Tomb raid­ing and tree­tops

Holiday with Kids - - Cambodia -

I’m go­ing first,” de­clares my eight-year old, Raf­ferty, as he bites into an enor­mous black taran­tula. We watch, fas­ci­nated, be­fore gin­gerly at­tempt­ing the same feat, one crunchy leg at a time. “Come on, Mum, they’re not bad,” he en­cour­ages as he de­vours a pro­tein-packed plat­ter of silk­worms, gi­ant wa­ter­bugs and grasshop­pers. When I flinch at the tex­ture of a silk­worm, he laughs up­roar­i­ously, ad­mit­ting they’re “kinda gross”.

But the rest of our meal at Bugs Café, the first in­sect ta­pas res­tau­rant in Cam­bo­dia and, prob­a­bly, the world, is sur­pris­ingly palat­able. The chef skil­fully turns the lo­cal del­i­ca­cies on their creepy crawly heads us­ing gourmet tech­niques to serve up every­thing from feta and taran­tula samosas to scor­pion salad. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s an eye­open­ing in­tro­duc­tion to Siem Reap for Raf­ferty and his five-year old sis­ter, Marlo.

Cam­bo­dia stole my heart 15 years ago and I’d promised to re­turn when my kids were old enough to un­der­stand the coun­try’s many lay­ers and his­tory. But my cu­ri­ous son, af­ter watch­ing ‘Tomb Raider’ a few times too many, fast-tracked our ad­ven­ture.

We re­turn from din­ner through Siem Reap’s tan­gle of tuks-tuks, my plan to ex­plore by air- con­di­tioned ve­hi­cle tossed to the wind as they gig­gle their way through the city from their char­iot, shout­ing “dtou dtrong” (go straight), even when we need to turn left or right. In the morn­ing, that tuk-tuk ca­reers wildly through the dark­ness in an ef­fort to beat the sun­rise. The pre- dawn start proves worth­while as the 1000-year- old Angkor Wat tem­ple ap­pears ma­jes­ti­cally from the morn­ing mist to dropped jaws. Our ho­tel, Sofitel Angkor Pho­keethra Golf & Spa Re­sort, has packed us break­fast, so while tourists re­turn to their re­spec­tive ho­tels, we nib­ble on pas­tries and ex­plore the vast tem­ple com­plex, which we have al­most to our­selves.

We cross a cause­way lined with Hindu deities and demons to Angkor Thom to marvel at The Bayon with its 200 gi­ant stone faces, each smil­ing at us with Mona Lisa coy­ness. The kids de­clare their undy­ing love for the labyrinthine tem­ple as they play a game of an­cient hide and seek.

Wor­ried that tem­ple fa­tigue will set in, we visit Angkor Zi­pline. Raf­ferty spots a gib­bon as he glee­fully flies through the course of zi­plines, plat­forms and sky­bridges, but his mind is else­where: “Can we see more tem­ples now, Mum?” he asks.

Wait, what? To my sur­prise, both kids are clam­our­ing for more tem­ples, so we head to Ta Prohm, best known for its star­ring role in ‘Tomb Raider’ and the mus­cu­lar tree roots that wind through­out its crum­bling walls. The most at­mo­spheric of Angkor’s tem­ples, it is also the most crowded, but this doesn’t con­cern my ad­ven­tur­ers, Lit­tle Lara and, her brother “Larry” Croft, as they bound through the jun­gle- clad ruins, chas­ing but­ter­flies and cre­at­ing their own imag­i­nary world of trea­sure-hunt­ing hero­ics. While I could be shar­ing tales of Angko­rian civil­i­sa­tion with them, I in­stead al­low them to cre­ate their own magic mo­ments in his­tory.

Loung­ing among lo­tus

We spend the af­ter­noon re­lax­ing Sofitel-style. One of Siem Reap’s most fam­ily-friendly re­sorts, it oozes French colo­nial el­e­gance and is sur­rounded by lush gar­dens and lo­tusstrewn lakes where the kids are in­vited to fish with tra­di­tional bam­boo rods. Our siz­able ad­join­ing rooms are sub­lime, with high ceil­ings,

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