After a late morning nap, DOS and I met another couple from our group (Dominick and Lynn) and took a private tour around Angor. We first stopped to buy our Helicopter tickets in town. Our guide had called ahead to arrange this, so it was quick and easy. The company was very reputable and professional, and had a signed photo from Marine Force One on the wall.
Our helicopter left from the Seim Reap airport, via a separate gated entrance where we walked straight to the helicopter. We were assisted on and off the helicopter, and the Pilot went thru some safety features before we departed. I sat in the left front seat next to the Pilot, while Lynn, DOS, and Dominick were in the back seat.
They had several different tour options from as little as 8 minutes to an hour. We wisely chose the 20 minute ride, which was just perfect for us. As we gently lifted off, our Pilot pointed out the various Temples along the way, including Angor Wat, which we had visited at 5am this morning for sunrise. While it was a sunny day, unfortunately it was a bit hazy for photos, but the view from the helicopter was incredible – as we heard Lynn say on the headphones ‘It’s like a feature from National Geographic’!
We also flew over the resort area, and spotted our hotel from above.
Next we flew over the largest lake in Cambodia, and what a site lay below us – the incredible floating marketplace. I’ve never seen so many boats clustered about close together, forming this floating market.
As we flew back to the airport, you realized just how flat Cambodia was, although we did fly back by a mountain, or high hill, that had yet another Temple atop it.
After landing back at the airport we thanked the Pilot, and headed on with our tour, in our comfortable Lexus SUV. Next up – Elephant riding by the Temples! We had ridden an Elephant in Bangkok this trip, but this area was more remote, and less crowded and organized, with only a few Elephants. One elephant was in ‘town’ which we ultimately rode, but as we had to wait on another elephant so our friends could go at the same time as us, we had time to meet our Elephant. The driver told us her name, but I didn’t quite catch it properly, so I’ll call her Frieda. Frieda was gentle, and let me pet her, as well as feed her. Boy, could Frieda eat! These intelligent animals use their snout to pickup food, but actually can tear it apart if necessary before eating it. I fed Freida a couple coconuts, which she enjoyed. The elephants here are well cared for, and the driver is responsible for his elephant, and washes them 4 times a day. They also only work 4 hours a day.
For our ride, we climbed the the stairs to the platform, and DOS and I boarded Freida. We followed followed Dominick and Lynn on their elephant and took these pictures on our ride.
After the ride, we bought the photo one of the photographers took of us before heading off for some shopping. We went to an Artesian market that is affiliated with the attached school and community of local children and artists. While we got there shortly before the school closed for the day at 5pm, we did go thru the modern shopping area there, filled with quality items made by the local artists. We got a couple nice lacquer drawings, one red and one black of elephants, and a serving tray with the Angor Wat layout painted on it. They wrapped the items up for us very well, and even gave us a nice souvenir bag for each one.
We made one last stop at a jewelry store for Lynn, but she (and us) did not make any purchases there.
As we drove back to the hotel, our guide took us thru the city of Siem Reap (as opposed to the historic Temple area) which had lots of hotels, restaurants, pubs, and drug stores, and even a new Park Hyatt Hotel. Siem Reap has only recently been a tourist destination (since 1998, but in reality the last 10 years), but it is quickly expanding it’s tourism reach with many new and luxurious hotels.
Once back at our Sofitel Angor Hotel, we had a drink in the lounge with our friends Dominick and Lynn, re-living the fun afternoon we had just had. Later after showering up, we had a nice farewell dinner in Siem Reap at our hotel. Everyone seemed a bit tired by the 7:30pm dinner, no doubt from the early morning wake and tour of Angor Wat, and especially the miles of walking and staircases climbed today.
Back in the room, we packed up our suitcases once more (no easy task with all the souvenirs DOS bought!) and had our bags ready to be set outside the room at 7:15am to be picked up by AMA Waterways and delivered to the ship tomorrow.
’Twas a wonderfully unique and fascinating day in Angor Wat!