Siem Reap – a lovely town in the shadow of Angkor

Workers
Leaving Koh Phangan behind was like a heart-wrenching break-up. I am still hoping that it is only a long break and not the end of our relationship. But when one thing comes to an end something new begins, right?
In our case what began was a 30-hour-long bus trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia with an adventurous transfer in Bangkok. 🙂
After having read almost a whole book, slept – intermittently – 8 hours,  spent 2 hours in Bangkok and another 2 hours at the Thai-Cambodian border and having been ripped off while getting the visa, we arrived safe and sound in Siem Reap. No need to mention, we were exhausted only longing for a hot shower and a comfy bed. As the accommodation in Adan World Hostel we had booked in advance was far from expensive – we paid 32 euros for the 2 of us for 4 nights 🙂 – we were ready for the worst. It may show our decreasing standards and demands concerning accommodation in general after almost 5 months of travelling in Asia, but we were pleasantly surprised. We had hot water, comfy bed, we got soap and towels and breakfast was included in the price as well. The facts that one of the window panes was missing and the water from the washbasin flew directly on the floor of the bathroom were really unimportant. 🙂

Siem Reap itself is nothing special: a town of 140.000 inhabitants, crazy traffic, thousands of massage parlours and way too many night markets. Why did we choose it as the only destination of our short visit to Cambodia  and why is it full of tourists? Because of the proximity of the world-famous archeological site of Angkor; it is  just 6 km away from the town. And Angkor is omnipresent inSiem Reap: every shop,cafe, restaurant uses the name in some way. The fact that the Cambodian national flag has Angkor Wat on it shows how proud people of Cambodia are of their world heritage site. Can you imagine then what an impact it has on the town so close to the famous site??We didn’t start our explorations directly with Angkor though. The first day of our stay we devoted to Siem Reap. Having absolutely no expectations, we had a great time walking around the city, checking out what ever we bumped into, getting a massage and eating cheap street food. It was a lovely day!IMG_2876

Unlike most tourists who spend 3 to 7 days visiting all the temples and monuments of Angkor, we only did the short tour of the site including about 8 temples. We decided not to hire a tuk-tuk driver – like most people -, but rent a pushbike and make a nice day tour on our second day.We started out very early in the morning – at 5 we were on our bikes already. We wanted to watch the sunrise from Angkor Wat. And we did – together with thousands of other tourists who had the same plan. Because of the clouds the sun rose without much drama that morning, so we didn’t manage to take the most beautiful sunrise pictures of the century but the place was beautiful anyway.

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At around 7:45 we were on our bikes again heading towards the next temple and, and the next, and the next…we realized that Angkor Wat is way too much overhyped. There are so many other ones equally beautiful. My absolute favourite temple was Ta Phrom aka the jungle temple with its wonderful thousand-year-old trees; art and nature melt together here in a perfectly harmonious way. Breath-taking! We didn’t stop exploring the sites till 1 pm when we were so exhausted and hungry that we couldn’t even think properly.

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After having a quick lunch back in town, we went back to our hostel to have a quick nap and we ended up spending the whole afternoon in bed. After long months of travelling we learned that forcing ourselves to keep going doesn’t make any sense; even if you don’t have too much time in a place, sightseeing and relaxation must be in a healthy balance! At least that is what works for us.

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As we needed to spend the 3rd and last whole day in Siem Reap with work, there is not much more to write about. In the evening we went out to have dinner at the Angkor Night Market, but that was it.

Leaving the country was not less adventurous than our way there. Enough to say, that we were not even sure that our tickets we had bought at the border from a dubious travel agent were proper bus tickets, but in the end the bus came to pick us up – 45 minutes later than promised though -, and after changing buses and packing our luggage in and out of the van a couple of times we arrived in Bangkok safely.

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This Cambodian episode was by far our shortest country visit so far. 4 days for a city is not enough, let alone a whole country. And Cambodia with its lovely people and beautiful nature deserves much more. A next visit is guaranteed. Soon.

All pics here

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