Siem Reap

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February 14th 2008
Published: February 16th 2008
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Siem Reap airport is quite possibly the nicest one we have seen. It looks more like an expensive resort on a tropical island than the tourist hub that it is. We made it through immigration (after Scott chose the slowest line yet again) and caught a taxi out the front to take us to the hotel which had been recommended by Michael from Vang Vieng. The hotel turned out to be great, nice clean bright rooms and only 3months old plus it included free breakfast which is always nice.

Our first 2 days were spent exploring Siem Reap and waiting for Kat to arrive from Phnom Penh. There’s not a whole lot to Siem Reap, it’s a small town that has grown quickly to support the 2 million tourists a year that pour through the temples, but it does have a good bar and restaurant scene with a pretty good nightlife. The whole place pretty much consists of hotels and guesthouses, internet cafes and convenience stores and restaurants - you wouldn’t go there to see the 'real' Cambodia.

The day after Kat arrived we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the floating village on Tonle Sap. When we got there they told us that it was $15 per person for 1.5 hours on a boat, which is a ridiculous amount - other times this holiday we have hired a huge boat for $6 an hour - so we were put off. The guy selling the tickets said that the government ran the boats and therefore the prices were set...that was until we said no thanks, at which point the prices started to drop to $10 each instead - we decided to just leave anyway and go to a nearby orphanage.

The orphanage was started by the Cambodian government a few years ago but when it stopped providing funding was taken over by an Australian NGO. The place had around 80 children up to 18years old who lived there and went to school right next door. We had expected it to be a pretty awful place to live but it seemed to be fairly well funded and even had a room with about 20 donated computers with internet access.

After the orphanage we decided to go to the landmine museum near Angkor Wat, after about a 10km bike ride we were told that the museum had actually moved about 30km outside of town, so that ended that idea for the day. After we had ridden all the way back to our guesthouse, we decided that we should ride all the way back to buy our tickets for Angkor Wat for the following day. The tickets allow you to enter Angkor Wat the night before your tickets are valid, so this means you can see the sunset. So having ridden there twice now, we actually entered the temple complex to watch the sunset from within the grounds of Angkor Wat itself. That night the sky was pretty smoggy, so the sunset was pretty average, but it was a good introduction for us to the temples.

The following day was our first real day of temples, so we hired a tuk-tuk driver and set out on the 'grand tour' the longer route that started out with sunrise at Angkor. Sunrise involved us leaving our hotel at about 5am...apparently along with another ~ 1000ish tourists. Again the smog in the sky made the sunrise a bit of a disappointment although it was nice to see Angkor emerge from the gloom. It was worth being there that early to walk through Angkor to see the temple before the crowds set in for the day, although we decided to do a quick tour so that we could move on to the next temple and hopefully stay a bit ahead of the crowds the whole day.

Through the day we saw Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, Eastern Mebon, Ta Som, Preah Neak Pean and Preah Khan, the highlight of which for Bianca probably being Banteay Srei, 'citadel of the women' which had much more intricate designs compared to the others we saw and they were quite well preserved. Preah Neak Pean was a bit lame as it was basically 5 (empty) pools with a pagoda in the would have looked spectacular if they had been full.

The second day of temples was also Scott's 21st birthday, so we had a bit more of a sleep in than the day before. This day was the shorter tour, but included some of the more impressive and well known temples. We went to Angkor Wat (properly this time), Bayon, Baphuon, Ta keo, Ta Phrom (tomb raider temple), Banteay Kdei and Sra Srang. Bianca enjoyed the faces of Bayon, but for Scott it was the tree's at Ta Phrom, even though getting a photo without tourists was a bit of a challenge - we still managed to have a great time amusing ourselves with rude old European tourists and their photo taking.

The end of the second day culminated in us taking our Tuk Tuk driver out for Scott's birthday dinner on bar street. We had a good meal with plenty of drinks, especially our Tuk Tuk driver who had 2 whole beers and was prettyyy drunk (luckily we walked) . Following dinner we went back to our hotel restaurant and had some more drinks and some birthday cake, our driver looked about ready to pass out, and Bianca was 'merry' after an assortment of cocktails, although denies she was drunk - will have to decide from photos!

The third day of temple going did not end up going ahead, and instead we explored the markets in the town. Inside one market Kat wanted to find some crickets to try but with no luck. Instead her and Scott found a stall that sold fried cockroaches...big black cockroaches bigger than we get at home. Kat tried them first and gave them a semi thumbs up, so Scott dug in as well and it wasn’t actually that bad, although Bianca was not a fan and literally ran out of the market. Following our gourmet experience we came across a rehabilitation NGO centre that mainly dealt with prosthetic limbs for landmine victims - which are custom built free of charge. They had a display of homemade prosthetics which were sometimes pretty ingenious (some made from war surplus like bomb casings).

The next day saw us getting up early again and hopping on a bus to Phnom Penh. At one of the many stops (how many times does a bus need to stop in a 300km journey? so annoying) Kat again went looking for crickets to taste...unfortunately for her she still couldn’t find any (until we saw them out the window as the bus pulled away), but instead she bought a spider to try. The spiders were not bite sized; they were instead massive black hairy tarantulas. Kat paid for her spider but was scared to even pick it up until it was put in a bag for her, and eventually she ate a piece of leg. Apparently it didn’t taste like much...but we chickened out of tasting that one, she can keep it.

Additional photos below
Photos: 52, Displayed: 26


3 tonne limit + 20 tonne truck = swimming3 tonne limit + 20 tonne truck = swimming
3 tonne limit + 20 tonne truck = swimming

Stupid driver...he survived though
Tuk tuk driver asleepTuk tuk driver asleep
Tuk tuk driver asleep

He had 3hours sleep the previous night...

17th February 2008

hey guys, i just stole some of your pics! you are welcome to mine when i get around to facebooking the Cambodian ones. Though swapping dvd's might also be a good idea. Some great pictures. Laughed so hard at my demented face when I am holding tarantula! enjoy PP and bangkok! Don't buy too many IPOOD tees scott! Bianca make sure you get massages and manicures :P and most importantly eat LOTS OF AMOK!!

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