A Whirlwind Visit, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Our time in Siem Reap was an absolute whirlwind and, if I could label it as such, our one tiny regret. I say regret because in retrospect we wish we’d given ourselves much more time to enjoy, not only Siem Reap but its surrounding areas. As it was we had a little over 36 hours and though we made the most of every single moment it was not nearly enough time.

We’d arrived at our hotel, The Mekong Angkor Palace Inn, and were, again, pleasantly surprised at how wonderful it was, on all counts. Incredibly friendly staff, bright airy room and a fantastic pool, which we immediately parked ourselves beside to soak up the last of the afternoon sun and, to enjoy happy hour cocktails and this yummy nut mix, which was spicy, salty and slightly sweet all rolled into one and, which I quickly became addicted to! We spent the rest of our day, until way past dark, lounging and taking advantage of the pool.

We were so pleased that the hotel had a wonderful dining room which edged onto the pool deck so we had a choice of sitting inside or out and though it wasn’t on the beach being by the pool was a close second and, an easy choice for dinner. I had made up my mind before we’d even sat down that I would try a plate of traditional Khmer food. I ordered the fish amok, which is a lightly spiced curry filled more with flavour than heat. Not only was it tasty but it looked beautiful wrapped in a banana leaf. And, for the first time in almost three months there was Proseco on the wine list! Actually, that there was a wine list at all should also be mentioned!

During dinner we had taken the opportunity to plan our following day it was evident that it would be jam-packed so after dinner we decided we’d check out as much of Siem Reap, on our door step, as possible.

We wandered out beyond the hotel and stumbled on an indoor night market, where it looked like all the vendors were friends and had abandoned their stalls to dance at a birthday celebration that was blaring Justin Bieber. Everyone was having such a great time it was hard not to get caught up in the spirit and shake my hips, move my feet, until I got shut down by my lovely teenager.

We continued our wanderings and discovered a supermarket that carried so many of the items we had been missing from home that it actually became a treat outing walking through the aisles, drooling over shelf after shelf for a good half hour. Unfortunately it wasn’t worth buying any of the food items because we were flying out the following night.

The next morning we were up bright and early and after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, just another bonus to The Mekong Angkor Palace Inn, breakfast included, we got ready for our full day of temple sight-seeing.

When one thinks of Siem Reap one thinks of Angkor Wat (well at least we did) which of course is the jewel in the crown of all the temples but what we hadn’t realized was there was so, so, so much more to see. We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day and he made sure we saw as much as we possibly could, in the time that we had.

Our tour started by driving out of town and then stopping at an official looking building/mini-complex where one buys a pass to The Angkor Wat Heritage Site (also referred to as The Angkor Archaeological Park). This part was a bit ‘Disneyish’ in a way, as tourists line up to buy a 1 day, 3 day or 7 day pass. The purchase includes having your photo taken and then waiting for your entrance ticket which becomes a little photo ID badge, which you do need to show at various check points and entrances to each of the temples – so make sure you get your ticket before entering the site!

Angkor Wat refers not only to the temple but also to the temple complex, which is the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 400 square kilometers. Angkor Wat means “Temple City” or “City of Temples”. It not only consists of scores of temples but also several water systems including a reservoir and canal. There are also roads and people living in small villages which all make up the Heritage site. For several centuries Angkor was the center of the Khmer Kingdom.

Angkor Archaeological Park is considered one of the most important archeaological sites in South-East Asia as it is home to the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century.

There are over 112 historic settlements scattered over the site with the most famous being the Bayon Temple, Bakong Temple, Baphuon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple and of course Angkor Wat.

Apparently Angkor Wat was originally constructed as a Hindu temple but gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. It is considered by many to be the heart and soul of Cambodia.

We were lucky enough to visit all the major temple sites and our tuk-tuk driver was wonderful and patient as he took us from one to the other, to the next. He waited while we wandered for as long as we liked enjoying the uniqueness of each.

Each temple, on its own site had a flavour unto itself whether it be the magnificent banyan tress growing out of the stone at Ta Prohm or the three-tiered temple mountain of Baphuon.

After our day of temple-traipsing we enjoyed a very welcome and refreshing dip in the pool before packing our bags, devouring another delicious meal at ‘our’ restaurant and heading out to the late, late flight back to Bangkok and Thailand.

footsteps
along ancient paths
history preserved

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