It’s been a month since I *secretly* traveled to Cambodia. I am lazy with my posts, but better late than never.
2017 had been a shit show for me. Have you heard of the quote “every recall is a re-frame”? It means that every time you recall a memory, you modify something about it, based on the mood that you are currently in, before putting it back into your brain noodle. So, if you think about your darkest times when you are happy, you could possibly make that shitty memory a little bit better. I am no psychologist but I didn’t want to remember 2017 the way it was, I guess. It has always been good for me to do something crazy once in a while. And visiting this place has put me in a good mood for a month.
Anyway, never have I been so excited for my birthday. I wanted it to be memorable and so bought the tickets to Siem Reap couple of months back. Temples, pubs, street food and friendly people all around, I was completely blown away by the experience!
Day one – I arrived late in the evening and wanted to get a feel of the streets. It was an interesting night. Right outside my hotel, I met a confused guy from Netherlands who was looking for the owner of a phone he just found lying outside. We walked the streets, called the numbers in the phone. He told me he has been travelling for four months now. He works for a year, quits his job and travels for months. Rinse and repeat. That’s his gig. We met the owner, gave back the phone and searched the streets for cheap food. Talked an hour over dinner – life, politics and Trump, split the bill (dutched, ha ha). I had my cigarette and we split.
Back to the streets of Siem Reap – honestly, the place has more tourists than natives. There is so much activity going on – pub street! and night markets. Tourism seems to be the main economy over there. And US dollars are the main currency – everything you can eat or buy is in USD.
Days two & three – Angkor
I was dumb enough to not check the weather before buying tickets. But as luck would have it, december is the perfect time to visit cambodia. The weather was just perfect – not hot or cold. The skies perfectly blue with very little clouds.
Holy crap, the Angkor complex is huge. There are dozens of temples spread kilometers away. It’s not a good idea to try walking between temples unless you have a 50K step fitness goal.
I was about to get one of my own tuk-tuks to get me around the place for the day. But ended up sharing one with a German woman ($9 each). But on day three, decided to rent a green e-bike ($10/day), so that I could travel solo. The bike makes no sound and maxes out at a speed of 25kmph. I was also able to ride the bike inside the temple and skip the hundred meters or so of walking between each temple and its entrance.
All these temples are essentially pyramids – millions of rocks cut from a nearby mountain, transported through a river and perfectly laid out to construct these temples, thousand years ago. They look like temples from Indiana Jones & Tomb Raider. I did not get a guide but I stopped a couple of minutes to read about each temple before exploring myself. The internet is cheap here – I got a 3G SIM for $3 for unlimited internet for a week.
Some of the best temples I visited – Ta Prohm a.k.a the Tomb Raider temple, Angkor wat, Banteay kdei, Banteay srei, Baphuon, Bayon (so many faces!), neak pean (on an artificial island), preah khan, pre rup.
I was born a hindu. I could identify quite a few of the statues and bas-reliefs here, as they are about hindu gods (Shiva, Vishnu) and hindu mythology (the vali-sugreeva fight, the whole churning of ocean of milk episode), which was fascinating to me.
Lots of touristy things – I did the big circuit of the temples, as it is called. I did the world famous Angkor wat sunrise and sunset. The Angkor wat sunrise – man, it’s really worth it, so I did it twice.
Here are some of my expertly taken photos hiding the dozens of tourists behind me.
Day four – Phnom kulen
I hired a cab as this place is more than an hour outside Siem Reap and can’t be reached with a tuk tuk. I really enjoyed the nature as we drove to the top of the mountain and the waterfall up there is fantastic. The thousand lingas carved on the river bed, the huge sleeping Buddha and the religious music are also A+.
Day five – slept till noon and woke up to catch my flight back home 😦
About my nights in Siem Reap – Khmer cuisine is amazing. I tried all the street food and cheap local restaurants except bugs cafe where they literally serve bugs (no, thank you). I heard about the weed pizza place but didn’t want to take the risk. Walked the pub street, drank a few beers and met few backpackers from Turkey and Indian-Malaysians. I was running around the temples like a kid all day, that I was usually very tired by the end of the day.
Siem Reap was an amazing experience, more than what I expected. What a time to be alive.
If you are reading this post because you are thinking about travelling to Siem Reap, my advice to you: Just do it, even if you are an introvert like me. This place is as safe as it can get. There are tons of tourists and a lot of hostels. It’s cheap for a foreign travel, but really not as cheap as I thought. I payed $60 for the three day pass to the temples. Expect to pay $2-$5 per meal. Try to spend at least four days and don’t rush through the temples. Expect to do a lot of walking. And don’t forget to visit Phnom Kulen.