Sunday, December 16, 2007

Day 14: Siem Reap Swansong

The FCC Angkor

We had accomplished most of what we had set out to do. Siem Reap isn't a big town and, with the temples out of the way, we could afford a leisurely breakfast by the pool. We had the place to ourselves - our fellow guests were presumably either out at the temples or still in bed - and we could just about imagine ourselves living the life. "Oh Jeeves, could you prepare the car? I think a little shopping is in order..."

that pool by day

to start with

then our favourite comfort food

let's not forget this stuff

After breakfast, we pottered around the hotel grounds, looking for the hotel spa so HM could check it out.

the FCC Angkor facade

I was more than pleased to discover that John McDermott, whose photographs we kept seeing on display at museums and elsewhere in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, had his own gallery at the hotel. His photographs, apparently enhanced by the use of infrared technology, had this dreamy quality that made the already otherworldly Angkorian landscape even more surreal. Brilliant!

one of my favourites
We did eventually find the spa. HM booked herself a massage session for later in the day.

the hotel spa

Siem Reap Town

With time on our hands, we strolled out of the hotel and gawked at these statues that (we presume) the Siem Reap authorities had peppered the riverside park with.

what a wonderful world

did this river ever have crocodiles, we wondered

a tiger, really

Down Pokambor Avenue we went...

not an unexpected sight in a country plagued by war and HIV AIDs

... till we arrived at Siem Reap's (very) wet market.

now, that's fresh

at least the hard work paid off

hygienic by Cambodian standards - we passed by markets with more primitive conditions

From the wet interior, we circled around the perimeter of the market where dry goods were sold.

Chinese sausages

dried fish

From there, we headed back to the FCC Angkor.

Cambodia's new entrepreneurs

outside a shop selling crocodile leather goods

The FCC Angkor

Back at the hotel, we spent an hour or so just lazing around in our room and by the pool.

our room

the incense burner and mosquito coil which the hotel staff lit every night

Despite that, the day still yawned ahead, so we eventually gathered enough energy to venture a little further afield.

Angkor Silk Farm

The first stop on our litle expedition was Angkor Silk Farm. This was where Artisans D'Angkor "grew" both the silk and the silk weavers. The ride out to the facility took about twenty to thirty minutes, by tuk tuk.

not Mr 509

dusty roads

As with the Artisans D'Angkor's main premises in downtown Siem Reap, a guide brought us around. He showed us the various facilities and explained how silk is made.

fields of mulberry

busy silk-makers munching on mulberry

from larvae to pupae

waiting for the right time

boiled and unwound

teased out and coiled

According to our guide, Cambodian silk is naturally yellowish in colour. Apparently, the colour of silk varies in tone according to the type of silk worm involved. Of course, all is irrelevant after dyeing.

from strands to skeins

where the dyes come from

voila, all dyed

tied up in knots

woven into patterns

in the loom



Our guide explained that, at the Angkor Silk Farm, women could learn how to weave silk. This would earn them more than farming. After their training, although they could stay and work for Artisans D'Angkor, many of the women preferred to return home to their villages where the cost of living was substantially lower. Back home, the women would work with looms that Artisans D'Angkor set them up with. Subsequently, they would sell the silk they produced to Artisans D'Angkor which would then turn the silk into the scarves, bags and clothes to be sold at its galleries.

learning to weave silk

The tour ended at a small exhibition cum shop area where we were left to browse.

displays on dyeing techniques

traditional Cambodian masks

traditional Cambodian fabric patterns


We had bought most of what we wanted from Artisans D'Angkor. The only thing that caught our eye here was a bust of Jayavarman VII. Weighing considerably more than a silk scarf, it wasn't a purchase to be taken lightly, so we decided against buying it just yet. Off it was to our next stop...

spotted amongst the silk

The National Centre for Khmer Ceramics

According to my map, the National Centre for Khmer Ceramics was on the way back to town. We almost couldn't find it, or rather recognise it. With a moniker as grandiose as that, we were expecting a space at least as large as the Angkor Silk Farm, not a house with a small garden and backyard. Still, we were warmly welcomed by our Cambodian host who promptly told us that the NCKC had just held a workshop for potters from around the region. With that, she brought us around the extended shed that was the potter's workshop.

the appetiser

the potter's wheel

same same but different

pretty pots all in a row

this is NOT a potty

the primordial gook from which pots emerge

the kiln

waiting to be fired

a second kiln was being built

a non-ceramic product

well, why not... burp!

assorted finished products

Before we left, we bought two pieces for US$14.

our kind host suggesting more things to buy

Lunch at the FCC Angkor

It was a bit of a rush, getting HM back to the spa in time for her session with the masseuse but we made it, phew. I then took the opportunity to indulge (or rather, overindulge) in a repast on the hotel verandah.

on the verandah

the view from the verandah

My lunch:

cranberry and lemon juice

gnocchi with confit duck, mushroom, roasted beetroot, spinach and red wine jus

Time passed slowly in the midday heat. For a while, I regretted the overly rich lunch. Retiring to the room, I made myself comfortable on the daybed outside. In between reading, I snapped a couple of shots...

common tailorbird

seeing beauty in everything

A little sleep was also inevitable. Eventually HM returned from her massage, waking me up. Her verdict on the session? Good, but not the most memorable, although she did have her own private room and two therapists.

Downtown Siem Reap

We spent the rest of the day shopping. First, a return trip to Artisans D'Angkor was in order. After sleeping on it (literally), I had decided to buy the Jayavarman bust, although HM vetoed the larger sizes. While there, we picked up several small gifts as well. We then sent Jayavarman back to the hotel with Mr 509 and headed for the vicinity of Pub Street. There, we bought more gifts for friends and family and, last but not least, picked up more books on Cambodia.

Finally, it was down to pottering around town before dinner.



no wonder this was a popular guesthouse

Dinner at the Blue Pumpkin

Our final meal in Siem Reap was at the Blue Pumpkin (breakfast at the hotel doesn't count, nor does an unplanned lunch at Siem Reap airport, but more on that later) - a fitting end to a wonderful trip, in my opinion.

upstairs - note the day beds and wireless

fresh spring rolls

more fish amoc ravioli - how could I not?

paprika chicken breast with spinach, lentils, fried apple, gremolata dressing

our last dessert - what was it again?

a final cappucino

We would have liked to linger, but we so needed to return to the hotel and start packing.

would this fit into our luggage?

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