Published: July 16th 2012July 16th 2012
Siem Reap and Angkor were everything that I personally needed, after having had a bit of a mixed time in Phnom Penh I knew I needed to do two things in Siem Reap, firstly have a great time and secondly meet some new people. Both of these things happened in great measure.
Siem Reap itself isn't really a huge tourist destination, the vast majority of people visit only to see the temples of Angkor, I think this helps Siem Reap because you don't really have a great deal of expectation upon arrival. The reality is that it has a huge amount going for it, not just the cheap beers and party atmosphere but also from a cultural perspective. the people are exceptionally friendly and honest, meeting some of the younger generation in the nightclub really brought it home to me that Cambodian people expect little and earn little more in the majority of cases.
As discussed in my last blog, I arrived by bus at around 7.30pm and took a tuk tuk to my hotel, The Park Lane, $16 per night including breakfast, I booked this before I left England, the reality is I could have got a fairly
similar hotel for around $5 a night if I had just turned up and found somewhere, but you learn I guess. After a shower and a change I headed to bar street to get some food and a few drinks, I'm not sure what it was about Siem Reap but I felt really comfortable straight away, there was no concern for my safety or security and it felt great. I ate in what looked like a fairly busy place and as usual I guess that means it's ok, or everyone else has thought the same and really it's awful! But i took my chance and it was good, $4 for food and 50 cents a beer.
Another thing to say about Cambodia is that Angkor beer is great stuff, really smooth, fairly powerful and generally really cheap. So after a few beers with my meal I moved onto the Banana Leaf as it was fairly early and Angkor What seemed like a bit of a late spot. It offered free wifi, which as we all know is a travellers dream and Jim Beam for a good price, the only bar I've ever been in though where the toilet is
behind the bar! I got chatting to an Australian guy and we had a few drinks and then moved on to Angkor What for a few more, the atmosphere in that place is great, mainly travellers all looking to have some fun and party, dancing on the tables and drinking buckets of cocktails for $6 or so. We got chatting to some really sound Irish girls and before we knew it Angkor What was closing, until the next evening when I asked the barman what time it shut I had no idea what time I had gone back to the hotel, it was 3am!
I hadn't really slept a great deal since landing in Bangkok so I woke up at about 2pm and then snoozed through the afternoon until heading back to bar street to do it all again! The evening very much followed the pattern of the first but this time I spoke with a German guy and a couple of English lads, it was great night but I was mindful of the fact I was seeing the temples the next day so called it a day a little earlier, grabbed some beef noodle soup from a street
stall and headed back to crash.
We got on the road at about 8.30am the next day, it was 35 degrees so pretty warm but an enjoyable tuk tuk ride took me to Angkor and around, I booked it through the hotel for $13 for the day which seemed really reasonable. We started at Angkor Wat and all of the images you see aren't really enough to interpret what its actually like, they are amazing structures and yet in all honesty of all the temples I visited it was the least spectacular and I can't believe I think that, it has the size and aw inspiring spectacle but the star of the show was Ta Prohm, it just felt like you yourself had stumbled upon the ruins, I'm no Indiana Jones but if you are make sure you visit Ta Prohm, the other shining light was the Bayon within Angkor Thom, the intricacy of the faces carved into the rock are exceptional and the sheer level of detail is unbelievable for the 12th century, incredible.
So I had one evening left and an 11am flight to Saigon to catch, this night was by far the best and heaviest,
I met a guy called Matt in Angkor What and we just went for it, left there around 2am and then headed to a club, the name escapes me but it was busy so i guess its the most popular. There was a really good mix of travellers and locals, everyone was chatting dancing and drinking, a great way to end my time in Cambodia, I think I left about 5am got 2 hours sleep then still very drunk made my way to the airport for my flight, I slept the whole way to Siagon and nearly missed the flight becuase I was sleeping in departures! Crazy but worth it, my time in Siem Reap really put my trip on track and I hope it symbolises what is to come.
Siem Reap was amazing, I really enjoyed it and in terms of experience this has to be one of my top five from all of my travels, I've never really felt like a backpacker and being 28 was worried I had missed the boat but those few days have really showed me its not about age its about being open to experience and thats something I'm definitely ready to
There are more photos below