Before I begin, I’d just like to note that I’m fast running out or storage space in WordPress and am way too ghetto to upgrade to premium. As my blogs are becoming quite photo heavy, I’ve started a Flickr account to store my full albums. If you like these photos and want to see the album as a whole (there’s some solid good stuff there!), go to my Cambodia Album.
After a week of beachy paradise in Southern Thailand, it was time to move onto the last leg of the trip. Carrie and I flew into Bangkok, then took a morning bus to the city of Siem Reap for to see the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat. The temples of Angkor are the prized treasure of Cambodia, and certainly a big draw for foreign travelers to the country. It served as the Khmer capital in the 12th century, and was originally a Hindu temple. Today, the temple is spotted with Buddha statues and Buddhist monks go there for prayer daily.
We decided to spend 2 days exploring the ruins. We definitely wanted to spend one full day exploring the main temple complex that all visitors got to see, but we also wanted to explore some of the more remote corners of the complex. The immense amount of history and the monumentally large size of the site meant that we would definitely need some transportation and a tour. Transportation between the major sites are easily organized for a very inexpensive price through your hostel. The places further away are a little more difficult. We wanted to go see the more remote Beng Mealea temple complexes, and the ruins and Mt. Kulen.
To give a bit of background, Mt Kulen is about an hour’s drive away from Siem Reap, where a long staircase leads to a multistoried rock with a temple built right on top. There weren’t too many people in Mt. Kulen, and the trip there includes a quick swim at a local watering hole. There are very few tourists that make the trip here so if you’re looking for a slice of Cambodian jungle away from the massive crowds at Angkor, this is a tour to consider. Beng Mealea is actually part of the Angkor complex, but is a good 40 minutes drive away so many tourists do not make it out there. In fact, in Beng Mealea, we only saw 2 other people in the whole complex! This temple has not been restored to resemble its former glory like Angkor Wat’s main temple. There are ladders and stairs build around so tourists can safely traverse the site, but little to no effort has been put into actual restoration. What you get is piles of bricks covered in moss everywhere. It was literally like walking through untouched ruins. A real treat! Make sure to check the Travel Notes section for tips!
Remember, the full album with all the shots can be found in my Flickr Album!
- First and foremost, keep in mind that Angkor Wat is a temple, with monks still using it for prayers and meditation. Travelers often get slammed with wearing wildly inappropriate attire at these religious sites. Think about it, you wouldn’t wear a bikini to see the Pope, or go to a mosque in booty shorts, or walk into a church in a tank top. Make sure you are covered adequately before going into the complex, out of respect.
- The land crossing to Siem Reap from Bangkok is tricky. My friends Mandeep and Sam made this same crossing, but at night, and ran into lots of trouble with sketchy drivers. Basically once you hit the Thai border, you get off the bus, and you start walking a good kilometer until you reach the Cambodian border. In between is sort of this limbo area where lots of locals from both countries do business and run markets. Once you get your passport stamped, you get picked up by a taxi (chosen by the tour company you buy your ticket from), which takes you to Siem Reap.
- A Cambodian visa for Canadians can be attained ahead of time online, which I highly recommend. (just google it). This way you streamline the process as much as you can.
- be sure to arrive during the day. It sucks losing a day in transit to your next city, but believe me you do not want to arrive in this border crossing at night. There are very few lights and keep in mind there is lots of corruption around the office. Mandeep and Sam were dropped off at the wrong office and asked for payment! Even at the real office they had to bribe the officer.
- There is also corruptio amongst the taxi drivers. Once you arrive at Siem Reap, they may drop you off at some random place, or if you’re sharing a cab with friends in different hotels, they may stop driving after they arrive at the first hotel. You should know that when you pay for the bus ride to Siem Reap, be sure it includes the taxi ride from the Cambodian border. There is a tuktuk mafia of sorts there and there is immense pressure for the drivers to drop you off in some random place and force you to take a tuktuk to your hotel. This happened to us, and we forced the taxi driver to take us to our hotel. However, Natasha, a friend that we met on the bus ride was being harassed to take a tuktuk to her hotel. We got her to just come into our hotel, which we trusted, and got them to call Natasha’s hotel to send transportation for a pickup. Be weary of this scam!
- bus tickets to anywhere can be bought at Siem Reap. We bought our’s back to Bangkok to catch our final flight home, but any tour company will send you off to Phnom Penh, or another city. There is also an airport there.