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Siem Reap

The journey to Siem Reap from Don Det was not the best experience we could have hoped for - lots of unnecessary waiting before we get going and on several stops underway. The bus was also supposed to be direct but we had to change twice - not counting the first change after only ten minutes because there was something wrong with the first bus we got onto. There were much complaining amongst our fellow tourists, and sometimes so much so that there were shouting involved - with these journeys though you know what situation you're in and how they try to delay the journey so that you pick their choice of hotel for the night as it's too much hassle to try to find one yourself when you arrive late at night. What I don't understand is why make it worse by stressing about it - we'll get there in the end, although several hours delayed, and there isn't really a problem to find a place to stay as the hotels always have someone sleeping in reception ready to check in new guests when arriving well into the small hours - it's just a question of ringing the bell and wake them up.

We didn't have a booking for a place to stay and just chanced it with a guest house suggested by the Lonely Planet and that had great reviews on Tripadvisor as well. The place we picked was called Happy Guest House and we were in luck to find someone was still awake in the reception, and they had a room free. Unfortunately the room was only available for the one night. Happy Guest House is exactly that and I can recommend it if you're in Siem Reap. The next morning - as there had been no cancellations - they recommended the guest house next door for us, and after exploring our other options we followed their advice and were not disappointed. It's called Prohm Roth Inn, and we got a lovely large room on the top floor, with a little bit of view, and it had a lovely hot shower as well.

The town centre of Siem Reap is not too much to be desired unless you're a binge-drinking lout with more money than sense - it's become too commercialised and tacky. With the main strip called Pub Street you can guess without going there it's not the place to experience traditional Cambodian food and culture. I can understand why Hannah didn't like the town any more (she went here seven years ago). There are still some nice places left in Siem Reap though, you just have to go outside of the main strip to find the gems that are still left.

[caption id="attachment_1652" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Butterflies Garden Restaurant, Siem Reap. Butterflies Garden Restaurant, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1653" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1654" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Local shop and gas station off the beaten track in Siem Reap. Local shop and gas station off the beaten track in Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1655" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1657" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1656" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1658" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ostrich ready for the Cambodian Barbeque, Siem Reap. Ostrich ready for the Cambodian Barbeque, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1659" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1662" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Wat Thmei, Siem Reap. Wat Thmei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1663" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Wat Thmei, Siem Reap. Wat Thmei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1664" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Wat Thmei, Siem Reap. Wat Thmei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1661" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1665" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Siem Reap. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1660" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap. Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1666" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap. Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1667" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap. Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1668" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap. Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1669" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap. Memorial Graveyard commemorating 8836 men and women who died for their region, country and kingdom. Siem Reap.[/caption]

Ankhor Wat, as it turns out, is a bit of a circus and although the site is immensely impressive exploring it like a sardine in a tin is not the ideal way of experiencing it. Didn't help that when I arrived in the pitch black of morning before sunrise I was turned away by the guards and had to cycle back to the one and only ticket office of the whole site - it would be great if the guide would have told me there is only the one ticket office. There are several roads leading into Ankhor Wat and it would be good to be told which one to approach the site by in order to enter without having to peddle like a madman in a 8 kilometre loop to get the ticket and get into Ankhor in time for the sunrise. This set me off in a really foul mood for most of the morning, added to this was the fact that the front of Ankhor Wat was covered in scaffolding and green tarpaulin, and beyond anyone's control the sunrise was very dull that day. I had to concentrate hard on enjoying the monuments rather than dwelling on the fact that it was a stressful and disappointing start of the day. Even from early on in the morning the site was really crowded, but it wasn't too bad as I wandered around inside Ankhor Wat itself. When I later moved onto the Ta Prohm though it really became a circus - this temple is particularly famous because it was used as a location when filming Tomb Raider. This is where I learnt how it must feel to be a tinned sardine. People were either pushing through like they own the place, or weren't moving at all and blocking the access for everybody else.

Don't get me wrong though, the site is absolutely awe-inspiring and definitely worth visiting. It would of course have been better if I had more time to spend exploring the area, and not just the one day... I would in hindsight (and if I had time for it) maybe spread it over quite a few days and concentrate on going to the most popular ones as dawn breaks, and then fit one or two smaller sites in afters - then head back for lunch and maybe relax in the guest house or by a pool in the afternoon. Over a few days you can then see all the best known and busy sights without so much crowding and stress.

Also, all this traffic must be damaging to the site in the long run - there might be an idea to have a certain quota of how many people can visit the area per day to make sure the monuments don't get damaged.

[caption id="attachment_1670" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1700" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1701" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1702" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1703" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1704" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1705" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1706" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1707" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1708" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1709" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1710" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1711" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1671" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1672" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1673" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1674" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1675" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1676" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1677" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap. Banteay Kdei, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1678" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1679" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1680" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1681" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1682" align="aligncenter" width="527"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1684" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1685" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Ta Prohm, Siem Reap. Ta Prohm, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1686" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Thommanon, Siem Reap. Thommanon, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1687" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Thommanon, Siem Reap. Thommanon, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1688" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Thommanon, Siem Reap. Thommanon, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1689" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Victory Gate to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Victory Gate to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1690" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Near Elephants Terrace in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Near Elephants Terrace in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1691" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1692" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1693" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1694" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1695" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1696" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. Prasat Preah Palilay in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1697" align="aligncenter" width="545"]South Gate Bridge to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. South Gate Bridge to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1698" align="aligncenter" width="545"]South Gate Bridge to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. South Gate Bridge to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1699" align="aligncenter" width="533"]South Gate Bridge to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap. South Gate Bridge to Angkor Thom, Siem Reap.[/caption]

We also wanted to visit the Landmine Museum, but to our surprise it's been moved 25km out of town and the tuc-tuc drivers was asking too much for taking us there.

Next stop is Battambang, a town known for its remains of French colonial architecture. It's a fairly quick journey to get there and we arrange for a bus with Happy Guest House as they quote us the best price. A semi early start meant we didn't have time for a breakfast before heading off, but if the bus-company was a bit better organised we could have left about an hour and a half later... We get picked up and driven around in circles to pick more people up before we get transferred to a large bus. The bus then goes out to a bus depot about 20 minutes outside of Siem Reap. Here we again change to another bus that takes us back to the centre of Siem Reap, passing the street where we were staying and even passing the place where we transferred to the previous bus. It then circles around town for a bit longer - have no idea why as it's not stopping anywhere to pick up more people... After all this we're finally on our way to Battambang.