Laos, from Luang Prabang to Si Phan Don. Siem Reap, Cambodia 1 until 25 March 2020

Laos, a roundtrip from Luang Prabang to Si Phan Don

On Sunday 1 March we start our trip to Laos and Cambodia. After a long delay at Schiphol airport, because of technical problems, we arrive 7 hours later than planned in Laos, Luang Prabang on Monday 2 March, 18.00. The airport is rather small, but we can easily arrange our necessary visa there for US$ 36,-. Our hotel, Villa Maydou, is partly world heritage, the wooden floor of the room is old (antique) and peeping, but clean and big. The hotel bar is cozy and next to the garden and the swimming pool. 
It is our first visit to Laos and we look forward to it.
Laos is often overshadowed by its neighbors, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, for their more famous attractions, but according to what we have read, Laos has plenty to offer and is certainly less touristic. The cultural aspects, the old capital Luang Prabang, the new capital, Vientiane, the karst mountains and many caves at Vang Vieng, Phonsavan, the Plain of Jars, the Khmer temple Wat Phu Champasak and finally Si Phan Don along the Mekong river with beautiful waterfalls.

Luang Prabang once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Laos, but nowadays it is the unofficial tourist capital. The city is located in a mountainous region, encircled by the PhouThao and PhouNabg mountains, and built on a peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan River. The city is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th century. It is remarkably well-preserved.

Luang Prabang

After one day of relaxing, we start our journey in Luang Prabang on Wednesday 4 March. Close to the hotel we visit Wat Aham, which is a small temple consisting of a sim (congregation hall) and two ancient stupas. It has a history of both Buddhism and spirit worship. The temple was built in 1818 on the site of a much older temple dating back to 1527. Between the street and the temple are two very large and old banyan trees that harbor the Devata Luang, the guardian spirits of Luang Prabang town.
We walk to Mount Phou Si (holy mountain), located inside the city on a 140 meter high hill that is home to several Buddhist shrines and temples. It’s a good place to overview the city and from this point we can spot our hotel and the bridge near the hotel. Mount Phou Si lies between the Mekong and Nam Khan river. We start at the east side and have to climb several hundred steps, 328, to reach the top but the climb can be done, slowly with some breaks for the nice view. The stupa at the top, That Chomsi, is rather small but can be seen everywhere in the city. We climb down at the west side to Wat Xieng Thong.

Wat Xieng Thong (temple of the Golden City) at the tip of the Luang Prabang peninsula is one of Laos most beautiful and richly decorated temples. The Wat is a royal temple built by King Setthathirath in 1559 between the Nam Khan and Mekong river. It was the place where centuries of Laotian kings were crowned and is considered the most important monastery in Laos today. More than 20 buildings serving various religious functions make up the temple complex, decorated with lots of gold leaf. The complex has been restored several times over the centuries, but still has some original buildings.
The Royal Funerary Chariot Hall, completed in 1962, contains the 25 m. high funeral carriage, decorated with large naga’s at the front, of King Sisavang Vong who died in 1959. The hall is built in classic style, with naga finials and is decorated with carved and gilded teak wood panels with flower motifs and scenes from the Phra Lak Phra Lam, the Lao version of the Indian epic Ramayana.
The interior walls are decorated with glass mosaics and gold stenciling on red lacquer. Lined along the walls are a number of early 19th century Buddha images.

Both temple sims, exterior and interior, are very extensively decorated with intricate gold stencilling on black lacquer. The impressive structure is built in Luang Prabang style, its sweeping roof extending almost to the ground. The sim’s back wall contains a colourful mosaic of the tree of life on a red background, made in the 1960’s. In the top of the picture is a standing Buddha, at the bottom of the picture one can see a man walking and several animals including a tiger and two peacocks.
The pediment of the Chapel of the Standing Buddha is adorned with colourful glass mosaics of flower motifs and two kinnaree, a mythological creature half human, half bird.
On our way home a short tropical storm with heavy rain hits the local market, where people are protecting their tents and merchandise. Trees are broken and streets are flooded.

