Love Affair with Everywhere: Siem Reap/Angkor

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, January 1, 2012

purpose: Fun

I promise to do a full write up, but for now, here are just the highlights and pictures...enjoy :)

Day 1
Arrived mid afternoon from Bangkok. Our guide met us at the airport, we went straight to the hotel-the Le Meridien Angkor Siem Reap, dropped our luggage and headed off to Tonle Sap Lake to visit the floating village and watch the sunset...

After the sunset, our driver and guide took us to a typical Khmer buffet with Apsara dance for dinner.

Day 2
VERY early start, we left at 5 am to pick up Angkor day passes (US$ 20/day or a 3 day for $40, we did the 3 day) and then went to the Angkor Wat complex to watch the sunrise. While the sun decided not to show that day, watching as light hit the temples was just amazing. Head back to the hotel for a quick bite and back off to the temples for a full day.

A quick note: You will see from the pictures that it looks like there were no people visiting the temples while we were there. On the contrary, Jan to April are the busy/high season in Angkor. I worked with Derleng Tours prior to arrival to arrange an English speaking guide and driver for the full time we were there. I really don't like big tour groups because I do not feel you can get the full experience of a place. This is a slightly more expensive option, but we wanted to make the most of our little time there, be able to spend as much or as little time in a place, choose where we wanted to go and my biggest criteria was that we would be taken on the less travelled route in order to avoid some of the crowds. It was fantastic. Our guide took us to all the sights, but in reverse order of what the crowds follow, so there were many stops where we were the only ones in the area for at least a little while.

Angkor Wat--the world's largest Hindu (originally dedicated to Lord Vishnu), now Buddhist temple complex. was built in 12th century CE, design shows classical Khmer architecture with large towers and perfect symmetry. Wat means temple and angkor means city, so together this is known as the 'city temple'
Prasat Kravan
Ta Prohm--made famous by Angelina Jolie's movie, tomb raider and also for the trees that stem from the ruins and grow around them
lunch
Angkor Thom--Bayon (one of my faves), Elephant Terrace, Terrace of the Leper King
Ta Keo

Day 3
8 am start
Kbal Spean--1500 m hike into the jungle to see the river bed of 1000 lingas and waterfall--one of my fave stops
Banteay Srei--pink sandstone temple
lunch at banteay srei
bekong
ta som
preah khan--similar to ta prohm, but i liked this one better..this one had some pretty insane, yet impressive tree growth going on as well

Day 4
Roluos group of temples in the morning--Bakong, Lolei, Praeh Ko. After a while the temples do all seem to mirror one another, so at Lolei I took the opportunity to go visit the local school next to the temples. It, like many others in Cambodia, are struggling for funding and they have more students than they can accommodate.
After leaving Preah Ko we told the driver we would like to climb Bakeng Mountain since we didn't do it as sunset the evening before. So, we climbed up to the top where we were greeted by a massive temple structure which required another climb. This was a spectacular structure absolutely worth the stop, from the top of the temple one can catch amazing views looking out of Siem Reap/Angkor, can even see Angkor Wat in the distance. People usually go at sunset, as it is said to be a spectacular sight, but go early as they only let the first 300 go up. Our tour guide tried to tell us it wasn't worth it, but I strongly disagree and highly recommend the climb and stop at Bakeng, even if you can't make it for sunset...
lunch at Phnom Bros restaurant
stopped for a last minute visit to the Old Market for some local shopping 

Angkor was particularly interesting for us as we are Hindu and the area is filled with temples dedicated to Hindu gods, especially Vishnu and Shiva. It was interesting to hear the stories that we grew up with like Mahabharat and Ramayan, Indra, Narsingha,

Other things to note:
Make sure you buy your Angkor pass the first day you plan to visit any of the temples. They will take your picture and they only accept CASH, so make sure you go prepared. Keep them in a safe place because you will be asked to present them at the entrance of every temple, even the smaller, lesser known ones. If you don't have it, you will be denied entry.

Also, while a popular sight for sightseeing, remember that you are visiting old temples and to be mindful and respectful of the grounds. You may be asked to wear long pants depending on where you plan to visit and for the guys, you may be asked to remove your hats to enter the actual temple areas.

There is quite a bit of walking and climbing involved in your days at Angkor, I recommend comfortable shoes and dont forget your shades and sunscreen, even in January the sun was unforgiving.

As mentioned, when I get a chance I will fill in the details, but for now, this can be a good starting point if you are planning a visit to Angkor. I highly highly highly recommend adding this to your travel bucket list if it's not already on there.

Off to the airport...back to Bangkok...
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