The sun is setting as I sit by the pool, relaxing from what has been a bigger than expected…but yet unexpected…day.
Starting before dawn, we were up and at the airport for our early morning flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was only a 2 hour flight and with the time difference we landed before 8am.
Every airport is different and we have learned over the years just to ‘go with the flow’…so when the flow off the plane stopped on the tarmac to take photos of the plane and airport terminal we did too!
We knew that we would need to apply for a visa on arrival, what surprised us was the number of staff it took to process our application. They were lined up along a high curved counter. We approached the one on the end at the left…handed over our passports, spare passport photo and money…then moved to the far end and waited. It appeared that each of the eight staff had their own specific job to do as our application got passed along from one to the other until the guy on the end called our name to collect our passport with visa enclosed.
Passing through immigration was straight forward though the lady that checked my documents clearly was not a morning person! There was no one at the customs desk so we dropped our declaration in the box and kept going.
Our tuk tuk driver, Chen was waiting for us after we came outside. I’m glad we had that organised though there were plenty of drivers there waiting if we had not of.
Siem Reap is like most asian countries when it comes to road rules…if they exist nobody follows them. The main road from the airport is sealed with work happening all along the way. They are laying pavers on the median strips and guttering…by hand with small rubber mallets and little buckets of mortar. Once we turned off the main road the side roads are dirt…apparently they are like that all over the city.
Our hotel is a small, boutique place which is very unlike the huge fancy looking, no doubt overpriced, multi story complexes along the main strip. When we arrived the manager met us on the entry path and directed us to our room, suggesting we take our time and settle in, then come over to reception to be presented with a map of the temples and have a chat about some of the other things to do in and around Siem Reap when we were ready.
Reak, the manager is a local and very informative about ways to visit the temples and the area in general. It was reassuring to know that much of what he suggested matched what I had researched and had loosely planned to do. The new owners, Ian and his son, Jason also popped in to say hello and offer their thoughts on items of interest.
We decided to head out to the temples first, on what is known as the short circuit. Chen took us in his tuk tuk which I think is a great way to travel around…you get an uninterrupted view; the cool breeze and you can hear and smell your surroundings…which sometimes may not seem like a ‘good’ thing, but trust me…it is! Scent aids the memory enormously!
On our way to the temples we stopped for an early lunch, so that we wouldn’t have be hungry while we were out there. We went to a roadside bbq which was recommended by Chen. The smell of bbq always makes me hungry. On offer was chicken, pork and frogs…whole frogs of various sizes. Whilst I was feeling adventurous, the thought of a potential upset tummy out in the jungle wasn’t appealing…so we ordered the pork and chicken…and everything comes with rice. The flavours were delicious, the meat was steaming hot and I’m pleased to report that several hours later all tummies are perfectly fine!
Being the tourist off season it really wasn’t too busy, though as we approached Angkor Wat there were many families taking advantage of a lovely Saturday afternoon picnicking by the lake. The first sight of the temple was not as amazing as I thought it may have been, but as we walked closer the sheer magnitude of the place started to sink in. We had opted not to take a tour guide so we just wandered around wherever we felt like looking at something. It really is huge and there is so much detail in every piece, not only the statues and the towers…but the walls and the edges of the doors.
After wandering around exploring the wat, we jumped back in the tuk tuk and headed out to the South Gate…it was ornate too, though we didn’t get out there. We went through into Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple. I personally felt this one had more character than Angkor Wat, though it was entirely different so probably should not be compared.
After a few hours in what was potentially the hottest part of the day, we decided that we would head back to the hotel for a swim. Now, I have often found in recent years that pools are too cold for me…but this one was heavenly….really…I am not exaggerating even a little bit…and what made it even better was the delicious fresh fruit juice that we sipped while sitting in the pool.
The hotel feels more like a home. The owner and his gorgeous little twins came in later and we got to know them a bit more…kind of like catching up with friends that you haven’t seen for years. I also got to have a little nap on one of the comfy lounges…
After swimming, catching up on social media, napping and talking it was time to eat yet again…we opted to stay in and eat at the hotel restaurant with pre-dinner drinks followed by an extremely tasty meal I really felt like we have had one of the best days ever!
Sweet and sour chicken
Khmer Chicken Curry
Beef Lok Lak