We caught an early flight from KL to Siem Reap on Tuesday morning. The flight took about three hours, we were pleasantly surprised with how new the Siem Reap airport was, it looks like tourism has been bringing in good money for the area. We are staying at a place called Mekong Ankor Palace, they sent a free tuk tuk to the airport to pick us up. This would be the first and only free service we would be receiving in Cambodia. Once we arrived at the hotel we coordinated with the hotel for a tuk tuk driver and a local tour guide for the temples. The cost of the tuk tuk driver was $25 a day and was suppose to be our transport all day, we found out later the driver actually stops working after sunset. The tour guide was also $30 a day, we decided to skip the guide for the first day and only have the guide around for the temples on day 2 and 3. USD is a common currency used in Cambodia, this is probably due to the poor currency value of the country.
Day 1 Tonle Sap Lake and Apsara Dancing
Tonle Sap Lake is one of the largest lake/river in Cambodia. One of the most unique features of the lake is the water flow changes directions between the dry season and the monsoon season. During the dry season the lake is fed by the Mekong River, once the monsoon season hits the water pushes up from the Mekong River and uses the lake as a reservoir. The lake is home for many ethnic Vietnamese and Cham communities. Much of the lake is occupied by these people as their permanent residence. The entrance fee for the lake was a hefty $20, at this point, I am starting to feel wary of all the $20s I’m spending. Isn’t Cambodia suppose to be an affordable place to travel to?
Our ten year old boat driver bringing us out to the lake
View of the boat houses on the lake. These villagers live in extremely poor conditions and depend heavily on the tourism industry.
The entire lake lacked the feel of authenticity because it was heavily dependent on tourism. Everywhere we went, people were asking for money. Also, our tour guide did not speak very much English, therefore much of the history and description of the people living on the lake were left out during the tour. The entire trip went on without much discussion of the area and we were often brought to boats seeking for additional donation for the lake and surrounding area. It made the entire trip uncomfortable and left us feeling trapped and irritated.
Beggers on the river
We purchased a three day $40 pass for Ankor Wat and all of the surrounding temples. We ended our first day by going to Phnom Bakheng hoping to catch the sunset.
Phnom Bakheng without the sunset
We caught the first big storm of the rainy season shortly after returning from Phnom Bekeng. The rain prevented us from doing anything outdoors on the first day, we decided to watch a traditional Apsara dance in a nearby hotel. The dance included an all you can eat Americanized buffet dinner. The total for the dinner and show cost $12 USD. The food was mediocre, but I really enjoyed the traditional dancing.
Day 2: Bayon, Ankor Wat
Bayon temple is one of the largest temples within Angkor Thom. The most distinctive feature of the temple is the four faced Buddha. The photo below is one of many four faced Buddha in the temple.
There is a dress code for several of the temples currently still being worshipped by locals. Women can only go in the temple if their legs are covered above the knee. Our tour guide Bob failed to tell us this prior to leaving the hotel. It turned out I was the only person in the group who was dressed appropriately to visit these temples. Miscommunication is becoming a reoccurring problem with our tour guide.
The hindus were obsessed with framed doorways, intricate carvings on the stones and linga.
Ta Prohm, best known in the Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider
Bob, our tour guide telling us the story of the Churning of the Milk for immortality for the hundredth time…
Michelle had to rent a Sarong to climb to the top of Ankor Wat.
Incomplete carvings inside Ankor Wat.
We lost Michelle among a big group of Asian tourist
We ended our day at Banteay Srei Temple, better well known as the lady temple. The temple is within the outskirts of Siem Reap. It took us approximately 40 minutes to get to the temple via our Tuk Tuk. With no shade in sight, the temperature was becoming unbearable, it made it difficult to concentrate on the beauty of the architecture.