As always, the bus through from 4000 Islands in Laos down through half of Cambodia is pretty horrendous, definitely in the top ten of worst trips. We won’t bore you with the details, it’s always the same story. But arriving was a rather more pleasant experience.
Siem Reap is well set up for tourism, plenty of cheap basic hostels, but also a few a bit more catered for the party tourist. Mad Monkey is a perfect example of this, with a great bar up on the roof, a pool and a few extras as well, including a multi-story beer bong and the Grenade scoreboard. This is your early bar, before heading out to the famous ‘Pub Street‘ to get food or get messy. The road has plenty to choose from, but as the night progresses the focus comes down to two bars on opposite sides of the road, battling it out to play the best tunes (or at least the loudest) As they don’t mind you wandering in the street, it’s easy enough to get a drink from either bar, then just stand on the side with the best music. These are the last places open, and one is course called ‘Angkor What?‘.
The drinking isn’t the main draw of Siem Reap though, the ancient ruins of Angkor are. With nearly a dozen different temples to explore there’s loads to see and plenty to do each day. The first day we explored on rented bikes, a very pleasant way to experience the Angkor Wat area, which is the closest, although still a good 20/30 minute ride from the town.Be careful in the heat, make sure you stay hydrated! That first day we say the Bayon, Terrace of Elephants and Buffalo temples, saving the bigger ones for the next day when we decided a tuk-tuk would be the better option.
While cycling we happened to see the original Batman Tuk-tuk (according to CNN at least, beware of imposters!), so knowing what our group would think, we had to book him for the next morning. And at 5am he picked us up to check out Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the area to watch he sunrise over the spires and walls. We had a good day for it, and soon after we arrived the pink glow of the sun started to halo the temple, giving us some wonderful photo opportunities, unfortunately, our GoPro and it’s scratched lens were not the ideal tool, but we still got some pics and the experience was pretty epic.Before the crowds started shifting we made our way inside the temple to explore in the new light. It’s certainly big, and a good look around takes a while, so don’t worry about seeing everything here, it repeats rather a lot.
The next stop was Ta Promh, well known as the temple used in the Tomb Raider movie. This one is really crawling in tourists, so getting clear photos is a challenge, but be patient and you’ll be rewarded.Perhaps later in the day, or first thing while people are still at Angkor Wat you may find it a little more peaceful. This site is really quite magical, even with the major works going on, there’s plenty places of tranquility hidden away. The way nature has taken over the temple is what makes it so special, huge trees going up and over the walls, massive roots running along the top of ledges before finding their way through the rocks into the ground. It’s something that really is un-missable.
Continued in Part:2