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Trip Report Bangkok, Siem Reap, The PLF, Battambang and PP.

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I have been wanting to make this trip for many years. Our first trip to Asia was Singapore and Malaysia, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Bangkok and Cambodia seemed like a logical second trip. Especially after reading up on Siem Reap and the Ponheary Ly Foundation, I was more and more interested in getting a closer look at Life in this part of the World. The more I read about the Foundation, the more I was already captivated and wanting to lend a hand from afar. I started a fundraiser through the recommended razoo.com page called “Blessed with Bikes and more”.

The fundraiser has been coming along, so I got even more excited about getting to Siem Reap, meeting the founders and visiting one of the schools. Of course we would also visit the temples, etc. but this trip was taking on different emotions in the planning for me.

I spent hours reading up on the Foundation realizing that my mind was slowly focusing towards spreading the word about our intentions there and our trip. So many friends and family across the globe came on board, each in his own way, that the pre-trip excitement was two fold. Touristically visting another part of the world unknown to us… and finally meeting the end destination for our fundraising efforts and the staff on the ground.

This was a journey that I am very happy we took, in every way, at every stop. It was not easy to accept the poverty we saw, but we feel fortunate having made contacts and the new relationships that have been forged.

I will defintely be back . Not sure when, but hopefully sooner than later.

The trip

We got a very good rate on Thai from Madrid non stop to BKK. Having four seats for the two of us was a nice perk, although the legroom on Thai is the best I have had on any of my recent trips from Europe to the USA.

Day 1

We took a metered taxi from the ground floor at arrivals to our hotel alter getting local money at an ATM.

Those of you who followed my hotel research will know that at the very last minute I found a fabulous rate at the Peninsula hotel. We had been deciding between the Adelphi Suites and either of the Marriott serviced apartments as they were all very well recommended. But we were very glad in the end we stayed where we did.

We also accepted to upgrade with breakfast to a one bedroom suite with an extra half bath as our son would be joining us alter the first night. So, even though this changed the price quite a bit from the original budget ( which was my primary concern for months) my husband insisted we upgrade, so we did.

It was well worth every penny.

What I love about this location is being able to watch the river traffic from the room and breakfast terrace, swimming in the pool in the afternoons and lounging in the cabanas.

The hotel boat shuttles across to several drop off piers are very frequent, contrary to many of the other hotels in the area. The Pen shuttles are constantly skirting back and forth, so you never wait more than a few pleasant minutes.

After checking into the room and getting settled we bought the Nancy Chandler map in the hotel gift shop. I was so happy to find it there as a friend was GOING to bring it to me from England, but she ended up not coming over, so this was a blessing to have it from the first day.

YOU NEED THIS MAP! it was about 6E at the hotel.

We took the boat shuttle across the river to the public pier to catch a public boat up to Wat Pho. Just know where you want to get off these convenient quick commuter boats so when the woman comes to sell you a ticket she knows how much to charge you.

We investigated the area, took plenty of photos, had the massage at the school there as there was no line, and then took a crossover boat to Wat Arun on the other side of the river.

It was getting fairly warm, and knowing the tempting pool that was waiting for us back at the Pen overtook our desire to keep "templing". So we crossed back and then took the commuter back to the pier and got home in time for a quick bite to eat and relaxing swim.

Later that evening we walked up Silom street checking out the area and facilities there, ending up at Lebua Towers for an overpriced drink at their Skybar. It certainly has the view of Bangkok, but if you have ever been to Kuala Lumpur skybars, you will not be blown away.

Day 2

We had the better part of the day to ourselves before our son would arrive near dinnertime so we went off on the train to the lovely Jim Thompson complex, enjoying the tour and gift shop immensely.

We later took a klong commuter boat which is found behind the museum and down a ways to the Chidlom mall area. These Klong water boats are a great fast way to zip across the city instead of getting envolved in the heavy traffic . I suggest you try it as it is a real experience.

Now, these boats are much lower than the pier.. so I was a bit reluctant and slow moving trying to step down onto the narrow edge of the boat to get in. I am sure the locals were not very happy as this fat cow probably made them late getting somewhere as I tried to find the safest way to step down with my husband’s help into the boat.

Getting out was easier but if you have very bad knees this may not be for you. Everyone else seemed so nimble. I will have to work on that for next time as I plan to use them more. Also know the name of your stop so you can be charged accordingly.

You see. I am already planning to return!

We took a walk around the interesting food court, then we ordered a drink. Unfortunately my husband was 5 minutes too late to order beer, they said. No more beer after 2pm. ( or maybe it was alter 1 pm.. I don´t remember).

He was a bit disappointed as he had been salivating thinking about one of the numerous ice cold beers displayed. Just 15 minutes later we saw them take a TRAY of ice cold beers to a nearby table.

Of course we then asked again for one for DH. They still said no.. it was too late. They explained those OTHER beers had been ordered and PAID for before the deadline.
An unusual system, reminding us of a trip to London 40 years ago where we couldn’t figure out when we could have a beer, a milkshake or something from the grill! Now we are aware.

Good to know. Maybe a local can chime in to tell us what time is the cut off time and when do they start up again at food malls? Is this system city- wide?

As suggested by many here, the food courts at the malls are a wonderful place to be able to see and try many different foods of many different styles when you need a quick snack. It is well priced also and has a very pleasant atmosphere and air conditioning!

But our evening meal with our son at Tongue Thai was very, very good. After a delicious dinner of recommended dishes by the chef and ideas from posts here, morning glories, pad thai with soft shelled crab,egg rolls,eggplant salad, shrimp with garlic, for dessert mango sticky rice and banana with honey, 4 beers and a large water, the bill came to 2,500THB.

We then retired to our comfy beds to enjoy a real night’s sleep.

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    The next morning we found a laundry place on one of the backstreets behind the Shangri-La. We later continued on to the grand Palace by boat.

    Now, the day before we had successfully ignored all mentions by a fellow in the street that the Jim Thompson house we were approaching was closed. I had read here that this is a typical scam to try to get you into their tuk tuk to go off shopping for hours. The JT complex was NOT closed. My husband chuckled that I should KNOW about this scam. Thanks to Fodors, of course!

    Well, near the Grand Palace we approached a side entrance but the “hatted guard” standing under the small archway told us that it was closed until 1 pm.

    We then walked furthur on to what we thought was the main entrance and found several tourists attentively listening to a “very nice English speaking “ guide looking type person with a plastic ID hanging around his neck, informing us of the same…that the Palace was closed today ( Monk’s day) until 1 pm, but there were a lot of Wats nearby ..(showed everyone the maps) that could be seen in the meantime.

    So, believing all this.. we, and many others, made a Plan B with a tuk tuk driver for what seemed a pittance to go see a couple Wats and then come back.

    You can read the whole episode here. We knew it was a scam with in a few minutes but just went along for the ride, but actually did feel sequestered alter the third or fourth shop.

    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/sequestered-by-a-tuk-tuk-in-bkk-where-else.cfm

    We DID get to see some additional Wats, and actually bought nothing, but still, it was an experience I don´t need to repeat. However, a journalist in a local magazine says his friends take great advantage of this scam and have seen all parts of the city for almost nothing , so it CAN be put to good use if you so desire.

    After a long day of tuk tukking, and more Photo ops at the Palace and other Wats than can be imagined, we headed back to our oasis, stopping for a foot massage along a small street near the laundry drop off.

    Later that evening our dinner at Harmonique did not disappoint but I am sorry to say for some reason I didn´t take notes here of what we had. I just remember it was a lovely atmosphere and deserves a visit.

