Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat)

Siem Reap, Cambodia
March 3rd – 4th 2011

I made getting to Siem Reap harder than it was. I should’ve just bought a ticket directly to Siem Reap the day before for a morning bus. I had assumed that I could get one of the many local buses there but the locals wouldn’t cooperate in sending me to one. They all kept trying to sell me a tourist bus (and quoting different departure times) and I naturally felt skeptical and avoided them all. I opted to take a bus to Sisophon, about 1.5 hours outside of Poipet. But bloody hell, the bus dropped me off on a random street next to a “bus station” full of shared taxis instead of buses. The touts were immediately on me. I agreed to go with one who claimed he was leaving to Siem Reap that moment. Instead, he took me to another place to collect a few more Cambodians and then we all went back to the “bus station” to eat lunch since the Cambodians were hungry.

After silently cursing my luck the whole time I’ve been in Cambodia, I started seeing the humorous side to everything. I’ve been through so many difficult moments in my trip and everything always worked out and this would be no different. I laughed it all off, sat down, got some food and ate while the rain started to pour outside.

Got to Siem Reap in one piece, went to an ATM to get Riels but instead, got USD. I guess the Cambodians use USD (as well as Riels) because I read that when the Khmer Rouge got rid of the monetary currency back in the 70s during their cultural revolution, many Cambodians lost all their savings. With USD, they’d still have money if that sort of shit ever happened again.

The only thing I came to Siem Reap for was the world-famous Temples of Angkor. I opted for a one-day pass (there are 1/3/7 day passes at $20/40/60) and an all-day tuk-tuk driver as I had wanted to visit only the major temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon (in Angkor Thom), and Ta Phrom (where Tomb Raider was shot).

(Angkor Wat.)

Arrived at the entrance around 6 am and there was already a small crowd, all ready to see the sun-rise at Angkor Wat. The sun came up around 6:50 am but the clouds had blocked most of it out, which made it less dramatic but a little dramatic nonetheless. After that, I went to visit the temple itself, which was in fact, quite mesmerizing, not just in terms of age, architecture, design, and details but also the sheer SIZE of the place.

(Some detailed carvings.)

Thank goodness I had an all-day tuk-tuk. The temples were spread out over a long distance. It looked close on maps but it was not so. I saw some people biking and I didn’t envy them as the distances between each sight was at least a few kilometers.

I went to Angkor Thom and checked out the magnificent Bayon Temple. The head carvings were pretty cool. The rock stairs that we had to climb up to get to the middle and top of the temples were not for people who have vertigo as they were quite steep. I walked the short circuit and checked out Baphuon Temple as well as the Elephant and Leper King Terraces before meeting up with my tuk-tuk guy and he took me to Ta Phrom, which to me, had the most charm due to how ruined it was (mystique) and left that way for nature to consume it, a bunch of old, tall trees with massive trunks that looked like they were engulfing and asphyxiating the ruins. If you took away the tourists, took away the signs and wooden steps and bridges built for convenience, you would be transported into the set of some Indiana Jones movie. Imagine being the first person to discover the ruins after centuries of them being hidden away, buried by a jungle.

(Around Angkor Thom.)

(Head statues in Bayon.)

(Scene from Tomb Raider…? I gotta re-watch the movie.)

I’m actually digging the food in Cambodia. I can see some similarities in Vietnamese/Thai/Cambodian food; same foods, similar names. My last evening, I was on my way to a local eatery when I saw a bunch of motorbikes and locals gathered in a certain area at the side of the street. There were a bunch of street stalls set up which had many choices of various home-cooked dishes where locals can pick, order, and get it packed in plastic bags. I randomly picked three things and my total came up to under $2. Three dishes and rice for under $2. That’s why the locals come here to order food for their families and themselves.

(“Amouk”. Fish in coconut curry, popular in Cambodia.)

I got a bus to catch in the morning for Battambang.

More Siem Reap Pics.