proceeds from the spa’s go to the Blind School for educational purposes. What a great massage. It was unique how my masseuse was able to locate strategic points on my body.  and

Highly trained staff are here make you feel better.

Next we had coffee at a The Lonely Tree Café, sponsored by a NGO which helps the disabled. The café is upstairs and downstairs is full of clothes; beautiful clothes hand sewn by their staff who are bound to wheelchairs. Marissa buys a wonderful tunic/blouse and I, Buddhist Knot Earrings. The cappuccinos are marvhavolus!

The Prince of Battambang

Nearing sunset, we embark on a 20 minute Tuk-Tuk ride to the outskirts of Battambang, for the piece de resistance: The Bamboo Train.

The Nory (Bamboo Train) is an improvised rail vehicle. Nory construction is a cottage industry conducted in track-side villages. It takes around four days to construct one of the vehicles, which have a steel frame overlaid with bamboo slats resting on wheels taken from abandoned tanks. Originally propelled by hand using punt poles, power is now provided by small motorcycle or tractor engines with belt drive direct to the rear axle, delivering top speeds of 40 km/h or more.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Bamboo Train experience.

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