It was fifteen years ago that I last visited Cambodia. At the time, the country was still politically unstable and tourists were scarce. There was a certain energy to the place that is hard to define – you know the feeling if you have been somewhere very old that still holds that ancient energy of the people and the sacredness of the place. After that visit the Siem Reap Temple area became my favorite place in the world.
Returning in April 2013, my biggest concern was that the place would be too full of tourists to be able to be really enjoyed. I had heard from friends that the place had changed a lot. And it certainly had changed, and there was more focus on tourism. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, the Angkor Temples are still as spectacular as ever, I am sure that more temples were available to visit than the last time I was there, and I did manage to find some isolated spots where I could enjoy the vibe of the place on my own.
Here’s a brief summary of my visit. For each day I provide a related inspiring quote, some practical information including temples visited, personal reflections and my expenses.
“The world, indeed, is like a dream and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage! Like the apparent distances in a picture, things have no reality in themselves, but they are like heat haze.” Buddha
On arrival at the airport on Thursday night I easily found a taxi to my hotel. They have a very good system that provides you with a set price for the taxi and for the cost of hiring cars and drivers for the day. This information is very helpful to ensure you don’t get exploited. Cambodia is a poor country, so expect the locals to try to charge you as much as they can for their services. It helps to ask at your hotel what you should expect to pay for things I hired my airport taxi driver to pick me up early for sunrise on my first day in town. He had a new air conditioned car which was a rather luxurious way to start my adventure.
This time of the year is very very hot so make sure you take plenty of water with you . The weather was bearable for sightseeing at the temples, but it was not the best for contemplation and enjoying the atmosphere.
Angkor Thom – The Bayon, Terace of the Elephant, Terace of the Leper King (had breakfast here)
Ta Prohm (Tombraider)
Break for lunch near lake
The people here are very warm and friendly, I highly recommend taking the time to sit with them and see what they share with you. They’ll most likely talk to you about their families, and life in Cambodia, if you’re lucky you may even get invited to a local party like I was.
I learnt a couple of words today: Thank you – Akuncheran, Goodbye – Liasenhi
The centre of town is buzzing in the evening, and it’s worth checking out the Angkor Night Market.
A well set up market, easy to navigate, with bars and movie theatre.
I’ve been doing most of my journalling on paper this trip and there is something deeply satisfying about writing on paper vs typing on a computer. I’m not quite sure exactly what it is, but it somehow feels more real, more expressive.
Three day ticket to all temples – US$40 (allows you to go in and out of temple area each day)
Food – Breakfast – US$6, Lunch – US$7, Evening Snacks – US$8
Cotton Tops (x3) – US$16
Driver for Day (5am – 3pm) – US$30
Pashminas (x3) – US$12
Daily Total US$119
“Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. ” J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
I visited the temples by Tuk Tuk today. It was quite a different experience – the trip was slower so I could see more while traveling from temple to temple and it felt amazing to be in the fresh air all day. Although it was a little tough in the heat.
Banteay Srei Temple (an hour getting there and back)
Purchased some Palm Sugar items roadside (discussed all the things that the locals use palm trees for and how old the trees are)
Preah Ko Temple
Back to Hotel
Went for food at the Khmer Charming Restaurant
Banteay Srey Feature
Being outside all day is so good for the soul. It’s amazing how much I appreciated it when I am normally stuck in an office day after day for work.
Food – Meal late in day – US$10
Tuk tuk and Driver for Day (9am – 3pm/Outer Temples) – US$31
Donation to Buddhist Monastary – US5
Palm Suger Sweets – US$2
Daily Total: US$49
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
The driver was late this morning, I would suggest arranging for your driver to be there half an hour before you need him. The Cambodian’s operate at a different pace. Today was frustrating as we missed the sunrise. My hotel accommodation rate included breakfast and the hotel provided me with a breakfast box for my early morning departure.
Sunrise at Phnam Bakheng
Another walk around Angkor Wat
Hung at café with driver and random tour guides
Hotel to rest
Sunset at Pre Rup Temple – great views (closes around 6pm – they will usher you off the temple).
It looked like I wasn’t going to be able to get in to the temple this morning for sunrise. A lot of the area was shut for renovation. However, I ignored some of the signs and climbed to the top of the temple (to find a few others already there). It was a good feeling to step outside my comfort zone and be a little daring for a change. Ignoring the rules is not something I normally do. It ended up that the signs were wrong, I was in the right, and I ended up with a fabulous early morning view.
Lunch at hotel restaurant – US$7
Daily Total: US$7
“Patience: To wait with certainity; the art of allowing life to carry you.” Chinese Proverb
Three days of temples was enough and it was good today to do something different. The butterfly sanctuary was very interesting and the guide gave an interesting tour. Once again it was nice to be outside. I also visited the National Museum, which was a good experience. However I am not the biggest fan of museums and ended up wishing that I had visited the lake and floating village instead. Next time.
I have totally enjoyed four days on my own in Siem Reap. It’s a very easy place to visit, whether on your own or with friends.
Butterfly Sanctuary $4
Palm Suger $2
Museum $15 entry and $3 for audio tour
Airport $5 and tip of $10
Daily Total: US$59
A few other tips:
Try to get an e-visa if you can. This is an easy process and means that you don’t have to worry about sorting out visa on arrival.
I stayed at the Claremont Angkor Boutique Hotel. It was reasonably priced and pleasant to stay at.
Make sure you wear light trousers (or at least something that covers the knees), and a tshirt to the temples.
For more pictures please go to my blog – www.inspiredjourneys.net – travel/asia/cambodia