Suasdey Siem Reap!July 5, 2018 in Cambodia ⋅ ⛅ 88 °F
I got the day bus to Siem Reap which took around 7 hours. Plenty of time to make friends with the only other tourist on the bus, Toni who was originally from the Philippines but has spent the last 20 years living in California (he jokingly kept pointing out that I was really the only tourist on the bus). We arrived in Siem Reap around 5pm and got a tuk tuk to our respective hostels. Unfortunately for me I found out that the pool at my hostel (which is the only reason I booked it) was empty (as in of water). And the WiFi wasn’t working. Oh, and I was the only guest. This is the downside of booking in advance and paying a deposit. I did complain and got a night for free and was promised that the WiFi would be fixed tomorrow. At least I got a private room. Anyway, after that shambles we went to Toni’s hostel to check him in (surprisingly he didn’t want to stay at mine...) and then went for dinner and planned our Angkor wat tour (as we got on so well on the bus we decided to see the temples together).
We met at 8am and decided to try our luck with walking around asking the tuk tuk drivers for tours to get the best price. Well as it was off season we didn’t really have to approach any as each one pounced on us as we walked by. After three attempts I managed to negotiate down from $15 to $10 and got us a very nice tour guide called Mr Sopheap for the day. There are two main circuits at Angkor Wat so we decided to start with the small circuit. The three day ticket for the whole site costs $62 and you can visit all the temples in the complex. For the small circuit we started at Angkor Wat itself, the largest and most famous temple in the whole site (and the busiest). Mr Sopheap dropped us at the parking area and we crossed the bridge over the moat alone. We decided against getting an official tour guide and just explore the temple on our own taking it at our own pace. I’m glad we did this as it was so hot walking around after a while I don’t think my brain could’ve retained much of the guides information. Angkor wat is definitely a site to behold, but the huge crowds got a bit much after a while so we only spent about 45 minutes walking around before we headed back to our tuk tuk. After seeing Angkor Wat the temples got smaller and less crowded, but also more intricate and special (in my opinion). We went to Bayon (the temple with all the faces, and one of our favourites), Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda (twin temples on either side of the main road, very quiet and serene), Ta Prohm (aka the Tomb Raider Temple, aka the temple with loads of trees growing on it), Banteay Kdei and the view of the Srah Srang Lake. After reaching our temple saturation for the day we headed back to the town for a late lunch/early dinner and a browse around the market before calling it a day. We wanted to have an early night as tomorrow we would be getting up early to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat.
Mr Sopheap picked us up bright and early (and very much still dark) at 4:15am and we headed back to Angkor Wat. The most popular place to watch the sunrise is in front of one of the pools in the West side of the temple. We were early enough that we managed to get a seat right on the bank of the pool (so no one could sit in front of us) and made ourselves comfortable. Over the next hour we watched as the sky brightened behind the ancient wonder. Notice how I said “brightened” though, due to the clouds the we didn’t exactly get the picturesque “sunrise” that we’d hoped for, to the point that after a while we looked at each other and said “is it done yet?...I think it’s just morning now”. It was still a lovely view and nice to experience the temple so early. After we were sure the sun had risen we headed back to Me Sopheap (who was napping in his tuk tuk) and started on the grand circuit, the second most popular circuit (and one which most tourists miss if they only do the one day tour). Today we saw Baphuon (the temple with the giant reclining Buddha along the whole width of the west wall ), the Terrace of the Elephants (self explanatory), Preah Khan (the labyrinth temple in a cross shape), Neak Preah (a really small fountain-like temple in the middle of a giant lake which itself was crystal clear and picturesque with the clouds reflecting in it), Ta Som (small temple with a giant tree growing out of the east archway), East Mebon, Pre Rup and Ta Keo (all of which were pyramid-style temples with each one bigger than the last. As we started so early today, even though we saw almost double the number of temples than the first day, we finished the circuit around 1pm. We had definitely reached our temple and tourist saturation for the day though so decided to head back to the town and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing before having another early dinner.
Today we had arranged for Mr Sopheap to take us to one more temple, Banteay Srei which was further out of the main complex, and to the floating villages which he had recommended. We decided to go to the floating villages first. After a 30 minute drive we reached the port and we suddenly realised that the village was actually an hours boat tour there and back and not a drive to the actual village and a small tour when we got there (our mistake really). We hadn’t intended to do another tour like that as we were still paying for our third day of the Angkor Wat pass, but we followed Mr Sopheap into the ticket office to see how much it would be. Immediately I could see that there were no prices listed and just a sign saying “tickets are non refundable”. I asked Mr Sopheap how much the ticket was and he said the same price as the one day ticket for Angkor Wat. $35?! We told him we weren’t doing t pay that much. He said maybe he could make a deal with his friend. He came back with another price: $23. We both looked at each other and mentally said no. I said we were still paying that for the Angkor wat ticket so we can’t pay another $23 for a boat tour (on top of the $10 we were still paying for Mr Sopheaps services). I apologised for the misunderstanding and said we’d just rather go straight to the temple. He looked visibly annoyed but led the way back to his tuk tuk. As we drove away we both looked at each other and whispered “commission”. No we know why he kept recommending it to us. Our formerly happy and chatty tour guide was noticeably silent for the hours journey to Banteay Srei. Clearly we had annoyed him. We tried not to let it ruin our day though and enjoyed the drive through the countryside and villages. The temple itself is much smaller than any in the main complex but was situated within a large park-like area with a wooded area on one side and a small lake on the other, making for a very peaceful area to walk around. After enjoying the site for an hour we headed back to our sullen tour guide and returned to the town. He dropped us at our chosen lunch spot and after counting the money we gave him left with a very brief “bye”. Clearly we had not made a friend for life in him. Oh well, you can’t win them all. After lunch we had a final browse around the markets before spending the rest of the day relaxing in the hammocks at Toni’s hostel, planning our next destinations. Me to Laos and Toni to Bangkok.
So there you have my three days in the largest historical religious site in the world, and one of the highlights of my trip so far.
It’s time to move countries again. Next stop, Laos.
Lia haeuy!Read more