It's strange to realise that our adventure has finally started. After 2 quick nights in KL we are now in Siem Reap, the biggest tourist destination in Cambodia, thanks to Angkor Wat. We had only booked a hotel for 3 nights but quickly decided to extend to a total of 8 nights. We plan to spend a month in Cambodia but haven't yet made any plans. With time we will hopefully settle into this new travelling life and realise it's not a 2 week holiday where you have to see all the sights and relax in a hurry.
The temples of Angkor Wat are spread over a huge area. We were lucky to catch 2 programs on SBS just before leaving Perth that gave a good overview. The temples really are awe-inspiring. Some have been partly restored so you get an idea of what it would have looked like originally, however a lot of the charm lies in their crumbled state and in the way the buildings fuse with the jungle.
Even with 100s of other tourists you still have a sense of discovery. Most of the temples were found by French explorers in the early 1900s however recently they've made many new discoveries. It's easy to imagine the ruins completely overgrown and the archaeologists' excitement when coming across them as they have such an Indiana Jones "Temple of Doom" look about them.
We enjoyed making our own way around the sites without a guide. We just bought a 3 day ticket and organised a tuk tuk to drive us. The first 2 days we spent in the central area which includes the main Angkor Wat temple and 2 of the largest temples, Bayon and Baphuon. Each temple is a bit different but after 2 days we were happy that the ticket was valid for a week so we could have a break. The whole area is busy with stalls and street side vendors and although some of the vendors can be a bit persistent it still added to the overall experience. We also enjoyed chatting to our tuk tuk driver who was only too happy to talk about daily life in Cambodia.
On the third day we drove to Banteay Srei which is located 37k north of Siem Reap. This smaller temple is beautifully decorated with delicate carvings ...
and it was a lovely drive by tuk tuk through wooded areas passing small villages, giving us a glimpse of more rural life around Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is laid back but still big enough to offer everything. It attracts 2.5m visitors a year - a mix of backpackers who make the most of Pub Street in the centre and more mature travellers of all nationalities who are mainly here for the temples. I guess we fall somewhere in between - we enjoy staying in the hustle and bustle of the centre with the sound of the late-night Karaoke, even if we don't plan to join in.
We are city centre people even back home. Here we can hit the old market for bread and fruit, buy delicious fruit shakes from street vendors and take our lives in our hands crossing the road.
We have a couple more days to enjoy here before moving on....