You know it’s going to be a good trip when your friend picks you up at the airport with a beer.
Arriving to Siem Reap an entire day late definitely messed with my plans, but Roger was determined to check off each of the awesome activities he had planned. As a result, he insisted on waking me up early for a morning exploring Angkor Thom no matter how late we stayed up the previous night. This may or may not have contributed to the fondness I still feel for this day of adventures, possibly my favorite of the trip.
Background: Roger is currently a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English near Siem Reap, and my tour guide for my week in Cambodia.
We started with Ta Prohm, more popularly known as the site of Tomb Raider. Looking back, Ta Prohm may have been my favorite site of the day. Many of the sites within Ankgor Thom have been cleaned and restored, but Ta Prohm was left with the giant “Spung” trees and temple walls intertwined. I love to see how Mother Nature re-claims what is rightfully hers after humans leave.
We continued to explore throughout the day as Roger took me to the Angkor Thom highlights. Each site has it’s own unique features. For example, Bayon is another popular “don’t miss” temple characterized by giant faces carved into the stone.
I literally could have spent days wandering the numerous sites within the Angkor Thom city, but we had places to be and jetlag to fight so we took a quick break and Roger took me to meet his host family outside of the city. The traditional houses in the area were all raised on stilts to accommodate the rainy season. For electricity, he hooks up a car battery to some solar panels (dead serious). His sweet host mother made us lunch: traditionally seasoned pork (I think?), dried fish, and eel with vegetables and white rice. When I was done eating she tried to teach me how to properly wear my “kroma”… a traditional scarf-like cotton garment with a billion awesome purposes such as keeping the sun out of your face and using as a pillow on long bus rides.
After lunch we proceeded to the mother of temples… Angkor Wat. I respectfully donned pants to explore the towers of this amazing piece of architecture and history.
In my humble opinion, the Cambodian temples are absolutely worth every penny and every minute you spend wandering freely through the hallways. There are a ton of sites around the world that are classified as some sort of “wonder” but I truly feel Angkor Wat should be right up there next to Machu Picchu. My pictures leave me speechless and they can’t even do the site justice.
After a quick nap, I set out with Roger and his girlfriend Kelley to explore the Siem Reap night market and nightlife (again). Siem Reap definitely has a backpacker culture, with highlights such as Pub Street and “Angkor What?” for dancing and drinking. It helps that booze is stupid cheap.
I definitely wish I could have spent a few more days in Siem Reap, this little town is absolutely my favorite part of my Cambodia trip.
Why go to Siem Reap?
Don’t you dare skip it. If you have enough time in Southeast Asia, please make it a priority to get to Siem Reap. I’m already hoping to go back. There are fancy cushy hotels and guesthouses for those who prefer comfortable travel, and a vibrant hostel backpacker scene for those who prefer to party. I would suggest taking a full day to explore the temples, as I certainly wish I had more time. ❤