Woolly says – We had little or no plan and no particular place to go, expect to explore a little more of the centre of Siem Reap. We’d passed over the river several times in tuk tuks and with it’s huge shady tree’s it made for a pleasant walk into the centre of the city. The water might be brown with green weeds, but the bridges were lovely although in need or a coat of paint, each one was decorated with pictures, certainly the best river walk we have found on this trip. I trotted across one of the many bridges and headed towards the royal gardens, from a distance they looked wonderful but on closer inspection they were rubbish strewn with broken benches, sad and neglected which seemed a shame. Four giant stone lions guarded a small fountain in the middle, the water as brown as the river and the fountain non functioning and not looking as though it would be in the near future. Lovely magnolia trees lined the pathways and as we stood under one I admired the art deco designed Raffles Grand Hotel which had once hosted the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, and Princess Margaret. The buildings looked so modern and beautifully built, but the litter was off putting and certainly didn’t make it a tourist spot to head to. We sat for a while watching coach loads of tourists arriving and disappearing into a large shop, well if the tourist buses were going in it seemed silly not to follow!
We passed sunken areas that we guessed had once been ponds and would have added so much to the area, now filled with rubbish, we spotted a sign telling us that the city had been given awards for cleanliness from 2015 to 2018 which seemed contrary to the actual condition.
Woolly says – We arrived in front of two golden elephants and followed yet another tour group into the shop, T Galleria as it was known, gave us a floor plan at the entrance and although not wanting to buy anything the air con would be a welcome reprieve from the temperatures outside, we took the lift to the first floor. As the doors opened I trotted out expecting to see a thriving shopping floor heaving with all the tourists that kept vanishing from view, I nearly fell over my trunk in surprise to find ourselves in a completely empty space filled with a single solitary counter and not a consumer good in sight. The three of us looked at each other and started to laugh, where were all the people going, with no way of accessing the higher floors we took the stairs back to the ground floor to find it deserted.
We were bemused and as we left the building and crossed the road opposite we turned to see yet another large group disappearing into the empty space!
Woolly says – I trotted onwards before I could be swallowed up and disappear! The small temple of Phomchek Phomchom was rather sweet, guarded by two warriors, the small area was filled with a shrine in the centre which was crowded…..maybe the strange shop had a secret passageway to the temple and instead of crossing the road they came from an underground tunnel! The opposite side of the road held the smallest palace we have probably seen, very modern looking in design it had been the residence where the late King Sihanouk stayed in the 1950s when he was planning the crusade for independence from France. Although not open to the public Jo took a few snaps while I checked out the cannons that sat on the front porch before wandering back onto the riverfront. The Siem Reap river starts from a small spring on the most holy mountain in Cambodia, Mt. Kulen (which means lychee fruit), in the 12th century thousands of bamboo rafts floated along the water carrying the stone work to construct Angor Wat before flowing into Tonlé Sap Lake. Wonderful white lampposts, that needed a spruce up, lined the banks and I was pleased to see groups of workers fishing out the debris of plastic that was floating along, maybe work is in progress to clean the city up!
As we wandered on the rubbish seemed to decrease and the buildings looked modern but less neglected without meaning to we found ourselves at the old market.
Woolly says – Nooooo not more shopping! Why do they torture me? I peered inside, and my trunk was met with all manner of smells, incense, fruit and fish seeming to be the strongest, we ventured in. The Old Market (Psar Chas) was built in 1920 and the layout hasn’t changed, with small walkways it was filled to overflowing with goods, everything from clothes, spices, meat, fruit and Buddha’s were displayed. It was fascinating to wander turning here and there and seeing what we found next, it was an Aladdin’s cave of tourist tat and locals necessaries and although fascinating for once the purse remained in the bag! With tired paws and aching legs, we found a place to sit and watch the river flowing past, it was a lovely city centre and well worth a look but would be so much better if the litter was gone and a good lick of paint applied to many of the structures. As I sat with my cold drink I thought on to the next day and the exploration that we had planned, Angkor Wat had been incredible, and I wondered if the other Wat’s would live up to my hopes!