The last stop for us in southeast Asia was Siem Reap in Cambodia. From here everyone else would travel back home to California, while I would continue on to Korea to visit relatives. Siem Reap served as a great finale to a trip that had been full of incredible experiences.
For some reason I had expected Siem Reap to be pretty undeveloped, with dirt roads everywhere. But when we arrived I was surprised to find that everywhere we went there were paved roads. Well, everywhere except for the street that our guest house was on. For some reason the street that we were staying at was still a dirt road, with chickens and stray dogs roaming around. When we rounded the corner to our guesthouse for the first time I was thinking, “Really?! What just happened? This does not look promising…We literally went from first world to third world when we turned onto the street our guesthouse was on…” The guesthouse turned out to be really nice though, with comfortable air conditioned rooms, and super friendly staff. There even was a nice swimming pool.
Just about everyone who visits Siem Reap is there to view Angkor Wat, so the day after our arrival in Siem Reap we took a tuk-tuk to the Angkor Wat complex. A tuk-tuk is a carriage attached to the back of a motorcycle. Riding in one takes some getting used to, because there are of course no seat belts, and the streets can be chaotic.
This is the famed Angkor Wat. Apparently many people wake up super early to take a picture of the sunrise here, but we were too lazy to wake up that early. We heard it was overrated anyways, because the bazillion other people there trying to take the same sunrise picture at the same time kinda ruins the experience.
The temple complex definitely was crowded, especially with Asian tourists. Apparently (and surprisingly) Koreans are the biggest tourist group in Siem Reap, followed closely by the Chinese.
There are mobs of people at all the famous tourist sites, but the biggest crowd was at the steps to the top of Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is the temple that most people have heard of, but there are actually quite a lot of temples in the Angkor Wat complex. My favorite within the complex was this one, the Bayon.
The Bayon is interesting because all of the four sided towers have faces carved into each of the sides.
You can get nose to nose with the faces of the Bayon. Okay not really, but our guide pointed out a bunch of interesting spots to take photos, like this one where it does sorta look like you’re nose to nose.
Another of my favorite temples was Banteay Srei. This one actually wasn’t in the Angkor Wat complex, it actually was a fairly long tuk-tuk ride away from where most of the rest of the temples are. It’s worth making the trek out there though, because it’s a bit different from the rest in that the sandstone is a brighter pink color, and the carvings in the sandstone are much more intricate.
The temples are the main attraction in Siem Reap, but the markets are pretty interesting too. These markets have a lot of stuff that is unique to Siem Reap, such as beautiful oil paintings of the Angkor Wat temples, or paintings of the floating villages on the lake outside of Siem Reap.
The night markets were especially interesting to me, because you can get a lot of food for cheap, and there’s some really interesting and exotic foods. I tried this snake on a stick, and it only cost me one dollar. I also had frog and cricket, though I wasn’t brave enough to try the tarantula. It was all pretty cheap too, though I ended up paying for it later in toilet time because I ended up with some pretty bad diarrhea by the time I left Siem Reap.
Siem Reap was a great finale to an amazing journey, I really enjoyed my stay there. Exploring the temples was amazing, the food was cheap and good, the night life seemed fun (and not at all sleazy like it can be in certain parts of Asia), the only thing that put a damper on the enjoyment was the stomach aches and diarrhea I had. If I’m here again I think I’ll stay away from the snake and frogs and insects.