We were picked up by the bus company from Phnom Penh around 6.30am to go to Siem Reap, the second biggest city of Cambodia, the bus company said the journey would take over 6 hours, but we set of at 7am and arrived in Siem Reap by 12pm. We had booked in a place to stay in Siem Reap that was a little out of the city but offered free tuktuk rides to and from the centre, they told us they would pick us up from the bus station at 1pm, so we went down the road and found a place to get some lunch before going back to the bus station to be picked up.
After three phone calls to the hotel, an hour of standing in the street with our bags, and talking to another tuktuk driver about going to see Angkor Wat the following day, the hotel tuktuk finally arrived to pick us up. When we got to the hotel, they gave us a nice cold welcome drink and showed us our room which was huge with a nice comfy bed, a balcony and a bath (Stac was just a little bit happy), it also had free breakfast, a swimming pool and free tuktuk rides, so the $22 per night, although it was over our normal budget, was a bargain.
We didn’t do much for the first day, but we had read that if you buy a one day ticket for Angkor Park, you can go for free the night before for sunset as well as the full day the next day. The friendly tuktuk driver we met when we first arrived told us he could take us for both times, so we called him the next day, he picked us up in the afternoon, took us to buy the tickets, which were quite expensive at $37 each for the day (they have doubled in price last month) and then drove us to Angkor Wat for sunset.
The temple complex looked stunning in the sunset light, because Angkor Wat faces West, the sun shines on the front of the complex at sunset and gives an amazing light for taking pictures, we got the perfect conditions for taking pictures, if you exclude the hundreds of other tourists there in front you all of the time. It was definitely a time I wished we had a better camera than just the phone camera and digital camera, but we still got some really nice pictures.
The complex is a stunning sight, we didn’t do much exploring that night, we thought we would save that for the next morning when we would go back for sunrise.
At 4.30am the next morning we woke up to go straight to Angkor Wat for sunrise, the tuktuk driver picked us up before 5am, the hotel provided a takeaway breakfast which consisted of stale bread and boiled eggs, so that went in the bin. When we arrived at Angkor Wat, we soon realised we weren’t the only ones going for sunrise, by the time the light started showing the temple, there were hundreds of people gathered in the same spot to try to take pictures with the sun rising behind it.
This was very nice to see and we got a great spot to see it from by the pond, but the light with the sun rising behind the temple doesn’t make for the best of pictures so we headed inside to explore, but not before video calling my sister live from Angkor Wat, showing her the temple on the camera and her response being “why have you got up so early to watch sunrise on a hill?” we didn’t even try to educate and just moved on from that 🙂
After Angkor Wat, we also went around the park to see a few more of the temples that make up the Angkor Archaeological Park. We explored Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Baphuon, Ta Keo and Ta Prohm (the one from the Tomb Raider movie).
Each was incredible in their own ways, the Bayon was really interesting with the faces in the stone and Ta Prohm being entwined with trees throughout where it has been left to the elements and nature were particular highlights, and much quieter than Angkor Wat so much nicer to walk around.
Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world, you can see as soon as you walk in to the complex just how huge it is, an impressive sight and definitely the most interesting thing we saw in Cambodia, a must see in Asia we think. Also, Siem Reap is quite a nice city with decent food and reasonable prices and a much nicer, more relaxed vibe than Phnom Penh, it is definitely a place we would come back to if we were in Cambodia again.
After four days in Siem Reap, fifteen in Cambodia in total, we set off to Thailand, ready to go to the North of Thailand first before a very exciting part of our trip, meeting some very special people for a couple of weeks, more to follow on that…