    Day 3

    We ventured up to the Golden Buda, (Wat Traimit) by taxi, saw monk’s houses at Wat Sampha and enjoyed meandering long narrow alleys to the Leng Noi Yee temple. There was a lot of decorating going on in preparation for the Chinese new Year. Sweeping, cleaning, painting. The streets were jammed with last minute shoppers. The shops in the area would be closed for five days, we were told, so the lines of people, cars and taxis were massive.

    We were all very hot. DH was getting grumpy, tired, fed up with the traffic , honking and general difficulty walking along the sidewalk. The sidewalks sometimes are so occupied with food stalls and people milling around them that you move faster in the street next to the cars.

    I got out the N. Chandler map and saw that there was a revolving restaurant not too far away: The Grand China Princess. So off we went. Unfortunately, it had already closed for lunch and dinnertime was far away so we opted for a cool drink in the lobby area.

    We were ready to get back to the hotel and pool but couldn´t find a metered taxi that would take us so we headed to the nearby Old Siam local mall to check out their ground floor food court, later going up to the 3rd floor where our son had a very good Pad Thai dish for $1.
    We endured some down time here with a cold drink and were serenaded by what could have been the equivalent of Thai flamenco singers. There was a small group listening attentively to these artists, but the music was not pleasant to our Western ears. Some parts were very shrill and reminded me of flamenco lamentations . I imagine it takes some getting used to to fully appreciate it.

    Partially rested we decided to walk to Wat Rajaburana and then through the delightful flower market. What a feast for the eyes. The abundance of orchids and other flowers put a smile on our tired faces. Our photos do not do justice to the burst of color we saw at every stand. I love the hanging decorations and wreath type articles they make from all sizes of small flowers for donations at the temples.

    We found The Deck restaurant fairly easily. It is across from Wat Arun and has a spectacular view at night when the Wat is majestically lit up. We had a few dishes including Sea bass with garlic, pork with ginger, spring rolls, mushrooms and sauce, beer and water for 900THB. Do make reservations to get a table with a view. We had no reservations and did not have "the view" but were able to take photos of course.

    We were lucky to find a metered taxi alter a couple attempts back to the hotel pier. Our son opted for a massage while we went down to the pool for awhile.

    At the end of every day we couldn’t help but give thanks for being able to enjoy such a wonderful trip.

    Day 4

    Our bike tour day! Now this was exceptionally relaxing alter being in the city . I highly recommend this organization. It is locally owned and the guide was a sweetheart. The train ride alone was fun and we met some fun village people who were so anxious to see "the foreigners" this guide brings to their towns.

    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/amazingly-interesting-bike-tour-near-bangkok.cfm

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    This trip planning was made so much easier with all the help from everyone's posts. I should have thanked you all at the beginning of this second attempt to post my report. The amount of information available to us here is never-ending. You can invest as many hours as you want and just keep getting more recommendations!

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    Day 5 The Jewel of Bangkok

    I forgot to mention at the beginning that make sure you wear comfortable and easily removable shoes as you will need to take them off before entering temples. Also, no bare shoulders, men or women, and no shorts for either . The length of the shorts that were allowed seemed to change from place to place across Cambodia also. It is a good idea for men and women to have a large wrap they can use if necessary, and if you want to buy one, there were some simple, attractive well priced ones here at this museum complex.

    The Vinamenk Museum and the Royal Throne Hall are two compulsory stops in Bangkok. They are both included in your Grand Palace ticket and must be both visited on the same day. However, they need not be visited on the same day as the Grand Palace, nor wpuld I suggest even attempting that.

    Do not miss BOTH these buildings and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy each and every piece of artisan work.

    We took a taxi up to this area starting first at the Vinamenk museum, the largest teak wood building, also visiting the small exhibition houses on the property. They are filled with photographic testimony of the King and his family, their outings, and his love for music and entertainment. two of the houses also have some information about the Royal Elephants which was worth reading about.

    It was like flicking thorough personal family photo albums and very interesting. The King has played in a band with several well known musicians and has the photos to prove it. He is quite a talented individual and very much respected.

    On the grounds between the Museum and then the Royal throe hall there is a cute greenhouse type structure of a coffee snack shop that proved to be just what we needed after al the walking and reading. We enjoyed some smoothie, macadamia ice cream and another beverage. It was air conditioned and only one other person was there when we arrived.

    The most outstanding detail of the RTH is that the majority of the intricate sculpted panels and wall coverings had been made just in the last 10 years by artisans from the Royal Training Center. To have hundreds of people spend a couple years carving these panels was just mind-boggling. It is wonderful they are keeping the tradition alive . You will not leave here unimpressed!

    This Hall has a nice gift shop, but no small book about the building and its contents. We also visited a temporary exhibit of amazing embroidered picture scenes that were from a contest in many provinces of the country. The work is absolutely unbelievable. At times you think you are looking at a water-color and not threads.

    Off to find the monk bowl making community! We did find it, but are not sure we saw it "all" as once we tried to go further down and alley, a young woman with broken English told us "there was a biting dog down there".. and not to go. We watched some of the pounding and decided against a purchase . It was fun to feel we stumbled upon it all.

    Chinatown is full of streets of one particular item. Doors, guns, etc. Wandering is just entertaining sometimes. The N. Chandler map has all of this marked everywhere which really helps when you find yourself somewhere and wondering what is nearby.

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    Off to a great start, LC. I've been looking forward to your report!

    This was a journey that I am very happy we took, in every way, at every stop.

    Sounds like your trip was very much like ours.

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    Our last afternoon was spent on a longtail boat along some canals not far from the Penn. This trip was definitely not worth the money. I am sure these are not the nice canals to visit so don't bother with it in this area. The most interesting thing we saw was a large monitor lizard basking on a dock under a tree.

    We had also made reservations for three massages up at the Ruen -Nuad massage house that is recommended as a favorite on the N. Chandler map. Perhaps the three women were tired as it was the last hour of the day for them. Perhaps it is the quaint surroundings that are so attractive, but we were disappointed in this massage. The house it is in is very nice and authentic but the massages were very mediocre. Funny how easy it is to compare after having a few consecutive ones.

    We went around the corner for dinner at "Eat Me",a trendy pricey place that can get loud, but the food was tasty.

    A large, rowdy, wild group up on the third floor was playing some game SCREAMING between lulls of silence, annoying several tables near us. We all asked to be moved outside once tables were free, as we couldn't even talk to each other. The staff was also surprised at this group whom we later found out were local bankers. We decided they were all howling over their bonuses.

    There was live music but you couldn´t hear it with the noise created by these happy bankers.

    We were unable to get any taxi this evening to put the meter on after dinner ( something we got fairy tired of) and the tuk tuks go wild with prices when they see foreigners, charging close to what it costs to go to the airport.. so we finally opted for the train back to the pier. Fortunately it was not far away.

    Our luxury portion of the trip was coming to an end. We were packing and I couldn't help think about what the next week would bring as far as impressions and experiences go. The rest of the trip would be much more intimate and personal, and at times very emotional.

    But it seems we couldn´t leave Bangkok and the Penn without an incident!

    After a lovely relaxed breakfast feast we asked the concierge to hail us a metered taxi to the airport and preferably a van , as we were three adults and three large cases. They said sometimes it can take awhile, and I said. "no problem. We were not in a hurry".

    A taxi van pulls up a few minutes later.They reconfirm to me it is a metered taxi, and once inside I repeat about the meter to the driver since it still was not on as we were closing the doors.

