Siem Reap, a major tourist destination. Not my preferred holiday destination, as I don’t really like overcrowded places. Hence, I only did a short weekend trip to this city, just to check out the grounds of the infamous Angkor Archeological Park.
It was still a decent break away from work, if not for that one night when I had to work until 0200 hrs. Yes, I foolishly took my work laptop with me on this trip.
The most convenient way to get around Siem Reap is by tuk tuk. However, they do charge premium for foreigners. Just make sure you agree on a “reasonable” price before you get on the tuk tuk.
I said “reasonable” because sometimes I find other people getting frustrated over paying an extra 1 USD, when we pay more than that for coffee at home. I always remind them that these people are just trying to make a living. So, as long as the price is “reasonable” to you, just take it, and don’t let it bother you, even if you found out that you just paid a 200% premium compared to the locals.
Where to stay
We checked in a guesthouse, Dream Garden Butterfly Boutique Villa. Location wise is not the best, it is about 1.2 km walk away from the town centre. However, we appreciated the peacefulness, as we are both light sleepers.
Sam, the guesthouse owner though, is the most kind and friendly hosts we ever had. Other than the complimentary airport transfer, he even offered to give us a ride to town, whenever he’s available. He also helped us arranged for a private tuk tuk driver for our visit to Angkor Wat, at a very reasonable price.
What to do
Of course, the one thing everyone who visits Siem Reap must do is Angkor Wat. But in fact, there are many more temples, much bigger and more beautiful than Angkor Wat.
We hired a private tuk tuk driver for the whole day. So, we didn’t have to worry about getting around the many other temples we wanted to visit. For this trip, we covered three temple grounds, i.e. Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Angkor Thom.
See above map, Angkor Wat (1) is just the tip of the iceberg! Angkor Thom (6) is ginormous! Ta Prohm is at (11).
Tip: Take a photo of your tuk tuk driver and vehicle. There are going to be so many tuk tuk(s) at the temple entrance, you may not be able to identify yours!
At Angkor Wat, we managed to witness some sort of monk blessing ceremony. It was quite a sight, but I refrained myself from taking any photos due to respect.
The main entrance of Angkor Wat is going to be packed with tourists. You want to get over to the side entrance, where there’s little to none people! Here, you can take your crowd free instagram photos, or a pretty panorama like mine.
After Angkor Wat, we went to Ta Prohm, which is my favourite among the three temples I visited. This temple looks like it was abandoned, untouched for centuries, and infested by all these giant trees like parasites, the tree roots penetrating temple walls, and grounds.
Tip: To take this shot, use panorama mode in landscape view, and pan your camera phone upwards (towards the sky).
The last temple we visited was the grand Angkor Thom. And this temple ground is ginormous, covering an area of 9 km2! We shouldn’t have visited this last. We didn’t have much energy left, we didn’t get to cover even 20% of it.
The Bayon is the main temple in the middle of Angkor Thom walled city. It is famous for its several meters high Buddha faces chiseled on stones.
We didn’t have much time (and energy) to explore the interior of Bayon. We had to continue on and cover as much as we can, so we walked northwest towards Baphuon.
Baphuon is a three tiered pyramid like temple, with its highest point at 50 m above ground. You can (and should) climb the steep stairs carefully up to the 2nd level. The view from the top is amazing!
The 3rd level is off limits for public.
Baphuon supposedly has a 9 m tall by 70 m long reclining Buddha, on the west side of the 2nd level. However, large portions of it has collapsed over time.
We continued walking and past Phimeanakas, which looks like an Indian Jones set with all the moss on it. However, it is closed for visit.
After a long day of walking (12 km of walking to be exact, according to my Iphone’s Health app), we decided to call it a day, headed home to get some rest, before our fancy dinner the same evening. Will be writing more about our fine dining experience in Siem Reap in another post.