5 months ago, we celebrated Valentine’s Day exploring yet another foreign country new to the both of us. We were set for a 6-day trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. 🇰🇭
We were quite excited for this. We wanted to chill and relax, yet experience one of the greatest wonders of the world, Ankor Wat. However, it wasn’t as pleasant as we thought it would be -not because of the culture or people or whatever, but because of how unlucky SC was in Cambodia.
We biked around Siem Reap, amidst a couple of stories from other people that biking is a good idea but never a safe one for tourists. Truth be told, their motorcycles were worse than we expected, and the cars did not make way for biking tourists. Tuktuk drivers even find joy in seeing us struggle as they try to drive close.
It was on our first day that the heartbreaking thing happened. We were biking around town, site seeing and taking some pictures. On our way back to the hotel, there was an uneven part on the road, and for some strange reason, SC’s camera fell flat on the floor. Her Fujifilm XA-3, which was only a month old, fell hard on the concrete. The lens and body only had a few dents, thankfully. However, the lens adaptor/connector/whatever that is, broke. This means that even if they were still in relatively good condition, the camera was of no use anymore because the lens cannot be mounted to the body.
SC was devastated. The good thing, though, is that Cambodia sells gadgets more cheaply than in the Philippines (maybe the tax is not as high as here in the Phil?). With this, she bought new lens for only 10k (here it’s around 15-18k??). Still, she was really sad, for it was really new.
But we are not here to talk about sad memories. We are here to talk about our adventure! And so this post journals our tour of the Angkor Site, and how magnificent the place is!
Angkor Wat, the most popular Angkor temple, is situated within the Angkor Archaeological Site, along with a few other Angkor Temples. It was timely that upon our visit, they increased their ticket prices from $20 to $37 (Cambodia uses the US dollar currency in major tourist spots) for a one-day Angkor pass. It was sad for a matipid couple like us that the prices increased, but nonetheless it was still very cheap for a wonder of the world.
The Angkor pass can be bought in three types, depending on how long one wants to explore the Angkor temples. There are passes for a one-day, three-day, and five-day visit. As a matipid couple, we opted for a one-day pass, considering we really just wanted to see Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm (’cause the latter was where Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider was filmed).
To utilize our one-day pass, we followed tips from travel bloggers to buy the passes a day before. The thing is, tourists can buy tickets for the next day at around 4pm. Most people then utilize this time to see the sunset at Angkor Wat, so that the following day can be utilized sightseeing other temples.
Honestly, however, we did not really find this tip useful. Yeah, if you want to utilize your pass, why not? But we actually just spent half a day the following day around the Angkor Site. (Or maybe it’s just ’cause it’s us and we move fast. Haha. Our tuktuk driver, Mr. To, was actually happy and relieved that we go from temple to temple very fast. Most tourists need an entire day to go around the small circuit of the Angkor Site. We were done by noon. To think we started late, at around 9am. Although we did not understand them, the nonverbals of the other drivers were teasing Mr. To, jealous that he did not need to wait too much for us, unlike tourists with them who take forever to go around.) We are a very athletic couple and we exercise quite regularly, so we did not need any eating breaks or rest to catch our breath. We took many pictures, had some intellectual discourse about the Angkor site (it is a good decision to buy a book about the Angkor temples or to download a free pdf online about them!), which made the trip more fulfilling while we were moving and walking fast.
We paid only $20 for our tuktuk ride around the Angkor. It was really a good skill to haggle before riding on a tuktuk, considering Mr. To was insisting $30-40 at the start. Well, for a half day’s work, isn’t $20 good enough hehehhe. He realized it halfway through that our $20 plus tip is relatively high.
On our tour of the site, we specifically visited Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. For us, the other temples of the site were actually much more magnificent than the overrated Angkor Wat.
This is what most people came here for, which is no surprise with the many tourists flocking this temple from sun up to sun down. Because it’s too overcrowded for us, we were not really pleased (especially upon seeing other temples). It was hard to get a decent shot without other people in it.
What we love the most, however, is the intricate drawings/carvings on the wall, which you can find at the main Angkor Wat temple (it’s really big, like a fortress with a moat and all). These carvings on the wall actually tell a story, Hindu epics that would interest those like us who are into history, art, and culture.
What makes it interesting is the stories that accompanied it. In fact, it’s a debate whether Angkor Wat is a temple or a tomb. That’s why it’s really important to have a book or a guide to understand it’s cultural significance for the people of Khmer.
THIS. WAS. AMAZING. This was our favorite, which we ended up buying a lot of souvenirs on. This is the least popular among the temples within the small circuit, but it was the best and very underrated.
This was the temple in which we had the most photos of. True enough, this is actually the most photographed temple in all of Angkor.
This temple was bigger and more scattered. So going in the temple would require tourists to go through a bridge with intricate statues from the legend of the Churning of the Sea of Milk. Our tuktuk driver dropped us off at the foot of the bridge to take some pictures, then met us at the other side, heading our way to the Bayon.
The moment our tuktuk came near the Bayon temple and we got a glimpse of the centuries-old temple, we were breath-taken. We think this was the temple we spent the most time in. The four-faced god, all-seeing in all directions through towers with four faces facing north, east, west, and south, was the most striking cultural landscape we saw in Cambodia.
Angkor Thom also had other areas that we loved visiting, like the Tep Pranam, Baphuon, Terrace of Elephants, and Terrace of the Leper King.
On our way to Ta Prohm, we saw this pile of sandstone. Unlike the other angkor sites, this was not as rehabilitated as the others. We gave out small gasps of amazement, for we saw it’s unique splendor in it’s purest, untouched form. Mr. To noticed our amazement, he willingly stopped and volunteered to take our picture. So kind of him! (Cambodians are as hospitable and accommodating as Filipinos!)
Honestly, it just looks like a pile of rubble, but it looks so ancient, making it very beautiful. Add to that the trees that are growing on and around it!
We are not entirely sure if it is indeed Ta Keo, but we think it’s part of it. Hahaha.
Ahh, Ta Prohm, popular for the Tomb Raider movie. What makes this temple unique is the big and tall white-trunked trees that can be found within its grounds.
Having a white trunk can mean a lot of things. It might be one of the tree species that reflect light, rather than absorb it (ergo its white color), or it may also be a sign of the trees dying. We’re not entirely sure what it means for the trees here, but we hope they’re just a special specie.
We were dropped off in one side of the gate. Mr. To instructed us to just walk straight, and he’ll meet us at the other side of the gate. Walking “straight” seems like a simple direction but it can be hard once you are inside. Haha. Too many paths leading to other gates and other areas, and circular grounds make it confusing at times. So we really just went straight without much detours so we won’t get lost.
After Ta Prohm, we looked for Mr. To, and went back to our hotel for some rest before heading back out again at night to eat, chill, and drink, at Pub Street…
…And more on that on our next blog post! 😝