Saturday 25th of November 2023 – Bangkok
We had a day off in Bangkok before our next bus marathon trip. Some friends from England were flying into Bangkok this same day so we arranged to meet for dinner. Their journey was delayed and by the time we met with them they had been awake for 30 hours! They still managed to come to meet us. After a good pad Thai we went for a beer in the night market. It was great to catch up with them.
Sunday 26th November 2023 – Siem Reap (Cambodia)
We left Bangkok after 8:30 am. The bus was comfortable and despite many religious precessions on the roads, on the Cambodian side, we made it to Siem Reap around 4:30 pm as planned.
The border crossing was easy as we already had our eVisas.
The reception at our hotel was very nice. The owner immediately brought small cold, wet, white towels to clean our hands and then we had coffee and two big plates of sliced fruits like pineapple, mango, dragon fruit and some other i am not sure of the name.
We realised we arrived in Cambodia during the Water Festival. It is a very important festival in Cambodia which marks a military victory back in the 12th century, combined with the rain season and combined other Buddhist events.
We walked down to the river. The place was mobbed. Thousands and thousands of scooters perfectly parked along many streets, with attendants and police everywhere. The traffic was chaos. By the river there were fun fair type of entertainment like ferris wheel, shooting , tombola, stands selling food, clothes, shoes, big stages for concerts, stages for Cambodian boxing competitions, dancers and also but not least some boat racing in the river.
The supporters of some teams were going wild when their rowing team was competing. The place was insane with massive crowds. Obviously the festival attracted people from all over the region. The streets were complete mayhem with huge crowds.
Monday 27th November 2023 – Siem Reap
We had a day off to plan our visit to Angkor and to visit the ongoing festivities down the river, still in full swing.
Tuesday 28th November 2023 – Siem Reap
We had arranged for a tuktuk to take us around various sites in the massive Angkor complex. We have a 3 days ticket. We planned to spend the day exploring the 3 main temples and then do other sites the next . However, we did not know that the bank holiday was still in full swing. The place was absolutely mobbed.
We spent the morning visiting Angkor Wat: the main temple and biggest temple in the world. It is 4 times the size of Vatican City, to give you an idea.
With the intense heat, the crowds and the walking and never ending stairs, we decided to give up at lunch time and get back the next day, when all the local tourists would be back home. So we went back early afternoon to the hotel. We were greeted again with refreshing cold wet small towels and a platter of delicious sliced fruits.
We then plunged into the small pool, more like a pond, to cool down.
Wednesday 29th November 2023 – Siem Reap
Our Tuk Tuk driver, Dee, was waiting for us in the morning and took us back to Angkor. We went to Bayon, set in the middle of the ancient town, followed by Ta Prom ( nickname “ Angelina Jolie temple” as this is were many scenes of “Tomb raiders” were filmed) and other temples.
The ancient Khmers only built temples using stones ( and city walls). Other buildings were not allowed stone so nothing much is left other than spectacular temples in the jungle.
Angkor is huge and covers about 400km2, so it is not possible to walk around. At its heigh, the city had a population of 1 million, at a time where, 11th and 12th century, London had a population of 15,000 and 20,000 respectively. It was and remains the biggest pre industrialisation city in the world. So, yes, it is as impressive as you can imagine. The moats that surround the temples and city walls, plus many water reserves are massive and built in stone too. It is difficult to imagine how all of this site was built in few decades or a century, while comparing with medieval cathedrals, at that same time, took a century to build and are tiny in comparison. Anyway, the place in mind blowing.
We came back to our hotel around 3:30 pm, exhausted. Once again we plunged into the small pool to cool down.
Thursday 30th November 2023 – Siem Reap
We had decided, on our arrival last Sunday, to stay a full week in Siem Reap, but as our hotel was sadly fully booked, we made our goodbye to our wonderful host, Heng, the nicest, most welcoming person you could ever meet. He could not do enough to help, provide info and always trying to make sure everyone is happy. Mango Kesararam hotel is the best place to stay in town!
We moved to a nearby hotel for a further 3 nights.
Siem Reap is a very nice town. The streets are clean, tidy, with well maintained buildings, no street clutter, the pavements are mainly clear of scooters or street vendors, so you can actually walk on them, instead of having to walk all the time on the road and playing with the traffic, like in Thailand. We liked the place.
It also has a nice night market, mainly for the tourists but less chaotic than Bangkok.
The Khmer food is not as good as in Thailand though, but, thanks to the French influence, they have great sandwich baguettes and affordable wine! After 7 weeks we splashed 12 dollars on a bottle.
I say dollars, because everything is priced in dollars, although we can use the local currency as well.
One other thing I wanted to add, foreigners cannot rent motorbikes, well, not without a local driving licence, so we are limited to using local Tuk Tuks for now. But fear not, I have plans for Laos!
Friday 1st Dec and Saturday 2d dec. 2023 – Siem Raep
We took a couple of days for planning, booking our trip onward, updating the blog, exploring the city, getting some laundry done, sorting our photos and all these sort of chores. We also had time to wander the night market and the city.
Next: Phnom Penh.