It was another hot and bumpy minibus ride from Kratie to Siem Reap. It cost $10pp and took a bum-numbing 8 hours. Annoyingly the minibus dropped us way out of town, which took us by surprise. It turns out this is common practice, but felt more like a scam since we were immediately accosted by tuk tuk drivers as soon as we were deposited on the roadside. Luckily our hostel was aware of this and provided a free pick up service so we didn’t have to pay any extra.
We stayed in Siem Reap for 4 nights in an excellent hostel, Siem Reap Pub Hostel. The location could not have been better, just 5 minutes walk from pub street. It wasn't the cheapest at $19 a night for a private double, but it had a beautiful pool complete with a volleyball net and sun loungers. We had a cheeky game of volleyball one afternoon and discovered we were both completely useless. I put it down to my height disadvantage, I don't know what Mikes excuse is...
Siem Reap After Dark
Siem Reap is most definitely one of the best South East Asian cities we've ever visited. After dark it comes alive as night markets and street-food stalls sprawl out onto 'Pub Street' and the surrounding area. Later in the evening the food stalls are replaced by quirky, pop-up cocktail bars pumping out bangers. This isn't your typical tacky drinking strip though, the restaurants are upmarket and classy and there is a really nice feel about the place.
We indulged in a fish-foot-spa one evening which we 100% recommend. It tickled so much and felt very strange, but afterwards we both had the softest feet ever. Mikes feet must of had a lot of dead skin on them because he got all the attention from the hungry fish.
We also treated ourselves to a cheeky foot and back massage which was much needed after a long day traipsing around Angkor.
A tasty treat - Scorpions, Snakes & Tarantulars
Ordering a tasty passion fruit shake
I think Mike enjoyed his back massage!
The Temples of Angkor
The temples of Angkor are the life blood of Siem Reap; without them Siem Reap as we know it would not exist. Millions of tourists flock here each year in order to see the ancient ruins of Angkor.
A great way to get around is by tuk tuk since the site is so huge and complex. We saw some people cycling and on electric scooters, but navigating the maze of temples in the humidity and heat looked exhausting; we think a tuk tuk is by far the superior mode of transport. We paid $15 for our own personal tuk tuk driver to chauffeur us around for the day.
Sunrise Over Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is one of the man-made wonders of the world. Built in the first half of the 12th century, it is still today the largest religious monument ever constructed. We heard the best time to visit the temple was at dawn, in order to beat the crowds and to see a magnificent sunrise.
At 4.30am we stumbled out of our hostel bleary eyed and tired to find our driver patiently waiting for us. We realised in horror that we were up way before we had even made it home the day before.
The Angkor ticket desk doesn't open until 5am, so we were standing in line with hordes of other tourists at 4.45am waiting for the desks to open (so much for beating the crowds!!). Once we had our tickets our tuk tuk driver didn't mess around, we zoomed off into the night, overtaking every other tuk tuk we saw. Surely we were going to be the first ones there!
On arrival at Angkor Wat it was still pitch black (a torch would of been handy) and we realised we were not the first ones there. We followed the crowds, tripping & stumbling to the front of the lake looking out over the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. We must of been there at about 5.20am. A friendly local told us that sunrise was between 6.45 and 7.10am. We definitely didn’t need to be up at 4.30am to catch it!
We passed the time drinking overpriced coffee and chatting to a couple we had met at the fish-foot-spa the previous evening.
The sunrise itself was an absolute flop! It was so cloudy that we didn’t get a sunrise at all. It just slowly became light, with familiar looking grey clouds that we are so used to seeing in the UK blocking all of the suns spectacular rays. The friendly local who we'd met earlier showed us all the stunning pictures he had taken in the previous few days. A stark contrast to our sunrise! He kindly sent me a few.
The Sunrise Comparison
Other Photos from Angkor Wat
So much for beating the crowds!
After the disappointing sunrise we went inside Angkor Wat to check out the temple itself and were truly impressed by the sheer scale of it. This would have been an amazing feat of engineering today let alone in the 12th century.
After Angkor Wat we grabbed some fried rice for breakfast and headed off to check out the impressive Angkor Thom and the faces of Bayon. Finally we visited Ta Prohm, a temple where the jungle has taken over, and incidentally where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed.
By noon we were beat, so we had our tuk tuk driver take us back to our hostel for a well earned nap.
As you enter Angkor Wat there are numerous locals offering to be your guide for the day. We did not take anyone up on this offer but later regretted it. There is little information around the site and without it you are basically staring at heap of old rocks for the day. I believe you can get a guide for as little as $13. This will almost certainly make your visit more worthwhile and enjoyable.
The trees are still thriving even though they've been chopped down
This tree has become part of the temple
A great view from the top
- Be prepared for crowds and hordes of tourists, whatever time of day you visit the temples.
- Don't take the tuk tuk drivers suggestion of a 4.30am start as golden. We reckon we could have seen the exact same sunrise and had an extra hour in bed.
- One day or even half a day at the temples is plenty if you are not a huge history buff.
- Get a guide, they're inexpensive and will make your trip to the temples more worthwhile.