Updated: Nov 13, 2018
2 May 2009
I’m excited to check out Cambodia and compare it to Vietnam. Being a closeted Brit, my experience of this country is only marginally exceed by my knowledge of it (i.e. approaching zero). For me, like many others, visions of Cambodia are limited to the horrors of war, land mines, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. My guidebook offers limited coverage (it’s simply an appendix to the Vietnam Guide), but it suggests that the average age of the population is quite young (due to 1/5th of the population being killed off by the Khmer Rouge) and that landmine victims are very prevalent, as are the landmines themselves. Granted, I’m only visiting Seam Reap which is hardly representative of the country as a whole, but it’ll be eye opening nonetheless.
After a quick ‘n painless hour on Vietnam Airlines, I land at Siem Reap international airport. The building is new, but constructed in the signature Cambodian style with high, steeply angled roofs covered in red terracotta tile and lots of wonderful fiddly bits on the corners (you can tell I’ve never written for Architectural Digest). It was also pretty quick to get out of, which is always a plus.
The mercifully brief drive in from the airport was a showcase of hotel names and chains. There are dozens of them along the way, ranging from the mangy to sweeping and palatial. Obviously, a lot of people pass through here, but it’s a surprise that they all get enough business to stay afloat. After a brief but torrential downpour during which all the pedestrians and half the mopeds dive and drive for cover inside the nearest café (it’s that time of day) we arrive at my abode for the next couple of nights - the Victoria Hotel.
This is a bit of a splurge; the Victoria chain is usually in the sharp-intake-of-breath category for us, but here in Cambodia the prices are approaching reasonableness, and hey, what the heck – I’m worth it! (Too bad Lynn had to head home.) The hotel has the feel of an African game lodge – the halls are decked with lashings of teak, rattan and interesting statuary. My room is very nicely appointed thank you very much, but I have to fork out for internet access, something that has been gratis throughout our stay in Vietnam.
It’s getting on, and I feel the irresistible urge to throw myself in the pool, drink a beer and generally be incredibly lazy. I’m sure the temples will still be there tomorrow and besides, I hear you’re supposed to get an early start and view them at sunrise. That’s a good enough excuse for me, so I spend the rest of the evening doing lounging around, gently abusing the cocktail menu and taking in a very agreeable dinner by the pool.