Cambodia – Siem Reap

It’s been 2 ½ months since we returned from our trip and as we get caught up in the everyday routine of our life, our time in Southeast Asia seems like a distant memory. But as I look through the pictures, I am reminded of walking through insanely hot and humid streets in Bangkok and Cambodia, enjoying the beaches in Indonesia, eating spicy foods and meeting many lovely people along the way.

When planning our trip to Cambodia we considered traveling to Pnohm Penh, the Battambang province and a couple other places on the Lonely Planet Top 10 list. But decided instead to spend a week in Siem Reap. We booked a condo that had all the amenities of the western world, was a quick tuk tuk ride into town and the Pub Street area.

 

17th Feb- 24th Feb

We arranged for a car and driver to pick us up at the airport through our Airbnb rental. As planned our driver found us, stopped at a grocery store on the way to our condo and also convinced us to go see an ‘Apsara’ dance that evening. It was a buffet dinner with some familiar and some traditional Khmer foods. The dance and music was enjoyable though a bit of a let-down after the high energy Sri Lankan dance. The next day was a day to catch up on homeschooling and enjoy the refreshing pool right outside the condo.

Our driver and guide met us in the morning and we drove to the Angkor complex. The day was packed with visits to some of the main sites in the area; Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm, and Angkor Wat. Our guide explained a lot about the history of the temples and the different kings (King Jayavarman, King Suryavarman etc) who built each of the temples, some in Hindu style, some Buddhist style (Mahayana and Theravada) and some where the Buddhist statues and sculptures were torn down or altered to look like Hindu ascetics and in other cases it was vice versa. Bayon temple was in fairly good shape and had many large heads adorning the different entryways and levels of the temple.

Ta Prohm was built as a monastery and left largely untouched by humans after the fall of Khmer civilization in 17th century until the 21st century. Over the years it has become part of the jungle with large trees now growing through the structure.

Lunch was a quick stop for rice, noodles and curry after which we went to Angkor Wat. The main Angkor temple is impressive no doubt, considering it was built in the 12th century. But all the superlatives we had read about it before visiting might have led us to expect something a bit more majestic. The temple is designed to look like the home of Hindu Gods in the heavens and is surrounded by a large moat. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and in addition to the towers in the center there are long galleries on the inside with some very detailed bas reliefs depicting stories from the Mahabharata. We all got a refresher on Hindu mythology from our guide as he patiently explained the details of many of the images and sculptures we saw. By this point with the heat, exhaustion and the large amounts of background knowledge and history of the Khmer civilization imparted by our guide Rohan and Ashna looked like they would wither away. Our guide offered that we return to view sunset by the Angkor, but also convinced us that a view of the sunrise the next day would be more interesting. So we decided to call it a day and head back to our condo.

After a 5 AM wake up and a ride back to Angkor in the dark, sunrise was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps sunset at Angkor might have been more interesting, we’ll never know!! After the sun had risen and we’d taken a few customary pictures we got breakfast at a nearby restaurant and headed to many more neighboring temples namely Preah Khan (Kings fathers tomb) , Neak Pean (Royal hospital), Ta Som (tomb of the King’s tutors), East Mebon and Pre Rup.

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It was another long day visiting temples and after seeing enough of them we decided we had earned family foot massages in town. These foot massages were much needed and very relaxing (and a bit ticklish for Ashna). Massages were followed by dinner on Pub Street that had many choices from Mexican and Italian to specialty vegetarian restaurants too! The next day was a rest day with time spent homeschooling and at the pool.

With two more full sightseeing days in Siem Reap we decided to visit Chong Kneas Floating village and Beng Malea temple on Monday. On Tuesday we went to Kbal Spean which required a mile walk to the top of a mountain and Banteay Srei temple.

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