    He gives me a look and puts it on.

    He never asked us for the tolls, so when we arrived at the airport we asked him how much it was, and he said 1,000THB. ( The meter was 300+ or so).

    We gave him 400+ and he thrust the money back at us saying "The people of Thailand invite you to this taxi.We can pay for you if you cannot pay the 1,000. Why you tell the hotel METER? This to airport is no meter. It is 1,000 to airport in this taxi. You can call my company. The money is not for me. You take your money".

    He left us there with a company card and drove off leaving us with our mouths open.

    When we arrived in Cambodia, i wrote the hotel and asked them exactly what they thought happened and insisted that we wanted to pay for this taxi. If it was 1,000THB then that is what we will pay, but I did not understand what had gone on.

    Needless to say, the hotel told us they would let us know how this problem was resolved. We would find out on our return one nighter the following week that the Penn almost broke their contract with this new company over this "funny business" he pulled on us, as they called it, and have banned that particular driver from serving their clients.

    Anyway. All's well that ends well.

    I was feeling very excited about getting to Siem Reap. The rest of the trip was going to be more of an adventure I thought, and was not wrong.

    We had a pleasant flight with Bangkok Airways. We had signed up on their program so we had 10 extra kilos in case we needed it, but were unaware of their free lounge on the outgoing trip. We did use it on the return only because the agent mentioned it to us and told us where it was.

    Communication is everything, isn't it?

    Cambodia coming up

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    Reflections on Bangkok.

    It is a city that grows on you. The river is its soul. The city has everything you could ever want. Good food. Sites to see. Excellent artisan work. Inexpensive taxis. But I still do not like to deal with tuks tuks there. We were never given a logical price for any run, thus never used them except for the Palace scam where they told us a low price for zipping us up to a couple Wats.

    The countryside is just outside the city limits and will certainly give you a good feeling of the agricultural society that lies beyond.

    Next time I am lucky to go , I will definitely search out some dance entertainment. By the end of the warm, humid days, most evenings we were ready to call it quits after dinner, early or late, it didn´t matter! A day or two with Tong is also on the list.

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    When we actually went into the airport we were quite glad we had given ourselves plenty of time. Wow! What a busy place for check-in. Since they funnel everyone into one long line in each section, it is quite impressive at the beginning. I am sure many congratulating themsleves for being cautious about the time needed to check - in.

    There were kiosks to do self check-in, but this was our first time on Bangkok A. so I was a little overweight ( with the luggage, too, (ha ha) by now) so I felt the counter was a safer bet for us.

    The line moved very well, so the wait was not nearly as excruciating as it had appeared to us at the beginning.

    We enjoyed strolling through the "mall" and settled into our seats for the short one hour flight to Siem Reap.

    We flew over non-impressive fields but felt we were in a different world when we disembarked and saw the architecture of the small airport. It has a typical ornate roof .

    We walked into the airport and had wished we had done VOA since the line took almost 45 minutes or longer to get your visa on site. Of course, maybe our luggage took awhile, but this wait was much longer than I had hoped for. It seems only a handful of people did VOA as all of us were in the visa line. it was a full flight, so that, too, has an effect.

    Our driver was waiting for us with the 7 Candles Guesthouse van. It was comforting to have someone meet us, as we usually just take a taxi . So this was a real treat for us.

    As those of you who have been to SR know, the ride from the airport is nothing to write home about. An article written by a young man from SR said that" the people thank their ancestors everyday for building the temples, because otherwise.. why would people come here?".

    We got settled into our two rooms, met some of the staff and founders, and then our son took one of the bikes to check out the area. 7 Candles is a very clean, basic guesthouse that is managed by the family of Ponheary Ly,( the founder of www.theplf.org) and Lori Carlson. The staff is charming. Their laundry service is wonderful. I think they have the best breakfasts in town. The Vietnamese coffee they serve is fabulous, as well as their crepes and pancakes and fruit and muesli. Our son liked their noodles also.

    The rooms have AC, the toilet and shower share the same floor in the bathroom, you are advised to use mineral water to brush your teeth, asked to not clog toilets with paper and there is WIFI plus a guest computer on the mezzanine which has a lovely terrace to sit on watching the traffic buzz by. The beds were comfortable. The AC worked. We watched some news on the small TV. We had a fridge in the room and clean towels everyday.They also have a nice gift shop that helps support fair trade of some hill tribes and local artists.

    But .. there is no pool. But do not worry! The Frangipani Hotel a few doors down will let you use theirs if you consume at LEAST $5 of food and drink. There is a dressing area with shower and pool towels. it is very nice and much welcomed after temple trekking.

    Be patient during your meal, as even when the place is empty it seems to take forever to get anything brought to the table. Not a place if you are in a hurry. You must swim immediately after the meal.. not several hours later, if you planned to come back later in the evening.

    SR is a place where you feel free. You can ride down to the river. Pass a market. Check out a Wat or two. Stop at a trendy coffee shop with free wifi. It is a lovely sleepy place that has a vibe of its own. SR and then Battambang were our favorite stops.

    After delivering the suitcase of goods brought from Spain for the Foundation and handing in the wonderful amount of cash friends had given me for the PLF and doing some paper work we ventured off in a tuk tuk to the other side of the river to stroll and meet up later with our son at the FCC for a drink to compare notes.

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    I should have said "they MUST have the best breakfasts in town" because I certainly had not much to compare with except my own palate and two days we ate elsewhere, which was good, but the 7 Candles´ offerings seemed the tastiest!

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    oops! backtrack. First we met up with our son a short ways down the street at Selantra,a small, clean restaurant that quickly put us at a table with menus although I am sure it was not mealtime for anyone. We just ordered some spring rolls and drinks and waited for our son to stop by to plan the rest of our free afternoon.

    We then walked down to the river ( or maybe we took a tuk tuk.. not sure) and wandered around the Wat, ending up at the FCC where we had arranged to meet our son later for a light dinner by the pool. I later read they have an upstairs rooftop, but was unaware of that. It is probably very nice indeed.

    We also visited the McDermott (?) Gallery nearby, bought a few photo cards and enjoyed the many small boutiques on or near the FCC property. We took a tuk tuk back "home" and set the alarm for our 4:45am wake-up to go to Angkor Wat for sunrise with the driver, whom we had yet to meet. I had read about him on a post at Thorn Tree.

    You should have seen the look on my husband's face when I told him the wake up plan! Anyway. He's a good sport and thought this was one of those "off the beaten path" type things I had cooked up, intimate, something to inspire you and write home about. None of us realized the HOARDS of people that would be pouring into that area at that ungodly hour!

    And it was at this moment that I realized I had not brought the two flashlights I had meant to get batteries for and were still on a bed or night stand in the room I had begun to pack my bag.

    Oh well.

    When people suggest you bring a flashlight, they aren't kidding. It was dark, trying to walk on uneven slabs of stone. You can imagine. Since there were so many clever tourists there, we just followed closely behind a group that ALL had flashlights ( must have been Japanese or Germans or just plain organized travelers) and were doing a great job of marking the trail!

    A flashlight is also nice for inside the temples to better see some engravings on the walls higher up.

    OK. So now . Where do we go? Where's the best place? You pass thorugh a door frame onto a small space full of steps and ledges and people are still pouring in behind you..Some rude people started actually sitting on the ONLY steps for us to get down into the lower area., making it all the more difficult to maneuver.