The next day we visit Dan TEAC, the ethnological museum. The collection is well documented, but rather small. The centre's goal is to celebrate and preserve the heritage of the various 80 ethnic groups in Laos.
After the museum we visit Wat Mai (New temple) Suwannaphumaham, the largest temple in Luang Prabang, located next to the Royal Palace. The temple was founded around 1780 by King Anurat of the Luang Prabang Kingdom and was used by Laos Royalty. The sim with its five tiered roof extending almost to the ground is adorned with golden naga finials. At the center of the highest tier is a “Dok So Faa” (a metal roof decoration) consisting of three golden parasols.
The veranda’s roof is supported by large black and gold stencilled columns topped with capitals in the shape of lotus leafs. The sim’s doors are decorated with gilded carvings of deities and flower motifs. The reliefs depict scenes from the Ramayana and the Jatakas and scenes of every-day life in Luang Prabang with temples, animals, houses, festivities and dancing women.
The sim houses the Wat Mai’s principal Buddha image, a large gilded seated Buddha image in the meditation position. It is surrounded by a large number of smaller Buddha images in various mudras.
For the monks and tourists there are several texts to meditate on all over the temple, like “today is better than two tomorrows”.
Wat Sene’s sim unfortunately is closed but there is still much to see, a standing Buddha, a footprint of Buddha, boats and a funeral carriage.Walking back to the hotel along the river, we pass well preserved old French style villa’s, most of them in use as a hotel with off course ‘river view’.
For more information about Luang_Prabang
and tourist attractions in Luang Prabang
pictures Luang Prabang

Phonsavan

Friday 6 March we have a 8-hours drive to Phonsavan. We calculate that there are roughly 3.500 curves in the road through the mountains. The landscape is impressive, high mountains, big valleys, green sticky-rice fields, but we also pass areas with trees without leaves, areas with deforestation and a lot of Chinese projects, tunnel and road constructions, water management. But most of the Chinese projects are shut down because of the Covid-19 crisis.

At six o’clock we arrive at our hotel in Phonsavan, which is the provincial capital of the Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos. Phonsavan is a rather new city, built just after the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. In the 2nd Indochina war the center was heavily bombed and totally destroyed. The city nowadays looks a bit boring, but a good place for visiting the Plain of Jars, our reason to travel here.

The next morning we visit the most interesting 3 sites of the Plain of Jars, which now are all free of old bombs.
But first we have a look at Wat Pia Wat, 16th century, with an impressive, colorful statue of Buddha, That Foun (an old stupa with some decorations still in place), the Tad Lang Waterfall (dried up because the water-flow was diverted), Bao Xia Spoon Village, where they manufacture spoons out of old US bombs from the (secret) war against Laos. A reminder that the kingdom of Laos is the most heavily bombed nation in world history. Too bad, today no sign of people making spoons because of a village ceremony.

The Plain of Jars is situated at Xieng Khouang Plateau which is located at the northern end of the Annamese Cordillera, the principal mountain range of Indochina. After a short walk through rice fields we start reach site #3, Hia Hin Lat Khai, rather small, on a hill and with a nice view. Site #2, Hai Hin Phu Salato, is located in a nice smelling pine-tree forest with a lot of mosquitoes where beside jars we notice a lid of a jar with a frog drawing. Finally the biggest site #1 (331 jars), Thong Hai Hin, which is more or less transformed into a touristic park, shops, restaurants and a beautiful view. We have a view of hundreds of jars, varying in height (until 3 m high) and size. Each jar is cut from 1 solid piece of stone, which are thought to be around 2.500 years old. Archaeologists are still exploring whether these jars were used as urns or to store rice wine. We notice many traces of the Indochina war that raged here on these plains: big craters and also some trenches.

The next day we leave for Vang Vieng, again a long trip through the mountains, but visiting the Plain of Jars was worthwhile.
For more information about Phonsavan
and about the Plain of Jars
pictures Phonsavan

Vang Vieng

Next stop is Vang Vieng, famous for the beautiful karst mountains, the many caves and rivers. In early times very quiet, but nowadays a touristic place, with many backpackers from all over the world, cheap hotels, loud motorbikes, water-fun (kayaking and tubing), and crowded bars. We booked a quiet hotel, hotel Amari, with a nice swimming-pool, and get a free upgrade to a room with a great view of the river and mountains. There are few guests because of cancellations related to Covid-19. We then realise that tourism is decreasing, and that the problems for hotels, restaurants and other tourist places are arising much faster than expected when we started our trip.

It is Monday 9 March and we take a tuktuk to Tham Phu Kham. There are a lot of young tourists there, playing and swimming in the water of the Blue Lagoon (the water is really azure blue). We come for the cave, which we reach after a long & terribly dangerous climb, with steep, slippery, uneven steps. We manage though and in the cave a reclining Buddha is waiting for us. 
The next stop is Tham Jang, a nice park with small market stalls, pick-nick spots, a swimming-pool and a restaurant. We enter the cave using the staircase (modernised because the cave was used as a bunker beginning of the 19th century), enjoy the easy climb and the beautiful view.

