Siem Reap, Cambodia 2014
This year’s plan was to explore the famous Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Siem Reap, literally means the “Defeat of Siam”, is the most prosperous region of contemporary Cambodia. I became intrigued to know that Angkor Wat is the primary reason why more than 50% of international tourists visit Cambodia. If you visit the place, you would notice that Cambodians are proud of their ancient monument and even put it on the Cambodian flag and as part of every buildings design. ‘Temple is everywhere.” almost literally.
For the first time my family was impressed with our hotel. Checked in at Tara Angkor Hotel felt relaxing after our short flight from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap. With one hour late from Philippines time (the same time in Vietnam), we had the luxury of time to sleep and do what we want to do. We can go to the gym, spa and pool also. I was surprised to know that local hotels are pretty good.
What impressed me also is the fine-dining experience from different newly-opened restaurants in the city. We got chance experience local cuisine elegantly and in a modern way as part of our itinerary. A heartwarming welcome from Cambodians. Swear, I’ll try my best to blog those soon.
On the next day before tour, we got our pass to explore the temples. Make sure you keep it safe otherwise, you won’t be able to enter. A three-day pass to explore the Angkor temples costs US $40. A single-day pass is available for US $20 or a week-long pass can be purchased for US $60. Shorts and sleeveless is not allowed too so make sure you wear proper and comfortable clothes.
The Angkor ruins stretch over more than 248 square miles (400 square kilometers) so expect to tour and walk all day. Despite the magnificence of what is considered to be the largest religious monument on earth, people were crawling around the ruins like ants, posing for pictures, and generally just getting in the way. I couldn’t imagine the crowd during peak season. September is their rainy season. It would be too risky for you to travel in this season. You might end up staying inside the hotel if it rained. It didn’t rained during our stay and we are really grateful for that.
Due to unpredictable weather, we went to Angkor Wat first. As the largest religious monument in the world, we bathed in the sun for almost three hours to explore its beauty. The outer wall encloses 820,000 square meters of inscriptions, monuments, terraces, galleries, towers, courtyards, and pavilions, and is surrounded by a 190m-wide moat forming a complex measuring 1.5km by 1.3km. The mother of all temples is famous not only for its size and importance; however, but the complexity and detail of the astonishing and endless bas-relief sculptures as well. - Over 1 square kilometer of them. It’s truly a site to behold, and my photos are not enough to capture its beauty!
Words cannot describe Angkor Wat. Its scope, its grandeur and the quality of the preservation are incredible. It was a place I had always dreamt of visiting, and I was not disappointed at all except the fact that we are so tired - it indeed exceeded my expectations. They say it’s more beautiful during sunset and sunrise. I may be exhausted from walking and bathing under the sun but my eyes are happy, definitely happy. It’s always different when you travel because you’re learning at the same time.
If you would complain a lot about the heat, you would not enjoy your stay in Siem Reap.
I wished to visit the third level of the temple but look how steep the stairs is. Pau took a beautiful photo above using Go Pro. Amazing view, isn’t?
The Angkor temple Ta Prohm - famous for the large vines that strangle the ruins - was used as the set for the hit movie Tomb Raider. Unfortunately, some of the iconic trees growing through the ruins at Ta Prohm have to be removed to preserve the temple from further collapse.
Some areas of the temple are impassable and others are accessible only by narrow dark passages. They were trying to restore some ruined temple when we visited.
We refreshed and had lunch at a local restaurant right after Ta Phrom Temple.
The Angkor Thom is a Khmer complex with several temples, towers, pyramid-like structures, and important historical monuments inside. Well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. The most visited among them is the Bayon Temple (Prasat Bayon) which is situated at the center of the complex. Bayon features four-faced crowns and towers, which, according to historians, resembles a lot with King Jayavarman VII.
The front side of Bayon doesn’t look impressive from afar. My parents and some of my siblings decided to rest inside the bus. But as we slowly approached the walkway, a three-dimensional world comes alive before my eyes. Bayon is made up of multi-level stairs (though not as high as Angkor Wat’s), a maze of sculptures and features humongous intricate face carvings that is simply a sight to behold.
I am captivated by Bayon’s complexity of design and left me wondering how these Khmers were able to create this with very ancient tools. Just amazing and memorable. I’d say they missed this beauty! Regardless of how tired you can get from never ending walk, Bayon is a temple NOT TO BE MISSED!
Went straight to the hotel due to exhaustion. Slept for a few minutes and had dinner at a local buffet restaurant while watching traditional Cambodian dance. Traditional Khmer dance is better described as ‘dance-drama’ it is not merely dance but also meant to convey a story or message. There are four main modern genres of traditional Khmer dance: Classical Dance, Fishing Dance, Folk Dance and Apsara Dance.
It has been a tradition since the earliest days of tourism in the 19th century to treat visitors to Siem Reap with an Apsara dance performance. Practice is I think what makes the Apsara dancers so precise in their movements. They were dancing so gracefully.
On our third day, we visited Stone Carving shops and Silk Farm that made me love scarf more.
We went to Tonle Sap Lake. Honestly, there is not much to see at all. The only good thing about our tour was being on the water in our private boat. The lake is so huge and scary, it feels like your looking into the ocean. We enjoyed our stay more in the night market.
To cap off our amazing Siem Reap experience, we celebrated my parent’s birthday at one of the local fine dining restaurants before our tour. Cambodia is really beautiful. It’s worth visiting! Looking forward to next year’s travel.