Cambodia is beautiful. Siem Reap is filled with wonderful people, sprawling street markets and lots of options for food.
We stayed at the Angkor Unique Villa. It was close to downtown and there were many amenities right nearby which was really nice. OH! They ALSO KEEP BUNNIES. They have 3 little ones who are still in cages and a big guy who has free roam of the hotel grounds. So basically, we were in heaven.
That’s right. Beer in hand, feet in pool and BUNNY!
One of my favorite things in Cambodia was the cheap laundry service! I told you that we were traveling with only hiking backpacks, so we brought limited clothing. In fact, Rosie brought 2 pairs of pants. PANTS. Did I mention it was like 90 degrees? FUZZY PANTS. Totally my bad for not double checking her, but COME ON CHILD. Anyway, we had them do 2 loads of laundry, totally 9 kegs of laundry (they weighed them) for a total of $11US.
Cambodia has it’s own currency, but mostly operates in USD. For anything over $1 they prefer USD, under that you’ll often pay or receive change in Cambodian. This is all well and good, except the ATMs spit out $100s which can be hard to break when you’re buying a 50Cent beer. That’s right, beer is cheaper than water. We took FULL advantage of this.
Anyway, we arrived in Cambodia and were treated to a lovely Tuk Tuk ride from the airport to our hotel, with all out bags. It was an amazing way to be introduced. You can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you see people carrying water from the well to their home in buckets on bamboo. Or watch farmers lead cows across the street with a halter made from rope. Chickens, dogs, cats (and apparently sometimes bunnies!) roam free. Families set up an umbrella and cart in front of their home and sell their wares, from noodles, to cane sugar juice to scarves.
Once we’d dropped our stuff at the hotel, we were off to lunch. We wandered towards an outdoor market (named the Night Market, however mostly open during the day as well!) and found ourselves a vegetarian cafe. We sat outside and ate some amazing food and enjoyed beer! Cambodia doesn’t have a large variety of its own cuisine, but instead is a wide mix of western and Asian foods. We’ve found when traveling in countries where you have to be careful about what you consume that Trip Advisor is a very helpful tool for finding safe dining options. Just a tip!
And after that, we were off to Angkor Wat.
I’m not going to lie. I basically knew NOTHING about Angkor Wat before this trip. What I knew about Cambodia came from the news in 90s. I have images of a war torn country: children carrying machine guns, farmers injured by land mines and Khmer Rouge claiming his innocence until his death. And while all that was true, there is so much more to Cambodia. Angkor Wat does NOT disappoint in showing you a completely different aspect of life in Cambodia.
We didn’t have a guide the first day (guides go through a 6 month certification course!) so Nathaniel bought a guided book from an adult peddler. It’s important to not buy anything or give money to children which encourages them to not go to school. It’s so hard when a preschooler is trying to get you to buy bracelets in her broken English, but we were careful to not give them money.
The guide book came in handy all of the days we were there though and Isaac was particularly interested in what he was reading. He read to us as we explored our first temple, Ta Prohm.
Angkor Wat was built between 730 and 1307 and was later left abandoned for hundreds of years. Over the past decade, efforts have been made by many countries, not just Cambodia, to begin restoration. However, there have been long periods of time in which no work could be completed due to the conflict in the country. It’s neat to see how nature used that time to reclaim the area, but also how well made these structures were! Each Temple was built over a long period of years, however most remained unfinished to one degree or another because the reign would change. Some of the temples were converted from Buddhism to Hinduism and some were then converted back again. Many of the areas have been pillaged, with items stolen or sold off. Areas where the original pieces are missing are reconstructed with new materials, created in the ancient ways.
Cambodians are permitted into Angkor Wat free of charge (though they must pay to use the restrooms) while foreigners must purchase tickets. Tickets are checked periodically on the roads travelled by cars and Tuk Tuks, and must be shown at the gate to every temple. Often there were stray dogs in the same area and we giggled that they were the ticket checkers.
There are merchants selling (very PUSHILY!, yes, that’s a word now) their wares, as well as many bands playing music for tips. Many of the band members were injured in the war, or by land mines. It is something to discuss with your children if they might be upset by it.
Our next temple on the first day was Banteay Kdei, followed by a quick stop to peer into the King’s Swimming pool.
Our final stop that evening was Prae Roup, where we went to watch the sunset.
Special shout out to Nathaniel on these amazing photos. Like, seriously we were there and I still can’t believe he was able to capture the feeling.
A quick dip in the freezing pool and we had dinner and passed out. Our next day was our biggest, visiting Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat, the two largest temples in Angkor Wat. I can’t wait to share them with you!