In the evening we enjoy a diner in a restaurant with river-view and some drinks in the outside restaurant (‘Biergarten’) of the hotel.

The next morning we go by tuktuk to Tham Sang triangle: a nice walking trip to Tham Sang (Elephant cave), Tham Nan (Water cave), Tham Hoi and Tham Loup. Especially Tham Loup is very tricky and we are glad we wear a helmet with light attached. Several bumps against the roof of the cave tells us the helmet is a must.
We had a funny plan to take a trip on the river (about 10 km) by kayak back to the hotel, but this is only possible when you make arrangements in advance, so we take the tuktuk back again, which was fortunately waiting for us. 
In the evening we enjoy the diner opposite of the hotel and again some drinks in the Biergarten (sounds familiar).

The next morning we travel to Vientiane. It takes around 4 hours.
For more information about Vang_Vieng
pictures Vang Vieng

Vientiane

Wednesday 11 March we leave for Vientiane. A road with many curves and projects, road constructions, tunnels, dams, a lot of dust and trucks spreading water on the road. We stop at a village Ban Tha Heua for a photo shoot of a market selling many sorts of dried fish, and dried fish only.
After 4 hours we arrive in Vientiane
 at our hotel Sabaidee@Lao hotel; no swimming pool but a nice inner garden with bar.
The hotel is on walking distance of the Mekong river: a nice boulevard, quite busy, with a night-market and a lot of sporting activities (jogging, biking, group work-outs with music). A short walk through the city shows that our hotel is well located in the old centre near Setthathirat road and Lan Xang Avenue with the French style Patuxai monument. We pass restaurants, bars, a lot of government buildings, the Presidential palace, Wat Ho Phra Keo and Wat Si Saket.

The next day we visit the Xieng Khuan open air Buddha park, a 30 min. drive by car. The statues are made around 1958, by non-professionals from concrete and are the products of the fantasy of the Laotian monk Luang Phu Bounleua Soulilat. The collection is very diverse with giant sculptures of Buddha and Hindu deities. A 40 m. big reclining Buddha, the Hindu god Indra, a 2-headed elephant, a 4-armed deity riding a horse and a 3-storey tall pumpkin structure with a 3 m. high mouth of a demon and a great view on top. Impressive. The audio-tour is very informative.
After the park we visit Laos’ most important religious monument, the gold-covered Pha That Luang (“the great stupa”, symbol of the Laos nation). Since its initial establishment, suggested to be in the 3rd century, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions, most recently in the 1930's. The stupa today consists of three levels, each conveying a reflection of part of the Buddhist doctrine. The first level is 67 m. by 68 m.; the second is 47 m. along each side; and the third level is 29 m. along each side. From ground to pinnacle, the Pha That Luang is 44 m. high. Only the pinnacle is covered in real gold. The other parts of the complex are gold-painted. A statue of king Setthathirat is placed in front of the complex; in the corridors old Khmer and Laotian Buddha statues are exhibited. The temples on both sides of the stupa are very beautiful and colourful. At this site again not many tourists.

Finally we visit the Patuxai monument, with beautiful decorations on the ceilings and walls. Patuxai, which means Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph, is a war monument, built between 1957 and 1968. The monument was dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. Patuxai is also called the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane as it resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, it is typically Laotian in design, decorated with Buddhist and Hindu mythological creatures such as the kinnari (half-female, half-bird) and apsara’s.
At the top of the Patuxia we have a nice view at the city.

It is Friday 13 March. Today we have the Wat Ho Phra Keo, Wat Si Saket and the Lao national museum on our program.
The Wat Ho Phra Keo or Haw Phra Kaew (built in 1565-1566 on the grounds of the royal palace to house the Emerald Buddha figurine) is nowadays used as a museum where some of the best examples of Laos religious art are displayed. A number of Buddhas are placed on the terrace, including stone Buddhas dating from the 6th to 9th century, and bronze standing and seated Buddha of later periods. More Buddha images are displayed in the sim, ordination hall where the religious ceremony is conducted. The ornately carved wooden doors to the sim are original to the old temple. There are also a gilded throne for the Emerald Buddha, Khmer stone steles, wood carvings, a bronze frog drum, and Buddhist manuscripts inscribed on palm leaves.
The documentation of the exhibition is rather poor and unfortunately one is not allowed to take pictures in the sim.

