Published: September 5th 2011September 2nd 2011
Every major tourist attraction has it's special spots where the masses of tourists gather to watch sunrise or sunset. The temples of Angkor are no different. Sunrise? The ponds in front of Angkor Wat for the reflection and silhouette (left side to be specific). Sunset? Here the definitive sunset spot is apparently from the hill-top temple Phnom Bakheng. They have everyone fooled (including the guide books which state that the main draw is the sunset view over Angkor Wat). Sure it's on top of a hill, but the temple steps are actually quite steep to climb up and the huge crowds make it quite dangerous going up and down. When you get to the top, the surrounding trees are so tall that there is really not much to see other than some rice fields in the distance. If you squint through some overgrown tree branches you can see part of Angkor Wat way, way out there. Still, regardless of whether there is a good sunset or not, tourists are marched by the hundreds up the hill to the top of the temple for sunset, us included.
The next day we skipped sunrise and headed out for a morning tour around
8am. We made it through Angkor Wat, a small lesser known temple, and Ta Prohm (of Tomb Raider fame) before we were completely exhausted from the heat. We got a quick bite of lunch before heading back to town for the afternoon. It's a big place and the heat is just too much for us to do a full day tour. Good thing we had plenty of days so we could space out our temple visits and take our time. In all we spent 6 nights in Siem Reap and made 4 trips to the temples. We did mange to catch one sunrise over Angkor Wat, but sadly because it is rainy season, the sunrise wasn't anything spectacular. However, the atmosphere of it all was pretty memorable. Our favorite temple was Bayon at Angkor Thom. Our favorite breakfasts were the pastries from Blue Pumpkin! We don't normally provide traveller tips in our blog, but decided to this time because the land border crossing from Cambodia to Thailand has become somewhat of a backpacker legend so we thought we'd share our experience. If interested, read on...
Heading back to Thailand overland from Siem Reap was an interesting experience. The
So what are we looking at exactly?
border crossing at Poipet is notorious for bus scams and there are plenty of sensationalized traveller accounts to read online. Just google "poipet scam bus" and read a few of the first hits. Moral of the story, don't buy the VIP all-inclusive tickets from Siem Reap to Bangkok (especially if it advertises Khao San Road) unless you want to waste a lot of time. Many people avoid the bus all together and just take taxis which is expensive and not really necessary. The 8am bus from Siem Reap to Poipet costs $3.75 from Capitol Tours (the bus the locals generally take, not the tourist VIP bus). Exit Cambodia, walk across no-man's land, then enter Thailand. Ignore any and all touts, walk to the taxi stand and take a tuk tuk for 80 baht ($2.50) to the bus station at Aranya Prathet. Then buy a bus ticket to Bangkok for 207 baht ($6-7; buses leave hourly). Anyways, our own experience was pretty tame. We wanted to leave earlier than the 8am bus so we purchased a 6am ticket to Poi Pet and ended up in the same bus (mini-van in this case) as the people who bought tickets through to Bangkok.
About 3km from the border the van stopped at the tour operator's office where people's tickets were exchanged for stickers. The guy harassed us a couple of times about our destination in Thailand and tried to convince us to buy tickets from him. We firmly and politely declined his help (or anyone else's) and completed the border crossing on our own following the above script with no issues. We arrived in Bangkok at about 3pm which gave us enough time to get to the train station and catch the overnight train to Chiang Mai. Not sure what time the others made it.
There are more photos below