Good morning! Today was our final full day in Siem Reap before driving North towards Thailand tomorrow. The one item we wanted to check off our list was the war museum. Having read a little on the history of the Cambodian people, war was a big part of what they suffered through. It’s incredible to think that it was only recently in 1993 that this war-ravaged country finally had a chance to rebuild and reopen itself up to the world. The images and artifacts at the museum were hair-raising, especially those depicting injuries and deaths caused by land mines. As gruesome was the impact of the dictatorship of communist Pol Pot of Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979 during which, as a result of the combination of malnutrition, executions, forced labor, and poor medical care, 25 percent of the population (an estimaed 1 to 3 milion of 8 million people) were wiped out.
As such, a significant fragment of the Cambodian people alive today were or have families, relatives, or friends who were impacted by the war in some way. Our tour guide, we would never had guessed, told and showed us he, like many others, lost a leg due to a land mine while fighting as a soldier in the war. But under his long trousers, you could never have told he was walking on a prosthetic limb. As he continued to share his personal experience being a young soldier at the time, the war stories became more and more real to us. And here was a man who now dedicates his time to telling his share of the stories. It’s respectable.
I recommend visiting the museum when you’re in Siem Reap. It really gave me perspective on how I’ve lived my life so far, the things I’ve taken for granted–mainly security and peace.
WAR MUSEUM CAMBODIA
WAR MUSEUM CAMBODIA
Sra Nge Commune
Since it was still early in the morning, we further explored the area of the museum and stumbled upon what had an appearance of a newly constructed temple–bright, ornate, and eye-catching. Being tourists, we had to see it and take some photographs. Right across from it was a monastery where monks resided.
Our tour of the Angkor complex wasn’t complete yet, we knew there was still much to see. And this way, our 3-day pass would be made to full use (Angkor Wat ticket information).
On our way through the forest paths, we saw a group of monkeys by a corn seller. We got some corn and threw them to the roof of the car, and as predicted…
Monkeys are aggressive. You may be tempted to go close to them because they look adorable with their tiny eyes, tiny ears, tiny feet…But no, don’t. One time in Bali, innocent 8-year old me (by innocent I mean innocent about monkey attitude) got close enough to get my hair pulled! So if you have little girls with long hair, make sure to keep them by your side. These monkeys go for little girls with long hair.
Luring the monkeys with corn was easy. The hard part came after: getting them off the car. After some persuasion, they finally agreed to let us go on our way.
By then it was already lunchtime. So we made a stop near Ta Prohm, another temple in the Angkor complex, to eat some local food.
And yes we couldn’t help ourselves. Sambal Bu Rudy made everything delish! Thank you Bu Rudy, we’ll probably see you at our next meal.
TA PHROM TEMPLE
Unique from the other temples, Ta Phrom was a vision that combined the fabric of nature with man –trees and tree roots are inseparably one with the stone structures. This particular attribute, mingled with the ruins all around, lent an eerie characteristic to the temple. In popular culture, Ta Phrom is most well-known as the location for the shooting of Tomb Raider.
Because our attempt to catch the sunset on day 1 flopped, we gave it another try today. We headed towards Phnom Bakheng, a popular tourist spot for sunset-gazing (Angkor Wat, on the other hand, is best seen at sunrise).
Once again, having a car around proved life-saving. We got to Phnom Bakheng around the same time as every other tourist. The sunset had to actually be caught by hiking up a trail (which felt like forever). Not complaining, sweating is scoring! At the start of the hike, I was stopped by the guard–no shorts allowed! So I had to run back to the car to get my scarf to wear over them.
TIP: When visiting the temples, wear something long or bring a scarf enough to cover your thighs.
Talk about a touristy spot–this one is it.
For a second time, no sunset!!! I mean the sun set, we just couldn’t see it underneath all the clouds. :(
So we walked back down to the other side before it got dark.
The last item we have been putting off was to watch the Apsara Dance with dinner–another typical tourist thing to do. Recommended by the staff hotel, Koulen II Restaurant was a popular spot for it. The buffet and show cost USD12 for adults and USD6 for children above 3 years old. Although the intent and idea of dining while enjoying a cultural performance is wonderful, we didn’t particularly enjoy it mostly because the food was bad and there were just too many people. When we were getting food at the buffet tables, it felt like we were in line at a food bank. Guests were elbowing each other to get to the food, and it’s never a pleasant experience when people are unnecessarily in your personal space.
APSARA DANCE & DINNER
KOULEN II RESTAURANT
Street 02, Sivatha Rd
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Right across the street from the restaurant, there was a grocery store which we went to for some ice cream and fruits. Another rewarding day. See you tomorrow as we head for Thailand!