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Brief trip report- 2 plus weeks in Siem Reap

Brief trip report- 2 plus weeks in Siem Reap

Jan 22nd, 2007, 08:30 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 110
Brief trip report- 2 plus weeks in Siem Reap

As I think I promised, here is my brief trip report having just gotten home on Thursday eve from 2 plus weeks in Siem Reap. I was a medical volunteer at the Angkor Hosp for Children so this was primarily a professional/self fulfillment kind of visit. I'll focus on you would-be vacationers though for the sake of this:
1) through the new BKK airport- boy, this was a screwy place to some extent. The signage was fine but the overriding issue is the horrific space planning- once I got through the security screening to the D gates, THEN had to do TWO more right at the gate, I realized that there was no bathroom or snack place which was weird. People have to pile up at the one escalator into the terminal from the busses that meet the planes, you have to pile up around the one desk that I saw to exchange your departure cash for Bahts, then pile up around the desk to actually pay the fee and have your boarding pass stamped. You also pile up at your gate for the security checks. In other words, no organized lines. Otherwise, it was pretty, I enjoyed the walking after hours on a plane, there was a wonderful french pastry/coffee place in the main corridor, and the bathrooms were clean
2) Siem Reap- this town has been described as a frontier town and a dump among other things and, well, its true AND I loved it and want to go back!! No one mentioned how polluted the air and roads are- no trash pickup, the river is filthy, garbage is all over the streets and is burned in yards 24/7 BUT, despite that- the Cambodians are wonderfully cheerful, easy to deal with, helpful, kind, patient and loving. They more than make up for the pollution, the intense and constant noise, the maniac driving, and the horrific heat and humidity (I'm a New Englander and this was tough to adjust to). The prices are beyond dirt cheap and I found a couple of great restaurants (Soup Dragon and the Blue Pumpkin), but lost a little weight since snacking just isn't done there (I wasn't overweight but hey, I feel wicked skinny now!!)
3) the temples at Angkor Wat- I spent one full day, visiting Ta Prohm, the Bayon, and the Angkor Wat temple areas. YES, GO! Despite more of the blasted heat and constant harrassment by the kids who hound you to buy everything possible, these temples are truly amazing. I'm not a history buff and did have to use my time to work at the hospital but I am so glad I saw these 3 temple groups.
4) the floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake- we had an organized tour of one village about 2.5 hours out on the lake and this was also pretty amazing. The bathroom facilities consisted of a hole in the main floor of the living area of one home we visited so please check that your tour boat has a bathroom. I didn't mind this but I'm agile enough to squat and not that bashful.
5) the Artisans D'Angkor craftsman training sites- there are two, one silk farm outside the town and one in-town- just gorgeous and very interesting. The quality of what they sell was excellent and it felt great to support the local economy.
Any questions, feel free! I am buried in work now but will check in periodically.
OH yes, when you can, please support the Angkor Hospital for Children which is one of the most extraordinary places I ever had the honor to visit. The kids will melt your heart and the wonderful staff struggle constantly to bring their facility up to Western standards. This was a memorable, memorable visit!
Cookiew is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 08:43 AM
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Thanks so much for your report, Cookie!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 12:53 PM
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Thanks Cookiew!
Femi is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2007, 02:20 PM
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Thanks, CookieW, for your report and congrats on your volunteering work. We also loved SR and did not think it was a dump (more in upcoming trip report). In spite of out-of-control development, there were some charming and picturesque areas and in fact it was much cleaner than many Latin American cities its size.

Q about Children's Hospital: When we were there in late December there were very few mosquitos but there was a sign in front of the hospital entrance alerting the public to a severe epidemic of dengue fever. Sign said that blood was urgently needed. We asked our guide about this and he said he had not heard of an epidemic.

Do you know what the story is?

crosscheck is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 05:19 AM
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Yes, more or less. In the rainy season, dengue fever is pretty prevalent and the kids become quite anemic, needing more blood transfusions than normal. In addition, there are fewer tourists who are a huge source of the blood donations (they don't use the one national service in the country) so they have less blood to begin with. I heard about dengue fever alot while I was there but its not a concern in the dry season which I think begins in late December. They may have just not gotten around to taking the sign down but the MDs did tell me that they had a huge outbreak of it during the rainy season. Hope this helps!
Cookiew is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 06:01 AM
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Cookie, thanks. You're definitely spot on about the pollution in SR. My wife's eyes watered the entire time from the burning garbage. Like to hear more about your hospital time.
Gpanda is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 11:19 AM
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Gpanda, if you like, go to fwab.org which will link you to the hospital itself. The pictures tell the story and there are links to volunteer stories also. I worked with the lab crew and made recommendations on improvements to make the lab more western which is what they want. The entire hospital is like a step back to the 60s and 70s with some exceptions like computers and occasional new instrumentation. Most people speak at least a little English. The place is swarming with families as they must feed and take care of their own kids, no cafeteria or caretakers so whole families come with the patients. So try the website- its well organized and informative!
Cookiew is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 03:17 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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We just visited Siem Reap a few days ago. I am a former nurse and was thinking of volunteering in Cambodia in another year or two. My husband (who is a radiologist) said he would come too (we wouldn't both be able to go for a few years). But the long travel time and the jet lag was such a drag that we're thinking of just volunteering in South America (he speaks Spanish), since it is so much easier. I must say that I was incredibly touched by Cambodia, but I think if I return to volunteer, it would be in 4 years (when my son is in college) and I can stay for a month.

peacheysmokey is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 08:15 AM
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I hear 'ya Peachey. I was a bit of an oddball there in that I could only stay for a couple of weeks- most volunteers were at retirement age and spent 2-3 months or so. The jet lag was awful, but actually the heat got to me more so I would go again (0nce I have more money) but would more carefully plan around the heat. We have a good friend who has gone on one week trips to Central America doing cleft palate surgery support in temporary clinics. He loves it and I guess there are many groups in the USA who do this. My husband has mentioned coming with me to Siem Reap where he might work with one of the Rotary groups doing work on homes to supply them with clean water. Lets hope that we can do this in our retirement years!
Cookiew is offline  

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