Our journey from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia began early in the morning. We arrived at the bus terminal in Bangkok fresh off an overnight train from Chiang Mai. After seven hours on a bumpy bus, we headed through the Cambodian border bazaar (our passports were stamped with a satisfyingly ornate and official looking government seal), the bus flipped to drive on the other side of the road (they drive the British way in Thailand), and we were off. A few more hours we stepped off our transport into Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is a city in northern Cambodia that’s home to the ruins of Ancient Angkor, the crown jewel of the Khmer kingdom from the 9th - 15th centuries. Angkor is the Khmer representation of heaven on earth. There are thousands of temples in Angkor and its surrounding areas. Each one is unique in it’s design and setting.
You’ll have to hire a tuk tuk driver to take you around the temples, because they can be quite far from one another. We suggest doing a three day temple pass ($40), one day isn't enough! The one day pass is $20, so even if you end up only going two days it’s nice to have.
It’s best to get there early, especially for your first day. The typical tourist plan is to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat and continue on from there. While it can be a stunning view (if the weather’s right), there’s a massive amount of people at that one point and it’s not the most pleasant experience being smushed up with hoards of other strangers (see pic).
We moved on from the photo op to explore Angkor Wat, the most famous of the Angkor temples. It was built in the 12th century and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. Read more about Angkor Wat here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat )
On our first day temple exploring we stayed within the main circle of temples. Our favorites were Bayon, Angkor Thom and Neak Pean (see pics!)
Our second day was by far the most arduous. It was also one of the most exciting. It took us over an hour in a tuk tuk to get to Prasat Beng Mealea, but well worth the trip. Because it was on the outskirts, there were fewer people and it was unreal to be able to walk around and explore this amazing place. This was probably our favorite temple! Make the trip!
We took another 45 minute ride to Phnom Kulen National Park, where we hiked to a beautiful waterfall with ancient reliefs visible under the water.
Right close by was a nature conservation park, where we were able to view all sorts of monkeys, birds, and other animals native to the region.
Overall our experience in Siem Reap was lovely. The people we so kind and welcoming, and the temples are truly a world treasure. Visit before they rope everything off!