Falling in Love with Siem Reap

Falling in Love with Siem Reap

After a 6 hour butt numbing bus ride from Phnom Penh; the towering trees, the beautiful river park, the tidy streets of Siem Reap greeted us with warm welcome. I fell in love with Siem Reap even before I saw the Angkor temples. The whole city feels like a Sunday afternoon. The quaint alleyways in Pub Street, the idyllic roads lined with towering trees, the unassuming artsy cafe’s, the charming locals riding their vintage bicycles around town, the ridiculously delicious gelato and quiche lorraine at Blue Pumpkin and of course the jaw dropping beauty of the Angkor temples are only some of the things that captivated my heart in this city.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap

Blue Pumpkin

Everything here is cheap, so cheap that on our last day, I almost had a food coma for ordering too much food. I’m not a big fan of Khmer food though. It’s not entirely bad but it’s not exceptional either. Their food is rather bland for my taste, but maybe that’s just me. Oddly enough though, I found some really good western restaurants in Siem Reap instead. Blue Pumpkin tops my list, you cannot leave Siem Reap without eating here. It’s an ice cream and pastry shop that has the coolest white huge sofas where you can practically almost lie down while enjoying the most delicious gelato I have tasted in South East Asia. Don’t even get me started on their quiche lorraine, it is so damn good, it almost made me cry. I honestly want to go back there right now just to eat at Blue Pumpkin. The best part is that they support local NGO’s and give back to the community. At the end of each day, all unsold danishes and breads are distributed to different NGO’s.

Siem Reap

Angkor Wat

Siem Reap

Siem Reap

Don’t worry about your calorie intake because you will burn those when you start exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park. I’m glad that we allotted three full days to explore the Angkor Temples because it is so unbelievably vast. It has a land area of 400 square kilometers which is bigger than Cebu City’s land area. Angkor means Temple and Wat means City, so it literally means City of Temples. And yes, you have to ride a tuk tuk from one temple to another and its impossible to visit all the temples even with our 3 full days. If you truly want to experience the Angkor Temples, don’t make the mistake of rushing everything all in one day. Chances are you will just be pissed off at how crowded the temples are and how unforgiving the Cambodian sun is. At the end of the day you wont be able to move a muscle, you’ll just end up dozing off instead of enjoying an Angkor beer at the pub street. The thing about visiting a popular tourist destination is, you have to know how to beat the crowd. Spare yourself from the annoying loud tourists who hold up the whole scene to take their 99th jump shot or selfies, because this can definitely ruin the experience for you.

Siem Reap

Ta Prohm

Siem Reap

Ta Prohm

We were one of the lucky ones who enjoyed most of the temples without the crowd, except when we visited the Angkor Wat itself, as it is the main attraction I don’t think this temple will never run out of crowd. My personal favorite though was Ta Prohm, it is one of the most popular temples aside from Angkor Wat because of the Tomb Raider movie. This is where you can see giant trees growing out of the ruins. It’s jaw dropping, it is one of the most beautiful ruins I have ever seen. We visited this temple at 6am just after sunrise so we had the whole grounds to ourselves. This was where I had that thing when a moment just seizes me and leaves me speechless. This temple is in the middle of the jungle so I was too awestruck while exploring the temple grounds with all the giant trees above me filtering the soft morning light. It was so quiet we can only hear the birds chirping. It was a captivating moment.

Siem Reap

We didn’t witness a beautiful sunrise or a breathtaking sunset during our visit because it was raining the whole time but I was never disappointed with this trip. In fact I felt truly grateful because despite being constantly drenched in the rain, we never got sick and we still had the energy to explore all these beautiful places.

Siem Reap

The kindness that we encountered from the Khmers is also something worth mentioning. Coming from Phnom Penh and witnessing the horrible history of Cambodia in Tuol Sleng and The Killing Fields, I can’t help not to fall even more in love with this country. Somehow it changed the way I see them, they have my biggest respect for being able to move on and recover from the horrors that their country recently went through. They’re the most kind, soft-spoken and hard-working people I’ve encountered. On our last day, we visited a silk farm as well as their shop at Angkor d’ Artisans. It impressed me even more because some of these artisans have disabilities and yet they’re very skilled and talented. This also gave me a better understanding of how silks are made and why they are so expensive. It’s a long and arduous process, it will make you feel bad if you haggle for a lower price because of so much effort they put to produce such fine products. It’s a good stop especially if you haven’t visited a silk farm yet.

If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Siem Reap, you can refer to this blog for a comprehensive travel guide on how to beat the crowd while exploring the Angkor Temples. I hope you will be captivated too.

Siem Reap

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One Comment

  1. liamjameshaddock

    Your photos of Angkor Wat are spectacular.

    REPLY

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