2. Siem Reap – Empire Ruins and the Necessity of Coathangers

We whizzed from Bangkok to Siem Reap on a hastily booked AirAsia flight and we step off of the plane into Cambodia’s intense heat. It slaps our faces as we stumble in front of a council of old men who grant us our visas and receiving the official go-ahead, we enter the country. Outside we are greeted by our hostel’s tuk tuk driver and soon we effortlessly merge with other tuk tuks on the dusty roads heading toward our hostel.

Arriving in front of the small unassuming building, we are shown a clean and secure room, despite a metal coat hanger being necessary for the electricity to be on.

Siem Reap (23)Trusty coathanger

Eager to orientate ourselves with the town, we set out to wander through the Old Market, where we compressed our English sensibilities to attempt haggling, and Pub Street, a very self-explanatory road.

Liz was on her medication (anti-malarials) which turned her stomach, so cue me eating like a pig in front of her. I tried the Khmer dish Lok Lak, beef in a tasty sauce with rice and salad, as well as the traditional Amok dishes.

The following day saw us up at 5am to watch the sun rise at Angkor Wat. Joining a surprisingly long queue of bleary eyed travellers, we got our ticket (a steep $20) and was soon standing in front of the magnificence of Angkor Wat. People set up cameras, while we nibbled on a brioche loaf we bought for breakfast (we often got hungry).

After watching the sun climb above the temple, we set off to explore it, wandering through golden lit courtyards and mural clad passageways. Every inch of the site was steeped in history, too much to squeeze into a summary, but it took 37 years to complete and was witness to the Khmer Empire for much of the ninth to the fifteenth century.

We visited several other sites, including Takeo, which was super fun with the steepest steps I have ever climbed.

Takeo (5)

Liz struggling down Takeo

The stairs in Angkor Wat were built to be difficult to mirror heaven’s stairways, yet they were nothing compared to these ones. We even had to crawl at some points.

In complete contrast was the tiny and quaint (if an ancient temple can be described as such) Preah Khan. Brilliant if you want to enjoy the history without the almost constant cloud of visitors surrounding you in the bigger sites. Bayon in Angkor Thom was lovely as well, with beautiful face carvings. Yet my favourite has to be Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple), with its gnarly trees sitting amongst the temple ruins.

We had seen everything by 10am (we don’t mess around) and returned to our hostel to wash the dust off us before going out to enjoy Pub Street once again.

Siem Reap (21)

Liz enjoying Pub Street

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