I wasn’t supposed to travel to Cambodia, not this time. For a whole month I planned a trip to Vietnam – Hanoi and the North – but an increase in the price of the flights and a tight schedule made me change my destination on the very last second, to Siem Reap in Cambodia.
First glimpse of Cambodia
So there I was for a short four-day trip with zero expectations and to be honest slightly nervous about the fact that this was the peak of monsoon season in Cambodia but at the same time excited to see a place that I never expected or planned to visit. It’s an old story, right? No expectations, no planning but huge rewards. And so it was. During my four days in Cambodia I had an incredible time, met beautiful people and the most ironic thing of all…it almost didn’t rain!
Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta prohm.
The idea of visiting Angkor Wat was something that never crossed my mind, not before I came to Singapore. It’s one of those places that seem intangible, almost unreal, something from movies and old travel books. But the reality is that Cambodia and its Khmer Temples are becoming a mass tourism destination. A good indication of this was the amount of people queuing in front of Angkor Wat at 5.30 am! to watch the sunrise just behind the Monastery. Nevertheless the experience of seeing Angkor Wat being slowly revealed in the horizon was unforgettable.
The experience of seeing Angkor Wat being slowly revealed in the horizon was unforgettable.
Angkor Wat is an incredible experience. The place still feels a bit raw and there aren’t many restrictions when it comes to mobility and access to the different areas. There aren’t any signs and security guards in every corridor so we have this feeling of surprise, this permanent thing that something special is about to happen. And it does happen. Whether it’s a beautiful, unexpected game between light and shadows or a monk crossing the gallery or a little girl doing her homework sitting on the floor of the biggest religious structure in the world, you´re bound to see something special. Personally this was even better than watching the sunrise. All my senses were flowing and I felt nothing but pure joy.
The other two temples that are part of the ‘small tour’, Bayon and Ta Phrom, are very distinct from Angkor in size and structure but they still retain that same mysticism that can be found in Angkor Wat. Bayon is characterized by the narrow corridors, small galleries and the statues with smiley faces. Ta Phrom is an incredible place as well with its ancient trees that embrace entire man-made structures.
The Old Market (Psar Chas)
The Old Market is located in the heart of Siem Reap just between the river and the infamous Pub Street. It is worth the visit but keep in mind that it can be quite a visceral experience. There are three distinct sections – the souvenirs shops where you can find all sorts of things from t-shirts to small replicas of the temples, the food stalls that serve typical local meals and the wet market. The wet market can be quite an experience…
Kampong Phluk is a fishing village by the lake Tonlé Sap that is partially immersed during the ´wet season’. It takes around one hour and half to get there – tuk-tuk plus a boat – but it is worth it. There are closer villages to Siem Reap but they lack in authenticity due to the amount of visitors.
Wet Season in Cambodia lasts around six months which means that schools, temples and churches, markets and shops are all reachable by boat only, no side walks or paths, just water. It is really remarkable.
Fisherwoman by the lake Tonlé Sap
A final note to some of the amazing people who I met during this four days.
From all the staff at the Hotel, which I highly recommend ( Chronicle Angkor Hotel ), that really made me feel at home and help me organize my days, to Mr. Seng, the Tuk Tuk driver that drove me around the entire time and to all those people that I briefly met and talked with in restaurants, shops, markets or even on the streets – Thank you very much!
Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and The Khmers
- Daily flights from Singapore with Silkair
- 40 USD night on a double room with breakfast (on low season)
- Visa on arrival – 30 USD + 2USD for a photo (you can bring your own mugshot)
- One day pass for Angkor visit – 37 USD
- Tip is usually expected but some restaurants already include the tip in the bill
- USD are accepted everywhere.
- Mosquito repellent, A MUST!
Fujinon xf 35mmf2