Following on from Vietnam I wanted to tell you all about my time in Cambodia. I hope you enjoy!
If you haven’t already read my previous post I updated you all on my 48 Hours in Vietnam a cracking start to a life-changing trip. It felt like a movie, I had seen so many images through work and online with social media and never thought I would be walking the same footsteps as these people.
Head on over and read that post first as it leads up nicely into this one.
Our Arrival into Siem Reap
We arrived at the airport and on my previous post I mentioned that we got our visa on arrival at the airport. It cost $30.00 each and you can do it all electronically as well before you go if you prefer to get it all done out of the way.
Our guide Leak was there ready to greet us, he was so welcoming and immediately proved to be a fountain of knowledge and it really showed how passionate he was. I really loved how Siem Reap did not have that typical metropolitan feel with large skyscrapers. Our guide told us that due to the temples in Siem Reap specifically Angkor Wat, no buildings can be built taller than the central tower. I absolutely loved this fact and it really shows respect and proves the importance of these temples.
I had been obsessing over this final hotel when I received my itinerary for the trip. We were going to be staying at the Shinta Mani Angkor hotel. A 4-star property and hands down the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in, it lived up way above my expectations. We pulled up outside of the hotel and I could not believe my eyes, all the staff were lined up outside ready to take us to our rooms. Champagne was there on arrival with fresh cold towels and we all felt like royalty. Hands down the best service we had so far!
I could not quite process the beauty of this hotel and could not wait to get to my room, I was in no way disappointed. We had time to freshen up and then were taken to the Viroths Restaurant for dinner.
At Viroths we had a private treehouse room to ourselves and the dinner was incredible and it was so peaceful. We wandered around the town centre after dinner and decided to have a drink in the Hard Rock Cafe as there was a really cool, young Cambodian Indie-rock band performing and I was in my element.
Time for the Tuk Tuk
After a couple of drinks we were ready for a nights sleep and we of course had to take a Tuk Tuk. We were told by Leak that it should cost around $2.00. One of my colleagues was still in the ‘bargaining mood’ from the market the other night and the guy told us $2.00 for the Tuk Tuk and we were offering $4.00. The local laughed and we couldn’t believe it us Brits, bargaining to pay more money that is not something you see everyday.
The Tuk Tuk was so fun and it was a really quick journey back to the hotel.
Day 1 – The First Taste of the Temples
This morning jet lag was definitely catching up with me as I slept through and went down to breakfast after everyone else. The breakfast was amazing and I even treated myself to a waffle with fruit, which definitely set me up for the day.
We were all really excited and ready to start exploring the temples of Siem Reap. Now for the temples you need to get a Temple pass so that was our first stop, you have to go and get your photos taken and you have to keep the pass safe. You use it as your entry way into the temples as they will check it and stamp it for entry.
We headed to the first temple named Banteay Srei. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, it is also known as the pink temple due to the stone being of a pinkish-orange tone. I love that the name apparently means ‘Citadel of the Women‘ and people say that the carvings are so intricate that it was built by a woman.
This temple is said to be one of the first to be restored and it is beautiful and striking in the morning sunlight.
We had a lovely wander through and discovered as the doorways are made purposely shorter it is as if you are bowing on entrance out of respect. I also loved seeing the half monkey half human guards on the corners of the temple.
After exploring our first temple we headed on over to the local village. We got to witness the making of local Cambodian rice noodles it was incredible and I do not think I could ever truly appreciate the effort it takes without seeing it with my own eyes. We even got to sample the noodles once they had finished which was even better.
We then headed on over to see another group of locals and they had laid out cold drinks and chairs for us and some locals were playing instruments for us as well. A lovely lady was making crafts out of palm leaves and they were beautiful, she had little boxes, bracelets and even string bags and a water carry bottle which I just had to get. We also got to wander through the rice field nearby and see how they are grown.
We then headed to lunch in a beautiful setting ready to fuel our journey to Ta Prohm the famous Tomb Raider Temple which I was secretly very, very excited for. Our lunch was based in a traditional Khmer Wooden House setting which was very popular.
Releasing my Inner Tomb Raider
Now, I have always been a huge fan of Lara Croft. Ta Prohm became more recently famous for it’s feature in the 2001 hit Tomb Raider. I love playing all of the Tomb Raider games and secretly would have loved to unleash my inner Lara Croft. Although the atmosphere definitely felt a lot more ‘touristy’ and there was a clear walkway through the temple to follow and certain areas were very busy.
Ta Prohm was originally named Rajavihara and was built as an ancient Buddhist Monastery. It was said to previously of housed more than 12,000 people but after the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th Century, nature took over the temple.
The most iconic image was the famous tree and this was the busiest area as everyone wanted the perfect shot. It was quite a common sight that I witnessed in the age of social media everyone wants the perfect selfie and image for their Instagram. You can see a side by side of how easy it could be to make popular sites look quiet and empty.
We wandered through Ta Prohm and I was absolutely mesmerised seeing how easily nature can take over. The trees had formed a type of scaffolding holding the Temple in place. It really reminded me of the game ‘The Last of Us‘ which I am currently playing again and it gave me chills.
