April 4th, 2014, 9pm

One of the biggest motivating factors for my wife & I moving to Singapore was to be able to travel easily to lots of places. We had lived in Japan & Thailand before moving to New Zealand (where Mel is from) to be closer to family. While in Japan & Thailand we did quite a bit traveling to places Korea, the US, the Philippines, Thailand, as well as the UK. This is not to say we didn’t travel internationally while we were in NZ. We visited the Pacific island nations of Samoa & Tonga, as well as Australia (where I am from) to visit family. We also went to Singapore and Cambodia. It was on this trip that we felt we could definitely live in Singapore.

We went to Cambodia to see the ruins of Angkor Wat. Visiting the ruins around Siem Reap was simply amazing and I was always very keen to return. The opportunity to go back to Siem Reap came up this year. My parents were coming to visit us in Singapore in our school holidays. We suggested that we go to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and they were keen.

Obviously I wanted to see Angkor, the Bayon and other places while we were in Cambodia. But I was also very interested to see how the area had changed in the six years since had visited. I am a geography teacher and one of the ‘big ideas’ we talk about in geography is change.

So, how had the area changed? Well Siem Reap has definitely grown. The town is more built up and there are many more hotels; including several that have been left incomplete. It follows that there are more people around, both Cambodian & foreigners. Although I don’t know the exact figures yet, I met someone who works in tourism in Siem Reap who told me that a few years ago, Siem Reap received around 1000000 visitors per year. Now the area is receiving that many in a season (i.e. a 3-4 month period).

The traffic seemed busier with more cars, as well as the ubiquitous motorcycles and tuk tuks. Sadly, there was definitely a lot more rubbish lying around, especially in the outskirts of Siem Reap. I wonder if the proliferation of rubbish is a product of a lack of education? Going back to Siem Reap has led me to start thinking about taking a group of students to visit Siem Reap to do research on how the tourism industry has affected the town and surrounding area.

Another strong motivation for traveling is to expose our daughter to new places and cultures so she understands that there are many different places with different people who believe in different things. Although Matilda is not yet three years old, she has been to Thailand three times, Vietnam, Japan and now Cambodia. She is quite an accomplished traveller. She loves going on aeroplanes and was very excited to see the “big faces” of the Bayon as I have a large photograph of them in our living room. While my mum & I were doing an early morning tour with a photographer, Mel took Matilda to see Angkor Wat & the Bayon, which she was delighted with. We also bought her a Cambodian flag to add to her collection.

Conor said thanks.

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Tony Hall

Geography teacher, reader & wanna-be photographer.

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