Wat Si Saket, built in 1818, features a cloister wall with more than 2,000 ceramic and silver Buddha images. The temple also houses a museum. The walls in the temple are beautifully decorated with paintings.

When we walk to the national museum we pass the Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan temple (Temple of the Heavy Buddha) a Buddhist Monastery. The name of the temple refers to the large 6 m. high, bronze Buddha statue (16th century).

The national museum seems to be closed for renovation, but, after asking around, we learn that it has been moved, but where to? No one knows. We go back to the hotel where they inform us that the museum is moved to a place 1½ hour walking from the hotel. So we take a tuktuk to the site and find the museum not yet opened for the public…

On Saturday 14 March we have some time left before our flight to Pakse. We decide to visit the central market, Talat Sao. Most shops are closed, only some shops selling gold, traditional clothing, embroidery and some food courts are open. Our search for the post office fails, because locals point out all the 8 directions. We put our post cards in what looks like a mailbox and hope the cards will arrive.
For more information about Vientiane
pictures Vientiane

Pakse, Wat Phu Champasak

After a short flight we arrive in Pakse, capital of the province Champasak, where the rivers Don and Mekong merge. The hotel pick-up bus to the Champasak Grand hotel, 10 guests, is waiting. The hotel is good, big, clean with a swimming pool, a bar and 2 restaurants, 1 inside and 1 outside with a view on the Lao-Japanese Friendship Bridge and the Mekong river. The reception hall has some furniture with beautiful woodcarvings.

Sunday 15 March. We visit our goal-destination in Laos, Wat Phu Champasak, Unesco World Heritage since 2001. From the 5th until the 8th century this was a Champ empire holy destination. Most of the remaining buildings nevertheless are Khmer from the 9th century. The temple complex is situated at the base of mount Phou Khao and the way up is long, decorated with many Champa-trees, with the Lao national flower Dok Champa (Plumiera Alba). The view from the top, where the small but beautifully decorated “Big temple” is located, shows the whole complex and the surrounding area. 
Wat Phu (Vat Phou) was part of the Khmer Empire centred on Angkor to the southwest, at least as early as the reign of Yasovarman I in the early 10th century. In a later period, the original buildings were replaced, re-using some of the stone blocks; the temple we visit was built primarily during the Koh Ker and Baphuon periods of the 11th century. Minor changes were made during the following two centuries, before the temple, like most temples in the empire, was converted to Theravada Buddhist use.

The first remains we pass are known as the north and south palace, but their purpose is unknown. Each consisted of a rectangular courtyard with a corridor and entrance on the side towards the axis, and false doors at the east and west ends. The courtyards of both buildings have laterite walls. The  pediments and lintels, which are in the early Angkor Wat style, are well preserved. The path culminates in seven sandstone tiers which rise to the upper terrace and central sanctuary, the “Big Temple”. The front section, of sandstone, is now occupied by four Buddha images, while the brick rear part, which formerly contained the central lingam, is empty. Local people use this place for offering and praying.

Walking around at the upper terrace we find the stones with elephant, crocodile and snake figurines on it. The crocodile stone is possibly the place of an annual human sacrifice, such as described in a 6th century Chinese text.
The holy spring is hidden under a rock and because many local people are gathered catching the holy water in bottles, we almost missed it.

The museum at the complex is quite small but there are some amazing, well documented statues and artefacts: Nandi, garuda’s, linga’s and an ‘animistic’ looking Buddha. A stone with Sanskrit inscriptions from the 5th century shows the name of the founder of the complex, Champa-king Devanika. Pictures show the history of archaeological activities at the site. But in the museum ‘no pictures allowed’.
The Champasak Provincial museum was unfortunately closed this day.
For more information about Wat Phu Champasak
pictures Wat Phu Champasak

Si Phan Don

Monday 16 March. The next destination is Si Phan Don, a sweet-water archipelago of about 4.000 islands in a 50 km stretch of the Mekong river. A trip of 2 hours by car and ½ hour by boat. The boat trip starts in Ban Nakasong village. It is a relaxing trip on the water before we arrive at our hotel, Sengahloune Resort, on the island Ban Don Khon. It is a medium size hotel, located near the Mekong river, next to the French Bridge. A family run hotel, with only a few guests, because of cancellations. Most of the tourists we meet are French.