    It was like getting a good seat for the 4 th of July Bruce Springsteen concert park picnic but not knowing where the band was going to be set up. People were congregating everywhere.

    We finally decided to split up. Our son wanted to go "there" my husband thought it was better over "here". I needed some water by this time and had not taken the bottle the driver offered me. So off I went to the food stall section with all the souvenirs and got my first heavy of attack of

    "buy from me.. please.. how much you pay?.. I give you discount.. Maybe not now but you come back and remember me, mam.. business no good today".

    We wandered around, waiting for the sun to completely rise and cast its magic glow on this mysterious people's palace.

    I am sure SOMEONE got good shots. You see them in the books all the time But as far as I was concerned.. it was a bit overcast and not worth all the hoopdala of messing with it. Maybe there is a magic place to go.. to see. But with all these crowds and busloads of people, tripod after tripod, it was a joy to get away from them on the "other" side of the temple and not really worry too much about the sunrise. We just enjoyed the place before it got mobbed.

    Once back with the driver, he wisely suggested we not go back to the hotel and continue on to other temples as most busloads go back, have breakfast, clean up and then don't get back on the road for awhile. This is a great window of opportunity to see some more temples with as few people as possible. So that is what we did.

    By then end of the morning and Ta Bayan and Wat Thom we took a much needed lunch break need before heading to Angelina Jolie famous Ta Prohm. We saw even more temples during this huge loop, and enjoyed reading about them afterwards in detail. Maybe that was reverse procedure but I didn´t want to get more overdosed on info than necessary. This temple trekking is heavy duty if you don´t watch out and know how much of it "you can take" or want to know.

    We decided our last day to go back to two of them. Of course we gave Angkor Wat its deserved extra few hours and then went to look up some amazing, actually perhaps the most impressive, carvings we had MISSED in a trench at the Leper's terrace.

    Tuk vs. AC car for nearby temples.

    There is something romantic and easy going taking a tuk tuk to the nearby temples. The breeze helps dry the perspiration off your face and blows in your hair. It is quite calming and since they go fairly slowly, a very relaxed way to do this. The compacted dirt road helps muffle the sound of the passing vehicles.

    However, an AC car is the way I like to go to the further out temples. 2 hours+ in a dusty tuk tuk versus an hour+ in a closed car makes for a more comfortable trip. I only say this so when arranging transportation you decide which mode and where you are going .

    On the way back to town i had mentioned we wanted to go see some authentic Apsara/Khmer dancing so we were taken to the Kuelen restaurant/show place and made a reservation only for the show as I was a bit leery of a buffet on my first night in SR. For $6 each we had good seats and enjoyed a wonderful show with beautiful graceful dancers and authentic background music. The buffet was only $6 more, drinks separate,( from $1.50-$3.50) and people did seem to be enjoying it. I later read back at 7 candles that this is the show they most recommend to their guests. So, the driver did good!

    My family crashed back at the hotel but I had the driver take me to the Blue Pumpkin I had read about. I got my Blackberry to work on Wifi there, ordered a mango yogurt shake and sent my family a picture to invite them to join me!

    No takes on that so I went back to the hotel, showered,( oh that felt sooo good) took a short rest, checked emails on house computer and waited for our driver to get us and take us to the show.

    He later took us to Khmer Kitchen where we had a decent, reasonably priced meal and let him go home and took a tuk tuk home later.

    The next day was Beng Melea which we really liked. After a hearty breakfast at the house Vuthy picked us up at 9 a.m. to start our day. By this time he was also chatting with the founders of the Foundation and enjoying meeting the other people at our guesthouse. It is a real family feeling there. Our sweet driver had a very good impression of the local people he met.

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    >>>What I love about this location is being able to watch the river traffic from the room and breakfast terrace, swimming in the pool in the afternoons and lounging in the cabanas.<<<

    (I think we have another Peninsula, Bangkok convert! Special place, staff and friends, indeed.)


    Can't thank you enough, Linda, for your brilliant writing. Noticed you have spent time in our fine home of Singapore. Should you ever return to sweet SIN, more than happy to give various lodging, dining, and recreational ideas; good people and special gems we're still discovering. (And can assure you, Singapore Airlines currently offers most efficient and well-tended non-stop service, Barcelona - Singapore.)

    Keep up the great work, Linda, and thanks for making this morning Hong Kong departure back home to SIN that much more special. (And should you make it back to BKK in time for Valentine's Day, that Peninsula property does put on quite the joyous and memorable evening; can't wait.)

    Good travelling to you and all,

    macintosh (robert)


    ... Singapore Airlines, You're a Great Way to Fly ...

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    The trip to Bang Melea was very interesting. Our driver made sure we stopped to hear about how the sticky rice is made and watch it being done as well as taste it.

    As we chatted we learned all sorts of little tidbits about Cambodians. Such as

    Cambodians don't like even numbers. All steps are odd numbers. The number 9 is the lucky number.

    We passed rice fields and stilted houses with thatched walls and the typical 4 on a moto family driving past. I am sure the infant mortality rate may have a tad bit to do with this precarious infant balancing in front of papá on the moto. My lord! We were never able to get a picture. But 8-10 month old in front straddling the bike or set atop it in front of Dad, then the toddler, then mom behind to wedge him/her in.
    Wow.

    I did get a photo of a grandma wrapping up the grandchild in a huge scarf diaper then tying her onto the handlebars of a bike forming a type of basket all in one. Off they went!

    We had a very good lunch at a Beng Melea area restaurant. We tried Khmer pork rice. Don't ask me how it was as by this time, food has become a blur to say the least. So many days on the road, So much rice, spring rolls and morning glories.. I am really enjoying my lunches and dinners of fresh veggies here at home!

    Force yourself to use the bathrooms at the visitor ticket area of Beng Melea. They are REALLY nice and there will not be anything similar for a LONG time. Glad our driver was tuned into that! He always made very logical suggestions for us to be more comfortable, have better AC at a certain restaurant,(although he said it would be more expensive.. so which place did we prefe?) or nicer bathrooms when possible. He was a blessing and we have become very attached to him.

    I imagine this happens to 95% of the people who come here. You get a driver you like. His English is good so you can really have question and answer periods with him and find out a lot and clear up doubts you have about things.

    You are told some of his family background.. never too much. But you can feel the suffering just below the surface, and the trip turns into more than seeing temples. More than trying new foods and wondering if you dare eat this or that. More then searching for that perfect handmade table runner or sculpture.

    You are seeing a quest to succeed. A quest to make someone happy and love your country. A quest to learn about the tourists' world , prices, study systems, crime,etc. You are making a new friend. And he may ask you how he can do better business.

    Our driver was under the impression that everything is so wonderful in Europe and the United States. From their point of view we are obviously all extremely wealthy, even the students, as we/they can come visit his country from so far away for so long without working. I was glad he didn't ask me how many other wonderful trips I had taken in the past ten years.

    He was surprised that we have so many robberies in Spain, and that we have soup kitchens to feed the poor and the families who are now losing their homes. He was surprised to know that we have shanty homes outside Madrid with no running water and overrun with rats and lice. He was unaware of the mafias taking Africans in boats across the strait of Gibraltar for 1,000's of euros and then dumping them into the sea or far from shore lying to them that on shore they will be picked up by their colleague and taken to their jobs.

    We had some long talks and they were very informative for all of us.

    After Beng Melea we went down towards Tonle Sap lake. We passed numerous pagodas. Monks stay for three months in the rainy season in the pagodas. We passed hundreds of ducks on the banks of the lake/river/inlet. They feed them so they don't leave. They use their eggs until the duck is old and then they consume the duck itself.

