Siem Reap, Cambodia
We arrived in Cambodia on the evening of the 13th, and at sunrise the next morning we were at Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples around Siem Reap. We had decided to go from temple to temple by tuk-tuk, a breezy and pleasant mode of transportation.
In an effort to not romanticize reality, I will say that sunrise at Angkor was less than spectacular because of the dust in the air, the swelling crowds of people with their cameras, and the fact that we’d woken up at 4:15 am and were a tad grumpy about it. Angkor Wat was enormous and impressive, but it was definitely not my favorite. The atmosphere of the place is rather disrupted by the crowds. After Angkor we went to several more temples on the small circuit, including the famous Ta Prohm where Tomb Raider was filmed. It was cool, but we really weren’t feeling it the first day. After only a few hours, we were ready to go back to the hostel and sleep.
The second day of temple-ing was much better. We did the grand circuit of temples but started at the end and did it backwards in order to avoid some of the crowds. Exploring the temples with only a few others was such a different experience from the day before; peaceful, eerie, and magical. Consistently, my favorite temples were the ones that were slowly being reclaimed and intertwined with nature. We hit 8 temples that day, and went back to the hostel exhausted but satistfied.
On day 3, we decided to go further afield. We took an hour and a half tuk-tuk ride to the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity and did an hour guided tour to get acquainted with the animals they were rehabilitating there for re-release into the wild. After that, we hiked 1.5 kilometers up to Kbal Spean, a dried up river with ancient carvings. Then we went to see Banteay Srei, the most intricately beautiful of all the temples we saw.
After each day of seeing temples, we were back to the hostel by late morning or early afternoon. After that, we were at rather a loss of what to do. We napped, we swam, we ate, we read. We walked around and shopped (though we had to limit this activity because of the temptation to buy, buy, buy). We went and got fruit shakes from a street vendor probably 8 times. It was fun and relaxing, but we did sometimes wish we could figure out something else to do.
Our time in Cambodia has been short, but it is time for us to move on. Tonight we will land in Bangkok!