Once we finished here we decided not to do our afternoon visit to Angkor Wat. We were due to visit this early the following morning and though the best option would be to witness for the first time during sunrise. This meant we had time to chill in the pool at the property linked to our hotel opposite and possibly a couple of cocktails.
We enjoyed dinner at the Chanrey Tree restaurant and decided to go back to the markets to grab any last minute souvenirs and I may have got a couple of pairs of the typical ‘South East Asia’ backpacker trousers. Then it was time for an early night ready for a very early rise.
Day 2 – Sunrise at Angkor Wat
A time I never know exists when I’m at home. It’s strange isn’t it how being abroad can change your mentality. We were all up whilst it was still dark at around 5am and got ready to leave the hotel. We were all ready and prepared with our cameras and walked in the darkness from the coach drop-off to Angkor Wat.
We all sat there in front of the pond and found the perfect spot. It was incredible all you could see to begin with was the outline of this wonder of the world.
As the sun began to rise the silhouette became clearer and it was definitely a goose-bump moment for me. I could not stop smiling at the fact that I was really there. It is very clear that Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world built originally for the Hindu God Vishnu. It was such an amazing thought to imagine people going about their lives within this ‘City of Temples‘.
The level of detail of this temple is beyond your imagination with over 3,000 asparas (dancing ladies) covering the walls guiding your way through. The fact that this was built by just humans and elephants from sandstone blocks more than 50km away is so impressive.
I even got to experience the Buddhist Monk Blessing, I took my shoes off, donated some money and knelt in front of him. The monk chanted whilst spraying water over me which symbolises clarity and a cleansing of the mind, body and soul. After the blessing he tied a string bracelet around my wrist and I honestly never wanted to take it off. It was a symbol of the way this trip cleansed my mind of any negative feelings I ever have and how lucky I am.
None of us wanted to leave but it was time to head back to the hotel for breakfast and our final break in the hotel swimming pool. We were all starting to feel a little bit sad because even though it was such an incredible day, it was our final day of the trip.
We headed for lunch at the Mahob Khmer Restaurant and let’s just say we were all suddenly hit with tiredness and didn’t want to eat many more dishes of noodles and sticky rice. The food was absolutely incredible but you could feel the atmosphere in the group starting to drop. But our moods soon changed as it was time for our final temple visit and I did not know what to expect.
The final temple
Our final temple visit was to Angkor Thom. This was the last capital city of the Khmer Empire and in terms of it’s separate parts adds up to larger in square km’s than Angkor Wat. It is such an iconic image in my mind and I absolutely loved this temple.
On entry, there is this amazing wall which is like a big story book. It shows the way the locals lived their lives and as you look closer in the level of detail is brilliant. The more you looked, the more you saw, I wish I had a full image so you could all have a look at it but I’ve got a couple of pictures below.
The Bayon with 54 towers is dotted with around 200 faces and are said to represent Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. From far away this temple does not look like much but as you get closer like an optical illusion you are greeted with the smiling faces.
Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom were strangely my favourites they felt other worldly. Angkor Wat is incredible but could it be true that some sights can be too popular? Can that make it lose its true appeal?@bookitblogger
Time to say goodbye
I could not believe it, our temple visits had come to an end. Our time in Cambodia was over. We collected our belongings from our hotel and I honestly did not want to leave. I of course could not wait to see my boyfriend and family but that travel bug inside me was longing for more.
We headed to Siem Reap Airport for our connecting flight to Hanoi. This flight took around 2 hours and we got a light meal on board. Now originally our tickets said Economy Class for both flights however Vietnam Airlines pulled some strings and we got upgraded to Premium Economy on our Hanoi to Heathrow flight as well.
One thing I would definitely recommend if you have a late night flight coming home from a trip is to get access to an Airport Lounge. Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge is incredible with comfortable seats, unlimited drinks/food and even showers with toiletries. It was perfect we all refreshed ourselves and relaxed ready for our flight as we had around 3 hours to wait.
We all boarded our flight and luckily I made sure I did not nap at all during the day so I surprisingly slept on the flight and woke up around 3 quarters of the way through the flight. I slept so well and we even got to have a sneak at Business Class before heading to passport control. The flat beds and peacefulness of Business Class definitely got me thinking that if you have the money and you want to treat yourself it is so worth upgrading your flights!
We all said our goodbyes and it was such a bittersweet feeling. We were all strangers to each other a week before and yet we had all just shared the most incredible experience together. We all stay in contact still and it is always lovely to reminisce.
Thank you all for Reading
Well, well I finally did it! I hope you all enjoyed reading about my experience in Vietnam and Cambodia. It has been great for me to think all about this trip and really how lucky I was, it was my first long-haul trip. I have so many more posts coming out over the next few weeks. Including some tips about how to cope with your first long-haul trip.
If you are not already then do go ahead and follow me on Instagram @bookitblogger I am posting lots on there nowadays with more images from my trips and updating you on my stories as to what’s coming up next. You can also subscribe to my blog and I can notify you as soon as a new post is released so you get to read it first, why not?