I arrived in Siem Reap Cambodia in the early evening with two friends named Jamie and Chili that I had met on the worst bus ride of my trip thus far. The three of us piled into a tuk tuk with our packs stacked high, and set out in search of a place to stay. After a few mishaps, like the tuk tuk running out of gas, we finally arrived at a hotel with dozens of tuk tuk’s parked out front and ended up with a great deal on a room for the three of us. We quickly threw our bags inside and headed out for some food and drinks. It would be 5 am before we made it back to the room, and as we watched the sunrise from our window, I knew I was going to like Cambodia.
The day started with a much-needed shower and lunch with my two new roommates at Viva!, a Mexican restaurant claiming to have the best Mexican food in Asia. It might sound like a bold claim to any of you who haven’t craved Mexican food in Asia – and to be fair it probably is – but as I dug into the delicious Tex-Mex on my plate, I found myself uttering the words “this really is the best Mexican food in Asia”. I was in food heaven. It was the break from rice and noodles I needed and it was worth every penny. Judge if you want but know that I’m not ashamed of my love of Mexican food.
Getting back on topic, the rest of the day was spent meeting up with some of Jamie’s friends who were in town and enjoying the hotel swimming pool. By dinner time we were ready to eat and head out for a night of drinking. So that’s exactly what we did. While we were out I also ran into my friends Ana and Jo at Angkor What Bar (on purpose this time) and made plans to wake up early the next morning to tour the temples of Angkor with them. It was one of those great drunk decisions that would make for an interesting morning.
I woke up severely hung over. Why did everyone let me drink so much? Still I had made a promise, and I never let down a friend, so I ordered a breakfast that never arrived, threw up in the lobby bathroom and hailed a tuk tuk to Ana and Jo’s hotel. I was in rough shape to say the least. Luckily so were Ana and Jo. We all bravely made the decision to continue with our Angkor adventure as planned and set off to see the temples.Up first: The temple of Angkor Wat
I had been dreaming of the moment I would see this amazing structure for years, and when the moment finally arrived I was hung over and the entire scene was a little anti-climatic. I don’t think it’s Angkor’s fault it didn’t live up to the perfect photos of it I’ve been seeing in magazines for years. It’s all mine. I had constructed this perfect dream of what it must be like to be standing there gazing at an amazing slice of history that seemed to have been saved just for me. I’m a little dramatic when I dream folks. Never the less, I don’t find the moment any less fulfilling, and as the three of us walked through the first doorway feeling the ground wobble beneath our hungover feet, we were equal parts amused at ourselves and full of wonder that we were there.
After a short time battling stairwells and flocks of tourists, we decided to head to the market, that conveniently sprung up inside the main wall of the structure, to relax and get something to drink. We were feeling a little better by the time we were driven to our next destination.Angkor Thom & Bayon
To be upfront and honest I still can’t discern which temple is which, since they seem to be housed in the same complex. I am certain that we saw them both despite the collective haze of the previous evening. When our tuk tuk driver dropped us off and told us about Angkor Thom, Jo thought I was referring to the temple as Angry Tom so an ongoing joke ensued that had the three of us in stitches. Apparently we were easily amused in each others company and thinking back on that day makes me love the two of them even more. By this point, we had consumed some Coca Cola and were feeling a little more energetic, so we spent more time taking in both temples than we had at Angkor Wat.
During this section of our visit we were feeling the heat from the now present afternoon and found ourselves playing hopscotch with patches of shade. Initially we were walking on the top of both Terraces so we didn’t realize we were missing the best parts of them by not being on the ground. Mostly we found ourselves being amused by two things: The first was a full rainbow halo around the sun which caused all three of us to continuously stare upwards as we walked and loose our balance. The second was a series of signs reading “Possibility of Visit” which we put a lot of energy into understanding. Was there a possibility of us visiting? Was Buddha visiting? Maybe Aliens or zombies? The answer is still unclear.
This was by far my favorite temple in the entire complex. In case you’re wondering why it looks so familiar it was featured in Tomb Raider a few years back and is now the 2nd most popular temple behind Angkor Wat of course. And boy was it crowded. We spent a lot of time sitting in the same section of temple waiting for the crowds of “umbrellas” to clear out so we could get a photo of the iconic tree roots covering large doorways. We weren’t really being patient. It was just nice not to move.. and we had nothing better to do with our time.
After Ta Prohm we decided to call temple touring a day and headed back to town for some pizza. After eating we went our separate ways and I hailed a tuk tuk back to my hotel. We had made plans to meet up the following day for some shopping and a museum visit so I promised myself I wasn’t going out with Jamie and Chili that evening. I’m a pretty good liar. Not only did I end up going out with them. I ended up staying out most of the night drinking and playing beer pong in the process.
It was definitely a fun night to say the least, but it didn’t make for an easy morning. Yet again.
***Since this post ended up running a little long I’m going to continue the second half of my Siem Reap adventure in my next post. Hopefully it will be coming your way shortly. Cheers from Kuala Lumpur.
Day 1 Total: $35 for tuk tuk from the bus station, food, drinks, and accommodation
Day 2 Total: rough estimate $75 for temple entrance, multiple tuk tuks, food, drinks, and accommodation