The Leap to Siem Reap

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Super happy that my big smile has finally arrived in Angkor Wat!

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia (PART 1). April 6-9, 2013. Forgive the title, haha. Laugh it out and move on. Oh I feel so happy blogging about this! This trip gets to check two things off my list! I feel like I am finally making a dent on it. Haha. I still have a long way to go but that is precisely why the world is a beautiful place.

So how did I end up in this breathtaking province? I am not entirely sure but I’m pretty sure it started with a text about a promo flight and ended with another text with all my passport details. Thankfully, I have a photocopy of my passport with me all the time, apparently, it really comes in handy during moments like these. So hooray for spontaneity, not really one of my traits but 5,000-peso flights to wonderful places tend to bring out this sneaky trait in me.

Our adventure officially started when we landed at midnight in Siem Reap. The airport was pretty nice. There were statues and photos of the temples everywhere, it almost felt like we were arriving at a resort. We had to wait for a while for our hotel tuktuk though because Lea got confused with our landing time – I think. Haha. So there we were, five girls waiting in front of a row of drivers looking all lost and touristy, well, I guess they’re used to that already. Thankfully, our friend-slash-boy-scout forever Renan, was already at the hotel (he was fresh from Thailand) and he told the hotel to pick us up already. Hooray.

We arrived in Parklane Hotel – I seriously recommend this place. It is so cheap and the place is nice. I didn’t have any complaints and the people were just awesome! Everyone was so nice and helpful! I paid a total of USD 27 for 3 nights in Parklane Hotel! I’m not kidding. We were 5 in an adjoined room so you can imagine my shock when I found out a breakfast buffet was included! And this is me talking. Haha. – plus, I was pretty happy it was near Pub Street where apparently most of the nice restos and shops are.

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In front of our awesome hotel with our even more awesome tour guide, Sophea, and beside our rented van with its own cooler inside
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Just a bunch of energetic kids in front of an ancient temple

Angkor Wat. I think after 5 hours of sleep, we were already preparing for our starts-at-sunrise tour to Angkor Wat! Where can I even start to describe the majesty of this place? Starting off with our silly photo is one way to start. I’m not even sure if this was still part of the main temple, I don’t think it is. I got really confused with the temple names and everything, but, what I’m sure of is that this was very near where we started. Haha. (I’d really suck as a travel blogger.)

We hired a tour guide plus a van for the day. Our tour guide’s name was Sophea, please request for him when you find yourself in Siem Reap. I think there is only one local tours agency so it’s really easy to look for people. We really learned so much from him and he’s so nice plus he directed and took our best photos of the trip! The entrance to the place was USD 20 which is not at all bad considering we got to go to so many places inside.

The place was packed especially outside the temple along the huge hallway in front (which always appears printed on postcards) and a lake that was empty during that time because we arrived during the “dry season”. This dry season is no joke. We knew it was going to be hot but I guess nobody can truly prepare for that heat if you’ve never experienced it before. I was sweating all over the place even though my shirt was already so light. No worries though, a little heat can’t ruin this perfect touring day for me and my friends.

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Obligatory tourist thumbs-up photo with the sunrise (also reflected by the lake)
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The early risers (complete photo, yaay!)

Since I decided, just now, that PART 1 of this travel diary will just be about our tours (which we did for 2 days) and since our tours was 80% temples, I decided to share with you:

TIMMY’S TRIPLE TEMPLE TIPS – We booked a tour for Day 1 and 2. For the first one we went to the biggest temples plus the beautiful temple where Lara Croft was filmed. For Day 2, we hiked up a mountain to see this famous waterfall with some carvings in the stones, more temples (which are smaller but also so beautiful) plus the floating village!

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In Ta Prohm (where Lara Croft was filmed) which was an absolutely wonderful place, you see the trees growing right through the structures, pretty amazing

ONE – What to bring and what to wear When you decide to go to Siem Reap during April, you’re in for a very hot adventure. It was a good thing I learned of this a day before and so I rushed to the mall and bought those super thin shirts in the department store – the cheaper, the thinner and so the better! Whee. It is also best to wear lightweight pants (you can see us wearing these by Day 2, they sell these pants for around 150 pesos) because shorts are not allowed in most of the temples so you have to pay and rent this cover-up thing. Plus, wearing pants or at least something that reaches your knees is a way of showing respect to the place. BUT, do not wear these pants when you decide you want to hike, mine literally ripped as I had to take pretty long steps and the fabric of my pants just could not take the pressure anymore. I went down that mountain with my pants ripped all the way from my waist down. Thankfully, not many people were there. Haha, crazy moments.

