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CAMBODIA TOUR SUMMARY 19th - 26th February 2013

The complicated tower structures at Bayon, Angkor Thom

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Cambodia Overview
Royal Pavilion, Phnom Penh The Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It was founded in 802 AD when Jayavarman II declared himself king marking the beginning of the Khmer Empire which was to last more than 5 centuries accumulating immense power and wealth. After the fall of Angkor to Ayutthaya in the 15th century, Cambodia was ruled as a vassal between its neighbors until it was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Cambodia gained independence in 1953 but after a brief lull a power struggle ensued, not helped by hostility during the Vietnam War. The rise to power of the Khmer Rouge resulted in one of the most tragic episodes in modern history. Between 1975 and 1979 about 25% of the population died resulting from failed policies supported by genocide and brutal torture. After a period of occupation by the Vietnamese army, Cambodia finally reverted back to the monarchy in 1993. During the last 20 years Cambodia has seen rapid growth attracting foreign investment and visibly improving infrastructure and welfare.
Phnom Penh........Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city in Cambodia, located on the banks of the Mekong River. It has been the capital since 1866 after French colonisation of Cambodia and became known as the "Pearl of Asia", considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina.
First recorded in the 15th century the legend of the founding of Phnom Penh tells of a local woman, Old Lady Penh (Duan Penh,) living at the chaktomuk, the future Phnom Penh. It was the late 14th century and the Khmer capital was still at Angkor near Siem Reap 350km to the west. Gathering firewood along the banks of the river, Lady Penh spied a floating koki tree in the river and fished it from the water. Inside the tree she found four Buddha statues and one of Vishnu (the numbers vary on different accounts). This was taken as a divine blessing and led to the foundation of Wat Phnom in honour of Lady Penh’s discovery. Perhaps coincidentally with pressure building from Siam in the west the capitol city at Angkor was abandoned and moved to Phnom Penh in 1432. However Phnom Penh was to be the royal capital only until 1505 and then abandoned for 360 years. During French colonial rule the Royal Palace was built together with hotels, schools, prisons, barracks, banks, public works offices, telegraph offices, law courts, and health services buildings, retaining its charm through the early years of independence. However during the Vietnam War Phnom Penh became a haven for refugees fleeing the fighting but much worse was the follow. During the Khmer Rouge regime the city was systematically cleared of its occupants who were sent to work on the land and the city became a ghost town. Today it is flourishing once more albeit without the charm and character it possessed during the Colonial era.
Tower structures at Angkor Wat Siem Reap........Siem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and is the gateway to the Angkor region. Today it is at the centre of the tourist boom located near the now world-famous Angkor Wat Historical Park but its origins go back 500 years to a time of conflict with the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Siam. While the old city had been abandoned in the first half of the 15th century the area continued to be the focus of border disputes between Siam and the Khmer kingdom. In one of these clashes Siamese Prince Ong, the Governor of Sawankhalok had led an expedition against the King Ang Chan. The king counter-attacked, and shot Prince Ong dead on an elephant’s back, and routed the Thais capturing no less than 10,000 Thai troops. In honour of this victory the battleground was baptised ‘Siem Reap’ which translates as ‘defeat of Siam’.
For centuries Siem Reap was little more than a village but by the turn of the 20th century after much archaeological interest tourists began to arrive. Siem Reap became the centre for research into the ruins and civilisation of the Khmer, accelerated after the Franco-Siamese agreement of 1907. The site continued to lure visitors, including the likes of Charley Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy but along with the rest of the country was soon thrown into confusion under the Khmer Rouge. It was to set the development of Siem Reap back 25 years. However, today with travel much easier, Siem Reap has developed into a major tourist area boasting 5-star hotels and all the conveniences the modern tourist requires.
Itiniary……..For full report in click on travel log
Days 1-3, Bangkok to Phnom Penh (3 nights stay).
Days 4-7, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (4 nights stay).
Day 8, Siem Reap to Bangkok via Poi Pet.
Phnom Penh…..(These were by tuk tuk/moto or on foot).
Sisowath Quay, Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, The Choeung Ek Genocide Centre, The Royal Palace, The National Museum of Cambodia, King Sihanouk Memorial, Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh Railway Station.
Siem Reap........(These were by tuk tuk/moto or on foot).
Pub Street, Night Market,
In the Park at Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Tep Pranam.
Other ancient sites, Ta Keo, Ta Phrom, Prasart Kravan, Prasart Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap Old Market.
Phnom Penh........Lucky Star Hotel, rating....good apart from location, price $20 (3 nights).
Siem Reap........Baca Villa, rating....unrated (refer to travel log), price $20
(2 nights).
Siem Reap........Ancient Angkor Villa, rating....excellent, price $20 (2 nights).

Dining out........
Phnom Penh.....International and Asian food is predominately found along Sisowath Quay and in the new shopping malls. Elsewhere khmer food is distictive in its use of flavours with rice and noodles creating such dishes as amok and lo lak. Many small restaurants do not have menus in English if at all.
Siem Reap.....International cuisine is widely available near the Old Market, Pub Street and anywhere where hotels and guesthouses are found. Siem Reap boasts a number of high-class hotels and restaurants. Khmer food is widely available and relatively cheap.
Transport used........
Air Asia flight FD2772, Don Meuang International Airport, Bangkok to Phnom Penh 2,805 baht.
Phnom Penh Airport to Lucky Star Hotel $5, evening trip to Sisowath Quay $6.
Day trip to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Genocide Centre by tuk-tuk $15. Day trips around the city $10.
Capitol Tour bus to Siem Reap $7 transport to and from Baca Villa $12, special tour of Angkor Wat Historical Park $20. Local bus to Thai border $7, tuk-tuk to bus station 80 baht, government bus to Suvarnabhumi 205 baht, bus 554 30 baht, taxi 71 baht.
Motorbike rental........(none used)
Weather (temperatures are approximate)........
Phnom Penh sunny, hot 35c, overcast 30c.
Siem Reap sunny or broken cloud 35-40c.