    We passed rice fields and quaint bridges.

    We then boarded a private motored boat to take us out onto the lake. it was a pleasant ride, seeing lots of floating houses, a floating school, and very young children going back and forth in boats at an age that would make any Western parent queasy. There was an occasional large, new, colorful house that obviously belonged to one of the wealthiest of the fishermen.

    Under the stilted houses many have fish farms under their homes. They let ALL waste fall into the waters of the farm for the fish to thrive on.

    I lost my appetite for fish after that. It wasn't until we hit Bangkok on the return that I could even think of eating it.

    The small fish abandon the lake and come back when the lake water has been renewed after the melting up in the mountains. This lake can support a LOT of flooding. The houses' stilts are approximately the height of a four-five story building. it is quite a sight.

    The Vietnamese people and the Cambodians have disputes in these villages but now there is an association that intervenes to help solve problems. More and more Vietnamese are coming to Cambodia, we were told.

    Once back at shore, we walked along the road through this village encountering people of all ages. You couldn´t help notice the young women's destroyed teeth from sucking on a local product ( beetlenut?). What a shame. A lot of the young children had severe decay in their front teeth from sucking on palm sugar cane . They had black spots or totally corroded teeth on the side of their mouth they used mostly for sucking this.

    It is such a shame these young families are not getting the help/education/information or not paying attention to the help that has been offered. I am not sure which it is, but it breaks your heart.

    There is also a look of deep sorrow in many of the young girls' eyes that is haunting. Some kids are excited, jumping all over, wanting to see their picture on the camera.. but others have a distant look that is very worrisome.

    Cross eyedness, wandering eye, an oversized head and leg deformation were also noticeable in more than one child in a small group of 8-10.

    It is hard to see the reality of poverty so close.. in your face.. and realize one's future depends on not only where you are born, but on the government's priorities in that place, and the level of education that you are surrounded by.

    How long until the world can help Cambodia and all the other Cambodias at least have clean water, health care and proper schools?

    You walk away asking yourself so many questions.

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    Thank you AskOksena for the compliments! I WISH I could go back soon. I fear it may be awhile before I get that direction again. And I hope the Peninsula has that great rate again sometime! It seems to have disappeared for the time being.

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    Please don't get me wrong. I know the "World" is doing something for all these impoverished nations, It's just so frustrating not to SEE it happening as quickly as one wishes but makes you wonder if it is ever going to happen nationwide.

    Any comments on this?

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    My husband and I marvel at the young kids managing the flat boats out to to the lake. The others run up to us saying "hello..hello", some porting a baby in their arms, others a toddler who can't run as fast. I take pics of them on my phone they burst in laughter when they see them.

    This attracts even more kids from way down the road.. now everyone has surrounded us. I am sure they were hoping for some candy or something but we had nothing to give them.

    I also show them pics of our cats which seems to entertain them. One goes running off and comes back later with a cat that looks quite a lot like one of ours. How cute! Another one brings a dog. What I call "THE Cambodian dog". (I think they all have the same father).

    We do leave though with sadness and acceptance, that "This is their Life".. but do hope to see infrastructural improvements nationwide whenever I am able to return.

    The drive back from the Lake got dark and if there is anything you do not want to do too often it is be on the road in the dark in Cambodia. I would NEVER take a night bus.

    Few of the motos have functioning lights. An occasional clever dog escapes begin run over. You come across all sorts of vehicles moving at different speeds. So you do want a very safe driver who understands you are on vacation and NOT in any hurry. Vuthy was great. I am the world's worst backseat driver and felt perfectly safe with him.

    I am quite surprised we have not seen ONE accident, albeit a few close calls, and have chuckled at one very nimble COW as well as a few stupid, but lucky dogs.

    We went directly to the Sugar Palm restaurant, not realizing we'd need a reservation. They were full and suggested we go down the street to the Hotel Villa., not to be confused with some other "villa" place along the way. Dinner was very good and was $33 for the three of us for one cocktail ( happy hour) 2 beers, water, 1 coffee and three plates and dessert. Sorry no food notes. Was probably more of the same.. spring rolls, pork ribs, some rice and a mango or banana dessert.

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    Now today we are going to one of the schools that theplf sponsors. Since it is out near the land mine museum that Akira has made, we will visit that first, then go next to the school and also visit Bantry Srei temple this day.

    But we are in no rush. We came here partly to get a firsthand view and see the work being done as well as turn in what we have been able to provide with the generous help of friends, family and Fodorites.

    Lori and Ponheary were both at the school to lead us around from the classrooms to the outdoor kitchen the nurse's first aid area and where the children dined.

    It was gratifying to see the kids all walking off with their bowls of noodles and bread and in an orderly fashion eat their food as they talked with their classmates.

    We asked some of them their names and how old they were, and they were happy to answer.

    We were given the background of a few of the children who were particularly unusually dire cases, and to see them in this clean, loving atmosphere warmed your heart. The story about "Tien", a young boy who wandered into the school area covered in caked-on mud and refused to get near anyone for nearly a year grasps you as you listen. As you digest what his process must have been, you thank these workers for all they are doing socially here.

    Tien slept under the porch of one of the classrooms for months with the dogs, ate there also as he would not come out when people were around but has finally come out of his shell, allowed himself to be bathed, now a nimble little pistol who likes to tease Lori ( his main contact during his antisocial months) whenever he sees her.

    When he started in the classroom as a routine he already knew his alphabet and other pertinent information as he had been listening for months to everything that was repeated in the classroom above his den. He is now an energetic little kid who smiles at you.. might touch you and run away laughing as he retreats.

    A widower who lives nearby now takes care of him since all efforts to find his family or to know where he came from have been futile.

    If you have not yet taken a look at this organization, please do so, at least to get information about the situation and know what to expect if you visit this country. www.theplf.org

    We are so happy to have made contact with Ponheary and Lori. It is only through Fodors that I had read about contacting them if I went to Siem Reap. Just another wonderful Fodorite suggestion that has proven to be a total inspiration.

    The land mine museum is another somber visit, just next door to this school We started out there but did not want to be late for our school appointment so we got permission to come back later int eh day to finish up our visit. An american who has helped Akira in the past years, was in one of the rooms and gave us a very personal explanation of how he got involved with this determined young man, ex Khmer rouge. It is a fascinating story .

    Here is an old article about Akira before he adhered to international landmine demining pocedures. It is an interesting article.

    http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/akira.htm

    Here is a more recent article

    http://landmine-relief-fund.blogspot.com/2009/05/from-phnom-penh-post-may-20-2009.html

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    There is a short DVD in many languages you can request to see. They also have a small gift shop where they sell items to help groups of people through their NGO. There is also a residence of landmine victims which is not open to the public for viewing but if you would like to make a donation you can, of course.

    There is an American couple working there permanently. It is their home now. The wife is a teacher and the husband ¡oversees the museum and I assume some of the bureaucracy. It is a fascinating place with many articles that must be read to get an idea f the extent of the problem still in the world with landmines.

    Many countries are dropping their involvement to much lower levels with the economic crisis, but there are still millions of mines in Cambodia alone that are out there waiting to explode.

    Akira lost his wife a couple years ago. His son and brother were at the museum for awhile when we were there. Akira was up north clearing mines with some assistants.

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    i wanted to let you know that 1000 B for a van to the airport is a fairly normal price.... 400-500 for an auto. many have to return to bkk empty so it is like a round trip

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    That's why we contacted the hotel when he wouldn't take what was on the meter plus tolls plus tip. The hotel told us what was on the meter was correct and was what we should have paid.

