November 01, 2012

At the gateway to the angkor city

So, here I am, in Siem Reap, another popular city of South Asia which is very tourist friendly. Do you know that although Cambodia has its own currency (1$=4000Crl) USD is widely used, even in price tags.

Siem Reap means the 'Flat Defeat of Siam (present day Thailand)' — and refers to the victory of King Ang Chan over Thai King Maha Chakkraphat in the Sixteenth century. It is also called the gateway to the Angkor region. Angkor (Holy City) served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an elaborate system of infrastructure for urban inhabitants spanning at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi). The well-known Angkor temple complexes were at its core.

A Siem Reap Street

In the fifteenth century Thai King Ayutthaya sacked the Khmer capital Angkor and its population migrated. Angkor became an abandoned city with its temple and other structures were in ruins. Only Angkor Wat survived as a Buddhist shrine.

The great city and temples remained largely hidden by the forests grown over them until the late 19th century, when French archaeologists began a long restoration process. The work lasted from 1907 to 1970 under the direction of the École française d'Extrême-Orient, which cleared away the forest and repaired/renovated the complexes. Now almost a million tourists come to visit the Angkor temples.

Not only for the temples, I have come here for the Blogfest Asia 2012, a conference for bloggers interested in Asia. I will also give a presentation. It gave me an opportunity to connect to some known faces of Southeast Asian bloggers namely Sopheap Chak and Tharum Bun from Cambodia. Around 100 Cambodian bloggers and fifty bloggers from many Southeast Asian countries have started to arrive for the event.

I am quoting from Filipino blogger Tonyo:
The program covers diverse topics from the basic to advanced, and also aims to discuss issues and concerns that affect bloggers and technologists in the continent. Topics include: mobile blogging, photo blogging, digital comics, Wikimedia Commons, Internet Security, online advocacy, long form writing, the Philippines’ cybercrime law and Southeast Asia media situation.
Coming here was a challenge because Cambodia does not have an embassy in Dhaka. I had to get the visa in Thailand instead of an on arrival visa at the border. This was due to the fact that my travel agent informed that I had to pay $600 for the Bangkok-Siem Reap route (500 km). Whereas the Dhaka-Bangkok route was only $450. As I am paying for my own travel I was looking for alternatives. So there it was - going from Bangkok to Siem Reap by Bus and Taxi (Takes 7-9 hours) at one tenth of the plane fare. But the land borders are usually filled with scams and non-cooperative officials just to put you in an awkward situation (read in a forum that someone from India was sent back to Bangkok from the Border to get the visa). So I obtained the visa in advance and the ride was not that bad as expected.
Night life at the banks of Siem Reap river
Siem reap is a vibrant city full of Western and Asian tourists with modern hotels, international food choices and tourism infrastructure. getting around is fairly cheap comparing to megacities in South Asia, making the town more attractive to tourists. The SIM card is cheap - I bought it for $1 with $1 credit and purchased $2 internet package (600MB 1 week). The local calls via mobile is like 7 cents per minute. I went to a restaurant which had happy hour for all foods and drinks for $1 (I am not kidding). My $16 guest house provides a single room with TV, AC, clean attached toilet with hot water, Wifi and complimentary breakfast.
Lok Lak - A Cambodian dish
I spent the first day in exploring the city and going to the Kompong Phluke - a floating village at the Tonle Sap lake. Pictures will be uploaded soon. Follow my twitter account for updates. Ending here with solidarity to other bloggers according to Tonyo:
National boundaries (and controversies over them) may separate us, but our passion for free expression whether thru text, video, photo or the technology bind us together.


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