Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap Ep. 1
Meet & Greet: Welcome to Cambodia. Upon our arrival at Siem Reap Airport, we obtain our Cambodia visa, and then clear Immigration and Customs. After collecting our baggage, we exit the airport to meet a local guide of Global Travel & Tours. She is holding a sign with our names on it.
Private transfer: From the airport, we took a hotel provided car to our lovely boutique hotel, Pavillon d'Orient Boutique. Pavillon is situated in an old colonial mansion surrounded by lush tropical gardens in Siem Reap. Styled to resemble the 1930s era, the rooms are quaint and comfortable, with air-conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. Every room has a private balcony overlooking the pool and gardens. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire. That is what we've come to see.
We Settle in and enjoy the afternoon and evening at the hotel.
Siem Reap Ep. 2
Full day tour of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom & The Bayon: These temples were built from the 9th to 12th centuries by a Khmer empire that controlled not only Cambodia but large parts of what are now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam as well. With their grandeur of scale and extraordinary delicacy in detail, the temples rank among humankind's most supreme artistic expressions. We spent the early morning visiting the ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th century). When you get there you'll want to see the South Gate with its huge statues depicting the churning of the ocean of milk, Bayon temple known for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara, Baphuon (which has been recently re-opened after years of restoration), the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephants Terrace, and the Terrace of the Leper King.
In the late afternoon and sunset hours, we explored the most famous of all the temples on the plain of Angkor: Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Its distinctive five towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. Angkor Wat’s five towers symbolize Meru’s five peaks – the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat, the ocean beyond. We finished the day watching the sunset at Angkor Wat. Truly an incredible experience.
After dusk, we returned to our hotel with the evening free to relax.
Siem Reap Ep. 3
Morning tour of Beng Mealea: This morning, we meet our guide and drive to visit Beng Mealea, “Lotus Pond” Temple from the early 11th Century built by Suryavarman II asa Hindu Temple; about 2hours drive from Siem Reap. If there is one temple to explore resplendent with jungle engulfing it, it is Beng Mealea. Clambering over large sandstone blocks to reach the inner sanctuary and eerie worship corridor is an exploration to remember. Situated 60 km east of Angkor Wat, through traditional countryside life, over bumpy laterite roads, Beng Mealea is a temple hidden in a maze of jungle. Architecturally, Beng Mealea is noted for its innovative, in its time, construction of hallways, it was a very large temple with wide galleries foreshadowing Angkor Wat. Garudas, hold up an outer platform, finer in detail than those to be found out in the elements of the Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom. Surprises of fallen lintels with intricate carvings lay amongst the fallen wall and roofs.
Afternoon tour of Banteay Srei & Ta Phrom: This afternoon, we visit Banteay Srei, the citadel of women - a tiny, enchanting temple, which is one of the jewels in this remarkable city. Built of red sandstone in the tenth century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the carved male and female figures in the niches are exquisitely executed in both style and proportion. This is the most Indian of all the temples in Angkor and in the words of H.W. Ponder, is a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest. Stop at a local village to visit families who are producing palm sugar. Next, visit Ta Phrom in the soft afternoon light when there are not too many visitors around. Built in 1186, Ta Phrom was dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. Its atmospheric dark gray sandstone towers and courtyards exude an aura of reverence and mystery. Unlike the other temples of Angkor, Ta Phrom has been left to the elements and looks very much like the other temples must have looked when rediscovered by Henri Mouhot in the 1860s. Navigating through its narrow passages, immense kapok trees and its jungle-covered ruins is an unparalleled experience, one of the highlights of Angkor.
Returning to the hotel after dusk, the evening we are free to relax and we explore more.
Siem Reap Finale.
Morning tour of Lake Tonle Sap: This morning, we depart Siem Reap for a tour of the surrounding countryside and take an ox-cart ride through the villages and the rice fields. At the end of your ride, have a fresh coconut drink with the family and do not hesitate to talk with the local people to get to know more about their lives. Then drive to the fishing village of Kompong Pluk (if the road is passable) near Siem Reap and board a private boat. Visit Kompong Pluk village with its houses standing on stilts and board a pirogue to discover the seasonally flooded forest. Enjoy the natural splendor of the country during a cruise across the Tonle Sap Lake to the village of Chhong Kneas. Visit the floating village and discover the centuries-old lifestyle of the inhabitants of the lake.
We had a free time in the afternoon until we transfer to the airport in time of our flight going hope.
"It was an Incredible journey".