Reader Essential Experience of the Week

Tomb Raider for Real
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Posted by Mike Thompson
February 22, 2011

We were used to seeing buses precisely lined up alongside Sapphire Princess when we docked. 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.

Mike with his wife, Marie

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 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.

Walking across the moat towards the main Angkor temple complex.

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.

A close-up of the bas relief at the Bayon temple of Angkor Thom.

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 marvellous 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….

A decorated statue at the Angkor Wat temple.

Colorful life outside the entrance of the Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom.

The ruined Ta Prohm temple that was used as a Tomb Raider film location.

See cruises that visit this destination