A Day Pretending We Were Lara Croft and Indiana Jones

Friday, 1 September 2017

Before I move on to all the awesome Tomb Raider stuff I wanna briefly mention our short but sweet stop in Otres. After Kampot we visited a little beach town called Otres about a 15 min drive from Sihanoukville. Although a really cute little town with a few nice restaurants we were unfortunately cursed with terrible weather, and in Otres there isn't much to do when the weather is crap. We ended up only staying for a couple of nights, at a hostel called BOHO - which was a lovely hostel with the cutest cats, it was 100% worth visiting just for them...

After our little beach break in Otres it was off to Cambodia's second largest city Siem Reap - famous for the grand and majestic Angkor Wat and its sheer number of ancient temples. As we had quite a lot of time spare I'm Cambodia we actually ended up booking a week in Siem Reap, and I'm so glad we did. The city has a great feel about it and I much preferred it to Phnom Phen. It was a lot less built up and sprawling, and felt like more of an authentic Cambodian city. Plus the people in Siem Reap are so lovely! We stayed at a hostel called 'Pool Party' as they did really reasonably priced private ensuite rooms, which swung it for us as we were gonna be staying for a while. Plus the pool was an added bonus! We really liked the hostel, comfy bed, great aircon, good shower and the on sight restaurant was also really good! Plus they have free tuk-tuk rides into town, making the out of town location no problem at all.

Although we spent the majority of our time in Siem Reap relaxing by the pool (saving money) we did have one big expenditure, Angkor Wat. We couldn't come to Cambodia and not see this incredible place. Now everyone always just refers to this famous tourist attraction as Angkor Wat, however Angkor Wat is actually just the name of one of the temples (the largest and most famous) in Angkor (the town). When buying an all day pass you can actually visit as many of the temples that you can and want to in that day! The pass cost $37 per person, so isn't cheap but it's so worth it! We went through a tour guide/tuk-tuk driver called Kim who made the day! He was so kind, informative and passionate about Angkor and Cambodian culture. I learnt so much from him and appreciated everything he did for me and Craig, including buying as loads of exotic Cambodian fruit for us to try!

Anyways Kim picked us up bright and early at 4:30am so we could watch the famous sunrise at Angkor Wat. This was beautiful and one of the most peaceful things I've done. Before going we had read some pretty bad reviews about it, saying it was heaving with tourists and you could actually see the sun rise but we were extremely lucky being in low season it was quiet and the sky was cloud free!

Instead of doing what most tourist do next, and that's look round Angkor Wat we decided to grab some breakfast and then go straight to Ta Prohm - known as the jungle temple or the tomb raider temple. This was the one Craig was most excited for and so we really wanted to get there early before everyone else so we could have a good explore. Arriving dead on 7:30 (the time it opened) we were able to wander about pretty much alone in Ta Prohm taking in the extraordinary sights. The best thing about Ta Prohm was 100% the trees. Seeing them growing around the dilapidated temple walls was like something out of a fairytale, it was insane - my mind was blown.

After enjoying a game of hide and seek we moved onto our next temple... Preah Khan. A lot smaller in size but also set in the jungle Preah Khan had lots of secret spaces as well as more mysterious tree roots twirling around the ancient stones. I especially loved the statue of Buddha in the picture below, the coloured bunting and lady lighting incense look beautiful juxtaposed against the errey grey brick.

After exploring the jungle temples we got to properly sit and chat with Kim as he shared some of his astounding knowledge about the temples, along with some Cambodian history. It was fascinating to learn that Siem Reap once belonged to Thailand and Siem Reap actually translates to Thailand gone! Plus Saigon in Vietnam once used to be part of Cambodia but they sadly lost it to the Vietnamese. Kim also retold his memories of the horrendous Cambodian Genosides, where he lived as a 3 year old boy. He stories of seeing friends and neighbours brutally murdered and as a child walking amongst dead bodies and bones filled my eyes with tears - it amazed me how after everything Kim has witnessed he was one of the happiest, warmest guys I've ever met. I can't begin to imagine what it must of been like for him.

After grabbing a spot of lunch we headed to Angkor Thom to explore Bayon - the temple with hundreds of buddha faces engraved in the walls. Bayon, is another famous temple that extremely popular with tourists and I can see why. Standing back from the temple its astounding to see just how many faces there are carved into the temple walls - it was amazing. Up close the faces were grand in size. We visited Bayon at around 1pm so it was a lot busier than the other temples - however it still wasn't packed with tourist like a lot of rumours we had heard. It was really fun climbing all the way to the top of Bayon and weaving in and out of the different doorways exploring. Bayon should not be missed.

For our final temple we obviously went back to Angkor Wat - where this time we would spend some time inside the temple. By this time the sun was scorching, making it quite an intense trip, and it made me realise why so many people explore Angkor Wat at sunrise! The temple itself is HUGE and nothing can prepare you for just how breathtaking it really is. It was magical to actually walk around inside the temple and the views from the top were incredible. I will say, be prepared for a lot of stairs and make sure you have plenty of water on you, but other than that its such a peaceful experience.

Sleepy, hot and worn out after trekking round Angkor Wat for roughly an hour and a half, Kim shortly took us back to our hostel for a well needed lay down. Visiting the temples of Angkor is something I'm so proud to say I have done and recommend it to anyone visiting Cambodia. Not only is it like nothing you will ever see anywhere else, but it really does give you a huge insight into Cambodian culture and the people that make it as brilliant as it is.

Elly x

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