Siem Reap – or Sim Rip as the locals taught us

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.

If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet.

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,

The Reasey Boutique Villa view from our room

 

 

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.

Preah Kahn combined the roles of city, temple and Buddhist university: there were 97,840 attendants and servants, including 1,000 dancers and 1,000 teachers. Now it is more recognizable as a movie set. Sadly, I did not run into Laura Croft or Indiana Jones…

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.  

You can go just about anywhere and touch or climb on the ruins. 

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.   

You never know what is behind the door until you pass through it. My passage through this door was like a step back in time. Every corner revealing some hidden detail that represents the amazing skills and vision of the creators and builders. Now the struggle is between the jungle and the past – in some cases the jungle is winning.

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!

Watching sunsets around the world. Lining up with a few hundred of my fellow travelers to watch the sunset from #prerup. A Hindu temple dedicated to the god #shiva at #angkorwat used for funerals. The name translates to ‘turn the body’. This artificial island is no longer surrounded by water as it once was. Heavy prolonged drought and overdevelopment are believed to be the downfall of Angkor Wat. A steep hike up the temple steps gives a dramatic view for sunset. But I prefer to turn my back on the sunset and get the glowing orange stones.

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.

Hey look chicks on a scooter…

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.

An ancient hosptial, because a good soak can cure what ails you! Neak Pean was originally designed for medical purposes, the ancients believed that going into these pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease. Four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind. Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals (maha ajaneya pasu) namely Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion

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.

Wherever one wanders the faces follow… Bayon is a Khmer temple in Cambodia built in the late 12th century. This is the most striking expression of the baroque style with it’s many serene and smiling stone faces on the towers. The faces are believed to be a combination of King Jayavarman (the original builder) and Buddha – as he thought of himself as a god-king. Over 200 faces dominate the temple in various stages of restoration. From the original 49 towers, just 37 remain. The temple went back and forth between Buddhist and Hindu depending on the current ruler. Each ruler making modifications to the temple. The original giant seated Buddha in the inner chamber was smashed during the reign of Hindu. This temple was eventually abandoned to the jungle and restoration efforts began in the 20th century.

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.

A beautiful local woman who blessed me inside the temple and tied a bracelet on my wrist.

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