Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in two days
We arrived in Siem Reap at 5pm, and after our delicious welcoming drink we went out for dinner and to get a taste of the nightlife. We had an amazing dinner at L’Annexe, French food at its best and Bruce claims the best beef bourgignonne he’s ever eaten. The owners are a French man and his born Cambodian wife who lived in France for all her life, until they moved back here together to open this restaurant only 5 years ago. It’s like being back to Paris for a night. It was very quiet, which made us suspicious at the beginning, but we then found out that being Monday it’s the day in which they normally close and so people didn’t know they were open. Well lucky us!
After dinner we went for a drink on Pub Street, at the Angkor What? Pub which was buzzing with music and people. Pub street is a cocktail of lights and full of people especially backpackers that are ready for a party! We also popped into the night market, which had a lady boys show on as well as the usual stalls with cheap cotton colourful clothes. We went back fairly early, knowing that we had two days of temples ahead. (Lightweights!)
We met our guide at 8:30am, and immediately realised that unfortunately his English was hard to understand even if he was a nice guy. We then visited Angkor Wat temple as our first. Wow.
The sights we saw were so incredible that I don’t know where to start to describe them. It makes you wonder, if human beings are capable of making such majestic beauty how can they then be capable of cruelties and violence? When you see these temples you think that we were made for something bigger and better than simply being.
Of course it was full of people and SO SO hot even if it was only 9:30am! Temperatures for both days lingered between 32 and 35 degrees, but with the humidity it must have felt like 40. We were soaked with sweat after two minutes of being out of the car.
Our favourite temples were Ta Promh, the Tomb Raider temple, which is melted with nature and trees all around and over it, it makes it very magical.
Another one we liked is Ta Nei which is hidden in the jungle, and there was no one there which made it very special since in the others there are a lot of shouting tourists and big groups with guides which spoil a bit the quiet and sacred feel.
The only relief from the heat was when we had to get back into the air con car, and the guide would give us cold wet towels to freshen up. That feeling was priceless! Together with drinking cold water.
We got back at 4pm in a sweaty mess, but our hotel had already thought of a way to cheer us up by getting us a free massage, which was amazing. They asked us to put on some huge pijamas which made us look quite funny, but we went with it and the outcome was amazing – we felt so much better afterwards.
We had dinner booked in a place called Genevieve, owned by an Aussie guy called Phil – very nice bloke who suggested us the best dishes including an amazing Lok Lak (local Cambodian dish with beef in a pepper sauce) made with Australian rib eye steak – so yummy. All the waiters are local and being trained and who never did the job before. The idea is that one day it will be owned and run by Cambodians only. He is number 3 on Trip Advisor now, and very popular so it’s always booked up. Definitely worth coming here if you are in Siem Reap!
Painful wake-up at 4am to see the sunrise behind Angkor Wat. It was hugely crowded in the area by the lake, and everyone was excited about the sunrise. Sadly It was a bit of an anticlimax as the pink sky didn’t last for long and the colour wasn’t too strong. A lot of people were there ready with their tripods, but all seemed a bit disappointed with the outcome. Obviously the temple is very beautiful and it was nice to see it rise together with the sun.
The rest of the day we saw many more temples, particularly the Lady Temple which is 40 minutes away from the main sights, North of Angkor Thom city is amazing. The pink sand stone is filled with beautiful and delicate carvings all over the towers and gates. It’s spectacular even if much smaller than many other temples we’ve seen in these two days. Our guide also said it is his favourite temple. Despite his strong accent which made us a bit frustrated, he was a nice guy and very passionate about his job and said he first fell in love with archeology when his dad brought his family and him to see it for the first time. He was asking a lot of questions about the techniques and the architecture of the temples, but his father told him to stay quiet and just pay tribute to lord Buddha. He then decided to study archeology at university and find the answers to his questions by himself.
Another very very hot day, filled with spectacular beautiful temples. We got back to the hotel at 3pm, just about had time for another massage since we loved it so much the first time, and then made our way to the airport to catch our 8pm flight from Siem Reap to Da Nang in Vietnam, in a very small propellor plane which made me hugely nervous.
Unbelievable it’s already time to say goodbye to Cambodia and move to our 6th country, officially over one third of our 15 countries route. We would like to say a HUGE thank you – ORKUN! to Cambodia and its people, we will never forget the warm hearted kindness and generosity of the people here, always trying to help the less fortunate by giving them new skills, and always looking at the bright side despite some of the horrible history they had to witness. An amazing country, well worth visiting and well up on our list of favourites so far.