For the second part of our trip for Nate's birthday, we headed to a place that had been on our must-see bucket list since we arrived in Asia: Siem Reap, Cambodia! This place is most known for the historical, breathtaking temples of the Angkor Wat. (FYI: It did not disappoint)
We walked off the plane from our one hour flight from Laos, into the small, Siem Reap airport. I quickly found a spot at a crowded table and started filling out Nate and my customs forms so we could get our visas and start exploring. The girl next to me said she could move over so Nate and I had more room and I told her not to worry about it, without looking up. Next thing I hear is this girl asking me if I went to Cal? (For college). Say what? Why was this chick asking me this? I finally looked up and holy shit - it was Melissa, who was good friends and dorm floor mates with one of my sorority sisters (#Jyo)! What. the. hell. How? Out of everywhere in the world to be - we ended up filling out customs forms to enter Cambodia at the same table in the airport, at the same time (and apparently was on the same flight from Luang Prabang, Laos and they were there the same time we were too). What a small world and a very pleasant surprise! Melissa and I immediately started catching up while our hubby's took care of the visa stuff to get us into the country. We shared our whatsapp contact info, promising to meet up and do dinner before departing the airport #yay! #stillcantbelieveit #gobears
We headed outside and met our tuk tuk driver, Sna, who would be taking us to our hotel - the Moon Boutique.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but when we were dropped off at Pub Street for dinner by our hotel, Nate and I ate Mexican food - not some local food like we probably should have to embrace the culture. To our defense - there's not a lot of Mexican options in Japan! And I thoroughly enjoyed my Margarita and Mexican dinner thank you very much #imisssandiego #sweetrelief
After dinner, we explored some more on Pub Street, aka the drinking capital of Siem Reap. It is pretty lively - filled with restaurants and bars, and people having fun. Also, drinks range from 25 cents (yes you read that right - 25 CENTS!) to only a few dollars and portable bars! Making it easy to have a crazy night out on a budget. Don't forget to snag one of the late night delicacies - fried tarantulas... yum! (Unfortunately I wasn't ballsy enough to try this) Nate and I were getting up at 4am for the sunrise at Angkor, so we called it an early night and went home like the good responsible kids we are :)
Before we came to Cambodia, our friends from the cooking class in Vietnam recommended a driver to use in Cambodia. We took them up on their recommendation and that's how we ended up with our awesome driver Mr. Sok. He met us bright and early at our hotel to get us to the ticket office to get our day temple passes (which sidenote - have dramatically gone up in cost! Luckily Nate and I barely had enough!). Then we headed with the crowds over to Angkor Wat to watch the sun come up. Mr. Sok told us the recommended spot to watch (left side of the pond) so we could see the reflection of the temple in the water.
It was pretty crowded since this is one of the most popular tourist spots in the world but Nate and I squeezed in to find a spot. As with most our luck when trying to watch sunrises/sunsets - it was cloudy, and we didn't get to see that epic sunrise we hoped for. But it was still pretty legit to watch the light pour over this breathtaking temple.
Watch the "sunrise" over Angkor Wat below:
After about an hour battling the crowds to watch the sunrise at Angkor (don't worry we'd be back!), we headed to my other favorite temple of the day, Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is known as the jungle temple, an Indiana Jones type fantasy. It was built in 1186, the height of the Khmer Empire by King Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist monastery and center of learning, and was first known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King). But let's be honest - most people know it now a days due to the movie Tomb Raider.
Side note, if the temple had been maintained properly since it was built, it would actually be a tiny bit larger than the Angkor Wat temple. #whoknew It is built in the traditional Khmer structure consisting of a series of gradaully smaller encloses with the largest around 1000 by 650 meters. In the center, there is a huge stone face of Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom, and the King modeled the features after his mother. Back in the day, almost 80,000 people were required to maintain or attend the temple, including more than 2,700 officials and 615 dancers.
With the jungle slowly taking over, many trees, hundreds of years old, tower overhead, creating an almost green like filter throughout the temple. Silk-cotton and strangler fig trees have taken root in the loose stones around the temple, merging both nature and sand-stone architecture.
I think Lonely Planet put it pretty poetically "There is a poetic cycle to this venerable ruin, with humanity first conquering nature to rapidly create, and nature once again conquering humanity to slowly destroy. If Angkor Wat is testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the awesome fecundity and power of the jungle."
With the temple most known from the movie Tomb Raider, of course we had to get pics of the famous tree from the movie
A fun nugget to spot in the temple, a carved dinosaur! At least that's what it appears to be. There are a few theories about this. Some say it was recently carved, others say the ancient Khmers found ancient fossils and were able to figure out what type of creature it was. Other theories are that it's a cow or a rhino with a palm tree in the background, or that possibly dinosaurs really did live later than people think. Who's to say but I think it's pretty legit that it's carved into this ancient temple and I'm really curious on why it's there! #howlongweredinosreallyaround #dinosandtemples #landbeforetime
When exiting (or entering) the temple, you also get to see a huge gopura (tower of entrance) with the 4 faces of Avalokitshwara.
Our next stop on our temple tour was Banteay Kdei; another temple ravaged by the jungle but not to the same degree as Ta Prohm. It means "Citadel of Chambers" and was built by King Jayavarman VII during the late 12th to early 13th century and discovered by the French in 1914. The temple is deteriorating due to the inferior grade of sandstone and poor construction techniques.
This temple is much less crowded than the others, which gave us time to walk around the grounds peacefully and take it all in with the sounds of the jungle and cicada buzzing in the background.
This was only the 1st half of our day! Tune in for the next blog detailing the 2nd half!
Follow in our Footsteps:
Mr. Sok (best Tut Tut driver!) - we hired him all 3 days we were here and he found a great variety for us to do
Book him on Facebook or email him firstname.lastname@example.org
092 9493 79 or 098 9291 12
Why he's awesome:
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Archaeological Park,
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Archaeological Park,
Krong Siem Reap 17000, Cambodia
Hours: 7:30am - 5:30pm
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!