Thursday, March 26, 2015

Siem Reap All Over Again

Siem Reap Temple

Walking past the withstanding ancient structures that proved to be glorious amidst all forms of obliterations, I realized that once is really not enough. It was déjà vu. I was in the same spot three months ago looking over that amazing Wat, with my buddy and our trusted tuk tuk driver. I’m back at Siem Reap.

It felt so good to be back. Siem Reap seemed to be the most relaxed part in our Nepal-Southeast Asia backpacking trip. Nepal was adventure, Thailand was crazy, Vietnam was gastronomic and Cambodia was chill. Me and my buddy were acting like guides to our mates (my 2 guy cousins) who seemed uber excited to explore Angkor Wat. But then, I needed to show them Angkor What? Bar first.


Angkor What Bar
Angkor What? Bar in Pub Street
After the 12-hour border crossing from Thailand, we finally reached Siem Reap and checked in at Sokha Angkor Resort which will be our home for three days. It was almost nighttime when we got back into grooves. We headed straight to Happy Guesthouse and arranged our itineraries for the two-day tours around Siem Reap (US$ 30 excluding entrance fees and temple passes) and then proceeded to Pub Street for some real action.

The next day, we were collected by our trusted tuk tuk driver/friend, Nga, from the Happy Guesthouse. We were about to experience sunrise at Angkor Wat. With some breakfast packages on hand (prepared by our resort), we secured an Angkor Temple Pass from the APSARA office at around five in the morning (gladly, it was open that early). We promptly received our pass for one day to almost all the major temples in Siem Reap (US$ 20 each).


Siem Reap Tuk Tuk
Trying out our tuk tuk at Happy Guest House
It was an Amazing Raceish type of ride. Nga was speeding away like crazy to catch the perfect glow of the sun’s first kiss.

We dashed into the crazy crowd of tourists at Angkor Wat. It’s as if everyone agreed that the party last night at Pub Street will resume there. There’s this Spanish-speaking Cambodian guide with a huge group of tourists, the Chinese and French delegation and everyone, I mean, everyone was looking for that perfect spot to check out the sunrise at Angkor Wat. For us, we settled on the grass somewhere and just enjoyed the view. It was spectacular, yes, but not as grand as our Angkor Wat sunset experience three months ago.

Angkor Wat Siem Reap

Angkor Wat Siem Reap
Good Morning Angkor Wat!
The crowd dispersed after the glimmering sun covered the whole complex. We headed to the galleries on the corridors and went straight to the central tower. I lounged on a window frame and chilled for some time as my buddies went around and took some snapshots. I rested there and viewed the tower with respect and admiration. It was the same feeling as before.

Angkor Wat Siem Reap

Angkor Wat Siem Reap

And then we carried on at Bantay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Baphuon and the Bayon. We completed the Angkor Group and Small tour in just a day with some siesta sessions near the Prasat Baphuon grounds. And just like that, we’re templed out.

Siem Reap Temple

Siem Reap Temple

Siem Reap Temple

Bayon Temple Siem Reap

Bayon Temple Siem Reap

Bayon Temple Siem Reap

Siem Reap Temple

The next day, we soaked into the saltwater pool of Sokha Angkor Resort. We spent countless hours just paddling and wading. It was such a fresh experience for everyone.

At exactly twelve noon we were again collected by Nga for our next destination, the Tonle Sap Lake.

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap
Tonle Sap Lake
It was three months ago when we visited the Kampong Phluk’s Floating Village and Forest. I could still remember how my buddy almost drowned himself on the waters. It wasn’t him being soaked but his camera and gear that we’re so worried about; we can swim but not those stuff. And the death-defying jump I did on the lake that will be my last ever lake jump.

The one-hour ride didn’t bore us at all. The Siem Reap countryside scene was relaxing. The tuk tuk ride lulled me to sleep. I woke up at the sight of grazing lands where some herds of cattle were freely having their afternoon snack.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap

We paid the entrance fee (US$ 20 each/private boat tour) and went straight to the boat docking area.

I immediately noticed that the water from the lake was shallower than when we were here last February (it was May at that time). The boat had really a hard time crisscrossing the water paths to the lake. The houses on stilts were literally so high that it felt like we’ll be burning some thousand calories climbing up and down the makeshift ladders. And it dawned on me that I needed to go back here during the monsoon season to check out the water upsurge.

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

The floating forest was close to nil (which was my favorite part during our first visit). Floating restaurants in the middle of Tonle Sap Lake was our next stop.

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap

We chilled on one of the floating restaurants and were soothed by some fresh coconut juice.

Tonle Sap Lake Siem Reap
Chill
And then food tripping at the Old Market Area followed. We stuffed ourselves with fresh spring rolls, Chicken Lok Lek, Banana Chocolate pancakes and some more.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant Siem Reap

Banana Chocolate Pancake Siem Reap

It was a sweet comeback. Siem Reap is one of those places that will surely surprise you in so many ways. I will never get tired of it. Next time, I really wanna check out the Floating village during monsoon season. Maybe this year?


Siem Reap Temple
WIth my two cousins this time

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