    Had we ORDERED the van ahead of time, it would have been a set price. But this taxi was just standing by when we came down and asked for a taxi to the airport, preferably a van or one with more space in the trunk, so it was to be a metered price, the hotel confirmed.

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    I will run through the rest of the day.. went up to the waterfall and carvings in the stones there.. I didn't go all the way because I wasn't wearing the correct type shoes. It was a very steep hike so I turned around after awhile and went and enjoyed a very nice cold drink and spoke to a young beet red American who had just come down. The heat and humidity just gets to you.

    DH and DS weren't that impressed in comparison to the effort involved in getting there but were glad they didn't turn back. When the waterfall is smaller you can see more of the carvings.. but when it is fuller of course it is more impressive as a water/nature site.

    After another stop at the Land Mine museum we were taken back to Siem Reap to the Sugar Palm restaurant for a disappointing,mediocre meal. Not sure what we were expecting, but we had very good food many other places, so, I guess it was just bad luck that evening. The service was really really slow. We got our appetizers after dinner, and finally just got the bill and left.

    The next day I agreed to meet the family at Peace Café for breakfast. They were lounging getting ready, and since there was no breakfast at our place this day,( the cook was gone) we decided to try this place I had read about. I went out ahead and meandered around until they go there. It is a really nice calm, funky garden with homemade organic/vegetarian choices . There are pilates and yoga classes during the day as well as a meditation loft on the grounds. I believe they also have rooms for rent.

    You will like it if you go.

    We then got a tuk tuk for the day and returned to Angkor Wat. This was our low key day, just wandering around re-seeing some sites or looking for carvings we had missed and giving the whole complex another look. It was all so familiar now and so much easier to absorb and look at with even more appreciative eyes. We were so glad to have gone back for a second look to a few places.

    Later, satisfied and having reached our temple tolerance level, the tuk tuk took my family to the guesthouse to get all the bathing suits and I was dropped off at the National Museum. We met later at Frangipani Villas to eat and then use their lovely pool. Nice perk when you spend $5 there! We had a very relaxing afternoon.

    Later our son went to a 4 hands massage while DH and I went to La Residence to have a drink.
    This must be a very beautiful hotel on the rest of the grounds. It didn't seem to be open to the public outside of the bar and perhaps the restaurant. if I go back I will try to see more of it.

    We then met our driver Vuthy at 8 o'clock outside of the Blue Pumpkin as he insisted we have dinner with his wife and baby. We were looking forward to meeting his family, but I have to admit I was getting anxious about the food issue. We had tried to only get together somewhere for a refreshment that afternoon but he insisted his wife had already bought the food and he wanted us to please go to his "room" he rented in a house and have a meal.
    We know he would have been very disappointed had we not gone.

    He introduced us to his smiling wife and darling baby and then invited us "in" to their "room".

    My eyes filled with tears as I had been unable to imagine this is how he lived. We all tried to cover up our deep sorrow as our eyes scanned the bare room with the minimal necessities. Three mats to sleep on the floor. A door I assume went into some type of bathroom. he said they have a shower, but I am sure there is no hot water. There was one light I remember on the wall or ceiling. Nothing extra.

    He brought in a rusty borrowed foldable table so we could all try to sit together. He put, as a tablecloth, apiece of thin linoleum that looked like wooden flooring to cover the table.Three of the four plastic chairs were also borrowed from neighbors who were anxious for him to be able to accommodate his guests.

    His wife brought in a gas burner plate and put it on top of the table as they later sauteed a lot of vegetables and thinly sliced meats in the pan.

    We tried everything. The dessert was green noodles ( like spaghetti) floating in a sweet milk broth. it was a very unusual texture but at least the sweet milk broth tasted good.

    Needless to say, we were very grateful to this young couple to go so out of their way for us. It just broke our hearts to see how they lived. And with my being so paranoid about street food in Thailand and Cambodia, you can imagine what it was like to try to enjoy the company and the food.

    Even as I write this now my eyes swell with tears remembering our feelings as we left and would speak to each other when Vuthy was not in the room or they had gone out to get something. My husband and son also got emotional as we observed how difficult these people have it.

    We assume he has work a few days a week or month with tourists. I'm not sure how people find out about him. Someone made him a webpage in China so he does get some Chinese clients.

    We feel in love with this fellow and wish him and his family the best of luck and health.

    We were very lucky with all our drivers in Cambodia ( except one, whom nobody recommended...an agency's driver who took us from Battambang to PP).

    Tomorrow our fun trip to Battambang. Wish we could have stayed another night! One night was not enough.

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    Battambang is a very fun town accessible by boat or car from Siem Reap. We decided to go by car with our driver and it took a bit over 2 hours if I recall. We contacted the PLF's favorite tuk tuk driver beforehand and he set us up in a fine hotel and took us all over.

    We checked into the Huot Seng hotel. $16/double room only. It was very spacious with a fine bed, AC , flat screen TV and they are also building a pool as we speak.

    You can walk almost everywhere from here it seemed. Our driver followed us out to the bamboo train, as he really also wanted to go on it but had to be back at the airport so he just came to see where ti was. We said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, as our bamboo driver prepared our flat platform to take off on our fun ride along these train tracks.

    Our tuk tuk driver, KIM, gave us an upholstered seat off his tuk tuk so we would be a little more comfortable. He was also a sweetheart. Meeting the right people is so uplifting as they make every little happening much more special and at times like these, even more comfortable.

    You must do this if you are nearby, They say it is a matter of time until the dismount these platforms and actually reinvest in upgrading the tracks for proper train use again.

    Here is a youtube of someone' else's trip and you can see how much fun it is!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilJAczgfmHk&feature=related

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    I'm surprised you'd found a tuk tuk driver in B'bang! We only found motos at the time. That's a city with kind of a special place in our hearts. Still sorry we didn't try to do the bamboo train.

    If I'd have known you were going (my fault for not keeping up on the boards), I'd have told you about a special wat for kids outside of town, where the monks have a wonderful program going. And I'd have recommended a really nice, plush bus line for the BB to PP leg - $5 per person, w/ comfy seats.

    Really enjoying the report. Brings back lovely memories, plus new ideas.

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    There were plenty of tuk tuks as far as we could see, but we had pre-arranged Kim through theplf.org's suggestion. They had his name on a bulletin board as being reliable so we called him and he made all our Battambang arrangments, even the hotel.

    B'bang was just a lot of fun and our day was filled with very interesting stops to show us how rice paper discs, rice noodles and rice flour were made. From the Bamboo train, these stops and Kim's wonderful explanations, we just had a great time.

    We can recommend him highly. He will make your stay there really worth the detour!

    I will finish this report up soon. I am trying to gather my notes and impressions to best portray what this trip meant to us. Anyone can see the sights, but meeting this resilient hard working people was so rewarding that I hope if you ever go, you have HALF the good experience we did.

    Thanks for reading so far.

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    Actually, we did alot more in B'bang than I had remembered.

    We were taken to the Killing Caves and then stayed to see the millions of bats stream out of the nearby cave down on the main road. I didn't go up the hill to the sombering K. Caves.

    I was later told the ride up the steep hill on the moto was a trip in itself. My husband was chuckling the whole way up imagining what my reaction would have been if I had ventured onto one of those motos for the ride up.. and then, he said.. the ride down on the narrow path was even MORE hair raising.

    Those drivers sure are adept at not gettng killed.

