About an hour drive from Siem Reap and we arrived at Beng Mealea at around 8 in the morning. The ruins at Beng Mealea are the replica of Angkor Wat, a model before the construction of the great city. Over the years, the site was abandoned and the ruins were left to the mercy of nature, especially the trees that grew from within the bricks, which essentially destroyed the temple.
In addition to the ruins, we did get to enjoy a bit of adventure, climbing the rocks and ladders while making our way in and out of the old temple. We’ve learned that the site was cleared of land mines only a few years before and that it is now safe for tourists to visit the area.
After a couple of hours there, it took us another hour to reach Banteay Srei, the old temple with red stones and beautiful carvings on the walls. Our guide told us that this site will be most beautiful in the morning when the sunlight shines on the red stones, making the temple very photogenic.
However, we were not satisfied of our day tour yet. We were looking for the huge spung that grows on the temple wall, the sight that was made world famous during the movie, Tomb Raider. In fact, we were able to squeeze in the tour to Ta Phrom before the end of the day. It took us a while before we found the enormous spung tree. Now where was the tomb?
As I’ve mentioned earlier that the weather was very hot in Siem Reap, we was hoping that we could find some local made shorts so that we could wear in the pool at our hotel. Unfortunately, we could not find any. Thus, we were left to cool down at our hotel room before going for dinner at Pub Street.
Since we were left disappointed with the food in Siem Reap during the first day, we decided to try local Khmer food. As a sure bet, we chose the restaurant with the most Asian customers, hopefully that we all have similar tastes. To our delight, it was the first meal in Cambodia that we enjoyed. When we were done with dinner, we walked across the street to Blue Pumpkin for some ice cream as it is the only place that we could see with air-conditioned lounge.
The next day, before our flight back to Bangkok, we decided to spend the day relaxing and do our own little sightseeing in town.
First up, we stopped for brunch at FCC Angkor, a luxury boutique hotel in Siem Reap, which conveniently located near the Old Market District. We were vowed by the settings of the hotel and I personally think that this would be the place I want to stay during my future visits to Siem Reap.
With a few more hours to spare, we headed over Raff Grand Hotel d’Angkor, one of the grandest hotels in Siem Reap. In fact, it has one of the oldest, and still operational, elevators in the country.
We strolled through the Old Market District and stumbled upon one of the local diner before our flight home. It was a great experience for all of us in this rather unusual settings with local Khmer and Colonial influences. Another recommended destination.