Part 3 – Cambodia and Siem Reap

This is the final post in a three part series about travel in Vietnam and Cambodia.  If you missed the other posts, you can catch up on them  by clicking on the title of the posts you missed:

Part 1 – Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An

Part 2 – Sapa, Halong Bay and Hanoi

Part 3 – Cambodia and Siem Reap

Blogger Son #1 had been to Cambodia and Siem Reap during his big backpacking trip in 2004/5, and insisted that since we would be so close to Siem Reap, we had to make a quick stop there. I’m SO glad we did. Arriving in Siem Reap was vastly different from arriving in Vietnam. For the better, if you ask me. Immediately, I was struck by the ruggedness and lack of infrastructure – dirt roads, people walking down the highways, tuk-tuks, and sweltering heat!! It was almost like landing in Africa.

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It was during this leg of the trip that I officially turned 30, and I’d done a lot of research into a ‘splurge’ hotel. We ended up choosing Angkor Village Hotel, which was made up of lots of little pagodas surrounding a lily pond/ dining area. Arriving there felt like arriving at an oasis in the desert – we were greeted by friendly staff giving us a traditional Cambodia greeting (prayer hands, bow), a welcome drink in a coconut shell, and A.C.!!

Anxious to get a feel for our surroundings, we dropped our bags off and immediately went to explore town – I was blown away by the energy, excitement, and sensory overload that we found in town. Streets lined with cafes, restaurants, $1 massage parlors, shopping stalls, and people buzzing everywhere. What a stimulating place! A delicious $3 Amok curry, several $0.50 beers, a $10 full-body massage, and shopping followed by more beers become our nightly routine –the perfect ending to our perfectly active days. Speaking of which – we spent our days touring some of the most magical sights I’ve ever seen – the temples of Angkor.

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Day 1 was spent at the biggest temples – amazing but also draining, even though we hired a guide and an air-conditioned vehicle (I’d highly recommend getting a guide, car, and AC for the big ones as your feet will ACHE after a few hours of touring the temples). That first day, we saw Angkor Thom, Ta Prom (also known as the Tomb Raider temple due to movie filmed there w/ Angelina Jolie), and Angkor Wat. The second day, we hired a tuk-tuk driver and visited some of the smaller temples sans guide – Presh Khan, Banteay Kdei, Ta Som, etc. Highlights for me were Angkor Thom (probably because we arrived early enough that we missed the crowds there) and Ta Som (a quiet, lesser-known but just as beautiful “jungle” temple where we practically had the place to ourselves).

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After days touring in the heat, we’d spend the afternoon relaxing by our pool at the hotel before the evening routine ensued. Well, all good things come to an end, sadly.

To get home, we flew from Siem Reap to Hanoi, where we had an excruciatingly long layover before boarding our westbound plane to D.C. via Dubai. Our perfect trip ended with a beautiful cherry on top – a business class upgrade from Dubai to D.C. – boom! We had the most magical trip, and I’d highly recommend our itinerary to anyone without any significant changes.

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Highlights for us were: Hoi An, Halong Bay and Siem Reap. I’d love to get back to both Vietnam and Cambodia one day, but especially to Cambodia – I know just seeing Siem Reap barely scrapes the surface of what the dynamic country has to offer!

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