Candidly, we planned our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia specifically to see Angkor Wat. If you don’t know why, let me show you:
A little part of me hates planning trips just to see tourist-y things, but Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and home to some absolutely incredible ancient ruins, so I knew I had to go. We only had 2 days because we were fitting in our little side detour in between stops in Thailand, so our game plan was to spend most of our time exploring the ruins.
Everything I read said that “Temple Fatigue” is a real thing. And I am here to tell you that’s 100% true. Our trip ended up being perfection because we spent a day exploring the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom, but the other time was spent exploring some of the local villages and countryside. And boy, was that part incredible.
So, after our hot minute (literally) in Bangkok, we arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia. And yes, it was just as hot.
Pro tip: Heat rash is REAL in the hot, humid climate in Asia. A friend recommended Prickly Heat Powder and I cannot tell you how much this stuff saved me when I got major heat rash on my hands and legs. It’s so cheap and SO necessary!
We were ambitious here and ventured straight out to the temples right after we landed with our private tour guide (“Mr. Khamera”, pronounced “camera”, an appropriate host for this photo-loving gal). In doing our research, we read that it was very, very helpful to have a guide with you while touring the temples to help share all of the stories and avoid everything starting to look the exact same without any meaning to help differentiate.
We started off at the South Gate, then visited many of the temples in Angkor Thom, starting with the Bayon temple. It was a bit of a blur after that (a hot, sweaty blur), but we visited Baphoun, Royal Palace, Pimeanakas and the Elephant & Liper King Terrace – I’ll let the photos do the talking!
We were scheduled to see sunset from Phnom Bakheng, but after chatting with our Guide, he recommended a more remote spot where there would be far fewer tourists and just as beautiful of a view.
We still had some time, so we stopped at a local spot we read about for snow ice. It’s not exactly Cambodian, but hell, it was delicious! Don’t ask about the fruit sunglasses haha
We then headed through the countryside to our destination, at the top of the mountain with rice paddies visible to one side and floating villages to the other. It surely was an incredible spot, though sadly there wasn’t a sunset that day because it was too cloudy. We headed back, but spotted a lotus farm and stopped over to visit. I had never seen anything like this!
We were back at it with Mr. Khamera the next day at 5am to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat. Yes, so touristy, but “when in Rome!” This involved walking through the darkness with headlamps and finding a spot to “patiently” wait 1.5 hours to watch the sunrise. These are our patient faces. NOT.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how beautiful the sunrise was. I know I already posted this photo, but it’s just so beautiful I think I need to show it again.
We read that normally tours will then take you back to the hotel for breakfast, so instead of doing that, we stayed at Angkor Wat because everyone else left! It worked out splendidly, as we got some QT there without the crazy droves of tourists. Certainly made for some incredible photos!
Oh, and we saw the cutest monkeys!
After that, we began our “tour de temples” and I have to say, they were all just stunning. Our absolute favorite was Ta Nei, which was set down a tiny road in the middle of the forest and had absolutely no one else around. It was not as restored as the others, but there was so much beauty in that – no roof, boulders laying around, trees growing through the middle. Of course, I kept running around saying “Blue Barracudas” and pretending I was in Legends of the Hidden Temple. Lame, I know.
We continued onwards to see a few others including Ta Promh (famous as a location in Tomb Raider), Banteay Kdei and Krovan.
We ended at Banteay Srei aka the “Lady Temple”, a 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Pro tip: take off your sunglasses here or else you may not realize that this place is made from pinkish tinted clay! Yes, I may or may not be speaking from personal experience hahaha.
After total exhaustion from our day, we grabbed some pumpkin curry to refuel, which I might add may be one of my top 3 things I ate all trip.
And then, we booked ourselves some cheap massages…not like I ever need an excuse for a massage, but it felt incredible after our 2 days at the temples. When in Cambodia, right?!
Overall, we really wish we had more time in Cambodia, but there are always too many places to see and too little time. This adventure is sure one that we’ll never forget.