    The bats came out of the cave at dusk FOREVER. We finally left as we were not sure how many more thousands would be coming out.. and it was just a never ending black stream that waved across the dimming skyline out to the fields to fill up on insects.

    My family went back to the hotel while I attended the circus that was having one of its performances. This French(Canadian?) NGO helps train youngsters in acrobatics and they put on a performance while I was there. They now sponsor ten students at circus schools around the world. One is at Cirque de Soleil in Montreal, Canada.

    At the end there was a presentation in English and French talking about the foundation and the monies they need to function.

    Our driver took us to White Rose for dinner. He had dinner with us and we all agreed the food was just mediocre. He was apologetic. He thought it used to be better.

    Now with my notes I can say we had a great breakfast at Sunrise Cafe. This is the first place the coffee was brought out PRONTO while we waited for our food. We sat outside as the heat was not oppressive yet and the other tables quickly filled up. This is a popular place with homemade cookies and bagel sandwiches.

    Kim picked us up and zipped us around to all the cultural visits before taking us to see Enrique Figaredo's Foundation. This is a school/residence I had read about before leaving Spain when I was doing additonal research on charities.

    Enrique is a Spanish Jesuit priest who fell in love with Cambodia on a mission decades ago. The residence and church were destroyed during the K.R. regime but have been rebuilt with love and care.

    He has dedicated his life to providing landmine victims with education and a rehab center. They also help the elderly and provide free diagnostic medical care and take people to hospitals. If they go to the Figardeo foundation first their hospital bill is 50% less.

    There is a resident dance teacher and the dance group actually went to tour Spain to help promote the Foundation. I had remembered seeng them on television when they mentioned that to me. They occasionally have programs so you may want to look into it if you are there.

    Our guide knows Enrique as he takes groups of volunteers from Northern Europe there every year.

    We bought many handmande gifts in their gift shop and left Enrique a note as he unfortunately had not gotten back from PP yet.

    Once again, admiration for such a wonderful job being done by staff and volunteers for these smiling, grateful students. We had alot of fun speaking to them during their lunch. We spent quite awhile here and were made to feel very welcome at this oasis of well kept buildings and open spaces.

    Time to go back to the hotel and meet our mystery driver to PP. The driver Kim wanted to take us was away so the hotel had to call around several agencies until they found one with a driver available.

    The $55 trip to PP was stressful, to say the least.
    First of all, I am not comfortable with other pepole drivng. But until now,I had felt very safe. I was not looking forward to a 4 hour trip with someone who had not been recommended. I asked Kim to tell him that I was very queasy in the car and could vomit if I got scared so please do not speed.

    Thank goodness he was told that because I can't imagine how he would have driven otherwise.

    It was 4 hours of horn honking, warning every bike, moto and car or truck that he was coming up on them. Not one "toot" but "BEEP...BEEP.BEEP.BEEP..BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP".

    A baby fell off a bicycle onto the road about 50m from us. We zoomed past two guys on a moto, one of them grasping a huge piece of glass by the edges that surpassed the width of the cycle by a couple feet. A cow or two were spared only by the cows' quick reaction to turn back to the shoulder. We also dodged a few mongrel dogs as well as an overloaded flatbed commuter tuk tuk.

    Our family closed our eyes and endured the torturous honking with only one, male, poddy stop by a tree, and practically kissed the ground when we arrived in the congested city of PP where it was impossible to overtake anymore, much to our driver's frustration.

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    All in all the drive from BB to PP is not necessairly scenic until you get a bit closer to PP where the lushness of the vegetation and irridescent green rice fields are more prevalent.

    We noticed more mosques and muslims closer to this city.

    There seemed to be speed traps also as our driver suddenly started driving "normally" without his spurts of overtaking and speeding.

    Phnom Pehn

    We stayed at Hotel 252. We really liked this simple, elegant hotel and pool. We had a great rate and enjoyed the staff and owner who readily chatted with all the clients. Breakfast was very good and the pool was a welcome respite every afternoon. Near here are several streets of boutique galleries and food places.

    However, this is the only place we were reminded by our hotel staff to hold on to my purse or not take it when we went out at night since a worker had been robbed very nearby.

    Of course this is to be expected in such a large city but we had become very lax about worrying about street safety on the rest of the trip.

    Our pre-arrranged tuk tuk driver, John, was waiting for us later and whisked us off for a city tour and dinner along the riverfront. After a tasty dinner we went up to one of the roof top bars along the riverfront to enjoy some down time.

    PP is not a particularly attractive city. At least, this was our impression. It does have some nice Wats and a Royal Palace ( which we decided not to go to because of time), but its size and congestion are a reminder of the contrast between Siem Reap, its countryside feel and the "big citylife".

    In fact, our stay here was focused around some of the most somber sites in Cambodia, the Prison and the Killing Fields Memorial Park. If you do go to the K. Fields, take the time to listen to all the stories on the audio guide as they are first hand accounts of survivors.

    In Cambodia one realizes anyone over 30 has been through a LOT, and those younger endure the aftermath of such suffering.

    Our BB guide was raised in a refugee camp for 15 years, dressed as a girl with long hair to assure him of getting fed even when rations were low and only allowed to women and girls. Men and boys were excluded at times, so suddenly the camp had a very high percentage of girls when rations became a common problem. The AID workers knew what was going on but turned a blind eye.

    Just one of many many stories embedded in my memory of this enchanting country.

    After the K. Fields we went to the shootng range but declined to fork over $40 to shoot anything. I guess there is quite a following here.

    Our trip is winding down. We will soon part ways with our son, whom we won't see until August, and surrounded by this gloom, still have to visit the Genocide Museum.

    I quickly get a feel for the place, pay tribute to the many, many photos of the vicitms but pass on the hour long movie. I did buy a book from one of the seven survivors of the prison. I tell my family and John I will meet them for lunch at The Boddhi Tree just across the street from the "museum" when the movie is finished. I have just come to the end of my wanting to see anymore.

    What a lovely place: The Boddhi Tree. I read about it here on Fodors from someone's trip report and am so glad I did.

    They train young Cambodians to be waiters and chefs. The food was good and the atmosphere very, very nice. We had two orders of squid with lime juice, a couple shakes, a brie with smoked eggplant sandwich, fried rice, water, creme brulee,and another pseudo cheesecake dessert.

    I highly recommend this place. I also picked up some interesting local English newsletters that I found extremely informative about local politics and problems that are being addressed. I also bought several gifts at an NGO next door.

    My husband and son were very somber during our lunch. Cambodia was having an effect on all of us. For the better, but heart breaking. We were so glad to have gone but underestimated the impact each and every person we dealt with would make on us forever.

    Before returning to the hotel we stopped at the Russian Market. We liked this market much more than the central one. There were some interesting shops bordering the market stalls on side streets that had more antique-like things that were more of a novelty than the scarves and bags and shirts seen everywhere else.

    We bought several pairs of Khmer type trousers that are very confortable and loose fitting, as well as a package of striped silk note post it pads ( which when I opened the pack at home, a few were stained on the other side so be sure to open the pack and check each side for water stains) and some ties.

    To end our day, after our swim we ended up watching a documentary on TV in the room about recent footage of the 26,000 American soldiers who were in a concentration camp in Germany. It was a very touching story, includng survivors' statements.

    We ordered room service and made it an early night, with much, much to think about, past and present.

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    Thanks again for the report. And for reminding me of the Sunrise Cafe.

    She really does a lot, by the way, for the local street kids that go back and forth to the little garage-like shelter just down a few doors down.

