From Angkor to Laos

With another day on my three-day pass, I had the opportunity to see more temples before heading to my next destination. Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat is a very popular attraction, but that implied getting up at four, and spending several hours waiting with hundreds of other tourists, each wanting the best spot for their souvenir photo. I was definitely too tired for that and slept a bit later than usual. A very shy tuktuk driver then drove me around Angkor Thom (the imperial city with a large concentration of ruins) and I spent a few hours browsing through the temples. It was very peaceful at lunchtime and mid-afternoon, as crowds returned for sunset, I headed back to my guesthouse. That was the end Angkor for me. It’s obviously possible to spend much more time in Siem Reap but I was longing for a quieter next few days.

So this morning I took a minivan, which brought accross the Lao border around 3pm. It then got us to a small town, the gateway to the 4,000 Islands on the Mekong river. The boat ride to island I was staying on (Don Khon) offered a beautiful scenery, and by the time I reached my destination I could admire the sunset over the idyllic landscape.

Angkor madness

On my first day at the temples (out of three), I chose a tour in a minibus to visit some of the furthest and more remote temples, saving the closer, more famous (and busier) ones for the end. That way I met three temple companions and apart from the scorching hot weather it was really nice. We visited six temples altogether and I hope to upload some more pictures to flickr shortly. Each was impressive in its own way: massive size, intricate carvings, or taken over by the jungle… 

At the end of the tour, I decided join my three new friends on another tour the next day: the so-called small tour including majestic Angkor Wat and the “Tomb Raider” temple where the film with Angelina Jolie was shot. Meanwhile, exhausted, I went back to my guesthouse for an early night.

The start to my second temple day was rather chaotic: after waiting and changing tour bus and waiting again I finally found my travel companions after more than an hour and a half of messing around. I was rather grumpy but then I decided I was in a buddhist country and that I should know better. Besides, I was busy getting ready to get my mind blown again.

We spent the morning at Angkor Wat, the largest religious construction in the world – and it only took the khmer 37 years to build it! Of course, it was kind of busy (see photo!) and it was really bright out, and with these factors combined I was a bit disappointed by my pictures.

After an expensive lunch (10$ when it’s usually easy to get something decent for 2! ), we saw two more temples: Ta Prohm (swallowed by the jungle, and where Tomb Raider was shot) and Bayon, famous for its many carved faces. 

And to top off a really nice day of sightseeing, we stayed to watch the sun set on the temples from a small hill overlooking the area. My friend Yousra was up for a drink in town so we headed straight to a bar called “Angkor What ?!” in a street nicknamed “pub street”: 0,75$ for a beer, ridiculous!

More on Siem Reap and Angkor later, stay tuned! I have one more day on my pass and plan to visit the central part of Angkor Thom (the imperial city) later today, before heading off to Laos tomorrow.

Landed!

After a pretty rough landing on Siem Reap runaway (despite good weather conditions :/),  I can finally start my adventure. Well, sort of. The 17 hour journey (I had a stopover in Singapore), jet lag (6 hours) and lack of sleep got me longing for a nap, which I took, since I landed in the morning. 

A quick lunch in a local streetfood stand and a surprisingly good cup of coffee and I was all set for a long walk around the city. Siem Reap mostly revolves around the Angkor temples’ business but also offers nice neighbourhoods bustling with sunburnt Europeans shopping for souvenirs, a local market, massage parlours, and peaceful monasteries offering a welcome retreat from the traffic and commotion of the city centre.

As a blonde woman walking around on my own I had some apprehension at first but I quickly realised there was nothing to worry about, as I was only hailed by tuktuk drivers hoping for a ride.

Now I just need to prepare my visit to the temples. Unluckily, the entrance prices were increased (by quite a bit) on February 1st, the three-day pass now goes for over 60$!