I had to wear my Chucks (or any other good pair of sneakers) for most of the trip because I was afraid of slipping down the steps of the temple or complaining of how my feet are so sore after a day full of walking up the steep steps, along the uneven hallways, hiking a trail that were cleared of mines! Surprisingly, at the end of such a tiring day my feet don’t hurt as much as I expected them to. I also brought my wide-brimmed hat which I can conveniently fold inside my bag when I need to, a super light backpack, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, bottles of water, and of course, shades. Another thing I would’ve loved to know before we did the tours is to always bring an extra shirt with you. It’ll really help when you’re already soaking in sweat! Also for your clothes, I suggest that you pack 2 sets per day. I almost ran out of clothes because I didn’t expect us to take a bath after the tour and still roam through the town afterwards! My bad.

As for the money, just bring dollars. All the stores accept dollars. I had a budget of $200 for everything excluding the flight, and it was surprisingly enough for three whole days. I didn’t save that much either, I ate what I wanted and bought what I wanted so $200 is really not bad!

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Somewhere up the mountain

TWO – Listen to your tour guide I’m rarely part of a tour when I leave the country. When I was in one in  Beijing, I only learned the basic stuff which I felt I could google anyway so I didn’t pay that much attention. For this tour, however, the history behind the temples are really so interesting. The transformations of the temples moved along with the changes in the beliefs of the people (from Hindu to Buddhist). It’s pretty cool that these changes can be so clearly seen by even the smallest carving on their wall (ex. a head being cut off from the wall or an attempt to make a Hindu figure into a Buddhist figure by adding some details). Also, it’s so amazing to see such intricate carvings in almost every surface in the temples and it is so interesting that there’s a story behind almost every single one of it. You see the story unfold as you move your eyes from the start of a hallway all the way to the end. It’s all pretty cool. Guess this is what really gets me with ancient ruins – people and civilizations get to leave their story behind these walls, it is almost as if you can imagine yourself standing among those people who lived there and even more interesting, during those times when all of the major changes happened. History was rarely my favorite subject, but a history class like this just blows your mind away. Good times.

Another reason to listen to your tour guide is he knows best where to take your photo! Haha. Sophea was really awesome. We had some pretty wacky photos thanks to him plus he took us to places where there weren’t so many photos. Also, it’s pretty interesting to know their stories too. For our tour guide, he was a soldier during the war. And so, while we were hiking up this mountain (I forgot the name), he told us that during his time when he was fighting in the war, that place was filled with mines. He told us that we shouldn’t stay far from the trail as there is a possibility that there are still mines that were not uncovered there.

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Sophea’s idea! (I mean no disrespect!)

THREE – Take it all in With anything, I think it is so easy to get carried away by the big number of tourists speaking in different languages around you, or so many pretty places to take your photos with or even just the heat wearing you out, but I really think that the point is to really just stop and take  in the majesty of the temples you visit. I really liked all of the temples but I must admit that the best one was during our second day, when our tour guide took us to a much smaller temple. This one was quiet though and apart from us there was only one other group there. That was the time when the place really took my breath away. The place was beautiful and its size was grand, at least for me. It was so quiet and you can just really feel the place. I love Siem Reap!

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Inside that beautiful and quiet temple we visited, definitely a big bonus for Day 2!
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Our smiles do a good job hiding the fear from actually posing for this photo!
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30559_10151382491558176_1391005407_n Above: Trying to be like the Apsara girls Below: Temple running!
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On the way to the floating village, the waters were really muddy and the wind was strange but it was still an experience. 🙂
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Posing with the crocodiles in one of the floating markets in that village makes me a very happy girl!547449_10151382502323176_2111137764_n

That’s it for Part I! It’s so easy to book trips there. We just booked everything from the hotel. Nobody researched where we were supposed to go! Haha. We just sort of went with the flow, and it was great! I’ll be writing about everything else we did in Siem Reap besides the tour next! Yay! (P.S. All photos are my friends’, I didn’t bring a camera!)

Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in.

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Hi, I'm Timmy. I believe in writing as a therapy, global warming and true love.

4 thoughts on “The Leap to Siem Reap

    1. Hotel lang, we asked them to book us tours! When we were going around parang all tour guides were in the same uniform so I’m guessing medyo iisa lang ang tour company nila. =)) Ask for Sophean!!! 😀

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