Siem Reap

I had one last day in Siem Reap, and I spent most of it hanging by the pool.

I did step out for a little.  I found a great cafe and walked around the downtown for a bit to see the Khmer New Year decorations, but all in all I used today to catch up with family (Happy Easter!) and sleep.

Siem Reap

Today I decided to tackle some temples on my own (well, with my driver’s help). I started at Banteay Srei, known for its beautiful carvings. One of the farthest temples, it’s well worth a visit!

From there I went to East Mebon, which was my favourite of the day. I left pretty early in the morning, which was nice, because it meant the temples were still not that full by the time I arrived.

Next up is Ta Som.  While I exploring I heard thunder and so this temple visit was cut short.  I made it to the tuk tuk just before the rain started to pour!

From here we moved to Neak Poan.  My guide actually told me about this one yesterday.  The temple is made of 5 pools. There are 4 pools, one for each elements (air, water, earth, fire), all of which are connected to the pool in the middle.

The last temple was Preah Khan.  It had stopped raining at this point, however, the floor inside the temple is not even so I was stopped by large puddles a few times and decided not to go further.  It was a long ways to where I could see people past the puddles, and I expected to find more and more in the ruins.

But the best part of my whole Cambodia trip was seeing the Phare Circus.  All performed by Cambodians, this is their cirque du soleil and it was great!

Siem Reap

Today I got myself my own tuk tuk to take me around to some temples, and a guide to tell me all about them! Do you think I’ve remembered any of the information I learned so I could pass it along? No chance of that! I barely even remember the names of the temples, but know that I was glad to have had the guide to learn about these places while I was there.

Our first stop of the day was Angkor Thom.  This was the capital of the Khmer empire (consisting of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam) in the 12th century.  The carvings on the temple are exquisite – they show the daily lives of the people, along with the large faces carved into all of the towers (4 faces per tower).  It was definitely the most awe-inspiring temple to me.

Originally a Buddhist temple, when it became a Hindu temple all the Buddhas were either destroyed or turned into Hindu gods. You can still see the empty spaces where the Buddhas would have been.

Nearby was the Elephant Terrace, where in the past the elephants used to be. We know this by the many elephants carved along the walls.

Next up was Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider temple, as this is one of the film locations used.

And we ended in Angkor Wat, the temple I visited yesterday.  You’ll see some pictures of very steep stairs – this was so when you climbed to the top of the temple you’d have to use your hands and feet and crawl your way to the gods.  Of course, the staircase for the king was not as steep as the rest.

We finished by lunch, and I relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.  It was simply to hot to do anything else.  But that evening, my hotel sent me to a restaurant with a traditional Cambodian dance show.

It was interesting to see the dance, and understand the stories they told, but I was more excited for the Cambodian Circus show tomorrow.

Siem Reap

I got to Siem Reap around 10am and boy was it hot. I’m in town for 4 full days (including today), which is quite a long time, so I did not feel bad in the slightest when I spent all morning lounging by the hotel pool.

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But I did get out that evening, to go have a quick sunset view at Angkor Wat. Built in the 12th century, it is the largest religious monument in the world, and is the most famous site in Cambodia (it’s even on their flag).

The directions given on where I should go to see the sunset were vague and unhelpful, so I ended up seeing it set on the moat.  But I wasn’t concerned – I got to see a bit of the temple today, and I’d be back tomorrow with a guide to show me around.

Phnom Penh

I got to Cambodia’s capital last evening, and other than a short walk around the block to check out the nearby temple, I just settled in to my hostel.  They have a wonderful restaurant with pretty good views, so it was quite a nice low-key night.

Today started off on a sad and somber note.  About 40 years ago the Cambodian genocide was taking place, in which millions of Cambodians were killed.  My day started with a visit to the Genocide Museum which was a school that was turned into a prison during the Khmer Regime.  I was able to meet two of the survivors of the prison which was amazing, but it was still quite an emotional morning. I was uncomfortable taking pictures there, but they want you to, so more people will be aware of these events.

Our next stop was to one of the killing fields, aptly named because here are were hundreds of thousands of people were murdered and buried in mass graves.  I couldn’t bare to take photos here, so here is just one, of some of the offerings people have brought to remember the deceased.

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I decided to tour those locations with a local, rather than using the audio guides, which made it such a more personal experience.  But at the end of the afternoon I got dropped off in the middle of the city and in the sunshine and clear skies, the morning seemed like a million years ago.

I was near the Royal Palace, however it closes for a few hours in the afternoon and of course that was when I was there.  It was much to hot and humid to wait for it to reopen, so here’s some pics of the outside only.

And that evening, when it was finally cool enough to be outside, I went for a lovely river cruise.  From the distance I could see the palace all lit up, so that was my second viewing.

Tomorrow I’m off to Siem Reap quite early in the morning to see some very old temples.