After lunch, on our trip to the Liphi waterfall, we run into school children wearing uniforms and walking side by side, hand in hand, heading back home. We pass the Wat Khone Tai temple. The entrance to the park is free, because of the dry season, but the waterfall is impressive, the water swirls and rages. During high season you have the possibility  to pass the waterfall using the “Monkey Fly Zip-line”.
Later that afternoon we notice big flocks of cormorants flying from the mountains on their way to??
We have diner at the hotel with a nice view of the sunset over the Mekong and families having their bath in the river.

The next day, Tuesday 17 March, we rent a bike, 10,000 kip (about € 1.10), and make a tour around the small island. The road is terrible, sand and rocks. The bike is terrible, old and bad breaks, but we survive and on our tripe we take a look at the old French locomotive, dried rice-fields and forest. At the view point Alounvamai Phathana we like have a refreshment, but the restaurants are closed. We force ourselves to buy at least some chocolate cookies, 1.000 kip, to have some energy for the way back, the same bad road. We bike through the village, where we see some old French colonial houses and the Wat Khone Nua temple with monks relaxing in a hammock under their residence, and a beautiful 3-story bell house.
The biking is done, pffff. We go for a boat trip, 150,000 kip, on the Mekong for about 3 hours, much more fun and relaxing. We see fishermen using nets, boats for transport, backpacker hostels and people swimming in the Mekong. The river by the way, is not very deep at this place. One can easily stand on the river bed to throw out fishing nets or to clean the boat. After returning to the hotel we take a beer and some colonial French Fries with mayonnaise; we enjoy our view over the Mekong and notice we are the only ones left in the hotel.

The next morning, Wednesday 18 March, we hear that the EU is closing the borders because of the Covid-19 virus. What to do next????
We stick to our plan, because it looks more convenient to stay and we are almost done with our trip in Laos. Today we leave again for Pakse, so at least we are more close to the airport to fly home if necessary.
A boat with the sister (receptionist) of the manager of the hotel, and her baby, brings us back to Ban Nakasong. First we visit the impressive Khone Phapheng waterfall with again a free entrance to the park because facilities are closed due to lack of tourists, and then we drive back to Pakse. The receptionist will visit family in Pakse, very convenient to combine our trip. In Pakse we stay again at the Champasak Grand hotel for the last 2 days Laos, before leaving for Siem Reap in Cambodia.
For more information about Si Phan Don
pictures Si Phan Don

Pakse, Bolaven plateau

In the hotel in Pakse guests are informed about extra measures concerning Covid-19. All the staff wears mouth caps and the restaurant inside is closed. however, it is possible to order food and enjoy at a table in the lobby. We run into a pilot from Lao Air in the lobby who informs us that Lao Air is planning (but you never know) to fly until 24 March to Siem Reap. Our original plan is to fly 20 March, so we should be able to make it. In the restaurant with the Mekong view still some guests. The food is good, sea-food, with a jug of beer. Later in the bar we finish this day, while reading a book, with a whisky and fruit juice.
At breakfast Thursday 19 March, no buffet because only a few guests are present and we discuss the new situation. Singapore has been closed for transit passengers; our tickets from Siem Reap to Singapore are cancelled. Singapore Airlines advises us to book a flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok for 26 March. Singapore Airlines arranges tickets from Bangkok to Amsterdam for this date.

We still have one trip to go, to the Bolaven plateau, but because of the new situation, we make it a short one. The company of our driver, mr. Son, has already fired him because of the crisis. Our trip is his last job for the time being. 
We visit some waterfalls. First Tad Fane waterfall in the Dong Hua Sao jungle, one of the National Biodiversity Conservation areas in Champasak Province; it combines two rivers to form a stunning twin 120 m high. Here also Monkey Fly Zip-line adventures. On our way to the next waterfall we visit a rubber and coffee plantation, where we drink very strong Lao coffee. Mr. Son provides us with a lot of information, using his phone to translate in English on the speaker. Next Tad Yuang waterfall, which is really magnificent, situated in a park, with shops and restaurants. Elderly ladies in traditional costumes of an ethnic minority are waiting for tourists, but few will arrive.
We take the stairs down to have a view of the waterfall from down under. We skip a trip to a volcanic area in the park and a visit to a Laven village 70 km driving.

