Crossing into Cambodia
15.12.2008 - 19.12.2008 27 °C
After an adventurous two weeks in Laos, we were up against time to make our way into Cambodia.
From Laos we travelled on a minibus which took us through the border crossing then onto Kompong Cham where we spent the night before continuing our overland journey to Siem Reap. Even though the journey was very long & exhausting, not to mention having to change buses three times due to mechanical problems, it was very picturesque and a great way to see the country for the first time.
Nathan on one of the minibuses to Siem Reap
Cambodian countryside on route to Kompong Cham
In Kompong Cham we got dropped off by the river which is the only part of town you would want to stay in. Our hotel was pretty dingy however the bistro next door served up delicous Khmer (Cambodian) chicken coconut curry. Considering our love for Thai style curries, we were pleasantly surprised by the Cambodian version.
We woke up at 5am the following morning and had breakfast by the river with the bonus of a beautiful sunrise. By 6am we were on the public bus for our last leg of the journey to Siem Reap.
Sunrise in Kompong Cham
Kate with local kiddies at roadside stop
We arrived in Siem Reap (the host town of the jaw dropping Angkor Wat) at lunchtime. After being cramped up in a bus for the last day or so, we needed a good stretch so we strolled around town to get our bearings and to withdraw US $ from the ATMs...yes, the main currency they use here is US dollars as the Cambodian Riel is worth zip.
The Old Market (Psar Char) is the heart & soul of Siem Reap. The surrounding streets and the maze in the Old Market are great to wander around, especially at night when there is a real buzz in the air. Because it was nearing Christmas, the streets and river that ran through the town were lit up with fairy lights and Christmas decorations which was nice to see. There is a great restaurant scene in Siem Reap, primarily in the two streets running parallel to the Old Market. It reminded us of St Christophers Place in London having lots of charm and quaintness about them.
Our long awaited day for seeing Angkor Wat in the flesh had arrived. Hearing so much about its beauty at sunrise, we decided to hire a tuk tuk & driver for the day who would pick us up at 5am. It was pitch black when we arrived. Using our torch, we found a spot which we thought would give us a prime view when the sun rose. We were told the sun should rise at 6:10am however at 6:20am we were still waiting in the dark. The sky slowly started to get lighter but still no sign of the sun. Unluckily for us the sun never made an appearance. Not letting that ruin our day, we made the most of the early start and set out to explore the majestic Angkor Wat.
It truely is one of man's greatest achievements. However they built such a thing thousands of years ago I don't know. Angkor Wat is not only an archictectural masterpiece but a piece of art which tells so many stories on it's walls.
The grounds of Angkor Wat
Bas Relief on wall
Not only is there Angkor Wat to see, but if you follow the common small circuit , there are many temples and pieces of Khmer Art to explore. Some of our favourites ones are below:
Two Faces, Bayon temple
A cheeky wall bas relief
Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider was filmed here)
You could spend days exploring Angkor, however a full day for us was just enough.
On our last night we had a lovely dinner near the Old Market again. Later that evening we went to the Temple Bar for cocktails and to see live Aspara dancing and music. Aspara is another form of Khmer art which acts out old tales of love, life and war.