Asia / Cambodia / My Travels

Siem Reap: A Heart of Love

“Cultivate a heart of love that knows no anger.” – Cambodian Proverb

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Ankor Wat | 2009

I visited Siem Reap twice in 2009 when I was still living in Singapore. My first visit was just a last minute decision for my friend Monalee and I because we only planned to visit Bangkok at that time. It was Chinese New Year break in Singapore, and we have a week to spend, so we thought to include Siem Reap in our itinerary because I have read from other travel blogs that it is possible to go there from Bangkok by a sleeper train.

My second visit was latter part of that same year. My highschool bestfriends, Ann and Techie, invited me to join them, as this is very rare to happen, I joined them with my sister and nephew!

See a separate entry of my second visit HERE.

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Me and my backpack at the Thailand-Cambodia border in 2009.

I have always wanted to visit Ankor Wat but it was never on my travel bucketlist was never my priority because I took it for granted for being so close to Singapore where I was based at that time. I have watched documentaries about it (and of course films like The Killing Fields and Tomb Raider) and find it interesting but that’s just it.

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Victims of the war.

However, I am very happy that I visited it already in 2009 when it was still not a popular destination for many tourists as today, because from the feedback I am hearing lately who just visited it recently, it seems like it is becoming a “nightmare” for every visitor. It’s just so sad how tourism have corrupted the minds of the local opportunists. They often rip-off tourists now and worst is the quality of services are degrading too. I loved their food and it was very cheap from what I remember, but it’s so different now from what I am hearing from recent visitors.

Despite all that, I still believe that experiencing Ankor Wat will still be the same as before. I have visited several temples in different places already but nothing can top the temples I’ve seen in Ankor Wat! It was truly a fantastic place every traveler must see.

Back in 2009, I have heard and read about backpackers going to Siem Reap from Bangkok via train or bus, so my friend and I planned our very first “backpacking” experience from Bangkok to Siem Reap. I am glad that we have done this because the next backpacking trips I had after this were all seemed easy and convenient.

For more info about traveling to Siem Reap from Bangkok by LAND, CLICK HERE.

We only visited Ankor Archaeological Park in our 3 days stay there, and of course the Night Market and Pub Street at night.

We maximise our itinerary at Ankor Archaeological Park by just visiting wats that interests us. It’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and a without doubt one of the most amazing creation that ancient people have ever done.

I was totally stunned, and for lack of better words, it really is so great! I have studied this in our history of arts and architecture, but seeing it with my naked eye was a wonderful experience. I always tell people that if you are a strong believer of “aliens” you might say that this is done by them haha!

Here are the areas/wats we’ve only visited:

1. Ankor Wat – the grandest temple of all. We visited this during sunrise.

Before sunrise...

Before sunrise…

2. Ankor Thom – the ancient capital where you can find the following:

Bayon – has 216 stone facesIMG_7248
Baphuon – the largest and grandest in AnkorIMG_1609
The Elephant Terrace
(visited on my 2nd trip, click HERE)

The Terrace of the Leper King (visited on my 2nd trip, click HERE)

Banteay Kdei  (visited on my 2nd trip, click HERE)

Ta Phrom – very famous because of the film Tomb Raider! It’s beauty lies in the fig trees intertwined with the stone temple.

Sras Srang – a terrace across Banteay KdeiIMG_7350
Banteay Srei – we took tuktuk to get here, it’s about 30+kms from Ankor Wat, it’s worth a visit because of its more intricate details on red stones.

Kbal Spean – my favorite because these are ruins found at river beds located after trekking around 1.5km through the rain forest

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In 2008, hotels then are still very cheap, around $40-80 a night is already living lavishly. We stayed at Ivy Guesthouse which is around $8 per room only! It’s within downtown and cozy.

Food and drinks back then are also very cheap! Food for normal yet authentic restos ranges from $3-$5 per meal, drinks around $0.75 even the draft beers!


The most common complain I am hearing lately is hiring tuktuks and taxis. Back then, tuktuks around downtown was only around $2 per head. Hiring tuktuk going around Ankor Wat Archeological Park for one day (5:00am – 5:00pm) is $15 per head. You may need to hire taxi going to other attractions outside Ankor Wat (like Tonley Sap Lake, Hidden Waterfalls, Kbal Spean River, Chong Kreas Floating Village, Killing Fields, Kampung Khleang, Phnom Bakhen, etc) which is around $60 for one cab.

Petrol station!

Petrol station!

Whilst reading my old blog for visiting Ankor Wat in 2008, I have predicted when I wrote that once this place developed more and become more popular destination, it will become expensive to go there. Maybe that is what’s happening now, but the thing is, recent visitors complain because it is too expensive for what you are getting.

At first, I thought they are just being fussy tourists. But the more disappointed feedbacks I hear from different types of traveller, the more I am convinced that perhaps the locals have really changed and it’s just a sad truth to accept. But then I realised, I have been to a lot of places (and some at my own country!) where they ripped me off, scammed me, or even terrified me at their airport, but did it spoil the whole experience I had there? No.

If I loved any tiny bit of experience I had in one place, I would not rob anyone’s dream to see that place too. After all, I was once a dreamer too. Maybe what happened to me may not happen to them. It’s okay to rant sometimes and I’m just human too not to feel any anger in my heart. But the least I can do is to keep that “anger” within myself, and just spread the heart of love.

So go and visit Siem Reap too!

Aris (a volunteer there), Vedrana (new found friend we met at the border), my friend Monalee and I drinking our cheapest Sambucca worth 75cents per shot!

Aris (a friend who volunteers there), Vedrana (a friend we first met at the border), my friend Monalee and I, drinking our cheapest Sambucca worth 75cents per shot!

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Siem Reap: A Heart of Love

  1. Pingback: Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, & The Sacred Valley: The World Is More Beautiful | heart & sole

  2. Pingback: Lima – Miraflores, Downtown, & Barranco: Family Love | heart & sole

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