Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cambodia - Part 1(Siem Reap)

The hubs and I took off on a vacation this October. I was hell bent on doing at least 2 countries this time around and the hubs agreed(reluctantly, of course). So all our bags were packed and we took off on the 18th October. We flew Malaysian Airlines(ok ok choice) and landed at Siem Reap, Cambodia on the 19th afternoon.

Siem Reap 
Where we stayed? - The Soria Moria Boutique Hotel. Great choice! The staff were friendly, rooms were clean, service was great and best of all close to the 2 main sights at SR - the Angkor Wat complex and the Pub Street :D Trip Advisor gave good reviews and I would rate it very good as well.

The Angkor Wat temple complex is massive.. we had to split the tour into 2 days and even then I am sure we didn't do full justice to it. Here's how we went about it.. First of all, the passes are sold as a 1 day($20), 3 day($40) or 7 day($60) passes. We obviously took the 3 day pass. We had also booked a tour guide to take us around and explain the history and show us the best spots to take pictures. The first evening we went to the temple complex, bought our passes and went to Phnom Bhekang and watched  a nice sunset. It was a cloudy evening so the sunset wasn't spectacular. Post the sunset, we headed to our hotel and enjoyed a quiet meal in the hotel rooftop.
The next morning we woke up early(read 4am!!) and got ready to head to watch our first sunrise. The Peace of Angkor guide picked us up from the hotel and helped us pick a nice spot to watch the sunrise. I will let the pictures do the talking...

I felt so much at peace, just sitting there and watching the beautiful hues of the sun. Such a beautiful moment.. It is not everyday that you get the chance to sit in front a world famous monument and watch a lovely sunrise. Once the sun came out, we got started on our tour. The first temple which Kenit(our guide) recommended was the Bayon which was built by the King Jayavarman VII. Kenit did a great job by getting us to visit that temple first because we found no crowd and we had a great time clicking lots of pictures. On first sight, it looked like a pile of rubble. Once I went closer, I could see the lovely faces - yes this temple is full of faces(supposedly of Jayavarman himself), capturing various moods. It is absolutely beautiful!! Check this out -

Post spending time at Bayon, we headed to see the Preah Khan temple which had a lot of mythological carvings from the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha since Cambodia is largely influenced by Hindiuism and Buddhism.

Preah Khan Temple

 Later in the afternoon, we visited the very famous Ta Phrom temple(the hype was created by Tomb Raider, a  movie on the archealogist, Lara Croft featuring the uber talented, Angelina Jolie). The temple has trees growing out of the ruins and it was superb! It was green all around and it was huge! We kept walking and walking and walking. I'm glad we got to visit these temples at a time when I'm physically fit. Here are a few pictures from the Ta Phrom temple -

Mindless fun! 

We were pretty much over and done with temples for the day. All we wanted to do was to go back and get a nice foot spa. Surprise surprise.. We went back to the hotel and saw a board that said "Awesome massages available" - so we booked ourselves for a nice massage - I got the foot spa and the hubby wanted a back rub(obviously since they were cute looking masseuses!). It was very very relaxing after all that walking.
Day 2 at the Angkor complex started with a visit to the beautiful Banteay Srei temple which is about 30 minutes away from the hotel. It was a beautiful sunny day and K couldn't wait to click away!
Banteay Srei 
Banteay Srei had beautiful carvings from the Ramayana and I could hear the tour guides telling the firangs about the "monkey God, Hanuman" and they kept oohing and aahing. I couldn't stop giggling!
We went around visiting a few other smaller temples in the Angkor complex before we decided to head to see the main one - the Angkor Wat. Again, Kenit did a great job with the choice of timing - he ensured we went there in the mid afternoon(hot yes, but then so worth it) because there were hardly any people. This meant enough time to look closely at the walls, take pictures etc.
The Angkor Wat temple, the world's biggest Hindu temple complex, was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II. This temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Notice the reflection? 

Level 1 of the Angkor Wat temple had this fabulous picture of one of Vishnu's avatars - the Kurma avatar. I wished the picture was clearer!!

A graphic representation of Vishnu's Kurma avatar(the tortoise) 
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We also saw Buddhist monks all around the temple.. walking, talking on the cell phone, praying and what not.

What fun!!

Last view

In case you are wondering what else there is to do at SR, well almost nothing. Unless you consider shopping in the night market or drinking at Pub Street an activity! :D But do visit both places for sure - the night market is fabulous!! You will be tempted to buy stuff even if you don't plan to,which is what happened to me. There are fish pedicures offered all around downtown. I did not try it there because it looked super dirty to me! I mean imagine how many people would have dumped their dirty feet into it? Gross!!! 

The food in Cambodia was amazing - bland as hell but fresh veggies more than made up for it. We were so skeptical but I personally enjoyed it. Try the Khmer food - similar to Thai but nicer and more flavorful.

Part II coming soon!!