Over the last 10 weeks of 2019, with Mai Tai high and dry in Pangkor Boat Yard, Malaysia, Lane and I have been enjoying some land adventures. This is indeed the season when many cruisers leave their boats to head home for family visits, do some land adventures or prepare their boats for the next cruising season.
We needed to be in the US for Lane’s mum’s 100th birthday party in mid-November, then Christmas in New Zealand, so we made time to tick a few other places off our wish list along the way.
We were keen to visit Cambodia while here in South East Asia, so we began our journey there. We took out a few American dollars as, even though they have their own currency, most transactions are in US dollars. But life is cheap there, they tell us.
After a 5hr bus ride from Pangkor Marina to Kuala Lumpur airport, we took a 1hr flight to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
Wandering around the city on the first day, we visited Buddhist Temples, the Royal Palace, bustling street markets alongside fancy French restaurants, old French architecture, all reminders of when the French ruled here from 1863 until 1954.
Then, the following day, we hired a tuk tuk with a driver for the day to visit Silk Island, so named for its traditional silk weaving communities. A short ferry ride across the mighty Mekong River to Silk Island gave us a taste of rural Cambodian life, and very few tourists.
After driving through fields of Mulberry trees, we visited a weaving community to see the various stages of the silk worms, from eating kilos of Mulberry leaves before turning into cocoons of fine silk thread. This fine silk thread is then spun into yarns, then dyed a multitude of vibrant colours. We watched as weavers sat at their handmade wooden looms to create magnificent patterned silk scarves and shawls.
On a more sombre note we visited the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields Memorial, both chilling reminders of the horrific and tragic Khmer Rouge atrocities that took place between 1975 and 1979.
In the evening, close to our hotel, we even found a sports bar showing the All Blacks challenging the Australians for the Bledisloe Cup. Unfortunately, we lost that one, much to the delight of the Aussies in the bar!
We decided to take a small local bus for the 6hr trip to Siem Reap, where we planned to spend 3 or 4 days visiting the famous sites of Angkor Wat. The driving on these roads is crazy. There are no road rules. Lane calls them guidelines but no one seems to take notice of them. With a sharp hoot on the horn, cars just pass whatever happens to be in the way ahead. Lane and I sat up front with the driver so found ourselves shutting our eyes, crossing fingers, holding our breath and praying to make it through to the end in one piece.
From our lovely little hotel in Siem Reap, we used a local tuk tuk driver to visit some of the temples of Angkor Wat, only 30 kilometers away.
Angkor Wat is a 12th century Buddhist Temple complex, one of the largest religious monuments in the world, and the 7th Wonder of the World, covering over 400 acres. What remains to visit today is just a fraction of what was once a series of independent walled and moated Buddist cities.
For 3 full days we explored some of the main temples, each one with its own history, marvelling at the intricate stone carvings and finding it hard to imagine the grandeur and opulence it was once famous for.
Our last day in Siem Reap was my big day to enter a new decade of my life. I was treated to a half- day full body massage, facial and spa treatment, then Lane and I enjoyed a lovely dinner out in this fun and bustling town. Thank you, Lane. It was a real treat.
Our next part of our journey is going to be a very long flight to Los Angeles flying via China with Xiamen Airlines.
What a contrast that will be. You will read about that in our next blog.