The next morning we were up early to catch our short flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The flight was uneventful, and we arrived at the sparkling new Siem Reap airport, excited about our coming adventure in Cambodia.
Siem Reap is the gateway town to the ruins of Angkor and the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat. I had always been intrigued by Angkor, but while I was growing up it was impossible to even consider visiting. During my formative years Cambodia was called Kampuchea and was under the rule of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. That regime was overthrown by the end of the 1970’s but it was only in the early 1990’s that Cambodia opened up to tourism again, after over two decades of being closed to outsiders. National Geographic magazines from the 1960’s had profiled the incredible ruins at Angkor, but sadly they had become a battle zone and still were into recent years.
I have a friend who toured Angkor in the mid 1990’s and he insisted I visit, stating that it was an untoured tourist gem that would change forever sooner than later. It was still a risky area at the time, with mine fields around the ruins and nearby areas still not fully under government control. With a young family I decided to wait. Finally, over ten years later, we had arrived in Cambodia. Clearly, Cambodia had been discovered. The brand new, beautiful airport was packed with tourists and we were delighted to be approached by someone who told us that he was an airport employee whose job it was to make the visa process easier for families. He collected our passports along with two other families) told us that the visa cost $25 per person, and $125 lighter he was on his way.
He returned with the passports, stamped with the required visa stickers, and we were on our way. It was only in the taxi that I studied the visas in depth, and was horrified to see that the kids visas had been issued free of charge. Our “helper” had absconded with $75 from us, and similar amounts from the other families that he had scammed.
We were not in a good mood.
PS: These days I’m planning great family trips to Cambodia. For more info on how I can help your family, visit here.