Ahh the craze of beautiful Siem Reap. A city thats slow yet chaotic at the same time. At least for me it was. This was the leg of the trip that was solely based on history. I had one plan and one plan only… Angkor Wat. The largest religious monument in the world that dates back to the 12th century. It has been high on my hit list for quite some time and I still cannot believe that I finally made that dream a reality. Besides roaming the temples of Angkor, I honestly had no other plans for Siem Reap, which is awful I know. But I planned this leg of the trip towards the end and I was getting tired, the leg was getting tired and let me tell you something when it comes to wandering temples… you are walking a LOT! Its all worth it of course, but add the uneven grounds mixed with the heat of the sun and it makes for a long and tiring day.
I was staying at a killer hostel called Lub D, which was awesome and I highly recommend looking into them. It was in a super convenient location. I was able to easily walk to the markets, pub street, restaurants, the works. Though my first night in town, I needed to give my belly a break from the asian persuasion so I ate at the always popular, Hard Rock Cafe haha. I actually ate there about 3 times and Im not going to lie. It was the most expensive break I ever gave my stomach. After 3 weeks of asian food, it was nice to get some of that familiar American life back in me. But anyhoo, back to the goods. Angkor wat. Now, if you were to google Angkor you will likely see the always stunning, sunrise images of the temple with the reflecting pools. And yes, it is just as stunning as you think it is. In fact… its even better in person BUT… you must know that EVERYONE in Siem Reap is there for the same exact reason you are there for. That Angkor sunrise. There are two libraries on both sides of Angkor before you get to the reflecting pools and thanks to a local guide, named Socheat, that I hired when I was walking into Angkor – we hung out at the Library on the right hand side and watched the most epic sunrise of my life. I mean the pink, purple and orange hues mixed with that smoggy Cambodian goodness. It was perfection! He is so knowledgable about the history of his people and the history of Angkor. He walked me through what felt like every section of the temple and told me the meaning behind many of the carvings that line the entire temple. The stories that they tell. Im happy I ran into him because while walking Angkor alone is equally as incredible, getting to the learn about the ins and outs of the temple gave me an entirely different insight that I usually wouldn’t have opted for.
Now, because I arrived to Angkor Wat at 5:30 in the morning, I finished wandering the grounds around 8:00am so that left me with more than enough time to venture to a few other temples. I had high hopes for exploring some of Angkor Thom and the temples that lie within it but I was also on the hunt for the face engulfed in the tree… apparently I was thinking of the wrong country! ha, thats in Thailand. I still made my way to Ta Prohm, a temple that lays in ruins while also standing tall amongst the trees that have overtaken the remains. It was the smallest of the three that I visited but this one was one of my favorites. Its mind blowing how the jungle merged with the temple. After a few more mindless hours of wandering through ancient temples, I went back to the hostel, showered, ate and had the best sleep ever! One thing I found that myself and a few other travelers about Angkor, is that you do not need the 3 day pass. After wandering around 3 temples and wandering past another 2, they all start to really resemble one another after a while. One day was definitely more than enough for me. Though I could have easily enjoyed sunrise at Angkor Wat every single day I was there.
The following day was an easy day. I didn’t do much of anything. I took a quick tour through the floating village of Chong Kneas. I heard that the floating villages are beautiful but I apparently traveled to the wrong floating village. My experience was not that good. It was a sketchy boat ride to the floating village. I was taken to a “crocodile farm” which is really just a small pit with a large amount of crocs wading in the hot sun. I was then taken to an orphanage and never actually made it into the village itself. It was really sad to see the conditions there. Lots of trash. Children in buckets floating around with snakes begging for money. The trash here was pretty unreal and the locals don’t exactly make a profit from the boat companies or the tourists that come to their village… This kind of tour definitely makes you appreciate the life some of us get to live. BUT, had I done more research, there are two other floating villages near Siem Reap and one – Kampong Khleang, is the village I should have opted for. The locals run the boat companies that bring you to and from the village so the village reaps the benefits of the profit. And the village is one of the largest with schools, pagodas, clinics. Everything that a community should have. The villages all move through the seasons which is crazy to think about if you ask me. There are quite a few tours that take you to the villages for sunset, which I hear are incredible but after my experience… I was not going back out on the water.
I did get a chance to go out with a local Southern Maryland girl too y’all! The world really is entirely TOO small! My friend Lauren of Simply Hitched, dm’d me on insta letting me know that her sister in-law was currently backpacking through SE Asia and that we should connect. Im so glad we did because it was Kelseys last night in Siem Reap before she continued her travels onward to Vietnam! She was such a fun gal, Im kind of sad we weren’t able to connect sooner. We met up at The Sugar Palm in Siem Reap and had one tasty ass dinner before going separate ways. I mean Kelsey literally had to catch the bus at 8pm that night… talk about cutting it close. After that, I took things really slow. I wanted to give my foot time to rest and my body time to take in everything that the last 2.5 weeks had thrown my way. I netflixed and chilled all day before hitting the markets to do some light shopping for the family while I could. The next coming days were…. interesting. I’ll save that fun stuff for another day though. Enjoy the beauty of Angkor!