Tag Archives: Siem Reap

Siem Reap, I Liked…

6 Oct

Instead of my usual, “This Week I Liked…” post, I wanted to share some of my favorite locations and memorable moments in Siem Reap with you, in no particular order.

Our gorgeous hotel, The Golden Temple, which I can’t say enough good things about- it was perfection and beyond.  The staff was generous and informative, the rooms were beautiful and quiet, and WOAH MOMMA was that breakfast delicious.

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WARNING: Sad Story

The Golden Temple Hotel helped us organize our first trip to the Angkor Temples with Mr. S, a kind and reliable tuk-tuk driver.  During our initial ride, I began to wonder about Mr. S and his life in Cambodia.  Since he looked older than 39 years old, I assumed he had survived the Khmer Rouge regime and I was both curious and scared to hear about his experiences (click here for my short post about Cambodia & the Khmer Rouge).

Finally, around hour 5 of temple hopping, I worked up the nerve to ask Mr. S about his past.  His response was short and solemn, “I worked in the rice fields under the Khmer Rouge for 8 months and 11 days.  I know for you, it doesn’t seem like a very long time, but for me… those were the longest days of my life.”

Cue the waterworks.  I was a mess.

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I was able to sweat out my sadness with the crazy temple workout – going up and down hundreds of extremely steep stairs.

For real, it was nasty sweaty.

According to Lonely Planet, these narrow and tall steps were designed to ensure that pilgrims would prostrate themselves in the presence of their gods.  In my case, it just helped justify the amount of food that I later stuffed into my aching body…

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Lok Lak, Cambodian Curry, and Thai Tom Yum soup at the Red Piano restaurant.

Angkor beer (tastes deliciously and exactly like all the other Southeast Asian beers), Khmer dumplings (not recommended), and spring rolls (yum!) at Khmer Kitchen.

Khmer Soup from Khmer Kitchen restaurant & a combination platter from Angkor Palm restaurant (happiness).

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An educational tour through Artisans d’Angkor, a school that trains impoverished youth in traditional Cambodian handicrafts, like silk weaving and stone carving.  G and I spent over $300 in the school’s store, where profits help fund the school & its students. (Guilt-free shopping!)

An excessively luxurious 3-hour massage at Bodia Spa on Tuesday, and then a 2-hour massage at Frangipani on Wednesday (Frangipani photographed above).

Damn, life is beautiful…and so is Siem Reap – So, GO!

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Knee-Deep in Siem Reap

4 Oct

Cambodia Day 1:

G & I flew into Siem Reap at 8:00 am, ready to take on the temples of Angkor Wat (& then the world), but upon arrival, we noticed something a little strange…

SURPRISE! The town was completely flooded.

Apparently, once every few years, the Siem Reap River overflows into the town, causing minor damage and slight discomfort.  This year, however, the flooding was worse than ever before, and according to a recent article in the Phnom Penh Post, Siem Reap is still under water today- 3 full weeks after our visit!  Unbelievable.

I can’t speak to the current situation in Siem Reap (which I am sure is extremely uncomfortable and unsanitary), but when G & I were there, the locals seemed to deal with the knee-deep water with a “keep calm and carry on” approach.  It was business as usual in this watery town.

Some Cambodians were even enjoying the floods.

Only the foreigners looked a little bit perturbed.  (Perhaps not the best day to rent a bike.)

I could have easily spent the entire day walking/swimming down the streets, snapping photos of the beautiful Khmer (Cambodian) children playing in the muddy water, but alas, there were temples to be seen and G & I wanted to reach Angkor Wat before the flood did.

So, we were off like a herd of turtles to visit the temples in our little tuk-tuk.

Our first stop was the spectacular Angkor Wat, the heart and soul of Cambodia.

 Built during the early 12th century for King Suryavarman II in honor of Vishnu, the Hindu deity, Angkor Wat is believed to be the world’s largest religious structure- first Hindu then Buddhist.  The temple towers above the surrounding lush and noisy jungle, making its scale even more dramatic & breathtaking.

I was especially magnetized by the detailed sandstone carvings & sculptures on the outer walls of the temple, which span 1 kilometer in length.  Most of the bas-reliefs depict epic events in Hinduism, like victorious battles, heavens & hells, as well as over 3,000 enchanting and unique apsaras (celestial nymphs).

After marveling at Angkor Wat’s grandness (and it is grand), we headed to the neighboring city of Angkor Thom- made famous by Angelina Jolie’s film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.  Angkor Thom was the last great capital of the Khmer empire, built by King Jayavarman VII and protected by 8 meter high walls and a 100 meter wide moat (rumored to have been inhabited by crocodiles back in the day).

 In the exact center of Angkor Thom is the temple of Bayon, a 3-level structure decorated with 216 enormous faces with sardonic grins.  The faces of Bayon are supposed to be images of Avalokiteshvara, but in fact, they are said to resemble the King Jayavarman VII even more.

From Bayon we went off to explore 5-6 other temples, the most famous being Ta Prohm, one of the locations for the movie, Tomb Raider.  Unlike other Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in almost the same condition as it was found- swallowed by the Cambodian jungle.

Even though it was POURING rain as we walked through Ta Prohm (hence the bad photos), G & I were awestruck by the power of the jungle- emerging & climbing throughout the temple.  The amazing coexistence between nature and temple is what makes Ta Prohm truly magical & a perfect ending to a day among the great Angkor Temples.