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For my husband’s birthday last month, we took a short and sweet trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We’ve always wanted to visit the ancient city of Angkor because we’re both big history nerds and I have a crazy fascination with ancient cities. When I was a kid, there was a time when I wanted to be an archaeologist and I dreamt of finding a lost, ancient city on my own – preferably Atlantis but we all know that’s pretty far from reality. 😉

Going to Angkor was the next best thing and though we only had a short time to spend in Siem Reap, I think we were able to maximise our stay.

Our itinerary was pretty relaxed despite having just two full days there. We prioritised seeing the Angkor complex as well as the Angkor National Museum which, I believe, is a must when you visit Siem Reap. It’s pretty modern with interactive displays as well as beautiful artefacts accompanied with comprehensive explanations as to what they are and why they’re important to the history of Cambodia.

I tried my hand at making a travel video of our trip and I hope you guys enjoy it. But I will be posting up some photos here as well to turn this entry into some sort of photo diary.

*Do watch in HD!*

More a lot of photos after the jump! Travel tips/notes to Siem Reap are also at the end of this entry. 🙂

SIEM REAP PROPER

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Primary mode of transportation around Siem Reap – the Tuk Tuk
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A must-visit. The museum is contains thousands of artefacts that will just take your breath away. Sadly, photography isn’t allowed inside so I can’t show you what I saw. But do take my word for it and go visit!

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A bug’s life. Or lack thereof.

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A great way to beat the heat, Siem Reap style. Stalls like this are everywhere.
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I would have spent hours in this bookstore if we only had more time. Found near Pub Street, D’s Books has awesome titles in different languages. They even have a copy of one of my favourite books – Brigid Keenan’s Diplomatic Baggage. It’s basically the handbook/handy support system of every diplomat’s wife out there. I just find it so nice to bump into it again knowing that the book’s quite hard to find these days. 😉

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To eat green mango salad everyday would be such a joy.
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Go here for the best ice cream and pastries in the city. Still dreaming of their chocolate chip mint ice cream to this day. <3

ANGKOR COMPLEX

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Go early as lines for tickets can get very long. This is at 9am.
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Do not lose your tickets! The Angkor complex is quite huge and is composed of several temples. Upon entry to each of the temples, guards usually ask people to show their tickets. They are also kinda flimsy so if you tend to be careless, do bring a pouch or put it in your bag. It’s also very sensitive to water as it’s just a print out so be extremely careful with it.

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The complex is surrounded by lush greenery which makes it so relaxing. A cool breeze is always present but still, it will be very hot so do protect yourself.
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The Bayon Temple. Built by Jayavarman VII in the late 12th or early 13th century, this temple is rich in detail with intricately carved  bas reliefs. It was built as a Buddhist temple but was later modified to become Hindu then back to being Buddhist again. This is the same case with most of the temples in the complex.
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Do try to look for the face with the widest smile. 😉
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Restoration is ongoing in most parts of the complex.
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Look at those details!

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The massive Baphuon temple.

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Definitely not Mexico. But isn’t it amazing how this particular structure looks like an Aztec pyramid? Our guide says that it’s still a mystery why there are some Aztec and Mayan elements in a few of the temples.
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Victims of land mines play traditional musical instruments in some of the tourist areas. They refuse to beg so they sell CDs of their music instead.

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I see you.
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Inside Ta Prohm. A lot of the trees here are actually destroying the temple by growing in, on, and in between the structure.

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The Angkor Wat
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Inside the Angkor Wat. Vandalism left behind by the Khmer Rouge back when they used to loot and stay in the temples at the height of the war. A lot of asparas (celestial dancers) also lost their heads when members of the Khmer Rouge and some thieves started selling them off in the black market.
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Immortalised in the temples of Angkor is the beauty of the Asparas.

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The Angkor Wat is located inside a 500-acre complex, surrounded by a moat. There is such beauty in the symmetry of everything that you can see from the top.
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All hail the king.

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Get your legs ready for some serious walking and climbing up the stairs. It’s usually a steep climb to get on top of temples. Wear comfy sandals or shoes.
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The Angkor Wat is said to be an earthly replica of the universe with the main temple symbolising the mythical Mt. Meru that is believed to be the centre of the universe. The 5 towers represent Meru’s peaks and in the middle of the main temple is a square stone which is believed to represent Meru’s core. Make a wish while stepping on it and it will be granted by the gods. 😉
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Say cheese!
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Street food remains to be a popular choice in Siem Reap.
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While the average daily wage of an ordinary Cambodian remains to be quite low, you see occasional luxuries here and there.
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To complete your Tomb Raider experience on’t forget to try the ‘Tomb Raider’ drink which you can get at the Red Piano (along Pub Street). It’s said to be Angelina Jolie’s favourite restaurant while filming there and this is also her favourite cocktail. Be warned, though. It’s pretty strong.

Some more tips:

  • Where to stay: There are a lot of hotels and guest houses in Siem Reap and the range of prices is pretty great. We stayed at The Villa Siem Reap, a small, 3-star hotel with a feel of a guesthouse. It’s affordable with a great, accessible location. I will write a separate review for it soon. 🙂
  • Where to book a guide: Our hotel offered us a one day tour for USD60, excluding the USD20 passes for each person to enter the temple complex. That price included having our personal guide and a driver who took us around the complex using Toyota Camry. They will also have water ready for you every time you finish each temple. Our guide and driver are a great team. They are nice, accommodating, and the guide’s knowledge of Angkor’s history is impeccable.
  • If you want to explore on your own, do rent a bicycle, a tuk-tuk, or your own car. The temples are quite far apart within the complex and it can be very hot. At first, I wanted a tuk-tuk instead of an air conditioned vehicle but my husband (who’s actually the king of logistics and planning) foresaw that the heat will get too much and the car’s air conditioning unit was always a welcome respite after sweating it out in each temple.
  • Do be prepared for the weather. Drink enough water, bring a hat and sunglasses. Put on sunblock and wear light clothing plus comfy shoes. The sun is harsh and though there are a lot of trees, the shade isn’t enough to protect you. Ladies, do bring a thin cover up for your arms, shoulders, and legs as some temples do not allow skimpy clothing.
  • While you’re in Siem Reap, try out the spas! They are so cheap and a foot massage after a long day of walking is just what you need. 😉 Baray Spa is a small establishment near the Night Market that offers 15-minute foot massages for only USD2.
  • Bring US Dollars in cash and don’t change have it changed into the local currency. Vendors and business owners prefer accepting USD. 🙂

Thanks so much for dropping by and hope your visit to Siem Reap will also be as fun!

Much love,

Carol