Published: July 15th 2012July 3rd 2012
From Bangkok I was going to take the train up to Chang Mai and then though Laos and Vietnam and then end in Cambodia and fly to China, but then I realized that Siem Reap is very close to Bangkok. If you were able to drive straight through it would only take about 5 and a half hours to drive. So I booked a bus ticket to go there from my hostel. Apparently many people travel this path from Bangkok to Siem Reap. I had read on some travel web sites that there is a scam at the border where the hostel buses drop you at a restaurant some unknown distance from the border and then over charge you for your visa. The visa should cost $20 at the border, but the 'agents' charge you twice that amount. So you are stuck in a quandary where if you refuse them you have to pay for the second half of your bus trip, not to mention find your own way to the border. I don't think this is actually difficult if you just walk out and find a tuktuk, but in any case you end up spending more money.
really not sure if this counts as a scam since the visa they sell you is real. They just charge you twice the price. So I ended up sharing a taxi from the border to Siem Reap with this couple from Australia. We had a nice chat for the two hour drive since I had been to the place they lived I could converse on the topic.
The taxi dropped us off at an office in Siem Reap and we had to take tuktuks to our hotels. My tuktuk literally just drove me around the corner to my hostel. If I had know where I was I could have walked the distance and avoided listening to the sales pitch where the tuktuk driver wanted to sell me his services to see the Angkor Temples the next day. I told him I was going to rent a bicycle and see it myself.
So I had arrived at my hostel around 3:30pm and I spent the afternoon walking around town and seeing the markets. I bought a tee shirt and a scarf. I don't even like scarves but they are so pretty here so my family can look forward to
receiving scarves for souvenirs.
Siem Reap also has a silk farm that you can tour for free. I found it very interesting because I had always pictured silk worms producing silk strands and people somehow gathering it as it was produced, but in reality the silk worms make their cocoons and then they are thrown into boiling water and killed while the silk from the cocoons can be unraveled from the water.
The real highlight of Siem Reap and the reason everyone comes to Cambodia is to see the Angkor Temples. Angkor Wat is the most preserved and the most famous but the Angkor Temple complex is really massive and covers over 400 square kilometers. It is about 7 kilometers outside the town and most people hire tuktuks for the day which costs $15. The Australian couple and I shared a tuktuk for the day so it cost about $30 for the day since the entry ticket is $20.
A Very Abridged Account of the Building of Angkor
Once upon a time there was a guy named Jayavarman II, who united the two major states of Cambodia into the Khmer Empire in the 9th century. A
couple hundred years and lots of building went by. Another guy, Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat in 1113. Well, he had it built, I doubt he was out there slinging stones around. Angkor Wat is dedicated to Vishnu, the hindu god who is considered the preserver of the universe. When Suryavarman II died political problems led to Angkor being invaded by the Chams but Jayavarman VII resolved the problem and built his own addition to the Angkor metropolis called the Bayon and dedicated it to Buddha.
What is left of the temples to see today is in varing states of disrepair. Amongs the stone structures there used to be many wooden buildings where people lived their daily life and it is assumed that at its height Angkor was home to about a million people. There is alot of reconstruction going on and there a few temples, Ta Prohm, in particular where you can see the jungle trees growing out of the stone buildings. After the fall of the Khmer Empire the Angkor temples were left to the jungle until 1860 Henri Mouhot started a wave of European tourism to the site.
There are more photos below