After the village sleep-out we headed off in the van to Siem Reap in the early hours of the morning with Mr T. We made a pit stop half way at a restaurant with straw huts on a boardwalk. The photo bellow shows the view from the restaurant. When we arrived in Siem, we met back up with Tanya and checked into the hotel. Everyone was pretty tired after the village sleep out last night barely getting any sleep. We stayed at the Frangipani villa in Siem Reap this time, quite lovely. The photo bellow on the left shows the view from the room, and the photo on the right is from the rooftop. I went up and wrote my journal for an hour or so because it was quiet and a nice view.
The afternoon of arrival we headed off to Angkor Wat for the sunset. Unfortunately the sky wasn't very colourful and the sun sets in the opposite direction to the temple, so the sunset wasn't amazing. The Angkor Wat temple was shut when we arrived, but we were allowed to wander through the grounds at the front when there were less people, and we got to take some photos which was great. The photo bellow was taken at the left pond in front of Angkor Wat at sunset.
Temples we visited in Siem Reap:
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm
- Pre Rup
The next day we arose at 4am to get to Angkor by 5. Everyone was super tired but at least we got to Angkor Wat by sunrise. After we walked down the main walkway, we split up to get the best photos by the pond. I set my tripod up and waited for the sun to rise above the temple. It was rather nice, although again not too much colour. It was better being there early because even though there were tonnes of tourists, we could get the best spots by the pond for the sunrise reflection. There were way more tourists than I remember five years ago, so the earlier the better. It is the most famous temple in Siem Reap, but to be honest the other smaller temples are also awesome. The rarer the temple, the less people. Angkor Wat is the biggest and most grand, and cant be missed when visiting Siem Reap. It was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman II, and is dedicated to the hindu god Vishnu. Bellow are some pics at Angkor Wat.
After Angkor Wat, we had the rest of the morning to explore some more temples. Ta Prohm is quite amazing, intense greenery and ginormous trees winding their way throughout the ancient ruins. Yu, Kelly and I wandered through slowly taking in the beauty and taking a bunch of photos. Some of the group were not a fan of Ta Prohm because they found it too ruined. I guess it depends on personal preference, I love Ta Prohm because even though it is partially in ruins, there are still parts of the structure standing amongst the rubble which is really awesome. It's a smaller temple situated in the middle of the forest, surrounded by large trees. This Temple was made famous from the Tomb Raider movies. This Buddhist temple was built in the 12-13th century, and was later neglected for centuries, hence the emersion of roots. although now it's listed under UNESCO. Bellow are shots at Ta Prohm.
We visited Pre Rup temple which was pretty cool because it's less famous, so there were way less people. Unfortunately it was partially under construction so we were only able to see one side, and we couldn't go all the way to the top. It was cool to take some photos without tonnes of people in them. Pre Rup is a Hindu temple built in the mid 10th century dedicated to Shiva, one of the three main Hindu gods. Bellow are snaps from Pre Rup.
My favourite temple is still Bayon, climbing up to the top beside the intricate faces is pretty exiting. Bayon is the most famous temple in the temple complex Angkor Thom, and it's truly a beautiful structure. Bayon's iconic feature is it's 200+ smiling faces, a symbolic buddhist trait. Its mix of hindu and buddhist history gives it an interesting and beautiful appearance. Below is the faces of Bayon.
I actually had an awesome experience at Baphuon. Located next to Bayon in Angkor Thom, Baphuon is really cool because you are allowed to go quite high up. I was disappointed I couldn't go to the highest middle peak because that would have made a super awesome shot with the frame-like stone. It was still pretty cool to go so high up with barely any people. The group split after the first four temples, so James, Steve, Joe and I were the only ones to visit Baphuon. Its great because its so close to Bayon so you can visit the two at the same time. Below is Baphuon.
Adventures of Fabulous Food in Siem Reap:
> Cafe with chill foods and good vibes
> Yummy Mexican restaurant with large menu
- Peace Cafe:
> Vego cafe with good food and contributes to NGO work and the local community
We did a bit of shopping in Siem, I went to the night markets near pub street a few times, and Yu, Kelly and I bought some knick-knacks along the laneways where we found the blue swing. We have taken our fair share of tuk tuks in the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and I can sincerely say that travelling by tuk tuk is much more enthralling and exciting than a car. Although a car is probably safer, tuk tuks are cheaper and you feel much more alive and like you are a part of the hustle and bustle of the city. You can really see, hear and smell the atmosphere, which feels completely different to being in a car. Walking or riding a bike takes this one step further.
The last day after lunch at the Peace Cafe, a few of us headed to Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre, and embarked on a pottery journey. We had to make five different shaped pottery bowels and cups on the pottery wheel, which was really exciting as it was my first time. I decorated my cup, and thats the piece that I got fired. It's really awesome as well because they employ deaf people to make their pottery, and to teach the lessons. I also bought a plate from inside in the store, the same design as those in the Restore One Cafe in Phnom Penh.
On the last night we went to the Phare circus, which was pretty good and relatively inexpensive. The cheapest tickets are US$18. Its run by the Cambodian youths, and it's a mix between drama, live art and circus. It told a good storyline, and the live art was pretty cool to see as well.
We went to pub street a few times for a hang out. We chilled at Temple bar, but there is about 10 Temple branded things in Siem Reap, the bar, the restaurant, the club, the massage joint, the grocery store etc. Yu and I went to Temple club the last night which was better than Cheers the night before, because Temple had way more people dancing. I miss having free entry and a great night without spending money. It's so hard to find a good place for free entry in Sydney these days. Also It was the last night and I ran out of money buying stuff from the night markets beforehand...
Siem Reap was pretty cool, I looove the history because of the amazing temples designs, although to see the true Cambodia and the devastation from the recent modern history you really need to head to Phnom Penh. It was awesome to end in Siem Reap; it had cool aesthetic cafes, awesome temples, good markets, pub street, and lots of tourists. I guess it was beginning to get those bali vibes where they change the city so much it begins to feel different from the true culture, because its packed with tourists all the time. In saying that, I loved visiting Siem Reap, we had a lot of fun to end our trip, and seeing the culture in the temples was amazing.
The Cambodia trip was really special to me because I had been wanting to do a NGO/charity trip for about 5-6 years now, and the timing had never worked out for me. I was really excited to finally get to go back to Cambodia with an amazing charity, and I was beyond grateful for the way Restore One organised our trip and allowed us to contribute in so many different ways. Even though I already had a good understanding of the history of Cambodia, the trip was still a totally eye-opening experience that I would recommend to anyone, and I would love to take part in again. I learnt so much, and grew in so many ways. The friendships formed and the experiences had, will never be forgotten. The beautiful country, and its extensive religious history is so interesting and amazing to see with your own eyes. To end this long post, a picture of the girls and I in the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh.