SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
02/16/2015 - 02/19/2015
In case you are not familiar, the main draw for travelers to Siem Reap is to witness the magnificent ancient temples that make up Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, the world's largest religious monument. Our first morning there we decided to wake up at 4:30am and head over to the main temple, Angkor Wat, to watch the sunrise.
It was pitch dark and we hadn't had a chance to explore the area really yet so our tuk tuk ride was a bit exhilarating taking us to this long awaited temple not fully knowing where we were or what to expect. We walked in the dark guided by our mini flashlights, while others fell to the ground (seriously, a lady ate shit within minutes of walking in) and crowded in with the others in the main pond area to await the rising sun. Jon had done some research prior to our visit to figure out the best place to stand for pictures (left side of the pond facing Angkor Wat) and we were definitely right in our placement.
The sunrise was everything it had been hyped up to be and because of the beauty, it does draw in a ton of tourists making it also very crowded. I popped in my earphones and played some of my favorite chilled out songs to drown out the crowd of balking older asian ladies and in turn, it was one of the most peaceful moments I've had all trip. Watching the temple come to form with the rising sun, was truly awe-inspiring to the point that it brought tears to my eyes. I wasn't sure why the moment evoked such a strong physical reaction but it was truly something I will never forget.
We spent the rest of the morning wandering inside the temple and over to the other nearby temple, Bayon which is made up of thousands of faces carved into the stones. Eventually the lack of sleep, hunger and increasing heat took over and I had a bit of a temple tantrum where I wanted to go back to the hotel real bad. The next day was a lot better to explore the temples since we were fully rested and I was well fed.
One of the cooler temples was one called Ta Prohm which is known as the "Tomb Raider Temple" for being featured in the movie. It was crazy to see how the jungle had taken over the temple and it was a gentle reminder of how strong Mother Nature really is. Afterwards, Jon and I found a smaller temple that I don't even remember the name of but it was a great experience since we were basically alone exploring which was a welcomed change of pace from the crowds of the main attractions.
There is a much larger backpacker nightlife scene in Siem Reap than Hoi An where they actually have a street named Pub Street with a ton of bars and restaurants and clubs. My favorite part was definitely the $2 30 minute foot/leg massages on the streets where you get to drink a beer, get your feet/legs rubbed down and do some serious people watching on the street.
Despite the amazing temples and cheap massages, Cambodia was definitely an experience I've never had before. It was the most 3rd world country that I've ever been in. Little kid beggers are constantly hounding you which is heart breaking and outside of the backpacker area you can really see how super poor the area is.
Unfortunately, in Cambodia marks the beginning of my first experience with travel food poisoning from poor water and food. I spent no joke about 30 of the 50 minute plane ride from Siem Reap to Saigon in the airplane bathroom including the take off where I got yelled at by the crew but then was allowed into the bathroom when they saw my panic. No more details are needed for that