For this post we decided to write it day by day as each day was filled with different things it made it flow easier.
So after a surprisingly pleasant 7 hour bus journey we arrived in Siem Reap around 5pm. We got a $2 tuktuk to our hostel which was about 5 minutes away. We chose to stay at the Siem Reap Hostel as opposed to a Mad Monkey Hostel (party central), we figured we’d stay somewhere with a little less party atmosphere because we wanted to do the early morning trips to the temples. The hostel was pretty cool it had a cinema room that showed 3 films a day, yoga classes, a pool and it did great cheap food and $0.50 beers.
We dumped our stuff in our 10 bed dorm that smelt like a boys sleepover (a smell that kenny seemed to recognise all too well) and headed for some food.
One great thing about the hostel was that you could organise all your trips to the temples directly through them. You just book a tuktuk with them and choose your route for the day the night before and in the morning your driver will be waiting for you.
We opted to do the Big Circle for our first day with a late start of 11am. So after dinner and a few beers we headed of to bed ready for our long day of temples the following day.
The big circle covered some of the smaller and less touristy temples around Angkor which was a nice introduction to the temples in Siem Reap. We headed out on our tuktuk with our guide Mr Hongda and 2 other people from the hostel and went to buy our temple passes. There’s 3 different types of temple passes, 1 day, 3 day and 7 days. The prices went up in November and at the moment it’s $37 for a day pass and $62 for a 3 day pass (can’t remember how much the 7 day pass was) we went for the 3 day pass so we could spread the temples out over three days rather than trying to cram them all in, in one day. It sounds like a lot of money but it covers all the temples you could want to go to in and around Angkor and works out at about $20 a day. The tuktuk for the big circle cost $15 and that is split between however many there are in the tuktuk so for almost 8 hours of touring the tuktuk cost $3.75 each. We did 6 temples on the big circle tour starting with two small ones and heading to slightly larger and older ones as the day went on. It’s crazy to think that some of the temples were built over 1000 years ago and they have such intricate designs and carvings never mind the sheer size of them. Some haven’t weathered as well as others and have become overrun with trees and nature which makes for a very interesting walk through them. You can see where some have been propped up with wooden beams in an effort to stop any more collapsing. Many of the temples that have steep stairs have new wooden stairs built over the original ones not only for safety but also to preserve the building.
We started the tour around 11 which was great in terms of a lay in but it was boiling as we were walking round, not helped by the fact that you are asked to wear long pants and cover your shoulders. We were literally dripping in sweat by the end of the first temple and we were pretty thankful to get back in the tuktuk at the end of each temple and enjoy the breeze as we travelled to the next. Our last stop was a temple on top of a mountain where we could watch the sunset. We got dropped of at the bottom and started the long walk to the top. We were a little bit later than we had expected and by the time. We got to the top we couldn’t get in to the temple because it was full, we headed back down a little and found a platform where we could sit and watch the sunset. But with over an hour left to go until it set we were all feeling pretty worn out from a whole day in the sun. We hung around for as long as we could until the crowds of Chinese tourists taking pictures and standing on our toes got too much and we headed back down the hill to the tuktuk. We were back at the hostel for around 7 and starving after a long days sightseeing so headed straight for dinner. We decided that the following day we would do a shorter tour covering some of the older temples that are a little further out but it would only be a 2-3 hour trip in the morning leaving us the rest of the day to chill and sort our plans for Vietnam and Thailand, so we booked our tuktuk for the morning and headed for bed.
Up early for breakfast before we headed out on our trip at 9. The Rolous group of temple are some of the earliest built temples starting from the 9th century. We visited 3 temples on our short trip Bakong, Lolei and Preah Ko. Our first stop was Bakong temple, a giant pyramid temple built in 881ad, making it well over 1000 years old. It’s age it certainly starting to show with conservation work taking place in various parts of the temple in an effort to stop any further collapses. Our second stop was Lolei temple built in 893ad it was in slightly better condition than the first we walked around and climbed to the top and we’re greeted by a very cheeky little monkey who quickly gathered a crowd as he climbed onto people’s shoulders and heads. Our last temple of the tour was Preah Ko, built in 873ad making it the oldest of the group. this one was in considerably worse condition that the temples we had seen the previous day. One of the temples had completely crumbled and a number of the others were covered in scaffolding presumably to stop this happening again. It’s still amazing to think that they have withstood 1100 years of weather, war and now the constant stream of tourists that walk on them every day. With our tour finished we headed back to the hostel to get on with some planning for Vietnam. Kenny managed to find a gym close by he hostel so while he headed there I got to planning. We’d both been talking about how much we had been craving western food the past few days so for dinner we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe in Siem Reap probably the most expensive meal we’ve had in all of south east Asia but definitely good to get some decent western food!
Our last full day in Siem Reap and of course we couldn’t leave without doing a sunrise tour of Angkor Wat. Our tuktuk driver picked us up at 430am and we headed for the temple we managed to get a pretty good spot as we sat and waited for the sunrise, with about 400 other people, it was definatley the most touristy experience we’ve had so far on our whole trip. It was definatley worth doing but unfortunately for us the sunrise wasn’t great in comparison to they previous days but no matter it was something ticked of our list. We headed in to the huge temple to do a bit of exploring before it got too busy. It was nice and is obviously an amazing piece of architecture but we both preferred the smaller less touristy temples in comparison. After Angkor Wat we headed for Angkor Thom and explored Bayon temple which was amazing. It was so intricately designed and huge! The stairs to the top were questionable and even more so on the way down but hey ho all part of the experience. The next temple was Banteay Kdei another temple complex that had become overrun with nature and had become more of a ruin. Next was Phimeanaka which was completely deserted when we got there which was nice, it’s not a temple that you can climb up as its surrounded by a moat and the entrance is blocked but it’s set in beautiful grounds that we’re really nice to walk through especially with some rare peace and quiet. Our last temple of the day was Ta Phrom, the Tomb Raider Temple, I think by this point we were both pretty templed out and we didn’t spend very long here. Again this one was considerably busier than the previous ones we had visited but it was good to see.
We were back at the hostel for around 1 and we’re pretty desperate for a nap after our very early morning. We booked the bus for the following day to Sihanoukville which left at 7am so another early morning for us so a very early night to try and feel a bit more human after a busy few days.