Temples of Angkor Cambodia - first international travels since the pandemic - Rusty Compass travel blog

Temples of Angkor Cambodia - first international travels since the pandemic

| 24 Mar 2022
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24 Mar 2022

My first International travels after the pandemic took me to Cambodia and the temples of Angkor. After two years grounded in Australia, I was delighted when a job in Cambodia gave me the chance to return to one of my favourite places. As the world tentatively returns to international travel and South East Asia, it's a special time to visit the temples of Angkor.

I shot this video while I was visiting the Angkor temples in March 2022. It will give you a sense of why I have found the temples utterly enchanting for decades. And you'll also see the special privilege available to those who visit Cambodia now before the return of mass tourism.

I have been marvelling at the temples of Angkor since the mid 1990s. I have visited dozens of times over the decades. It's always a delight to take people to see these temples for the first time.  Returning recently, I felt a privilege similar to the way I felt back in the 1990s. The temples were deserted. It was magical.

Travelling now before the return of mass tourism has many rewards. There are a few complications to consider too. Some of these will improve each week as countries open more.

One of the biggest challenges I faced during my travels was complicated and poorly communicated arrival requirements in different countries. Every country I have visited from Singapore to Cambodia to Vietnam, has made it difficult to feel certain you covered all entry requirements. Long pages of irrelevant information in official documents were common as were multiple repetitive forms.

Beng Mealea temple - a favourite
Photo: Mark Bowyer Beng Mealea temple - a favourite
Angkor even more magical than normal
Photo: Mark Bowyer Angkor even more magical than usual

My biggest potential error during my travels was that I almost took a "non-VTL (vaccinated travel lane)" Singapore Airlines flight from Siem Reap in Cambodia to Singapore. That mistake would have seen me in quarantine for 7 - 14 days. I assumed that arrangements between countries and my vaccination / insurance status was sufficient. I discovered late that some flights between points qualify for non-quarantine arrivals and others do not. It could have been a very big problem.

The Singapore Airlines flight I took the next day was "VTL" designated and so required no quarantine.

This Singapore Airlines VTL hazard issue was a fine print detail rather than something clearly spelt out at booking time. That was very poor form for the world's best airline.

I am still waiting on Singapore Airlines to process a refund for the second flight two weeks after sending two elaborate messages explaining issues. I am aware that many other travellers have been caught in this snag.

Once in country, COVID processes were easy in Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam. But flights were limited - especially in Cambodia. Quite a few attractions were closed too. Many hotels and restaurants have disappeared forever. Choices are reduced.  

On balance I think these pitfalls were offset by the upside of being in uncrowded places.

I'll have more on practical travel recommendations in South East Asia in future blog pieces.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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