The city of Phnom Phen was a pleasant surprise, it was much quieter than the other South East Asian capitals I had visited and it moved at a more relaxed pace. Restaurants serving delicious khmer food and rooftop bars serving well priced cocktails overlooked the mighty Mekong river and in the side streets there were more than a few trendy Café’s. I parked the bike at the guesthouse and took the opportunity to explore the city by foot, I managed to pay a visit the royal palace and the national museum to learn a little Khmer history. I could have quite easily settled into a routine and soaked up the atmosphere of Phnom Phen but I was keen to see the temples of Angkor Wat so after an enjoyable 3 days I was out of the city and making my way along the country roads to the town Battambang.
Battambang was another very nice riverside city, a ride through town promised some very nice local restaurants but by the time I had settled into my hotel the rain had also settled in. I made a dash to the nearest restaurant, ordered beef lok lak and watched the downpour over a few glasses of 50 cent beer. I had half a day of good weather before I left for Siem Reap and decided to visit nearby Phnom Sampeau cave, which the Khmer Rouge used to execute prisoners in the similar way as the killing fields. Unlike Cheoung Ek I was the only one here, there was no audio tour, actually there was very little information at all except what I was told by my young guide. Once again this was a reminder of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime, victims stood on the edge of a hole at the top of the cave where they were beaten to death and dropped into the dark pit, you could actually climb to where they stood and look into the abyss, a horrible view.
Cambodian roads for the most part are flat and straight, I had my headphones in to keep the boredom away and I was soon in Siem Reap, which was the base for visiting the famous temples of Angkor. With the Angkor world heritage site attracting visitors from all over the globe, Siem Reap is a town that is built on the foundation of tourism and I must admit I fell for its appeal. It doesn’t matter how you prefer to travel, Siem Reap will cater for your needs, fancy hotels to cheap hostels and guest houses, pubs, clubs, cocktail lounges, restaurants, cafes and night markets….. you would be hard pressed to get bored here. I took a ride out to the Artisan Silk farm with my new travel buddy Mel, we were a little worse for wear from all night happy hour the previous evening so we thought we’d save the temples for the next day. The silk farm was a great experience, the tour took us through every stage in the production of silk, from harvesting the threads from the silk worms cocoon to the beautiful finished products. It was good to see that the farm trains locals in various skills required in the silk making process providing them with a source of income and steady employment.
Although there was a lot to keep me occupied in Siem Reap the reason I was here was to see the temples and they were spectacular ….. but I think they deserve their own post so I’ll save them for the next update.