We ended our time in Cambodia in Siem Reap, the tourist hub for visiting the Angkor Temples. It is by far the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia. Just getting there from Phnom Penh was a tourist experience in and of itself. We took a nice big air-conditioned bus for the 6 hour journey, which played movies on a big flat screen, and had free wifi on board! The buses I ride back home don’t even have wifi on board! Wait, am I still in Cambodia? Oh yes, I’m quickly reminded that I am by how crazy the ride is…the roads aren’t in the best shape (completely washed out in areas), the bus is constantly honking it’s horn and continually dodging slower vehicles, motorbikes, pedestrians, and of course, livestock.
In Siem Reap, we stayed at a nicer hotel than we normally would have because a guy we got to know in Takeo knows the owner and got us a room at half price. The hotel had a nice rooftop patio with a restaurant where they served breakfast each morning.
We only had two full days in Siem Reap. Unfortunately, Jay was not feeling well during our time there, which was really a bummer because we were so looking forward to enjoying the wide selection of food the city had to offer as well as renting bikes for a day to tour the Angkor Temples.
On our first full day in Siem Reap, we explored the city for a little bit, checking out the Old Market and having lunch in the Pub Street area. Then Jay spent the rest of the day at the hotel, hoping to feel well enough the next day to visit the Angkor Temples.
I went to dinner that night with Kate, a lady from the UK that we got to know during our time in Takeo. Kate and I ate a restaurant that overlooked the night market, which made for excellent people watching.
Sadly, the next day, Jay was still not feeling well enough to go to the Angkor Temples. Thankfully, Kate wanted to go that day as well, so we went together. The best part was being there for sunrise, and getting to see Angkor Wat emerge from the darkness as the sun came up. Although it was not a colorful sunrise, it was quite beautiful to see the sunlight bring the temple to light and create a stunning reflection on the water.
Angkor Wat was built it the early 12th century; it was first a Hindu Temple, then converted to a Buddhist Temple. It has become a national symbol for Cambodia and is featured on nation’s flag. The architecture of the temple is quite unique, like nothing I had seen before.
After exploring Angkor Wat (“Temple City”), we visited nearby Angkor Thom (“Great City”), which was the last capital of the Khmer Empire. At the entrance to Angkor Thom is a causeway lined with large statues (gods on one side and demons on the other) appearing to be engaged in a tug-of-war.
After passing by the frightening tug-of-war statues, we entered Angkor Thom through the South Gate.
Inside Angkor Thom, we visited Bayon, Baphuon, and Phimianakas.
We hired a tuk tuk driver for our trip to the Angkor Temples, which is a popular thing to do. They drive you there and between sites, waiting for you in between. When our driver dropped us off at Angkor Wat, it was before sunrise and pitch dark. Two hours later, when we were done exploring at that first stop, we went to find him and found that where he had dropped us off early that morning was now a sea of tuk tuks, which we all looking the same. Thankfully, he remembered us, and came driving toward us as we were wandering around looking for him.
Even with a tuk tuk driver, it was a lot of walking between and around the sites. Now I understand why they sell a 3-day admission ticket to the Angkor Temples. Personally, I wouldn’t want to spend three days there, but that’s how long it would take to see it all. For me, one day was enough. After quite some time at Angkor Thom and when we thought our we had seen all there was to see there, we came across one more temple. Which meant climbing up some more crazy stairs (we were determined to climb up and around each one). After this last one, we called it a day.
That night, Jay was feeling better and we were able to enjoy a nice dinner out at El Camino, a Latin restaurant, run by an expat from New Mexico. It was the best meal we’d had in over a week and the perfect way to wrap up our time in Siem Reap.
The next day, we traveled from Siem Reap to Bangkok. This entailed a 3 hour bus ride from Siem Reap to the Thailand border, followed by two hours to get through customs at the border, then a 6 hour train ride from the border to Bangkok. It was Jay’s first time on a train! It was a scenic ride and we even got to enjoy a beautiful sunset along the way.