All times are approximate… the nice thing about vacations is, we rarely ever cared what time or day it was. =)
8 AM — We get up early on the first real day of our vacation. Head downstairs to check out our hotel’s breakfast, but before that: drop by the front desk to make arrangements for going to the archaeological park. They offer us either a car or a tuktuk. We had gotten recommendations for both, but decide that we would start with the tuktuk and change to the car later on in the trip if it doesn’t work out. Tuktuk is $15/day, car about twice as much.
10 AM — Breakfast done and we’re off. Our driver Rin meets us at the front of the hotel. I explain that I don’t want to see Angkor Wat quite yet; I want to do the outlying temples first and save the best for last.
10:30 AM — Entering Angkor Archeological Park. Stop by the tourist office to get our passes. $40 each for a 3 day pass, which can be used on any 3 days in a 7-day period. Other passes are 1-day ($20), 2-day ($40) and 7-day ($60). They only take cash. We get our photos taken, receive our passes, and off we go.
Along the way, we see wild monkeys! Later reading informs us that they can be a nuisance, but from a passing tuktuk, they are absolutely cute. David loves monkeys and is duly delighted by their presence.
10:45 AM — First temple: Preah Khan. Rin drops us off, we exchange phone numbers, and he tells us he’ll meet us when we come out the other side.
Here’s an interesting thing I would realize at the end, after all this: you end up spending a lot of time at your first temple. Everything is unfamiliar, everything is interesting. After a couple temples or so, you’re over the apsaras, the carvings, the stones — you’ll see them everywhere… but the first one is magic.
As we’re exploring, David discovers that his Crocs, bought especially for this trip, are not working out. He’s getting killer blisters. The Band-aids aren’t working because we’re way too sweaty for them to stick. My long skirt, although super cute, is also not making me feel very good and making my legs a gross sea of sweat (so sexy!). So we tell Rin that we have to head back to the hotel and change.
Lesson: Ladies, your skirts need to breathable. Polyester works fine (I had a maxi dress I wore later in Bangkok) but my skirt had a polyester lining, then a layer of polyester/rayon over it. Not good. Polyester wicks away sweat and dries quickly… but probably only if that sweat can evaporate away. So, no polyester liners! And this goes for everyone: do try out new shoes for a day or two if you’re planning to wear them on vacation.
1:15 PM — We’re back at the park. Rin takes us to Bantay Kdei and Sra Srang. At Sra Srang, we get waylaid by some children who ask us to please check out their bracelets, and do we want to get some water for only $1? Too bad Rin has a cooler stocked with water bottles in ice (which did not seem too common, although we did see a few other drivers with them. If your driver does not provide water, no worries! Around each temple there are usually vendors who will sell you some. Don’t skimp on the water and don’t forget to drink. Walking around temples is hot work and you don’t want heatstroke on your vacation). The children are very sweet but persistent, although we manage to get away with not buying anything. This was an experience that would be repeated fairly often.
2 PM — We tell Rin we’re ready for lunch. He takes us to the Khmer Village Restaurant nearby. Obviously they have arrangements with the hotel. Food is a bit pricier than we’d like, and also, earlier we’d passed some roadside BBQ’s which are more our kind of food. Oh well.
2:45 PM — We drive around Pre Rup to get to the entrance. This is the first temple we’ve seen today that really wows me. Maybe it’s the grand scale. As we enter, I see the five towers atop the raised platform. It’s beautiful against the blue sky.
3:15 PM — East Mebon is similar to Pre Rup, so much so that later on I have difficulty telling one from the other in photos. Pre Rup is older, and East Mebon has elephants… that’s really all I’ve got for visual cues. Looking around East Mebon from the top, you see all the rice fields and paddies in the area. It’s pretty cool.
3:45 PM — Ta Som is small. At the innermost part of it, there is a doorway over and around which a tree is growing. Pretty cool photo op. Waylaid again by children here… this time I do buy a couple magnets for $1. Souvenir for Siem Reap, check.
4:15 PM — We’re templed out for the day, or maybe it’s just the heat making us tired faster than usual. So we tell Rin this has to be the last one before we head back. Neak Pean is pretty much a collection of pools. Not a lot to see here; the path is pretty short.
4:45 PM — Back at the hotel. The pool looks super inviting, and we accept.
6:30 PM — Heading out to get some dinner. When we were choosing our hotel, we had to decide between a hotel closer to the airport (quieter) or one closer to the town center. We’re only about 10 minutes from the Night Market and Pub Street, and I’m glad that’s what we picked. It would’ve been not as fun having to take a tuktuk to town and back every night.
We walk around the area, but everything looks too… touristy. Too nice and fancy and Western. Then, we go through an alley and come out to a sidewalk with hole-in-the-wall eateries. Yes! Now this is more like it. We’re in the Old Market. After perusing the menus displayed on pedestals in front of each spot, we decide on Nai Khmer Restaurant & Bar. David gets curry, I get loklak… all is well with the world.
9 PM — We head back to the hotel after exploring the Night Market a little. It’s been a full day of temples and exploration. We stop by the front desk and arrange the next day’s travels: Bantay Srei and Kbal Spean.