Following on from Cambodia part 1.
Our day got off to an early start. We were up, dressed with rucksacks on backs by 6am.
Tom and I hopped in our tuk tuk, bleary eyed and overwhelmed by the heat that the early morning held. The night before we had booked ourselves on to the first coach out of Phnom Penh, our destination Siem Reap.
As the coach rolled away I looked out of the window and tried to take in as many passing sights as I could. The further we traveled from Phnom Penh the more dramatically our surroundings changed. Concrete buildings became obsolete, the roads lined mainly with wooden huts, many of which on stilts.
As the coach jumped over crater sized pot holes I felt myself become completely entranced by the countryside that rolled by; Children played, women cooked under the shelter of their raised huts, dogs frolicked and farmers harvested mountains of fire red chilies. The explosion of colour that they held against the back drop of the countryside was aesthetically incredible.
Five hours, four episodes of Mr Bean and too many repeats of a Khmer woman’s rendition of Whitney’s classic ‘I will always love you’, we found ourselves in Siem Reap. The atmosphere upon arrival was completely different to Phnom Penh. After successfully acclimatizing to the crazy pace that the capital city provided, arriving in Siem Reap was almost a culture shock. It felt so much more relaxed, the pace was mellow, the roads were quiet and the air was calm.
We arrived at our wonderful hotel, the Golden Temple and within minutes were whisked up to our room, welcome drinks in hand.
It’s a fantastic hotel in the heart of Siem Reap, around a ten minute walk from the center of town. It sits on a quiet little road so although bars and restaurants are close by, you find yourself tucked away in a tropical oasis of calm. It’s an absolute dream of a hotel.
After a few beers and a relax by the pool, batteries were fully charged and ready to catch the last hours of light at the temples of Angkor Wat.
Our entire itinerary was built around visiting this spectacular sight and it did not disappoint.
My lunch hours at work for six months solid were spent googling these temples, trying to get a feel for what it would be like to actually be there, to explore them…
I can safely say that nothing can prepare you for seeing them in person. The experience is truly awe inspiring. The sheer scale and detail is out of this world. I won’t bore you with the history, I will just share my favorite collection of images from my first visit.
We made our way from corner to corner of the magnificent temple, exploring the corridors that run around the outer wall and climbing mountains of steps to gain a greater view of the complex.
As the sun dipped below the horizon we made our way back to the town.
We found ourselves on the edge of pup street, the heart of the town where you will find an array of restaurants/bars to suit whatever particular craving the day throws at you. From a traditional Khmer BBQ to a mountain of freshly cooked fajitas. If you ever find yourself temple trekking in Siem Reap, I stress that you MUST make your way to the Viva Mexican restaurant, I cannot begin to tell you how unbelievably amazing the food is.
Oh, and they sell $1 tacos. I found my love for all food Mexican in Siem Reap… Who’d of thought it?
Pub street is built for tourists. It’s generally cheap, cheerful and a very happy place to spend your evenings in Siem Reap. My advice is to just take it for what it is, enjoy the atmosphere and you will find somewhere to suit whatever your tastes may be, there is something for everyone.
That particular evening we enjoyed our first incredible Mexican/Cambodian feast and ended our evening in the Temple bar which hosts a complimentary Apsara dance show daily. We ordered a few rounds of Angkor beer, sat back and enjoyed the beautiful show…
The heavens opened, the lightning illuminated the sky and the thunder pounded. I sat myself by the open balcony which was completely open to the elements and watched the spectacular storm pass over, safe and content in the shelter of the bar. The perfect end to an explosive first day in Siem Reap.
Part 3 to follow.