Siem Reap - Day 1

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Siem Reap International Airport
Angkor had always been on my travel list and at long last I found the time and opportunity to finally visit.  Arriving in Siem Reap International Airport was like a breath of fresh air.  Built in Khmer fashion, the terminal resembles a temple more than anything else.  It's small, distinct but quite lovely, and reflects the efforts of a developing country at home improvement.  The interior is spotless and pristine, however, the reality of being in a third world sets in as you get hit with red tape almost as soon as you enter. 

All tourists are required to get a visa upon entry for $20, with the exemption of citizens of ASEAN countries.  But  alas, this was not the case as one Singaporean got off while I didn't.
Life at Tonle Sap River
  A fellow Filipino friend had just been there recently and was not required to secure one either.  ???  So, if you're from an ASEAN country and traveling to Cambodia, it wouldn't hurt much to be prepared to join the quick-moving queue and cough up some cash.  Except for having to go through the motion, it's fairly hassle-free.  And speaking of money, there is no need to exchange your US dollars to local currency, it's accepted just about everywhere.

I got out of the airport in good time and headed out to the hostel in a hired car ($20/day).   Along the main road are endless strings of hotels on both sides, both in operation and under construction.  Made me wonder what they needed so many for when the street was practically empty.  Save for the few slow-moving cars, tuk tuks and motorbikes, the place seemed like a ghost town.
Land mine amputee
 

Moving along, I dumped my stuff at Molly Mallone's, took my lunch, and at my driver's suggestion, visited the fishing village of Tonle Sap.  It was a bit of a ways off, rather uneventful and completey missable.  Not much going on there unless cruising through and witnessing people bathe and do their laundry in brown, smelly waters is your thing.  It's heart-breaking, but I encounter enough poverty in my country day in and day out, and seeing it mirrored here is not exactly how I wanted to spend my short holiday.

So off to Angkor I go, with enough time to catch the sunset.
Phnom Bakheng
  Yeah, me and all those missing tourists!  This is where there were all at, and there were busloads upon busloads upon busloads of them.  Now having all those hotels made sense!

There's an entrance fee to enter the city of Angkor ($20 for a day pass, $40 for 3 and $70 for 6).  Built by Suryavarman II in the 12th century as his capital, Angkor Wat is a city centered on his State Temple and fortified by a wall & moat 1300m x 1500m.  Although the city buildings have long since disappeared, it remains the most captivating of all the Khmer temples and is the largest religious monument in the world.  I'd seen countless photos of Angkor Wat and no matter how gorgeous, well composed and professionally taken the shots are, none of them perfectly capture the magnificence of this place.
Monks at Phnom Bakheng
  It is just so massive and so completely overwhelming, it's impossible not to drop your jaw and utter an expletive or two at the first sight of it.  It literally makes you stop in your tracks.

Ah, but I'm not headed there yet.  I wanted to save the best for last and made my way up to the Phnom Bakheng, the first major temple to be built in the Angkor area in the late 9th century AD.  Its hilltop location is most popular for catching the sunset and a breathtaking view of Angkor Wat in the distance. 

On my way up, (and all over the place) were a number of beggars, all of them with one prosthetic limb or another.  Decades of war have resulted in over 40,000 people suffering from amputations due to land mines since 1979 and there is an estimated 4-6 million unexploded mines left.  At the current rate, it may take a century to clear Cambodia of all its mines.

There were two options getting there - by elephant for $10 or on foot up a rocky, rugged hill.  I wanted to get there quick so I decided against being a passenger.  At the top were more steps leading to the temple.  These were very steep and ridiculously narrow, the only way to go is sideways and ever so carefully.  I wonder how many monks lost their lives traversing such challenging stairs on a daily basis.  At the top were more tourists, all waiting for the sunset and making it difficult to take people-free photos.  So I just went around to take in the lovely view and waited for the sun to go down before ending the day.

lauro says:
bonnga ka talaga ate! hahahahhaa i like it! kahit konti lang pics mo, you described it so good! so pag nagkita tayo gusto ko idescribe mo ako ha?! hahaha
Posted on: Sep 23, 2008
JPLfr13 says:
Excellent blog on siem reap !
I have my uncle here
http://angkor-cambodia.org/eng/
JP
Posted on: Sep 23, 2008
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Siem Reap International Airport
Siem Reap International Airport
Life at Tonle Sap River
Life at Tonle Sap River
Land mine amputee
Land mine amputee
Phnom Bakheng
Phnom Bakheng
Monks at Phnom Bakheng
Monks at Phnom Bakheng
Siem Reap Hostels review
Spent two nights here in this comfy, homey inn in the heart of Siem Reap. For low-cost accommodations, you definitely get a bang for your buck. The … read entire review
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photo by: genetravelling