Thursday, October 4, 2012

Siem Reap - Cambodia - Magic.

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, $12 for a 6 hour bus ride. Including drop off and pick up. Where else are you supposed to get a bargain like that? 

The bus was actualy fairly comfortable, if maybe a bit squishy for Brad and his long legs, but I've always been the sort to curl up, so it was perfect space for me. 

The drive was quite interesting and actually went by pretty quick for the both of us. Between watching the scenery, which varied from small towns and drying chillis to lots of green, which was just gorgeous, to snoozing, it all went by quite quickly! 

We also had a short lunch stop in a little town, which I forget the name of where we had a surprisingly delicious vegetable soup, incredibly nourishing and replenishing after a lot of curry and not so healthy stuff! 

Nut was our tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap, who picked us up from the bus stop and took us to our hotel. If you do organise your bus ride from your hotel, do try and organise a tuk tuk to pick you up, as the bus stop was kind of in the middle of nowhere and the tuk tuk drivers there were all already designated to passengers on the bus.

After showing us his prowess in stacking our rather large bags on his tiny little tuk tuk, we decided to see if he wanted to be our driver for the rest of the trip, which he did for 3 days for US$60. We found he was quite well versed in the temples, spoke good English and generally very helpful all around…except in one thing, which I will talk about later. 

In Siem Reap we stayed in the Cheathata Angkor Hotel and we really couldn't have been happier with it. It was clean, with spacious rooms and a wonderful air-con (the biggest relief in the heat there!). The staff were also exceptionally friendly and the location…a 2 minute walk from Pub Street where all the restaurants and bars were, and some other fantastic restaurants could be found even closer, in the same street!

On arrival we decided to settle in, rest and stretch our legs a bit, although Nut suggested we do something else, which we obviously decided against, before heading to Angkor Wat to see the sunset. 

I imagine you all know about Angkor Wat already, or most of it anyway. To give you the quick run down, Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world and can be found in the archaeological park in Siem Reap, where a vast number of other temples can be found.

The archaeological park is about a 20 minute ride out of Siem Reap, once you buy your pass (one day or 3 day), you find yourself in lush surroundings, with tall green trees and manicured lawns. You can feel the temperature drop immediately and a wave of serenity pass over. 

Then you come across a huge ass moat. Which eventually leads you to a huge ass Angkor Wat. And then there are really no words. 

I could tell you what it looks like, what it is made of, what the structure is like, maye the history, but that would not begin to explain the awe and the emotional impact being at a temple like this has on you. 

Can you imagine stepping into a structure, bigger than many buildings today, but built 1000 years ago? That has more decoration and detail, carved into stone, than anything that is being mass produced today? How do you think that would feel like?

Being there a bit before sunset was just lovely. We still had some sun, but we had the cool as well, which allowed us to explore and peek our heads around every corner, to gasp and point at all the little details that kept catching our eyes. I found myself just watching Brad a lot of the time, as I was amazed at how big the place was in comparison to him…as he is pretty tall and makes for an interesting size reference. 

And sunset. I found an entryway with a ledge, that just looked over this huge patch of grass, that had a constant and steady cool breeze. The ledge was big enough for both of us to sit on and watch the sun slowly make it's way, down from the sky for the day. We sat in silence (which is rare for me) and just breathed in life. Just magic. 

We didn't explore all of Angkor Wat that day, but I will certainly cover more a bit more in a later post. 

Dinner that night was pretty low-key. We stopped randomly at Cambodian Traditional Chef for dinner on the street of our hotel. Not for any other reason than that it the menu looked fairly tasty and…it looked comfortable?

I made a new friend pretty quickly. So cute!

Banana chips instead of bread, something I could get used to!

Can't forget a beer after a long day like we had!

Some of the best spring rolls we had on the whole month long trip we were. I think we kept ordering spring rolls at other restaurants during the trip in hope of getting as something as good as these…but nothing lived up. Perfectly crunchy and full of flavour, we were totally won over.

Keeping it local, we had some amok as well and some vegetables just for good measure. All in all really, an excellent meal, how authentic I can't really say, but definitely tasty. 

Then it was an early night, as we had a 5am start to enjoy the next day….

Soksan Road, Steung Thmey Village
Svaydangkum Coomune, Siem Reap

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Cambodian Traditional Chef
Soksan Road, Steung Thmey Village
Svaydangkum Coomune, Siem Reap