Cambodia, specifically Seam Reap and the area around Angkor Wat has captured my heart. We did very little research prior to arrival and didn’t know quite what to expect. This is a country with such a tragic past – mass genocide, rebuilding and barely $2 a day average income. With the weather forecast of WAY TOO HOT and warnings from fellow travelers, I was worried. But this stop has been a major item on my bucket list for many many years and there is no way I was going to miss it. Thankfully we were rewarded with an amazing experience that was a highlight of our travels.
Our arrival was easy and the tuk tuk whisked us away to a beautiful little brand new hotel. It was actually one of the nicest hotels we stayed in during our travels Reasey Boutique Villa. With just 5 beautiful rooms, a brand new pool and amazing guest service. We loved it! Seriously,
Each day we jumped in our tuk tuk and sped off for sunrise at the temples and spent most of the day wandering in awe at the amazing architecture of the Khymer civilization. There is so much to say about the temples and so little that you can understand until you have seen them.
The temples are much bigger than you can even imagine from the pictures.
Temples are everywhere and Angkor Wat is just one of them. We went to 10 temples and still missed many of them.
The crowds are unbelievable and we found it best to stay away from tour groups and go a different direction whenever possible. Our tuk tuk driver was the best – as he always took us ‘out of order’ on the tour so we did our best to miss the crowds.
Within the walls of Angkor Thom (which surround the majority of the large temples) there are still locals who live there. The temples and the area around are farmed and maintained/restored by local workers who live within the city walls.
Covering up your knees and shoulders is important when touring the temples and you will be prevented from entering certain areas if you don’t comply. I witnessed many tourists who attempted to disobey the dress code. I find it offensive that visitors can not respect the traditions and rules of their host country. It was hot and I was dripping in sweat, but it was no problem to wear a shirt with sleeves and some loose pants. And even if my shorts had been shorter or my top skimpier, I still would have been dripping in sweat!
Tuk tuks are the greatest method of transportation ever! Inexpensive, cool and super fun. I wish I had a tuk tuk driver at my beck and call all the time. We spent about $60 over the course of our 5 day visit. Very reasonably priced and a fun way to travel.
Sunrise starts are essential to a pleasant trip. The tour buses are not out until about 8am which means a 3 hour head start on the crowds. Sunrise departure starts at 5am. So not only did we have great light for pictures, but also better temperatures. The first day I started to put on a long sleeved t-shirt for warmth in the ‘cold’ morning. A quick step out of the room and the shirt was left behind. A cold morning was still almost 80 and perfectly comfortable.
Sunsets are nice but crowded at the ‘popular’ spots. We picked an out of the way place and loved the results. The key is to wait for the afterglow. Even if the area is crowded, everyone will leave right when the yellow ball is down. Wait 20 minutes and you have a good chance of some great colors and no crowds.
Three days of touring temples was a perfect amount (with a day on either side for travel). I feel like we saw the most important things and got a really good feel for the area. Any shorter and we would have had to pack our days full. Instead we went out early, napped or swam in the afternoon, and went back out at sunset. Any longer and we would have traveled to some of the more remote temples by car. Those are on my wish list for the next visit.
We wrapped up the trip with our last tuk tuk trip to the airport. A smile on our faces and a thousand pictures in the camera.