Thursday March 21, 2019

If the day we’d spent probing Cambodia’s bloody PAST had left us feeling sad (and it did) … our days since then have been filled-to-overflowing with Cambodia’s vibrant, unstoppable PRESENT. And the time’s gone by in a busy, colourful blur.              

On Tuesday, for example, we continued our idyllic upriver cruise, with the Avalon Siem Reap nosing into the steep bank at one point so the more ambitious amongst us could climb 300 steps to the temple of Wat Hanchey (leaving our more sensible friends to go by bus). After exploring this ancient religious complex (some of the brick ruins date from the 8th century, and predate even the glories of Angkor), we took part in a traditional water-blessing given by local Buddhist monks in their iconic orange robes.

After lunch we went ashore again, wandering through the rural village of Angkor Ban, viewing the humble Khmer homes and visiting a local school, where we happily sat down with the kids while they showed us their reading skills and practiced their English. Cute? Of course! And oh so hopeful … because these youngsters were talented and ambitious – proudly confiding that they wanted to be doctors or teachers or policemen or tour guides.

This was a highlight for us, without doubt, and a highlight for them – because we’d come bearing gifts (books, maps, and school stuff that we’d purchased earlier).

On Wednesday, for another example, we climbed another steep, clay bank … then scrambled up into ox-carts for a wild, hilarious ride … leaving the riverside town of Kampong Tralach, and rumbling past rice paddy-fields out into the beautiful Cambodian countryside … accompanied by much giggling and guffawing, and looking like a long trail of refugees!

Before returning to the ship, we dropped in on the silversmith village of Kampong Luong, where we watched talented locals creating stunning works of art – with the simplest of tools, and in the most basic, dirt-floor surrounds. Then (because we’re tourists, after all), we spent some of our leftover cash on silver bracelets and necklaces.

COMING UP: We bid a sad “Leah hai!” (goodbye) to the Avalon Siem Reap, and caught a local Angkor Air flight to the town of Siem Reap – surrounded by jungles that hide the world-famous temples of ancient Angkor. Wow! Some bucket-list moments still to come! So don’t go away …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!

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