Siem Reap: Day 4 – 30.3.2015:
Our third-day tour in Siem Reap started a bit later than the days before. We enjoyed another breakfast buffet at the Mid City Hotel, including pancakes, and had asked our nice driver Ngoy with his tuk-tuk to meet at 7.30 a.m. in front of the hotel. We had planned to see more of the temples around Angkor Wat and knew Ngoy already, as he had accompanied us on our first-day tour.
We soon drove past Angkor Wat and through Angkor Thom and made a short stop at the beautiful North Gate of Angkor Thom.
Our first “real” stop was Preah Khan, a temple just north of Angkor Thom. It is a beautiful and big temple complex in the forest with beautiful reliefs. There weren’t many people at the time, so it was pretty relaxed aside from one very determined vendor, who really wanted me to buy a scarf, she even followed me around a bit.
From Preah Khan, we drove further to Neak Pean. This temple is located on an artificial island, and we walked on a wooden ramp through the vast swamp area surrounding the temple. The temple itself is relatively small and sitting inside a pool of water. What I didn’t like there was, other tourists giving little Cambodian children, who were waiting at the temple, money for photos. At many temple areas, there had been signs from the authorities to advise tourists not to encourage begging, especially not if children beg, by giving them money or to buy something from them. As long as they earn (relatively) much money from tourists, they will not be sent to school by their parents. But this tourist group we saw was like “oh they are so cute”, and one after another made a photo of the little girls and gave them a dollar.
After avoiding buying clothes or drinks from the vendors in the area, we came to another highlight, the Ta Som Temple. The mid-sized temple complex is beautifully located inside the forest, and you can see the woods claiming it back, as the trees grow on the stones. Ta Som offers fabulous photo opportunities.
Our next stop, the East Mebon Temple, was utterly different to the Ta Som Temple, as it looks a bit like an impressive ancient fortress. We climbed up steep stairs to the top of the temple and enjoyed the view as well as the statues and reliefs. We also enjoyed to sit up there hiding in shadows from the burning sun, as we were close to a heatstroke after climbing up the stairs. The stairs may not look like much, but they are much steeper and huge when you´re there. So the walk downwards was a little challenge, given my acrophobia, but also exciting.
We were ready for a break and an aircon at this point, so Ngoy (our ever reliable driver and eventually became a friend) brought us to a restaurant, where we had late lunch and considered what to do next.
We had seen the major temples of the area and therefore opted for something else – the Cambodian Cultural Village. While this park has some scathing reviews on online portals, we still wanted to give it a try, as walking through a park, having cold drinks and maybe see some cultural show seemed like a good idea.
When we arrived at the Cultural Village, there was some kind of official celebration in front of it with many schoolchildren. We didn´t really understand what it was about and soon entered the large, well-tended park. There weren’t many people, but the Cultural Village turned out to be a pleasant diversion. I especially enjoyed walking along the lake, the Khmer Village, the Wax Museum, the miniatures and a cultural show we attended.
There are actually several shows you can attend, but after a while, we were ready to go to the hotel to spend some time at the pool! Later we again visited one of the restaurants in the street of our hotel, had pizza and cold drinks.
Siem Reap really turned out to be a great travel destination – the temples from a different time are spectacular, the people are nice, and the city feels safe. You can easily combine it with other tourist destination, as there are – among others – cheap direct flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) with Jetstar and also to Manila (Philippines) with Cebu Pacific.