I had no idea what to expect traveling to Siem Reap, Cambodia! It was a super-convenient, one hour flight from Thailand; no sooner did we hit baggage claim than we were greeted and swept up by our hotel’s driver in a Lexus SUV and given cold hand towels smelling of lemongrass, icy-cold bottled water, and addiction-inducing coconut cookies! What the what!?? I love it here and I haven’t even seen anything yet!
What was surprising to me was on the ride from the airport to our lovely boutique hotel, La Residence D’ Angkor, was that that right there, a few miles from the heart of the city, was the monolithic, mystical-looking Temple complex of Angkor Wat rising out of the landscape as we drove by!
There are more than 1000 UNESCO World Heritage protected temples in the area including Angkor Wat, which was built during the Khmer Empire, between the 9th-14th centuries and is the largest religious monument in the world.
We were told the best time to go to Angkor Wat was before sunrise with our guide. Fantastic advice, because nothing was more magical or mind-blowingly awe inspiring than watching the sun come up over this magnificent, spiritual fortress. Plus the added benefit of no crowds, and only a few other people in the place – which makes for great photos!
Our hotel sent us with a picnic breakfast including a thermos of coffee and one of hot chocolate, knowing that we would be there at least 2-3 hours to be able to see the whole complex . Kaya shared a bit of her breakfast with the temple monkeys, and she quickly ended up with devotees.
There are thousands of feet of wall space, with intricate carvings depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. One being the ancient Hindu story of Good vs Evil; The Gods and demons were ordered by Vishnu to work together, not against each other to produce the “Amrita”, the “Elixir of Life”, that would render them immortal. It took them 1000 years, but once they produced it, an epic battle ensued over who would control it. The good guys won in the end, but Vishnu hung onto the elixir for safe keeping. Good thinking, methinks!
There is so much to see in Siem Reap and the surrounding area that it’s no wonder Travel and Leisure ranked it 4th in their World’s Best Cities survey.
The safe, must-see, bustling night markets cater to tourists, with great shopping that supports the Angkor artisans. There are many American style pubs, bars and restaurants with fantastic food, and the favored mode of city travel? Tuk Tuk of course, and they’re as conveniently ubiquitous as a taxis in NYC.
I can’t wait to tell you about all the other adventures to see and do here, like exploring the unbelievable, “Jungle Book” like remote temples, visiting the inspirational orphanage, and seeing Tonle Sap Lake’s stilted, floating village featured in the movie Apocalypse Now.
Stay tuned, because that’s all for another post!