It’s Travel Tuesday, and I’m fortunate to share a wonderful guest post from Imogen Reed. Imogen is a freelance writer who graciously volunteered to share her Cambodian travel experiences, which works great as the new job has me pretty tied up. I apologize for any sporadic posting this week, but I promise it’ll improve after I get into the groove of things here. Enjoy!
Siem Reap and the Ancient Temples of Angkor Wat
Arriving in Phom Penh was a bit of a shock. The heat, the traffic, and the endless barrage of touts surrounding the lake area put me off sticking around too long. I had to find somewhere to go, something to do that would inspire me to stay in Cambodia longer. I knew the capital city was not the place to get a real understanding of the country, so I branched out and considered what other options I had. Beaches to the south in Sihanoukville, boat rides along the Mekong River to the east, and temple exploring near Siem Reap to the east. Resisting the urge to take a last minute cruise down the Mekong River, I booked a ticket on a bus east in the hope of finding adventure in the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.
Travelling in style
6 a.m. and I’m outside my hotel waiting for the coach. Well, what I thought would be a coach. Instead 20 minutes later a tin can of a minibus spluttered to a stop outside the lobby and I hear my name called in an almost unrecognisable accent. This must be me I thought in dismay, and clambered aboard the rickety old bus. Crammed inside were other tourists and some local guys hitching a ride for free. Hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable are the most pleasant words I can think of to describe the 8 hour journey, but luckily the locals kept me entertained with their song singing and general jolliness, which wasn’t shared by the other tourists on the wagon.
Sampling local delicacies in Siem Reap
Arriving at Siem Reap was a relief, and I wasted no time in finding a place to stay and arranging a trip to the temple. I was spoilt for choice when it came to choosing a guide, and it seemed that everybody was one, or knew one. I went with a guy called Eddie. Ok so that wasn’t his real name, but who was I to judge. It was only later that I found out his full name was apparently Eddie Murphy, but by then it was too late.
With an evening to kill I hit the streets. After a bit of wandering around, I realised that there were some pretty nice places in Siem Reap. Everybody comes here for the Angkor Wat temple, but Siem Reap has plenty of attractions of its own. The Old Market, called the ‘Psah Chas’ by the locals, was by far the busiest, with tourist and locals alike bustling through the narrow alleys between stalls. The different smells of exotic food being cooked drifted through the air, along with the sounds of chattering between traders selling all sorts of souvenirs. I had to try something before I left, so I asked one guy for a ‘Cambodian speciality’. He gave me something called Prahok, which unfortunately for me was a type of fermented fish paste. Well I had to try it, but I couldn’t finish. At that point I cut my losses and headed back to my hotel to prepare for the next day’s temple exploring.
Expecting to be amazed at Angkor Wat
Up before sunrise and aboard my tuk-tuk with Eddie behind the wheel, I was excited. Eddie had told me the temple looks magnificent at sunrise, so we sped towards Angkor Wat to try and avoid the crowds. But it seemed everybody else had the same idea. Huddled in a group of around a hundred or so, we all waited, cameras at the ready, for when the sun would peak up over the horizons to light up the towers of the Angkor Wat temple. I can’t lie, the sunrise wasn’t quite as spectacular as Eddie had made out, but I was surprised once I started wandering around the temple. The intricate carvings of Hindu gods and its enormous size were pretty impressive.
After a few hours of walking around the huge temple complex, I stumbled back to the tuk-tuk and slumped in the back seat. Eddie soon began chirping away about how the temple was built in the 12th century, was the Cambodian national symbol, and other interesting facts that I had trouble absorbing. After a short drive around some of the other temples, viewed from the back seat of the tuk-tuk, lunch was on my mind, and Eddie soon found us a place to eat.
Talking to an American couple visiting the site I found out that there are over a thousand individual temples surrounding the magnificent Angkor Wat temple, an some experts believe around a million people could have once lived in the areas surrounding the temple. They told me they would spend the week looking at each temple, which I thought was a bit keen. I bid them good luck, and with no intention of looking at a thousand temples, I asked Eddie if he knew a good place to get a beer. So off we went, back to Siem Reap and to a bar called ‘Angkor What’ on the fittingly named Pub Street. Slightly disappointed with the apparently amazing Angkor Wat temple, luckily the price of the beer inspired me to stay in Cambodia a little longer.
Thank you, Imogen, I appreciate you stopping by!
Have you ever seen Siem Reap and the ancient temples of Angkor Wat? If so, tell me about it in the comments. If not, where would you love to travel?
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