Why do we travel? Everyone has their reason: business, leisure, education, family. But there is something else, something that drives us to get away from our everyday. I can best describe it as perspective.
You can read about foreign lands, watch the news to get the current events and even view real time feeds from people all over the world, but until you go there you cannot truly know.
Like everyone, I go in to trips with a certain amount of preconceived notions. Some turn out to be correct, some are flat wrong. I am happiest with a trip when I am surprised by what I never thought was possible.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia I was impressed with the beauty, history, cuisine and most of all, the people.
April 9, 2016
Our flight arrives around 7:15 PM local time. After retrieving our bags and clearing customs we are greeted outside by a very friendly face in traditional Cambodian clothes. "Welcome Tim and Ginger" he said, "My name is Pe, I am your personal assistant". Driving through the streets decorated with lights and stars for Cambodian New Year, you quickly notice the streets crowded with scooters filled with smiling faces everywhere.
As we turn in to our hotel, Borei Angkor, Pe said "Welcome home Tim and Ginger". This would come to be a theme of our stay. Every request is met with a smile and a positive response. We are surprised by how quickly the staff know our names and our likes/needs.
April 10, 2016
Today is an early rise as we are to tour Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, a highlight of our journey.
After breakfast we are informed that our private driver and our private tour guide are ready to go when we are ready. Judy, who works with Pe, insists on walking us down to meet our guide and driver.
During our drive to Angkor Watt, we are educated on the Cambodian culture and the Khmer (pronounced Keh-may) people. At Angkor Watt we walk around some of the most beautiful and sacred grounds of the Khmer people. The complex is three temples with the most important in the center. The guide expertly points out significant carvings and great photo opportunities, including the "center of the universe".
Upon returning to our vehicle, our driver welcomes us back with an ice cold towel and a fresh bottle of water. As the temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this is a most welcome and very thoughtful surprise.
Early afternoon, we return to our resort where we are met with a traditional Khmer lunch. This three course meal included flavor profiles which were new, but felt familiar. Crumbled chicken with cilantro, chilies and lime juice followed by a plate of marinated beef, chicken and fish and finished with a warm banana pudding.
After briefly digesting we head to the spa for our included one hour massage. We are greeted with tea, a hot towel and a foot washing. Almost every part of the body is covered including abdomen, feet, scalp, face and hands. The experience ends with another cup of tea and a hot towel.
After cocktail hour, we end this incredible day with yet another included three course meal including delicious steaks.
Later that evening, our driver took us to the night market. A market filled with arts, crafts, clothes and other goods. The real experience here is the art of bargaining. There are many great values to be had at this market, but be prepared to walk away in order to get the price you want.
April 11, 2016
Today we embark on a river cruise but not before checking out. Our personal driver is ready so we take our bags out of the room to our private check out area where we are met by Judy who wishes us good morning and takes our bags down to the first floor before we can even think to ask for assistance.
Our check out process is, as we have come to expect, effortless and pleasant. As I get up to leave, I am informed that there is one last surprise, a gift of a traditional Khmer scarf for both my wife and I. They are placed around both of our necks and we are walked to our car for the 10 minute ride to meet our group. Judy also gets in the car saying that she wishes to see us off.
When we are dropped off, we are given one last wish for a great journey. At this point we know that we may never experience the level of service of Borei Angkor. Friendly and natural, it was as if we were staying in the home of a very happy Khmer family.
Though we were there just one full day, we could not help but feel that these wonderful people have permanently touched our lives.