Magnificent Angkor – I

It’s been a while since I traveled out of Thailand. And it’s my first time using the new Bangkok International Airport at Suvarnabhumi for international flight. Bangkok Airways flight PG911 took us to Siem Reap, Cambodia in less than an hour. Our destination, the ancient Angkor city.

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Our arrival was met with a little glitch due to the immigration at Siem Reap airport as it appeared that the officials on duty were not ready to process our e-visa, which we applied online in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago. He was actually grumbling while typing on the keyboard and looking at the screen. I heard from a friends that this e-visa is new to them but I was hoping that they got used to it by the time we arrived. It was not the case. Hopefully, we didn’t present them with too much of a nightmare. Nonetheless, within a few minutes, we were allowed in. Welcome to Cambodia.

The hotel we were staying, Auberge Mont Royal D’Angkor was 15 minutes away from the airport. It was in fact not so far away but as there is only one main road leading to the city center, traffic was slow moving.

At first glance, it seemed like we were still in Thailand, only somewhere less urbanized.  However, after we rode along, the motorists on the road made us realized that it was in fact Cambodia. It was not the people, but the way they drove. Chaotic!

Within 30 minutes after checking in at the hotel, we were on the road with out tour guide to Angkor Thom, the big ancient city. We stopped at the southern gate, taking pictures while listening to the history of the temple. As we have heard before, there were a lot of locals approaching us, trying to sell the souvenirs of the temple, which I realized afterwards that they were all counterfeited. Yes, those postcards, “Lonely Planet” guidebooks they were selling were not originals. (That’s why they could set an initial price at USD10 and decreased it to USD1 while you were trying to walk away).

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First off, we explored the Bayon, which is the biggest temple at Angkor Thom, situated right in the center. Among the ruins at the Bayon, there are many interesting pieces of history written on the walls. The faces on the temple that we saw everywhere give the place the feeling that someone is still keeping watch of the place after all these times. Walking through the hallways and climbing ladders, the unforgiving heat of Siem Reap finally got to us. In fact, March is actually the time of the year that the temperature can be quite torturing for visitors. So, bring some water with you while touring the temples.

After our lunch at the air-conditioned French restaurant opposite Angkor Wat, we embraced ourselves before seeing the great temple under the heat. Yes it’s hot. But it’s worth the energy and sweats that we lost. Walking through the ruins, as well as the seeing the arts on the walls, I was overwhelmed by the greatness of the place, what it used to be and what would become of this place in the years to come. In fact, I was disappointed at how the government responsible are not taking a good enough care of the place, which is a world wonder. Treasures have been lost, history has been forgotten through years of civil war in the country. What a pity. Nonetheless, it is still a great site that you must see once in your lifetime.

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We finished off the day walking the streets exploring the many restaurants and pubs in the area. You might be surprised to see many nice and cool places along Pub Street, and the Old Market so be sure to check them out if you have the chance. Beware about the dishes that have mixture of flours in them as Cambodians seem to have troubles making “them” right, be it pasta or crepes. Though the nightlife is not as exciting as those in other big cities, it is still a nice hangout. And trust me, you won’t be asking for more as you would be tired after your day touring the temples.

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