Saturday, 2 September 2017


....which isn't really the Ariège, but it does have a French quarter to go with its colonial past so there is a link there albeit a bit tenuous. Plus, Jacques Lafayette born in Le Peyrat (the village conjoined to La Bastide sur l'Hers), introduced horn combs (historically, a major industry in the area) to Cambodia back in 1875 so there is a tangible link. (I may have made up that last bit!)
Prior to leaving for France, we had decided to spend the last week of our holiday in Siem Reap in Cambodia to help us face the end of winter in Australia and our return to work. We also reasoned that it would give us a chance to get over the jet lag as there's only an hour's time difference between Cambodia and Perth.
We flew out from Nice on 27th August.  The trip was long but worth it. We flew to Doha, Qatar, had a  couple of hours in transit and then a connecting flight on to Bangkok. Unfortunately we had to wait about 5 hours for the next connection to Siem Reap but for what it's worth, Bangkok Airways have a private lounge for all passengers where you can get free drinks and snacks and wifi so we found a corner there and slept as best we could. Besides, getting through immigration and security at Bangkok airport ate up a significant amount of the five hour wait!
This will actually be our third trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We love it. The hotels are fantastic, and sooo cheap. As is the food, drink ($2 for a margarita cocktail) and clothes. The people are also very helpful, kind and easy-going and this makes it very special too.

Our favourite hotel, the Borei Angkor (above) is fantastic; five star standard, but the most amazing thing is that out of season the prices are ridiculously cheap.  An extremely comfortable, spacious and well-finished room and buffet breakfast for US$50!  You would have trouble getting a broom cupboard in a Formule 1 in France for that price!

Most people come to Siem Reap for the temples at Angkor Archaeological Park. Most of them are are 11th and 12th century with a Buddhist/Hindu theme running throughout.   Considering they are getting on for a thousand years old they are still amazingly preserved.   You would need a week to do them all justice.

One thing we should point out is the climate. It is very hot and humid. We did a morning tour of some of the outlying temples such as Preah Khan (see photos above), and found that four and a half water bottles was just enough to keep us going. There are lots of sellers en route, however, to sell all sorts.  This actually worked out quite well as when we came back from our last temple, our tuk tuk (a sort of motorbike with a passenger cart on the back) had disappeared.  It turned out he had a flat tyre, so we took the opportunity of buying a couple of cold bottles of water and promptly poured them down the back of our shirts....yes that is how hot it gets!

Come dry season the above 'baray' will be gone, dried-up, although from above it would look like a rectangular moat surrounding a temple. Actually bit of trivia...the largest man made structure built by the ancient Khmer wasn't Angkor Wat which is the biggest temple but this western baray.

Of course, there is a dark side to visiting Cambodia too. It's a very poor country and it's a little surreal to be holidaying in a place that has a relatively recent genocidal past. I still remember being shocked by the movie, 'The Killing Fields' many years ago. I guess we hope that by being there, not only do we have an enjoyable, affordable, educational and interesting time, but that we are also in some small way doing something that helps the local people to make a living, and that maybe, eventually, in the long run, all this tourist activity will contribute to improving their lot.

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