A clear lesson learnt for me about travel writing is to write them immediately or almost immediately upon my return home. Alternatively I should make conscious efforts to jot them down as notes or something equivalent lest I risk forgetting the more intimate details of both the ordinary and extraordinary encounters throughout my journey. It helps though that I take photographs of everything I find intriguing; they help me recall my thoughts and feelings and why I found my subject captivating. If anything else, they help me render our experiences in exact chronological order.
We flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia immediately following our trip to Sydney. It was a spur of the moment decision that did not take long to deliberate. We decided not to stay in Kuala Lumpur for the rest of our holiday and felt strongly about seeing other parts of South East Asia. As we had always wanted to visit the jewel of Cambodia- the Angkor Wat- the decision came to us easily.
Siem Reap is the second gateway into Cambodia after its capital Phnom Penh. It is home to UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat along with countless other spiritual temples, some of which are still in use today.
There are two airlines operating the Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Siem Reap (REP) route: Malaysia Airlines (MH) and AirAsia (AK). At the time of writing, MH and AK operate 5 and 11 times per week respectively. The flight took us about 2 hours which gave us decent time to get a much needed shut eye after the long flight from Sydney which arrived very early the same morning.
Our sightseeing started only on our second day there (we were knocked out the first day that we spent the whole day recharging ourselves!). As is probably customary for all travellers, we initiated our excursion with the obligatory visit to Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat was originally built as a homage to the Hindu lord Vishnu during the Khmer administration. It gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century, propelling itself as the capital of the Khmer Empire. The Angkor Wat, or Capital Temple, is a colossal temple complex that sits within a site measuring 162.6 hectares surrounded by moat and protective outer walls. Purported to be the largest religious monument in the world, it is extolled for its grandeur and the intricate bas-reliefs and devatas (Hindu deity) adorning its walls.
Angkor Wat is one of many temples contained within the premise of the Angkor Archeological Park. To enter, you are required to purchase a one day (USD 20) or 3 day (USD 40) passes which will grant you access to no less than 40 temples around the park including the Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm among others. This can be done at any of the site’s entrances. Also note that there are check points at every temple where you’ll be asked to present your ticket; so do make sure that you don’t lose yours!
It took us more than half a day to thoroughly see Angkor Wat. We spent 2 full days temple hopping after which we had had enough and opted to travel out into the Cambodian villages towards Banteay Srei and Phnom Kulen National Park.
Tuk-tuks are ubiquitous in Cambodia and we were lucky to have met one at the airport who agreed to chaperon us throughout our stay in Siem Reap. We paid about USD20 per day which may seem quite hefty but taking into account the sheer diligence of our driver and the amount of kilometres we covered everyday, it was money well spent.