- Date: September 2015
- Duration: 1.5 weeks
- Currency: Cambodian Riel
- Lasting impressions:
- Angkor Wat is an expansive and mesmerizing place. The term “Angkor Wat” is often used to refer to all ruins in the Siem Reap vicinity, but there are a myriad of temples that each have their own history and significance.
- Wats (Buddhist temples) are ubiquitous yet beautiful, each paying tribute to Buddha with ornate buildings, rich colors, and elaborate decor.
- Iced coffees sometimes come in multiple layered bags and had carrying straps. The early afternoon pick-me-up we needed.
- The countryside is a spectrum of vivid greens, teeming with hills, valleys, rice paddies, ponds, and creeks.
- Many houses are raised on stilts, presumably to avoid flooding during the rainy season? The first enclosed floor is often on the second story, windows have decorative shades, and outer walls feature murals of wats and religious figures.
- The food is incredible! Spring rolls, “khmer curries”, bahn mi, pork, chicken, sticky rice, potatoes, yams. All of it amazingly flavorful and rich.
- Cambodians love motorbikes and pedestrians are on their own, sidewalks are not a common feature of city planning. Walking around town can be tricky in crowded neighborhoods.
- It’s always a good idea to pay $1 for a rain poncho before you need it, you never know when a downpour will start.
- Phnom Penh – 2 days
- Siem Reap – 4 days
- Sihanoukville – 3 days
Getting there: Airplane ride via China
- Royal Palace, very reminiscent of Bangkok’s palace, a collection of ornate golden buildings and stupas. Vivid colors and immensely detailed decor.
- King Norodom Sihanouk statue, honoring the former king.
- Independence monument, a tall rust-colored pillar in the middle of a large intersection.
- Tuol Sleng Museum, a high school that was converted into a prison and interrogation/torture center when the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. Hire a guide to get the full experience of horror and dismay at what happened here during the Khmer Rouge regime.
- Central Market, a massive, yellow, geometric building.
- Wat Phnom, the tallest religious structure in the city.
- Wat Ounalom, a very impressive collection of beautiful temples and structures.
Getting there: 6 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh
- Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chom Temple
- Wat Preah Prom Rath, a small area tightly filled with shrines and stupas.
- Psar Chaa Old Market, a labyrinth of vendor stalls selling everything a tourist or local might need.
- Pub Street, a brightly lit alley full of restaurants, bars, and tuk tuks. Touristy but a great place to grab an outside sofa, sip on a cocktail, and people watch.
- Angkor Wat, as good as it looks! Breathtakingly huge. Beautiful stone buildings with detailed carvings over any flat surface, with many different kinds of characters and writing.
- Angkor Thom, Bayon. The Bayon ruins were decorated with a myriad of faces carved into the walls, looking every which direction.
- Phimeanakas, a tall, staircase-like monument with three tiered levels, and a set of green stairs running up the center from floor to top.
- Ta Prohm, where ancient trees have grown around and over the buildings, their roots hanging down like tentacles. The buildings’ stones were a rich mossy green.
- Banta Kdei, a long rectangular structure with many winding hallways and Buddha statues hidden in alcoves here and there.
- Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple about 20km northeast of Angkor Wat, past lush green rice paddies and scattered trees, the most vibrants hues of green I’ve ever seen. It was smaller but a beautiful reddish brown color and was filled with ornate carvings.
- Pre Rup. Huge building in a small space, achieved by steep and tall stairways up the building’s walls.
- Eastern Mebon, a smaller version of Pre Rup, with four stone elephant statues.
- Ta Som, similar to Ta Prohm, green, moss-covered ruins, with a grand finale of a tree growing right over the doorway exit.
- Preah Neak Poan, a long wooden walkway over a big, apocalyptic-looking waterway, ending at temple ruins in the center of an island.
- Preah Khan, a huge structure, filled with offshoot hallways in all directions. There was also a set of columns that looked out of ancient Greek architecture, and another huge tree climbing over the side of the entrance.
Getting there: 3.5 hour taxi ride from Phnom Penh
- Relaxing at outdated beachside resorts… not the fanciest by any means, but clean and quiet.
- Koh Rong Samloem, a boat tour to a small island tourist spot with light blue water and beach. The boat crew convinced me to drink a beer through a snorkel mask, which proved harder than I anticipated.
- Street food along the boardwalk, fried fish and octopus, cooked by women perched on the sidewalk with small portable barbecues.