Sunday 8 April, 2018
Day 11 / Siem Reap & Angkor Wat Temples
[Missed Day 10? Read the previous post here]
After our decision to enjoy a few extra hours sleep to skip the sunrise and crowds, we wake at 6.30am and start making our way to Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom to get there for 7:30am opening. It’s a nice cool cycle, with less traffic than usual but enough out there to know you’re still in South East Asia. We arrive and there is hardly anyone there.
As you enter through the first stone gates you immediately see the faces carved into the stone.
We park our bikes and take our time wandering the grounds. I’m not normally someone who likes temples and architecture but Bayon is amazing.
There are apparently 216 faces carved into the stone temples.
The place is stunning and every direction you turn there is something more impressive than the last.
We then cycle to Ta Prohm temple, known for where Tomb Raider was filmed.
The moment you set foot onto the grounds, you’ll notice giant trees everywhere.
All through the grounds, you see trees taking over the temples. They entwine themselves around rooftops and through windows like a snake killing its prey.
As we cycled away from the Angkor temple area we spotted loads of tuk tuks and tour groups coming the opposite direction as they drive in. For those planning on seeing the Angkor temples, I highly recommend cycling. The temples are quite spread apart so you will definitely need some mode of transport to get around. Some people hire tuk tuks or taxis but cycling is probably the cheapest and most flexible way of doing it.
We stop by the local food market and buy some pineapple. I see a bread stand and ask man if any of the baguettes are vegetarian but they all contained pork floss as usual. I find it so bizarre that they stuff all their bread with meat, even raisin bread which has caught us off guard. We cycle a bit further to have breakfast (a pork-free baguette!) at Phsar Leu Bakery before cycling back to the hotel.
We arrive back at the hotel and it’s still quite early. I’m still hungry and it’s approaching lunch time so I walked to the same place we went to dinner last night. I can’t find the same English-speaking girl from last night but I find another girl who can also speak some. I order a Cambodian omelette dish (USD $1). The omelette contains bean shoots, which you wrap in a lettuce leaf with herbs and dip in a sauce. I’ve been wanting to get one since I saw them on our first day in Cambodia – it’s one of the best things I’ve eaten in Cambodia so far!
We decide to walk across the river later to Pub Street and it’s amazing how different Siem Reap is on the other side of the river. I’ve heard reports that Pub Street is tacky and touristy, and it lives up to all expectations.
I’m glad we decided to stay on the eastern side which feels a bit more local than the touristy vibe we get on the west side. The streets are lined with pubs and there is a giant indoor market that takes up an entire block.
We decide to have dinner at a vegetarian restaurant called Chamkar. It’s a bit pricier and more touristy than most places we’ve been to all trip, but we’ve heard good things about this place so decide to splurge (that’s if you consider USD $22 for four dishes and drinks splurging).
The food is delicious. We order Rice Paper Rolls, Wedding Day Dip (a spicy, curry style dip with baguette), Biting Amok (Cambodian Curry) and Green Mango Salad.
It’s a full house and as we sit there eating we see a family at the restaurant next door, cooking meat and seafood on a grill. The mother however is sitting at the next table at Chamkar eating her vegetarian food but still trying to enjoy a nice dinner together with the family.
After dinner we step back out onto Pub Street to soak up the atmosphere, which has started to pick up. There are loads of Fried Rolled Ice Cream stalls and Cheye decides he wants to try one. Within ten seconds of hitting the main street we are approached by a young girl with a picture menu, asking us “Would you like ice cream? Choose up to three flavour”.
Cheye orders one with Oreos, Milo, Nutella, then topped with chocolate syrup and wafer stick rolls. We watch as the man makes the ice cream rolls. He pours the mixture on the cold plate and uses his tools to chop, scrape and roll the milky mixture until it turns into ice cream.
He assembles the rolls in a cup and tops it with chocolate syrup and chocolate wafers. All that for only USD $2.50!
Cheye enjoys his ice cream as we wander back to the hotel. I’m still having dreams about the coconut sticky rice dessert from Pailin but somehow I doubt we will come across another stall like that.
One thing that happens quite a bit in Cambodia is the power tends to cut out randomly. The power in our hotel room cuts out at around midnight. Not just our room but the entire town. We’ve already gone to bed for the night but I can tell because the air con shuts off and it’s completely dark outside apart from a few cars and motorbikes. I think the next room freaks out because I hear them running downstairs and back upstairs before it comes back on about 15 minutes later.
Distance cycled: 32km (Around the Angkor temples and back)
Accommodation: Angkor Island Hotel (USD $15)
Lunch: Local Khmer Restaurant
Dinner: Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant