Family time in Siem Reap
Family time in Siem Reap
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated June 10, 2012
Last March, I brought up the idea of an overseas family vacation to my wife Lydia and our three kids and the idea was enthusiastically received. I was not surprised since almost all of us have the travel itch that almost never goes away. But of course we needed to plan for it to happen.
It’s not easy asking everyone to drop everything and just take off to the wild blue yonder. My kids are grown ups who have hectic lives of their own. Two of them, Ala and Mio, currently live in Sydney and have jobs there. They have friends and they live productive and more or less happy lives. Erica, my eldest, lives in Manila and is raising her kid, Ananda. My wife Lydia spends a lot of time in Sydney where she is taking courses in painting and art. And I am quite busy myself doing a lot of things here and there.
When I broached the idea of going on a family trip, everyone got excited. It had been quite a while since we traveled as a family to a destination outside the Philippines and the outskirts of Sydney. And what I was proposing was not a family get-together on account of some holiday like Christmas. I wanted the family to go somewhere and just enjoy each other’s company.
I asked for suggestions and got some pretty interesting ideas of places to visit that are rather off the beaten track. There was India, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, and a few other places. After some deliberation, we settled on Siem Reap in Cambodia, a place we had all visited before but not together as a complete family.
My family has traveled a lot, even prior to our move to Australia. My kids have gone to the US, Britain, France, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brazil, the Galapagos, Peru and other places traveling with us or with relatives. Travel is one of the things we really enjoy.
I remember our early travels when the places we chose revolved around them as children. There were the mandatory trips to Disneyland and other similar places where the children had their commercial childhood adrenalin rush that fed their fantasies.
The great thing about traveling as an older, more mature family is that such thrills have been pretty much spent. Except for Ananda who is eight, Lydia and I felt that this time around, we were traveling with adults.
We boarded our AirAsia flights on June 1, with four of us coming from Clark and Mio and Ala flying in from Sydney, and met up in Kuala Lumpur from where we took our flight to Siem Reap. The thrill of all of us meeting in one place outside the comfort zone of “home” like Manila or Sydney was great. We were so happy to be with each other.
We left for Siem Reap on June 2 and the AirAsia flight we boarded touched down at close to 9 a.m. We checked in at Hotel Angkor Sayana, a tiny, comfortable hotel with a friendly staff, within walking distance to Pub Street where everything happens, and close to the Angkor temples we came to visit.
The next days were spent seeing the astounding ancient sights of Ankor and marinating in the history of Cambodia with the help of our able guide Suyan. One of the things that I cannot explain is how Angkor Wat, Bayon, AngkorTom and the other temples can still mesmerize with their beauty and architecture even if we had already visited them before. It amazes me that something so ancient and ravaged by time can exhude a sense of eternity. Something in the experience brings the visitor to a state of timelessness.
For lunches and dinners, we took breaks from touring and tried the varied and delightful restaurants and bars along Pub street. We were amazed at how cheap it is to enjoy Cambodia. For practical purposes, the legal tender is US dollars. Drinks in bars can cost anywhere from $1.50 to about $3, much to the delight of my kids who party a lot in Sydney and Manila and know their drinks well. Restaurant food is very reasonable. The six of us always made sure we ordered a feast, and often, a meal would come up to below $50 for all of us.
We also did things separately. Erica, the foodie, took a three-hour course on cooking Cambodian dishes. Mio went on a dirt bike adventure. Ala took long walks and just took in the scenery. Lydia went shopping and enjoyed the meals we had together. Ananda was such delightful company, gamely going along without fuss to wherever we went. I took as many pictures as I could. How could I not? It would have been a tragic waste to have missed out on the scenery.
It was heartwarming to see my kids who had missed each other taking the extra effort to bond. I appreciated not only seeing what my children have become individually, but also their enthusiasm for gastronomic delights. They really enjoy talking about food, which they do with authority and relish.
On our second night in Siem Reap, Mio and I tried the famous Happy Pizza that some people had told us about. It is pizza that is rumored to be laced with marijuana. The only evidence I could gather to support this claim was the spectacle of our waiter and all the foreign guests who seemed to have bloodshot eyes and giggled a certain way. Me, I fell asleep after eating. Was that the intended effect? I don’t know. Maybe next time, we should try the Ecstatic Pizza beside it. But, if we were a myth-busters team, the rumor about marijuana-laced pizza remains a myth.
Perhaps it’s because we were all agreed that a vacation is about pulling one out of a familiar setting and comfort zone and enjoying the discovery of a new place, that we all had a good time. We were ready for anything that came along. But for a parent, what was rewarding was to see my kids all grown up in more ways than I expected. I have heard of family vacations that have turned out badly because the members could not get along. On this trip, there were no tantrums, no fights, everyone seemed to be aware of each other’s presence and needs, and how rare it was that we were all together. So each one tried to make it work for everyone.
Sure, there were a few hitches and shortcomings in some of the hotel and travel arrangements. But instead of complaining, we seemed to have all intuitively arrived at a positive conclusion that, someday, these would all be good stories to share!
The trip was five nights and six days well spent. We flew back to Manila on Wednesday, tired and needing sleep, but with hearts full and looking forward to visiting other destinations, anytime, anywhere, in any season, as long as we do it together.
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