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Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Cambodia, long term travel, Siem Reap, Southeast Asia, Temples, Travel

Temples and Ruins and Wats, Oh My!

We ended up spending about five days in Siem Reap. On our second day, we purchased a 3-day pass to visit the Angkor temples, and we averaged about 4-5 temples a day. It was HOT, and by the end of each day, I had about 300 photographs, sore feet and a new found appreciation for architecture. On our second day on the temple circuit, we joined the masses for sunrise at Angkor Wat. This entailed a 4am wake up call, and our tuk tuk driver, Laosang, was a gem and all about making sure we saw what we wanted to. I overheard a tour guide tell his group that the sunrises were hit or miss, but this was one of the best he’d seen in a long time. That made the early wakeup call much less painful in hindsight.

My advice to anyone planning a trip to Siem Reap is to get up early, catch the sunrise and see another three to four temples before it gets too unbearably hot. Also, we found that most of the bad weather we experienced rolled in during the afternoons, so we tried to work around that too. After a 4am wake up call, an afternoon nap was in order, but I woke up with just enough time to run across the street and rent a bike to go back for sunset. It was only about a 2-mile ride back, followed by a short hike and I caught a beautiful sunset before biking it back to town under star light.

On our last day, we didn’t get such an early start, and we were getting a little “templed out” truth be told. We saw a couple of temples in the morning, and we then opted for an afternoon boat ride to the floating village on Lake Tonle Sap. This was such a cool excursion. We took Cambodia’s equivalent of a longtail boat through flooded land, where only the tops of the trees stuck out through the water. The ride took about an hour, and eventually we came to a town, literally floating on water. All of the houses, schools and temples are built on stilts to account for the rising water levels during wet season. By the end of wet season, the lake ends up being about 5 meters deep.

We stopped in at someone’s home for lunch, and sampled more authentic Cambodian food, including freshly caught white fish from the lake. We watched as the vendors rode by in their boats, selling that days produce and as children played in the water, jumping from the steps of their home into the lake, and floating along in anything that would float, including buckets and garbage pail lids.

We made our way back to land and decided to try to make it to Angkor Wat in time for sunset. We couldn’t tell if we were going to get one or not because the sky was starting to look a little threatening, but as we got closer to the main entrance of the wat, a rainbow began to appear in the sky. Then, a few steps on, another rainbow appeared. How lucky were we? Not only did the rainstorm hold off, but we got not only one, but two rainbows, as well as an amazing sunset! What a way to end our tour of the Angkor Temple Circuit.

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Cambodia, long term travel, Siem Reap, Southeast Asia, Travel

Discovering Siem Reap, Cambodia

We travelled by bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and had an uneventful journey, but stopped for some great street food on the way. I’m really not sure what it was, but it was good, and sometimes, it’s best not to know. I also discovered freshly juiced sugar cane, that they pour into little plastic bags, which then serve as your to-go cup. Handy!

Our first afternoon in Siem Reap was spent just getting our bearings and making plans to see the wats, temples and ruins over the following days. We made our way into town to stroll around, and I have to say this was by far the most surprising city I’d been to. It was just the opposite of what I expected. Based on my time in Phnom Penhm, and from what I had seen by travelling through Cambodia, I expected Siem Reap to be like any other Cambodian city- dusty, crowded and a little run down. But what we discovered was this small metropolitan city, with a ton of restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as galleries, boutiques, museums and markets. It didn’t feel like Cambodia at all. We were thrilled to find that every restaurant and bar seemed to have a never-ending happy hour of $0.50 Angkor beer so we decided to chill out and have a couple of cold ones before dinner.

After that, we made our way to a small restaurant we had passed on the way into town. What can I say? We liked the man who we had been talking to there, so it was an easy decision. I had banana flower salad with shrimp which was all tucked neatly into a banana leaf. The spices were perfect. The lemongrass and chilis used in each dish ensure your meal is never bland. We also sampled some Amok, which is a Cambodian curry made from chilis, coconut milk, kaffir limes and served most commonly with white fish, although you can choose chicken, pork or beef. I was quickly transported back to India, and knew Siem Reap was going to be a culinary highlight.