Back in the hotel we book tickets from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Our last day in Laos but we have one more week in Siem Reap, no trips planned, so we will see.
For more information about the Bolaven Plateau
pictures Bolaven

Cambodia, Siem Reap

Friday 20 March. Yesterday we managed to book tickets with Bangkok Airways, but today the tickets are canceled automatically because Bangkok has been closed for transit passengers, hmmm.
Our flight to Siem Reap is delayed, hmmm (almost stressing). But finally we arrive at Somadevi hotel, where our temperature is measured and cleaning gel is provided. In the hotel there is a group of Danish people, just started with their trip and now already busy to get home again as soon as possible.
We hear that Bangkok at this moment is demanding a Covid-19 free certificate, but Cambodian hospitals will not give out these certificates for tourists, hmmm. The situation is getting more and more difficult. Singapore Airlines, the Dutch Emergency Center and the Dutch consulate in Siem Reap tell us to try to arrange our flight home ourselves. Late in the evening we book the earliest flight from Phnom Penh via Ho Chi Minh City and Doha to Amsterdam: on 24 March. So we have some time to ‘relax’ hoping things will not change for the worse.Also in hotel Somadevi the breakfast buffet is cancelled, set menu’s instead and if you need more? No problem, fruit, orange juice, coffee, tea.
Before we turn our attention to things you best do in holidays, e.g. relaxing, visiting sites and temples, we arrange a taxi with our friend Pilu for 24 March to bring us to Phnom Penh, a 5-6 hour drive, so we have to leave at 8 AM from the hotel. Saturday 21 March and we take a tuktuk to the temples of Angkor. We buy a three-day ticket to enjoy our stay anyway.

Because of lack of tourists we get another 2 days free entrance. And lack of tourists is clear when we visit the first temple, Bayon. We make unique photo’s, the Bayon without any tourist except we two. We make a relaxed tour at the temple and notice details we have never seen before because normally it is too crowded. We have diner at Japanese restaurant Hashi. In the restaurant and elsewhere in Siem Reap it is very quiet.
pictures Bayon

The next day, Sunday 22 March, we take a tuktuk to Banteay Samré and Ta Som. We see locals pick-nicking or sleeping in their hammock.At Banteay Samré we are the only tourists. Compared to the last time we were here, some parts are renovated and we can see new details.
pictures Banteay Samré

Ta Som, which was last time a big surprise, a beautiful temple, not often visited in tourist trips, is next. Here we are not the only tourists, 3 more. The many devata’s, lintels and lotus forms are spectacular.When we arrive at the hotel to have a swim and relax, the Danish group surprisingly is ready to leave for the airport. We have dinner in Pub-street, Pizza Roma (but with Khmer food), where finally we see quite some other tourists. The staff, because of lack of clients, is thoroughly cleaning all parts of the restaurant.
Later that evening when we have a drink at the bar, sangria and whisky, we meet the Danish again. At the airport they were told that their Covid-19 free health letter for the group was not accepted for entry to Bangkok airport.
pictures Ta Som

First thing to do the next morning, Monday 23 March, is check in for our flight to Doha. One step closer to home, because check-in succeeds.
To celebrate this, we visit
Angkor Wat. Again we hire a different tuktuk driver, just to be sure everyone is getting a piece of the small cake we can offer. A new entrance to Angkor Wat is under construction, nearby already a few new shops and restaurants. A lot of investments in Siem Reap at a very difficult moment.
As usual we enter the temple from the east side. We have ample opportunity to view all details; also here almost no tourists and a unique moment to make the pictures. Sometimes none, sometimes 1 tourist. The staircase to the tower is closed, but after 2½ hour we have seen enough and we leave the temple at the west side, where our tuktuk is waiting. The last afternoon at the swimming-pool. Later that day we hear that the Danish group can return home on 30 March. They partly follow the same itinerary we arranged: Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Doha, Oslo, Kopenhagen.
pictures Angkor Wat

On Tuesday 24 March 8 o’clock we leave for Phnom Penh. A fast, safe and very quiet driver brings us in 5½ hour to the international airport. After a delay of an hour we leave Cambodia in a half occupied plane (restrictions?). Next destination is Ho Chi Minh City (technical (?) stop), where to our surprise many people enter the plane, all with mouth caps, sometimes all covered in plastic, even plastic masks. The plane is now fully occupied for our flight to Doha.
7 hours waiting in Doha for our flight to Amsterdam. The Airport hotel is not available for tourists because of Covid-19. We arrive in Amsterdam also with a fully booked plane at 12.15 on Wednesday 25 March. During the drive home we are fully informed by Ruth, our friend who in spite of all the restrictions picks us up at Amsterdam, Schiphol airport. No hugs and 1½ m distance.
This trip has ended, a very interesting and nice trip, despite (or because of?) the Covid-19 situation, and a big adventure the last week surely was. Our travel home took almost 30 hours, but we are happy to be home again.