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    No, not as much as I'd like, lin. Just nice memories. Just commenting because I of those and that I know doing reports can take a lot of time and it's good to know that someone is seeing and enjoying them. For some odd reason, we often seem to end up spending more time hanging around and talking to people but forgetting to sightsee, lol. I think I learned a bit about how things were going around BB but while reading your report, regret again not seeing the bats and the bamboo train!

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    The bats were just 'ok"..it is amazing how many there are but the bamboo train is a hoot. In fact, I read a report and saw a short documentary of people who took it for quite a long distance with their motorcycles on top.. not just the one village jaunt they do for the tourists for $5/person!!

    Thanks for reading. at this point, I still have two more days to post but think I have made this so long and have lost a bit of the intensity of it all... I'll give it a try this weekend so i can actually call it complete!

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    I am going to try to make our last two days readable for those who have endured this long report!

    Our last day in PP was filled with activity. We enjoyed a relaxed, late breakfast ( you can have breakfast at any time you wish at the 252!). We later accompanied our son next door to his substitute hotel (Frangipani) for his last two nights since the 252, unfortunately, was completely booked.

    We left our luggage there for our later flight and took off with our loyal driver, John, to do some last minute shopping, get stamps at the post office, take a leisurely look at the lovely Artisans of Angkor shop and take in what is left of the colonial architecture.

    John mentioned that one of the best massages is right across the street from the P.O. Our son kept that information for later and told us it was the deepest massage he had ever had.

    We made a quick trip to Wat Phonom, with an unnecesasary advisory from our always informative driver to 'watch out for the bad (aggressive) monkeys".

    I was hoping to see some, of course!, but they must have been entertaining a group elsewhere.

    We went to the Blue Pumpkin for a pleasant lunch before we headed out to the TV station to see some boxing matches John told us were being televised today, just like they do in BKK.

    We had wanted to catch some Thai kick boxing in BKK but never got around to the free Sunday matches I was told about here by a poster, and the prices for tickets at a stadium were around 30E in BKK, which we decided to decline.

    Our driver had wanted to come in and join us here, but like many other times when he parked and we invited him, he declined, deciding to stay with his tuk tuk. He would only leave it if it were in clear sight, which most of the time it was not. I guess he has a pretty nice motorcycle compared to many. He lives quite far from the city so a bigger motor must come in handy.

    Going to this TV station was a lot of fun. I counted 6 obvious foreigners, including ourselves, in a crowd of probably 500 hundred on the bleachers. We had as much fun watching the coaches/trainers as the reactions of the crowd.

    Families were there with young kids. A small group of curious very young buddies moved close to me to try to see what I was filming and taking pictures of.

    We then started having a smiling continuous photo sesson of themselves. The other spectators near us showered us with smiles. It was just an all round fun experience not only watching the different levels of boxing, but also interacting with the crowd, cheering together and clapping for the winners and laughing at some of the spectators who didn't agree with the referees. (That, actually, was the best part!)

    John took all three of us back to our son's hotel when we decided it was "time". After a quick shower we said our teary goodbyes to our son, whom we would not see until much later in the year.

    I normally would not weep, but I think I was so filled with the sorrow and sadness that we had experienced together, that partially the tears were of gratitude for having been able to have this experience together as a family, but also of the impotence and realization that how we had helped is a drop in the bucket compared to what needs to be done.

    One can give a driver a generous tip, help pay some of his education, but in the end he will need to compete for his job against many other determined youth. We wish all our drivers the best of luck and hope they all have a lot of work this year to help get them established. I will do my best to spread their information around.

    It seemed appropriate to take a tuk tuk to the airport as the finale to our Cambodian adventure so John drove us. We then said our goodbye to him, too. He is a great guy, very discreet and a safe driver.

    Check-in was easy and we were informed of the VIP lounge for all Bangkok Air passengers, so we headed there after calling the states at a mobile phone stall for 15cents a minute and checking out the few gift shops.

    The mobile phone stall girl gave me back the totally wrong change in riels.. but she rectifid it with a smile and "oh..you're right" when I brought it to her attention.

    The lounge came in handy since the flight was delayed for over an hour and a half. The TVs entertained us all with the tennis matches after a much enjoyed professional golf tournament.

    We were looking forward to spending our last night at the Peninsula but our dinner plan had been now defeated so we had a heavy snack at BKK when we arrived.

    It's funny how the ride in the taxi now seemed like familiar territory. How the skyline was recognizable. How going back to visit a place we now felt we knew so well was comforting and not mysterious any longer. It felt good.

    Ahhh. The beds and view from our room.

    Breakfast along the river..our last one, while a light Thai rain drizzled, an atmosphere we had not yet experienced during our stay. It hadn't rained a drop if I recall, and definitely not while we were in BKK.

    Howwever, this prevented us from hanging out at the pool.

    I decided to do a huge shopping marathon without DH while he relaxed and started getting in "long overnight trip mode".

    I jumped on a shuttle boat then the train to some malls, looking for some items people had recommended getting. I picked up some Haarn hand cream and spent a lot of time looking for a clothes stand I later realized was in a DIFFERENT mall!

    Oh well. So much for that. That particular bit of info was NOT on the note paper I had brought with me.(this is a frequent situation with me).

    I thoroughly enjoyed the gourmet supermarket in the basement of Paragon mall. There should be no complaining expats in BKK for want of food items. My goodness! And I thought El Corte Ingles was way up there on the gourmet food market list!!

    Back to the hotel to get my husband for some touring. We went to Mr. Kukrit's house, an ex-Prime Minister and seemingly charming, animal-loving man. His delightful, tranquil complex has a group of authentic Thai houses similar to the idea of the Jim Thompson complex but not as ornate, nor as focused towards tourism. It was the perfect low key place to spend time reading up again on the local political situation during his short term and the local culture.

    We realized we had walked in this neighborhood the first day we were in town.

    Our Bangkok stay was also coming to an end. No tears. In fact, we were quite excited not to be alone and to be going out for our last dinner with Hanuman and Kuranosake which you can read about here.

    www.fodors.com/community/asia/great-food-and-fun-at-bkk-mini-gtg-last-night.cfm

    New friends, here and afar..new concerns, new foods, new sights to see, and much to plan for another time.

    Thank you all for all the ideas I gathered from your numerous posts and rhkkmk for your detailed restaurant guide. A big thanks to www.theplf.org for all you are doing. Thanks to Hanuman for arranging such a lovely dinner and Kuranosake for coming!

    Last but definitely not least, thank you all for reading this terribly long report. I hope something in it has been of use to you.

  • Report Abuse

    Re-reading this report I have just realized that i never posted our Siem Reap driver's email.
    Here it is in case anyone can use it.bHe calls himself Vuthy ( pronounced Voo-TEE, I THINK)

    vuthy_006@yahoo.com

  • Report Abuse

    How funny. I just re-read this a couple hours ago, looking for the name of the bicycle company in Bangkok. Then I see it is topped and I thought I might have accidentally done something to top it. Glad to see you enjoyed it!

    Reading it again made me want to seriously think about the next trip!

    You have gone back, haven't you?

  • Report Abuse

    and here are our other two drivers.. they had tuk tuks

    in quaint Battambang we used Kim, recommended from the PLF.
    He also took us to a very nice simple new hotel .


    Kim_chhaya@yahoo.com tel 012654427

    In PP we also used a recommendation from the PLF

    John tel: (855) (0) 99817225 email: chanthamenn@yahoo.com

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