Cambodia, The kingdom of wonder
This is my first time in Cambodia and frankly when I got to know that I was accepted by an NGO here for my summer internship, the first thing I did was searched Cambodia in the world map! Oh and I did not search for it in Asia but Africa! Quite ignorant of me I would say:( I always knew about Angkor Wat but never have I ever looked up in the map!
ARRIVING IN PHNOM PENH AND VISA
So I landed in Phnom Penh, the capital city at 12am. After completing the visa application form which by the way is the easiest and the fastest visa on arrival ever (You just require your passport, a photo and the details about the hotel you are going to stay), I went to the hotel Prasat’s Boutique. I booked a car from with the hotel as I wasn’t sure about my safety being a solo female traveler! And I think I made a good decision to do so. I realized that when I could see how vast and open (although illegal) the business of prostitution is around the airport. Prasat’s boutique was a very cozy little hotel with warm welcome even at 1:30am for 26$ per day which was a middle range at Phnom Penh. You could find a cheaper place at Phnom Penh too but I was restricted to BKK1 area as I had to find an apartment near my workplace. Find more about Prasat’s Boutique Hotel here: www.prasats.com
TRAVELING TO SIEM REAP FROM PHNOM PENH
On the weekend, I left by a minivan for Siem Reap for just 10$ by KO travels. Overnight buses are offered by Giant ibis which is for 15$ and are way more comfortable than the regular bus plus it saves your daylight time for travel! I travelled by sleeper giant ibis while returning to Phnom Penh and later one more time when I visited Siem reap again. I would recommend to book this bus as early as possible as the seats fill up fast and book a seat as close to the driver as possible since the restroom is towards the end and it is annoying to see people struggle with doors and not closing them after they are done. That not only disturbs your sleep but it becomes pretty gross when the toilet door is left open!
Book your seat here: http://www.giantibis.com/
STAY IN SIEM REAP
I booked hotel Mekong Angkor palace near Pub street for 16$ per night. The rooms were clean, Wi-Fi was good, air conditioner was working and the staff were friendly I booked this hotel through priceline.com. However you could find a cheaper place to stay here too. Those might be a little far from pub street though. One of the place I know is happy guest house, it is perfect for backpackers as it is cheap and the reviews are also good. I would suggest to stay near Pub Street as it is lively till late and you can go out to have a drink and try various cuisines at Pub Street till late in the night.
Check out Mekong Angkor Palace on maps:
SHORT CIRCUIT TEMPLES
Next day in the morning, I booked a tuk tuk for a day to visit small circuit temples at Angkor Thom. Here it goes: there are two circuits that are visited most:
- A Small/Short circuit and
- A Grand/ Big circuit.
The short circuit can be completed in about 5 hours depending on how enthusiastic you are about the old temples and its architecture. I would consider myself are A little more than average enthusiast. The tuk-tuk chargers about 10-12 USD. They will ask for more money, but do not forget to BARGIAN for EVERYTHING in Cambodia! The short circuits covers 3 important temples: Ta Phrom, Bayon and Ankgor Wat. The tuk tuk driver will first take you to a ticketing counter. You can buy a one day pass for 20$, 3 day pass for 40$ or a 7 day pass for 60$. Do not forget to keep your tickets safe and always with you as they check your ticket at the entrance of every temple. It is free for Cambodian citizens.
The first temple I visited was Ta Phrom. The iconic massive trees of more than 500 years that grow on the walls of the temples is simply awestriking and of course photogenic. Ta phrom has many small temples and it is still being conserved. Ta Phrom is famous for the gigantic trees on the temples. I wonder if those trees are holding such beautiful temples still together! It was built in late 12th and early 13th century and was founded by King Jayavarman VII. It was originally known as Rajavihara.
The second temple I visited was Bayon. This temple is so far my second favorite temple after Angkor Wat. The smiling faces of Bayon will leave you happy for the rest of your day in heat! Bayon was also built in about the same time as Ta Phrom, and was also founded by King Jayavarman VII. Here you can find a very old Buddha idol and from certain angle you will also see a Shivling/Lingam (An abstract representation of Lord Shiva, A Hindu God) representing the gradual change of religion on Cambodia from Hinduism to Buddhism. I assure you that you will feel the serenity in the atmosphere at Bayon. Definitely worth a visit!
The last temple to visit is the iconic Angkor Wat. It has an architecturally rich massive entrance. When you cross the entrance, it’s like a whole new world there! Angkor wat is the prime example of the fine and intricate Khmer architecture. It is worth to see a sunrise at Angkor wat with beautiful orange color on the stones on Angkor wat. And return to see the sunset after visiting Ta Phrom and Bayon. Angor wat was built by King Suryavarman II in early 12th century. It was originally built as a temple for Lord Vishnu, a Hindu God and it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple by the end of 12th century. Hence, You will find a lot of resemblance to a Hindu temple. With regards to the carvings. You can’t afford to miss this in Cambodia!
Spend the evening at Pub Street. It’s an amazing place to relax, have a drink, eat traditional Khmer food, massage, hear some music and shop for souvenirs and clothes. Don’t forget to but the comfortable unisex Khmer pants and definitely do not forget to bargain!! The night is market at Pub Street is pretty amazing too to buy souvenirs. You will find a variety of cuisines here from American, Chinese, Japanese, India to the traditional Khmer street food. It is a heaven for foodie!
Plan a 3-4 day trip at Siem Reap at the very minimum to absorb all that it has to offer. You will love the rich culture and architecture will simply leave you wonderstruck in the kingdom of wonder
Arkoun Chraen (Thank you very much!)