Tomb Raider for Real in Cambodia

by Mike Thompson

One of the many statues at the Angkor Wat Temple
One of the many statues at the Angkor Wat Temple

We were used to seeing buses precisely lined up alongside the Sapphire Princess when we docked on our Asia cruise. Fellow passengers jostling with excitement and anticipation of their adventures ashore. Singapore was different. We left the ship early before the activities started. OUR adventure had begun.

Our guide checked identities and ensured that all the group should be travelling to the airport. He gave a commentary about interesting features of the route and we soon arrived at Changi International. Check-in followed and we were then able to enjoy the facilities until our departure.

After a pleasant flight we landed at Tanson Hat Airport in Vietnam and awaited our onward flight.  Night had fallen when we arrived at the delightful Siem Reap airport. We transferred to the Sokha Angkor Hotel in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and were welcomed with a private dinner accompanied by traditional music and colourful graceful dancers. The culture and dinner over, we made our way to our beautifully prepared room overlooking gardens.

Next day fortified by a good night’s rest and breakfast we travelled through the Cambodian countryside to our first temple.
The sun shone on a pastoral scene with cattle and white egrets. Walking on we passed a group of Kymer musicians. Only after listening for a few minutes did we notice that they had injuries and missing limbs.

Gradually the bewildering ruins of Ta Prohm escaped from the jungle to meet us. Tomb Raider for real! Tree roots encircled the ancient stones. One sensed the experience rather than just the visual impact. After exploring the ruins only partially recovered from the jungle we transferred to the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom. Elephants paraded through the entrance. Intricately carved bas-reliefs were explained and huge smiling stone faces watched over us.

We lunched at the Angkor café and then haggled with highly experienced five-year old entrepreneurs for souvenir trinkets. How well they spoke English.

We then crossed the wide moat to the main site of Angkor Wat. The restored stones were brought to life by smiling children sitting on the steps. The sheer size of the temple complex was so impressive. Again the beauty, extent and state of the carvings were a source of wonder and reflection. The saffron robes of monks and smell of incense in temples added to the experience.

All too soon it was time to go. On the bus our guide entertained us with his rendition of “Imagine” and were left with our memories of a marvelous visit to historic site in a beautiful country with charming friendly people. Little did we know as we flew back to Ho Chi Minh City how our next adventure was to begin, but that is another story….