After three days in Siem Reap and the surrounding Angkor region, exploring, climbing, learning and walking around ruins, temples, markets and busy streets, we are exhausted but grateful to have seen such spectacular sights and met wonderful people- both local and other travellers, and are rather sad to leave.
After our time in Phnom Penh we were excited to spend more time in Cambodia as we immediately loved the people and culture, and were particularly keen to seen the history-laden old capital- Siem Reap.
The bus ride was long but fairly easy, with free water and a lunch stop, delivering us to our new destination around 7pm. We checked into our guesthouse with a pool (we were excited about that, it’s not everywhere you can pay $10 for a room and get a big pool as well!) and walked the city, keen for our time there.
First photo of Siem Reap- blurry and bright, rather like our time there.
I swear drinking cocktails isn't all we ever do... ahem.
The famous 'Pub Street' of Siem Reap
We decided the next day to do a full day tour of the Angkor temples as we didn’t want to walk around not understanding any of the history or stories behind the ruins. This turned out to be a great choice as our guide was funny and knowledgeable and taught us a great deal about Cambodian ancient and more modern history, as well as about the culture and language. We explored the most famous ruins- Angkor Wat, Bayon (the giant stone faces) and Ta Prohm the ‘jungle temple’ being some notable ones, but also 5 or so other less touristy sites which were really interesting to see the development of architecture and history. The ruins were incredibly impressive, particularly after gaining an insight into the stories that built them. We had a wonderful but exhausting day climbing, walking, exploring and admiring some of the most impressive structures ever built.
A band of Cambodian amputees
Ta Prohm, the 'jungle temple'
Sanscrit at Ta Prohm
The city of Siem Reap itself is cute and easy to get around, with a compact and happening old centre and lots of restaurants, bars and markets. The next day we spent mostly exploring the city and shopping around the markets. At night we decided to go see a traditional ‘Aspara’ dancing show- depictions of which we had seen engraved on the walls of Angor Wat.
The show we saw was free if you bought dinner, and probably not the most professional you could go to as there are big theatres in Siem Reap where you can pay a (Cambodian-standard) fortune to see it, but was impressive nonetheless. There were several different dances, including the traditional Aspara dance, then a ‘peacock dance’, a ‘fisherman’s dance’ and a few others, with boys dancing with the girls. The boys were clearly not the most trained dancers, but were hilarious comics and constantly flirting with their partners, making for a fun and entertaining night. I also felt that this was perhaps even more true to how the dances should be done- for fun.
Later we decided it was our turn to do some performing. We had walked past the ‘European Karaoke’ bar the night before but chickened out of entering the empty club, but after our show, fueled with a few Angkor beers, we decided it was our time to shine. We bonded with an American couple and all sang about 6 songs each, getting more and more outrageous in both song choice and sound quality with each turn. It was pretty much the greatest thing ever. Yes, I will be a superstar yet.
Some of our finest moments- Phil Collins and the Divinyls. Yes, I went there.
However. Our choice to stay up well past our bedtime and consume far too much liquid courage was paid for the next day with pretty much the worst 12 hours of my life. Ok maybe not, but pretty bad. Feeling pretty fragile as it was, we poorly decided to take our malaria tablets on an empty stomach. Bad, bad option. Very bad. Mixed with about 10 hours of bumpy, sweaty bus rides and 2 hours of painful immigration waiting, it was not a pretty day. But, we got to our nice hotel in Bangkok where I promptly threw up for about the 4th time that day, and then the hell was over and we had a lovely last day in Thailand in a gorgeous hotel.
Thank you Asia, you were messy but amazing.