Who better to tell you all about our trips to Cambodia than our very own Rickshaw Ramblers (aka our lovely customers). Jaye and Nik had waited more than 20 years to marvel at the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and this year they finally did it! In this excerpt, Jaye writes about their exciting journey to Cambodia’s most famous temple complex.
Arriving at an ‘oasis’
“After what felt like a lifetime on a plane, a short stop and change in Saigon and a battle with passport control at Siem Reap airport getting our visa, arriving at our hotel in Siem Reap was like finding an oasis after weeks in the desert.
Checking in went very smoothly and the hotel staff couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. While they checked us in, we had a welcome drink and a cold towel which was very much appreciated in the scorching heat! Soon we found ourselves in our lovely room overlooking one of the hotel’s pools.
Time to start exploring!
We could have been forgiven for sleeping after such a long journey, but having waited more than 20 years to visit Angkor Wat that was never going to happen. I couldn’t wait to see the temples! After dropping our stuff off at the room, we quickly jumped in a Tuk Tuk with Mr Pov (as we found out later) and made our way to Pre Rup, a popular place to watch the sunset.
Arriving at Pre Rup was a WOW moment and one of many that we were to have in Cambodia. The temple was vast, way bigger than I had expected and people had already started to gather at the top to watch the sunset at 6:30pm and it was only 5pm!
Sunsets & selfie sticks
We walked around the temple, soaking up the atmosphere. We tried to imagine what it would have been like all those years ago when it was built and feeling excited about what was to come over the next few days and our visit to the Angkor area. Everyone began gathering on the top of the temple which left us to get some amazing photos of the temple turning orange as the sun slowly set, including several photos with our recently purchase selfie stick!
An evening on the town
When the sun was almost down we made our way to the top of the temple and got some magical photos of the sun setting.
After sunset we jumped back in the tuk tuk with Mr Pov and he shuttled us back to the hotel. I wasn’t sure if I felt exhausted or hungry but we decided that as it was our first night in Siem Reap we had to get out and into the town to see what it was all about!
Tasting the local cuisine
Mr Pov was our shuttle for the evening again and after around 10 minutes navigating the busy roads of Siem Reap, we made it to Bar Street. After having done some research on trip advisor in the hotel, we made our way quickly to the Khmer Kitchen as our bellies rumbled with hunger.
Neither of us had ever been to Cambodia before so we had no idea what to order. The table next to us looked to be enjoying their food so I asked what they were eating and ordered the same, Khmer Chicken Curry with Nik ordering Chicken and yellow noodles. We also ordered spring rolls for starters and a local potato dish that the waiter recommended.
Magical ‘Tomb Raider’ temples
The next day we had a quick bite to eat in the hotel before meeting the driver and our guide for the day. We had arranged for our driver and guide to collect us at 7am rather than 8am so that we could try and miss the crowds at Angkor Wat and it worked! I had done lots of hours of research before leaving so had a list of temples ready for him. I told him we wanted to avoid the crowds where possible and off we went!
The first temple was Ta Prohm which is famous for being featured in the Tomb Raider film. We arrived here at around 7:15 and had the whole place to ourselves with nobody else in sight. Wow…what a temple! It’s rated as one of the best and we could certainly see why when walking around. The temple is huge; much bigger than I expected, and it has been left almost as it was found with trees growing over and through it. We were there around an hour and a half but could have easily spent longer. We wondered how magical it would have been when it was first built.
A Citadel of Chambers
After Ta Promh it was time to visit Banteay Kdei which means ‘A Citadel of Chambers.’ This temple was also built in the Bayon style, the same as Ta Prohm. It isn’t as big as Ta Prohm but it was still worth the visit.
Soon after, we drove to Ta Keo ; a temple mountain built entirely of sandstone which is completely different to the other two temples. By this time it was starting to get hot which made the climb to the top a challenge, but it was still well worth a visit.
Wandering around Angkor Thom
After Ta Keo it was time for Chau Say Tevoda and then Thommanon which form a pair of Hindu temples. The temples are dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu and have some fantastic carvings. It was almost 10am and starting to get pretty hot so hiding in the shade whilst taking photos was the best way to keep cool. We had already done several bottles of water!
Next was time to move on to Angkor Thom; the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. After stopping at the east gate for photos it was time to visit the main complex. Battling the ever increasing heat, we walked from the Terrace of the Leper King past the Elephant Terrace to Phimeanakas and onto Baphuon. The sheer size of the complex is overwhelming and makes you realise just how immense the Khmer Empire was.
The stone faces of Bayon
Now it was time to head for Bayon. I had been looking forward to this temple and it didn’t disappoint. Richly decorated, it’s famous for its massive stone faces; very different to Ta Prohm but just as spectacular! By this time it was getting really hot and humid but luckily there’s plenty of shade to hide in to cool down.
After Bayon it was time for lunch. Our guide took us to a local restaurant close to Angkor Wat which was next on the list. Lunch was a short affair as we were excited to get moving again. I had a Khmer Chicken Curry and Nik had fried noodles. Both were very good!
And the big finale…Angkor Wat!
Angkor Wat… what can be said about this temple? There are no words. The size of it is just epic. You can catch a glimpse of it as you walk across the causeway but as you enter through the outer gate, the sheer size just hits you. We spent more than 2 hours walking around and just soaking in the atmosphere. We could have easily spent longer here but time was passing by and we had one more temple to go.
Phnom Bakheng is one of the most popular temples to be at during sunset due to the view of Ankgor Wat from the top. The climb to the top of the hill was long, and hot, but the view was certainly worth it. The temple is one of the oldest and was built in the 9th century. Later we decided to call it a day and headed back to our hotel.
A final bite (and a barter)
After a shower and some time to relax it was time for Mr Pov to take us for dinner. We made our way to Bar Street again and this time chose a different restaurant called Angkor Herb. We had a selection of BBQ including beef, chicken and squid all of which were delicious! After dinner we walked to the night market and had a quick look around. We bartered for some place mats and a new suitcase as Nik had broken hers, before Mr Pov whisked us back to the hotel after an unforgettable day.”