… and it was fabulous!
I made the error in judgement to think that 3 weeks was enough time to explore Western Australia, Cambodia, and Vietnam– ie 9 flights, 6 different lodgings, 6 different cities/towns, 2 long bus rides, and a car trip. I’ll just say now that it was too much. I learned that, if I’m going to move around that much, at the very least, I need to stick to one climate in order to pack less. Also, PACK LESS. I’m the type of person who likes to bring everything I might possibly need as well as drugs for every possible symptom that might occur (see here). I’m great to have with you because, odds are, if you forgot it, I’ve got it–from q-tips to prescription anti-nausea drugs. With all of those packings and unpackings, being the ever-prepared, must have options traveler, begins to wear on one’s psyche. That being said, the trip was still great and one of its highlights was Cambodia.
Sava (adventure buddy featured in multiple posts) and I only made it to one city, for 4 days, and that was Siem Reap. One of the first things you may notice when planning a trip to Cambodia is that it is far cheaper than many other countries. For instance, we opted to stay at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap and somehow scored a rate of around $160/night! It’s a smaller hotel than some of the resorts around the city, but lovely.
You may recognize the Park Hyatt chain from popular movies such as this. The Tokyo hotel, as seen in Lost in Translation, will run you at least $700/night.
Back to Siem Reap… I am so glad we picked the Park Hyatt! There are plenty of fancy hotel chains in the area, if that’s what you desire, but they seem to be outside of the city center. The Hyatt, on the other hand, is smack dab in the middle of everything I wanted to be near. We could easily walk to many restaurants, spas, Pub Street, the night market, etc. Though we walked many places, our favorite mode of transportation was definitely tuk tuk.
You probably know that the main attraction in Siem Reap, and Cambodia in general, is the Unesco World Heritage site Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Rather than pay upwards of $100/ person for a hotel-organized tour of the temples, I put my negotiation skills to the test and set out to find a tuk tuk driver who would pick us up at 4:30 am, take us to Angkor Wat for sunrise, then around to as many other temples as we could tolerate. We easily found one and he was great! He even brought a cooler of water and handed us a bottle each time we got back in the tuk tuk. This cost us 15 USD each. I believe we agreed upon a lower number, but after our trip and how much I liked him, I wasn’t particularly inclined to haggle.
How about the pictures now?
Though it’s lovely to watch the sun rise at the temple, the early morning light didn’t make for the best pictures, so I only have a few worth posting.
Monkeys apparently flock to Angkor Wat for contemplation as well…
The photos above and below show the South gate to Angkor Thom. Please note that my long-sleeved blouse is in my hand, but that I had to cover my knees and shoulders (and cleavage) in order to go in the temples. I purchased the pants (shown below) in a market in Siem Reap, though I no longer have said pants as they ripped
in the crotch when I bent down to take a photo and then basically disintegrated throughout the day, forcing me to toss them in the trash. I guess you get what you pay for and 2 pairs for $5 doesn’t get you much quality.
Bayon Temple is the central temple of the ancient city Angkor Thom, located north of Angkor Wat, and an easy tuk tuk ride away. I think it was my favorite temple as there’s just something amazing about all the faces.
I can’t remember the name of this one–perhaps the cardinal sin of the travel blogger–but I do like the photo.
I absolutely love elephants and feel sorry for those in captivity, so instead of paying to ride these guys/gals, I opted to stand by them and just send them love. Yes, I actually stood by the elephants and hoped they felt my love. They never acknowledged me, but oh well…
The temple of Ta Prohm is becoming one with the surrounding jungle and is magnificent…
Siem Reap Restaurants:
Genevieve’s – Owned by an Australian man who traveled to Cambodia as a tourist, but ended up returning to teach… and eventually opened a restaurant. Genevieve’s is named in honor of his late wife and employs people of all ages in need of work, training or not. They give 10% of the profits back to the employees in hopes they can, one day, open a business of their own. All those good intentions aside, the food just so happens to be delicious. In order to eat at Genevieve’s, you should make a reservation or go very early, like we did. Nana Gwen and Yiayia (as we affectionately call ourselves) like to eat around 5:30 pm, so it worked out well.
George’s Rhumerie – So cute with it’s idyllic patio and twinkle lights–like dining in a fairy garden. The food was quite good and the service was fabulous. It may have been that they were nice and I kept telling the server that I loved her, but it’s hard not to profess your love to someone who practically cheers each time you order another glass of wine. The inside part is fine, but SIT OUTSIDE!
Touich – This place is more off the beaten path than the others. So much so that your table comes equipped with a bottle of bug spray to fend off mosquitos. The service is pleasant, setting is quaint, and the food is quite good. At the behest of my travel partner, I ordered the prawns–my first in Asia–and loved them. Still, Genevieve’s food was our favorite, but each of these were a good choice.
The Living Room at the Park Hyatt – If you happen to be staying at the Park Hyatt, you will not be disappointed by the Asian choices at this restaurant. We ate breakfast there once and I had dinner prior to going to the airport–both were quite delicious.