Like every tourist who visits Cambodia, I went to see the temples of Angkor – Angkor Wat being the most famous but there are many others. The city of Siem Reap is the starting point for Angkor visits, and I arrived there from Phnom Penh in one of the Cambodian postal services minivans, which also offer passenger service and have wifi! (One of the fairly rare examples of something that works well in the country).
Angkor was the capital of the Khmer empire and the various sites date from the 8th- 15th centuries (yes I’m writing this as if I know anything about the Khmer empire, but I don’t!). The heat/humidity and thousands of other tourists make it somewhat challenging to visit but it’s definitely worth it and the various locations are truly stunning.
I didn’t manage to get up in time to be there for sunrise, but as everyone does that it’s in no way going to help you beat the crowds. For some reason unknown even to myself I decided to stay at a place called the Funky Flashpackers, but despite its self-styled party hostel status (err..) there was a steady stream of people getting up from 4am onwards with associated lights and noise so it wasn’t exactly an uninterrupted lie-in. I was still up and out painfully early though (for me) and hired a tuk- tuk to take me around the main temples for $20 (Cambodia basically uses USD for any amount over a dollar and its own currency, the Riel, for small change). I could have taken a tour run by the hostel that would have been a bit cheaper but a) it had a 4.15am departure time – uggghh and b) it would have meant being shepherded around with 20 hungover 19 year olds – also ugggghh! I’m a big fan of doing this stuff at your own pace anyway. So here are some photos I took (copyright: every single person who’s ever visited Angkor Wat).
At the moment it costs $20 dollars for a one day pass which includes all the different sites or you can get a 3 or 7 day pass if you have more time (3 days is probably ideal) . The prices are set to almost double early in 2017 though (a good idea if the money is used to protect and sustain the site…but..). [Cambodians enter for free, by the way].
Pathetically the early morning and dehydration from the heat completely wiped me out and I spent half the afternoon sleeping off a banging headache. But in the evening I went out to explore Siem Reap, which I liked – it still retains some of its colonial architecture and has a pleasant riverside setting. As basically all tourists who visit the country pass through at some point, it’s very lively in the evening, but manages to avoid the sleazy feel that a lot of Sihanoukville suffers from (or maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places)..I’d say, eat at the night market rather than the *cryptically* named pub street (it’s worth a wander though).