Most Inspirational Moment
Inspirational is a difficult word to asses for this trip, so let me try some others for you: Horrifying - the sheer inhumanity of what went on in the torture prison and the killing field (I just had to go and find a quiet corner with my own thoughts - our tour leader, Bun, whose parents had been Khmer Rouge child soldiers, came to my rescue as he was the only person to know so intimately what went on here; Humbling - meeting two survivors of the torture camp (I was left dumbstruck); Magnificent - seeing over a million bats suddenly start to stream out of their roost cave and head out to eat enough paddy field pest to save 20,000 tonnes of rice per year (nature at its most beautiful, so shortly after the horrors above); Majestic - the whole temple complex of the Angkor area (some are beautifully carved, some are vast, others are simply serene in their simplicity and tranquility, Ta Prohm not being among the tranquil ones since the Tomb Raider film. Crazy - the traffic in every town and city but this was contrasted by the ability of everyone to get through crowded junctions with in calm chaos. Walking out into the road, in the assured belief that you would not get run over, is a habit that one will have to rapidly get out of back in the UK! Tranquility - so many places were blissfully quiet, even at the fabulous hotel near Sihanoukville, where one had just gone through a vast building site, was so gloriously located on the beach near a fabulous choice of bars and restaurants. This was the first trip over the New Year when I have been able to get to sleep early due to the quiet in our Siem Reap hotel.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Bun was a star so let me tell you why: he always gave us fabulously accurate and informative briefings about the following day (when we needed to be anywhere; what we would be doing; what we should be wearing; what we should bring with us) as well as updates throughout the day; he was always able to find suitable restaurants for group dinners and coped well with the assorted dietary requirements of some guests. Finding a restaurant for 17 people at short notice is very difficult in any location at any time of year, let alone over the New Year period. Some evenings, when no group dinner was needed, we would find him joining us for dinner and fabulous conversations always resulted; his charm was endless, even when some guests were less than polite or helpful; we always knew where he was as we could always hear his delightful giggle; when one of the guests developed medical complications from sand fly bites, he was fabulous about ensuring that she got the appropriate medical treatment in the right facility and kept the rest of us informed of her progress; when another was taken ill during a bus trip, he dealt with it so discretely that most people had no idea that there had been any problem; his knowledge of his country is amazing; with his parents having been child-soldiers for the Khmer Rouge we knew that he had a very close connection with that dark phase of his country's recent history - he was amazingly frank about some aspects of his parents' lives and of his own extraordinary upbringing; he is a great testament as to what someone can achieve in their own life through sheer determination and hard work, making us feel very humble at having had the privilege of meeting him (woe betide any snivelling brat who whinges about not having the latest gadget, just because they "want" it!) with my husband having broken five vertebrae and twice having had his pelvis crushed, he is a self-confessed "princess and the pea" when it comes to bed mattresses. Bun phoned ahead to ensure that our last hotel had extra facilities in the room when we arrived, helping to ensure some 3 good nights' sleep.
Advice for Potential Travellers
The mix of locations and experiences gave us such a broad insight into this amazing country within a really short period. Thank you for creating such a fabulous itinerary (we had looked at many but yours came out as the best and, despite a false start, we are pleased that we came with you.
The mix-up over our premium economy seats for the return flight was resolved before we left, thank you. As soon as we got on the plane, there was someone in one of our seats and then another person came along claiming that he had just been moved, from economy, into the other seat. That gave us a bit of a surprise but we rapidly clarified to the staff and passengers that we were in our correctly allocated seats and that the first of other two passengers had simply decided to choose his own seat and that the other had been misinformed. It all ended smoothly and we appreciated the window seats so that we could keep an eye out for the aurora borealis. The aurora did not appear but that is the nature of the phenomenon.