Siem Reap

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Siem Reap is the closest city to the ancient Khmer ruins of Angkor.  I had been there in 2006, but Amanda had never seen it, and it is such a spectacular site that I was happy to go back with her.   Around this point in the trip, scheduling was really starting to stress us out though.  Monsoon season was rapidly approaching and we wanted to be out of SE Asia before it hit in full force.  Unfortunately this meant that we had a limited number of days in the region, but we still had a virtually unlimited number of places that we wanted to go and things that we wanted to do.  In order to resolve this conflict, we figured out the absolutely essential things that we we wanted to do in the region and then found the most direct modes of transport to get there.  This meant that we would have to save Saigon and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam for another trip and fly directly in Siem Reap.  This also meant that instead of taking the two day bus ride from Siem Reap to Laos, we would be taking another flight out.  I regret though that for the second time, my time in Cambodia was really limited.  It is such an awesome country and the people seem incredibly friendly, but unfortunately it always gets overshadowed by it’s neighbors.

I don’t know if the friendliness of the citizens of Siem Reap is due to some longstanding Khmer tradition or if it is a result of the enormous tourism industry there.  It’s probably some mix of both, but without exception everyone we met there, from the tuk-tuk driver that picked us up, to the staff at the hotel, to the guy picking up elephant poop on one of the trails, were ridiculously friendly.  Out hotel room at the Motherhome Inn was roughly $20 per night, but the service was on par with what I’ve seen at 5-star resorts.  Every time we came through the front door, we were greeted by a smiling staff member who would hand us an ice cold towel that had been slightly soaked in Tiger Balm.  It was unbelievably refreshing after walking around all day in the 100 degree heat.

After settling in, we went to a restaurant called Sugar Palm whose owner was famous for doing the Cambodian segment of several cooking shows including a new one with Gordon Ramsay.    We had a Khmer fish salad with lime juice and mint, and also a fish coconut soup.  It was great.  Then, we had liked the driver who picked us up from the airport so we asked him to be our driver and guide for touring Angkor Wat (completely necessary since the ruins are roughly the size of San Francisco).  We went to Phnom Bakeng hill temple for sunset but it was cloudy out and the there was construction everywhere and it was not really memorable.  We we took a weird way down though that turned out to be an elephant path.  So we followed the huge elephant down to the bottom and watched its Mahout dance to cell phone music on the elephant’s back.  That night, we went to a restaurant at the Hotel De La Paix that my Dad had highly recommended from his visit a couple years ago.  The hotel grounds were beautiful and we splurged on a classy dinner with wine.

The next morning we got up early to go the see the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  It was beautiful of course, but we were a bit disappointed to see that a large section of the front was covered in a huge green plastic tarp for renovation.  Unfortunately, this sort of became a theme for the trip.  It was as if the whole city of ruins were being replaced.  Original statues were being replaced with modern replicas.  Buildings and ancient roads were being rebuilt.  Ruins were covered with scaffolding and tarps.  Construction crews were everywhere hammering away.  I get the desire to preserve the ruins for future generations, but I think the atmosphere of the site would be significantly improved if they tried to preserve them as they are, instead of replacing them with new editions.  The difference between this visit and my 2006 visit was really striking.  Luckily though, my favorite site, the Bayon with all of its huge hidden faces, was still in a good state.  We spent the day walking and driving from site to site including the Baphuon, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm (the huge tree that appears to be eating the temple.  Made famous from Tomb Raider), and the distant site of Bantreay Srei with it’s intricately carved pinkish sandstone temples.  So the city of Angkor was still hugely impressive, but I would recommend waiting to visit until it is no longer out of order.

  • Raw Meat Buffet for Hot Pot
  • Cambodian Hot Pot
  • Fish Amok at Sugar Palm
  • Pomelo Salad at Sugar Palm
  • Candy Made From Sugar Palm
  • Sugar Palm Candy Vendor
  • Cambodian Gas Station
  • Monks at Bantreay Srei
  • Yoga in a Box
  • Stuck in a Box
  • Amanda in a Frame at Bantreay Srei
  • Adam in a Frame at Bantreay Srei
  • Ta Prohm
  • Angkor: Under Construction
  • Adam Raiding Some Tombs
  • Amanda at Ta Prohm
  • Amanda Hiding in a Huge Tree
  • Children Playing in Angkor
  • Architectual Diagram of Buddha Overlayed on the Baphuon
  • Bayon
  • Hidden Faces at Bayon
  • Amanda Raiding Some Tombs
  • Huge Face at Bayon
  • HIdden Faces at Bayon
  • Hidden Faces at Bayon
  • Old Faces
  • Old and New Faces
  • South Gate Angkor Face
  • Lotus in the Pond
  • Which One Doesn't Belong?
  • Angkor Thom South Gate:  Out of Order
  • Um...
  • Old and New Road at Angkor Wat
  • Adam and Amanda by Angkor Wat
  • Hot Air Baloon over Angkor
  • Stirring the Milk Sea
  • Angkor Wat Stairs
  • Angkor Wat
  • Amanda Hiding in the Ruins
  • Courtyard at Hotel De La Paix
  • Interior of Hotel De La Paix
  • Hotel De La Paix
  • Riding the elephant Path
  • Phnom Bakheng: Out of Order
  • Adam at Bayon

Posted: June 19, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Asia, Blog, Cambodia, Continents

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