Angkor, Siem Reap
Landing in Cambodia was strange and very exciting because it's totally new and unknown to us both. Unlike Thailand, neither Kav nor I have been here before and we were so excited to start exploring and straight away our first impression was great, as we strolled through the airport we were greeted with hundreds of smiling faces. Cambodians are known for being welcoming and friendly, even more so than the Thai's and since being here we've been made to feel very welcome and cherished. Cambodia as a country love tourists because we are helping to boost their economy and bring them out of poverty so they all bend over backwards to help and guide us which is a blessing when you are new to a country.
Siem Reap is fairly new as a city and you can tell as you travel around. The streets and roads are in good condition, the hotels are big and bright and everywhere is so much cleaner than Thailand. It also seems to have an American feel to it in the way the town is structured in blocks and with long roads. They also have much bigger shops here than I've seen before in Asia and more restaurants and bars than people almost.
The national currency is Riels but the US dollar seems to be the most widely used currency which although helpful for converting costs, allows everything to be far more expensive than it probably should be. Having said that, there's something weird and funny about haggling a tuk-tuk ride down from $3 to $2. It just doesn't have the same appeal as haggling with Bahts!
The food is also different to Thai food and although share many of the same flavours and dishes, has less of a Chinese influence and moreVietnamese. Their national dish is Amok which is fish with coconut, herbs and spices served in a banana leaf - not something I've taken an instant liking to I must say, but on the whole the food so far has been very tasty and enjoyable. Not as much street food as Thailand, but we may see more of that when we get out of Angkor/Siem Reap and into Phnom Penh.
Their national drinks are tea and beer, but we don't seem to imbibe either one very much because of the heat. In the morning it's not too bad but by around 11am the temperature is getting to around 30°C, sometime higher and it can get very humid in the afternoon. Luckily though most places have either air-conditioning or large fans to help with the heat so you don't suffer too much. Siem Reap, due to it being much cleaner also doesn't smell as much as other cities such as Bangkok which is a blessing!
Staying in Angkor, just up the road from Siem Reap, we decided it would be beneficial to be near the Angkor temples. Our drive from the airport was pretty special. As we got closer to the hotel, we turned into a road which led up to Angkor Wat (the main temple) and just poking up through the trees you could see the tallest tower with a smaller one either side the closer you got. It was so spectacular my eyes welled with tears and I couldn't wait to see it up close.
The night we arrived Kav went off in a taxi to take photos of the sunset up at Phnom Bakheng while I unpacked, checked emails and wrote my previous blog. The problem with Kav's new camera obsession is that I get forgotten about and I refuse to spend hours waiting around for him to taken a thousand photos of the same view at just the right time and angle!
Our hotel was gorgeous with a snaking pool that ran around the hotel, beautiful bungalow rooms and a very impressive lobby area with a cocktail lounge and restaurant. They even ran cookery classes but unfortunately we ran out of time, but are hoping to do a class in Vietnam.
Our first full day in Angkor we hired a taxi driver and guide for the day to take us around some of the temples, which is definitely the best way to do it. We were up at 5am to go see the sun rise over Angkor Wat, unfortunately with hundreds of others, but Kav managed to get some great photos and it meant we were nice and early to enter the temple and look around. Our guide was fantastic, and although his English was somewhat hard to understand at times, he managed to talk us through all the different sandstone carvings throughout the Teaching Gallery which were in staggering detail and very fun stories, and runs the whole way around the inside of the temple. From there we walked up to the Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas and back down to see the Statue of Vishnu.
After Angkor Wat we drove over to Angkor Thom to see Bayon with its 200+ carved stone faces, thought to be portraits of the Khmer King Jayavarman VII and herded around with the hundred other tourists up and down all the steep steps, taking in the views, the stories and filling our memory cards with thousands of photos!
Our third visit was the famous Ta Prohm, where Angelina Jolie bounced around in Tomb Raider years ago. Her stay had such an impact on the town that she has various cocktails named after her in bars in the area and walking around the temple, people are pointing at areas they recognize from the movie, which kind of spoils the beauty and magic really. Ta Prohm is special and individual due it being swallowed by the jungle around it. Massive tree trunks and roots are literally breaking the temple and its surroundings apart and many structures have been put in place to stop it crumbling completely.
After 3 temples it was time for lunch and time for me to return to the hotel. It was hot, we were sweaty and I'd had enough of temples for one day. Kav carried on with our guide returning at 6pm, after which we headed off to the hotel's theatre in town to watch the Apsera show (traditional Cambodian dancing) with dinner which was great fun.
The next day Kav, again, headed off at 5am with our guide to sunrise at Sra Srang and onto more temples while I had a 3 hour appointment at the Spa getting pummeled and prodded enjoying a foot massage, body massage and facial. Well it can't all be sightseeing and sore feet!
Today was our last day in Siem Reap before we catch our coach to Phnom Penh tomorrow morning so we've had a walk around town, changed hotels and had some lunch. Tomorrow's 6 hour ride down to the nation's capital should be interesting, and I'll be sure to tell you all about it in my next post.
Love to all.