Siem Reap, Cambodia
February 19 – 24, 2016
It’s dark. I can hear the sounds of the geckos but I’m ok with them because I’m secretly hoping they eat all of the mosquitoes. My alarm is going off, edging me to get up before the sun. I put on my clothes with my eyes barely open and then throw myself into the car. As we’re driving across the bridge towards the Bayon Temple through the gateway to Angkor Thom, the headlights shine upon what looks like monstrous faces in the dark guarding the sacred temple gates. Its still dark out but our driver drops us off anyway, so we begin to explore the 12th century temple in darkness. I end up losing my friends and find myself alone. Every corner I turn, I’m frightened by another stonewalled face. There are faces everywhere but the adult in me encourages me to power through. I’m still scared and I’m only calmed when dawn arrives. I start to see the once monstrous faces of the dark turn into beautiful sculptures and works of art.
Welcome to the Angkor Temples! The ruins of the ancient Angkorian capital cities of the Khmer Empire (9-13th century AD). I was fortunate to have spent five days in Siem Reap, Cambodia this past February exploring the old temple ruins of Angkor. Along with two friends of mine, we started our days early enough to see the sunrise over Baylon and Angkor Wat, took an afternoon break from the heat and tourists, then watched the sunset from both Angkor Wat and the Pre Rup Temple.
There are so many temples to see that even a 3-day pass isn’t enough to see them all. We visited the following:
- Angkor Wat – the centerpiece of Angkor
- Banteay Srey – Citadel of Women known for some of the most beautiful carvings in Angkor.
- Baphuon – the reclining Buddha on the west side is a must-see (if you can find it)
- Bayon – the Temple of Faces located in Angkor Thom “the great city”
- Prasat Suor Prat – towers facing the Terrace of the Elephants
- Pre Rup – great place to watch the sunset
- North Khleang
- Ta Prohm – also known as the jungle temple because of the trees that have grown in and through the temple
- Terrance of the Elephants
- Terrace of the Leper King
- Temple Guide
Now our oasis, Frangipani Villa Hotel. After 4 hours of temple exploring in the morning, we’d come back to our hotel in time for breakfast, a mid-afternoon nap, and to escape the heat by relaxing in the pool or by getting a massage. The service at Frangipani is exceptional – the staff is friendly, kind, and will go out of their way to help you. It’s located in the main city so it is convenient to walk around but just across the river so you are far enough from Pub Street.
Getting around – tuk tuks and Mr. Lucky’s Car Service. Tuk tuks around the main city area cost $2-3 and Mr. Lucky’s car service to/from the temples cost about $11-13/per person per day – not bad for your own private driver who is willing to pick you up at 4:30am in an air-conditioned car so you don’t have to inhale the burning ashes of the trash being burned around you. Mr. Lucky also has a kind, gentle soul so listening to his stories gave me perspective and reminded me the importance of humility.
A Few Places to Eat
- Frangipani Villa & Restaurant – the food at our hotel was probably the best Cambodian food I had while in Siem Reap
- FCC Angkor – go for happy hour and have a drink in a colonial style atmosphere
- Paris Saigon – delicious French Vietnamese food that’s better than some restaurants in Paris itself!