Visiting Cambodia’s second largest city
“The Cambodian people are marking two decades of peace and wasting no time in celebrating and sharing their culture. It is this spirit that leaves an indelible imprint on the soul”. This quote really resonated with my Mum and I when travelling Cambodia in January 2019. At the time of writing, my Uncle came to Chiang Mai and subsequently visited Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Therefore, I could offer him some insight as he had never been to Cambodia.
Day 1: First Impressions of Siem Reap
Arriving at the modern looking airport, we passed immigration swiftly with our prepaid E-Visas. We could have been forgiven for thinking that the country was developing as quickly as Thailand. Yet as we observed the city suburbs from our Grab taxi, we were struck by the comparably under developed infrastructure. We stayed at Palm Garden Lodge which was a basic yet endearing hostel just outside the city centre. At night we discovered ‘pub street’, heavily frequented by tourists, and several night markets including Siem Reap Art Center. Sampling local cuisine and Angkor Beer, the atmosphere was vibrant and welcoming with many interesting places to explore. We organised an Angkor Wat through the hostel for the following morning. The tour would give us a very friendly Tuk Tuk driver and guide.
Day 2: Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat’s spectacular nature, history and size is hard to put into words. The time it must have taken to construct the temples, when technology was far inferior, is hard to fathom. No surprise Angkor Wat is a former wonder of the world. Likewise, the fact that the complex spans a 40km radius is pretty mind blowing. The experience was fantastic; we witnessed the pagodas, stupas and famous gateway approach of Angkor Wat. In addition, we visited Ta Prohm, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Preah Ngok and other major temples. We opted for the one day tour, which I highly recommed, due to time constraints. However, you can choose a three day tour for more extensive exploration of the site. Once returning to the city, our day concluded with dinner at the market along the river.
Day 3: Temple visits
Our final hours were spent at Wat Damnak, Wat Preah Prom Rath and Wat Bo. The temples were some of the most ornate and enlightening I had witnessed to date. Moreover, the temples act as schools, an invaluable part of the education for young Cambodians. Reflecting on the trip, I realise that there is a staggering amount of history in Cambodia, much of which is heartbreaking. I feel particularly blessed to have been able to visit in the modern time. From Siem Reap we flew to Hanoi for the next leg of our trip.