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mistybleu Angkor Archaeological Park - A travel report by Amanda
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Angkor Archaeological Park,  Cambodia - flag Cambodia -  Si«m Réab
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mistybleu's travel reports

Journey to Indo-China - Angkor

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Indo-China is made up of three former French colonies: Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Initially I thought the term referred to most of South East Asia owing to all the brochures I looked at, however the beauty of travel is learning about our world.

Heading into the region I got a better sense of the French empire. My first stop on the Indo-China trail was to Cambodia; where my guidebook described it as the ‘backwaters‘. In the colonials days, France was deemed to be more preoccupied with Vietnam then to invest or develop the country, which is a shame as the country is so beautiful. But it does explain why it is considered as one of the poorest nations in South East Asia.

My destination was for Angkor, so I could see the infamous Angkor Wat, so I headed for Siem Reap which is the closest town. Siem Reap means the 'Defeat of Siam' (aka Thailand) owing to a massacre that occurred, however before that it meant 'The Brilliance of Siam', as for nearly 500 years, it was one of the main border crossings from Cambodia into Thailand. Siem Reap is only a few miles from the airport and only 7 kilometres from the park. It is a wonderful little town that has grown out of the popularity of Angkor.

The Angkor Archaeological Park home to one of the world’s most spectacular religious monuments in the region and is sometimes referred to as Angkor Wat, even though the wat is a only a small part of the park, as it is spread over 300km and surrounded by dense rainforest. The name Angkor Wat is meant to mean temple of the capital.

It was built at the height of the Khmer Empire, who controlled Cambodia, Laos, much of Vietnam, and a portion of Thailand at that time. It was built as a Hinduism temple but by the 14/15th century was converted to a Buddhist temple, which makes it a significant place for both religions. But even more so to the people as it is now on the national flag.

The park is a major highlight to anyone’s visit to the region; it really is in a category of its own, as there is no other historical site in South East Asia that matches its grandeur and in my opinion should have been included as one of the new 7 Wonders of the World.

Favourite spots:
I was advised to purchase my ticket (it goes on sale at 4.30pm) for the park the day before so that prior to closing I would be able to enter to watch the sun go down. I rented a bike ($2) and cycled the 7km. The journey was quick as the road was very flat and even though the day was blisteringly hot it felt fine. I got a map from my hotel only to realise that it was just a straight route. As I cycled passed the main entrance, I came upon the moat and saw the outer walls, I just knew this was a great day.

When I crossed the main bridge into the Wat, it was really magical and awe inspiring.

Most temples in the complex face eastwardly, except for this one, it faces west and makes a truly perfect location for the evening sunset.

Angkor Wat is made up of 5stupas shaped liked a closed lotus flowers and has a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. Once you navigate the many walkways in this labyrinth you reach the inner sanctum where you find a standing Buddha draped in a saffron cloth.

What's really great:
Judging by the comments at the airport, most of the prices for tours were fixed; either a taxi $30, tuk tuk $20 or moto $15. This is for a standard tour that will take in 3 of the main sites and last up to eight hours. I kind of thought 8 hours would be too much, but as the area is so vast you use up that time without even thinking about it.

The main sites are Angkor Wat, Ankgor Thom and Ta Prohm: For Angkor Wat see favourite spot section. Angkor Thom is a huge complex (9km sq) of temples and pyramids. The main temple is that of Bayon with the distinctive serene stone faces on every tower. The elephant terrace is also of interest. Ta Prohm is located approximately 1 km east of Angkor Thom. Ta Prohm has been left as it was found, with trees growing out of the ruins, this makes it very special.

Passes are sold for entry for 1 day ($20), 3 days ($40) and 7 days ($60). The 3 day pass is valid for any three days in a week; similarly any seven days in a month.

Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple
There are other sites around Siem Reap worth visiting.

1. The Angkor National Museum has many artefacts that were taken from the temples to preserve them ( The museum provides an introduction to the golden era of the Khmer kingdom.

2. The Cambodia Cultural Village is a perfect place to get a better understanding of the Cambodian culture. There are 11 unique villages, which represent different cultural heritages in Cambodia; as well as on evenings, their shows express their culture through song and dance.

3. The Old Market in Siem Reap is bustling with energy and activities with souvenir stores, wet market, pubs, bars and restaurants catering for everyone. Go there early in the morning and check out the wet produce market to get a true sense of local lives.

Teak in abundance
Teak in abundance
I always feel safer when I book a hotel before I arrive in a city, however this time I didn’t, so my driver took me to a travel agent. It wasn’t intimidating as they allowed my the surf the net to get a really good price. I went for a medium sized hotel just outside the main part of the town, which still felt central. There was an eclectic charm about the Prumbayon Hotel; it was fill with wonderful wooden pieces solid wooden furniture. The service was ok and I ended up getting a couple of hours free surfing as the lift broke down one evening which was a bit of a bonus as I need to get some flights sorted out to Vietnam. The rooms were basic (the lock on the balcony door was broken) but clean. They had a swimming pool, although I didn’t use it, it enhanced the setting.

Not sure how it happened, but I found myself staring at the tiles on the bathroom floor and I swear I could see elephants walking - I’m sure it was some sort of magic eye tiles.

Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom
I didn’t eat in many restaurants while I was in Cambodia, mainly owing to the length of my stay in the country, but when I spent the day in the Angkor Archaeological Park, I had to eat and drink something. The day was so hot, I was thankful that I rented a car and not a tuk-tuk. My driver took me to one of the many roadside restaurants, near the western gate. The restaurants (and I use the term loosely) where just little wooden huts with basic amenities; I have a bit of a sensitive constitution so I don’t really eat in places like this, but when in Rome... I believe drivers have regular places that they take their guest, which is kind of good as it takes away a lot of guess work in choosing a restaurant. The food was simple yet very tasty - fried rice with an egg on top.

Other recommendations:
Performers at Angkor Wat
Performers at Angkor Wat
Souvenirs in Cambodia are quite cheap and I found it is worthwhile picking up some quality bargains. I hate bringing back too large items, so I went for silk items like make-up bags, wallets, handbags, scarves etc.

Not sure whether anyone is like me but from every country I travel to I always buy the same thing. It used to be mugs, but now it’s fridge magnets as they are very easy to pack. So for some tacky stuff next to the Angkor Wat complex some of the locals try to get you to buy the items. But be warned they are very persistent. It appears there is an imaginary line that they are not allowed to cross, which really is the saving grace. Also around some of the temples.

More can be found in the Souvenir building in town; most of the things from here are produced inside the Cambodian Cultural Village workshops.

Published on Sunday February 13th, 2011

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Wed, Aug 14 2013 - 11:41 PM rating by hieronyma

Thank you for sharing and helping me to prepare my journey to Cambodia Iin October. It made me vividly remember my first trip and I only can agree when you tell how breathtaking and stunning Angkor Wat is.

Sat, Mar 19 2011 - 10:37 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Another of your fantastic reports. Thanks!

Tue, Mar 08 2011 - 06:23 PM rating by eirekay

Marvelous report! I envy you biking the ruins! I did this in Thailand and it is a marvelous way to go! Wonderful tip about buying the ticket the night before!!!!

Mon, Feb 14 2011 - 04:32 AM rating by porto

Amanda, the beauty of travel also means another excellent report :)

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