SIEM REAP – the time it took us 3 attempts to see Angkor Wat

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Highlight: Exploring temples and pretending to be Tomb Raider


Sleeper bus pros:

  • No need to get a hotel so it’s a cheap option
  • You travel while you’re sleeping so you don’t lose any time
  • It’s often a cheaper way to travel than flying (if you haven’t booked flights ahead)

Sleeper bus cons:

  • Not an awful lot of space when two broad shouldered gents (you heard me) are lying in a two berth bed next to each other.
  • If you’re going to be sick, you’re stuck on a bus full of sleeping people with nowhere to go. You have to wait until the bus stops, wait for the doors to open, then allow the contents of your stomach to leave through your esophagus. In my case, the bus stopped at the final destination and then inexplicably waited for ages to open the door. I had to explain to the driver by the language of Charades “I am going to throw up in this bus if you don’t open the door in the next 10 seconds” by gesticulating from my mouth like I was singing but looking disgusted and drooping my tongue out of my mouth. Other people behind me were helpfully shouting “Puke” and “Vomit” to try and get him to understand and open the door. He finally got the idea and the hordes of tuk-tuk drivers clambering for my attention at the bottom of the stairs suddenly wished that they hadn’t got up at 4am for the arrival of bus, as I proceeded to projectile vomit over them.

At least we were in Siem Reap now, though we had 9 hours to kill until we could check in, which I spent lying on some lovely bean bags, drinking any water I could manage. With all my might I stood up, made it half way to the toilet and spewed up water like a geyser.

Enough of the sick stories, but suffice to say I was out of action for 48 hours. Simon kept himself company and explored on a solo expedition.

The next day we hired bicycles to rekindle our love affair with bikes. Was it going to be a high of Hoi An? Or was it going to be a low of Pai?

It was a bumpy ride, and I’m not just talking about the fact that the roads have clearly been lacking real investment for a while.

Angkor Wat – ATTEMPT 1

Time – 04:45. Pitch black, relying on the street lights, some little headlamps on our bikes and our astute sense of hearing. We set off on our 8km ride. I was still feeling a little more tender on the inside than usual (soft lad aren’t I), powered by the excitement of visiting the World’s best tourist attraction (as per Lonely Planet).

As we cycled the roads became darker and less busy. We were given solace every time a tuk-tuk drove past with westerners in the back, but we were alone for most of it.

After 20 minutes or so we reached a “check point”. Ok, so this must be the part where we buy our tickets.

Wrong.

“The only place that you can get tickets is 8km in the direction you just came. Would you like one of these tuk-tuk drivers to give you a lift? You’ll miss the sunrise otherwise”.

“Oh really? Ok. And why the $%£^%$ is that the case?” It was early, give me a break.

So we cycled back as the sun began showing itself.

Attempt 1 – fail.

Angkor Wat – ATTEMPT 2

Ok, now we know where we’re going for tickets. It was a long way from where we were this morning, and not in Siem Reap (which I really feel is an oversight by them, but whatever.

There’s a little known fact that you can buy a 1 day ticket the day before you want to use it by 17:00 and you get free access between 17:00 and 18:00 when it closes to see the sunset! We’re all over this – we set off on our bikes again and cycle to the ticket office, another 8km from the hotel easily. We’re there at 17:00, we double check that the ticket counts for sunset. Great news! We’re getting a bonus sunset, because we’re not going to want to be there from sunrise to sunset tomorrow.

We cycle to Angkor Wat. There are a real lack of signs. And by “lack of signs”, it really is a binary thing. There are zero road signs, and given this is a very large site you would really imagine there are a couple at least. But alas, we’ll make do without.

We cycle. And cycle some more. It’s getting dark… the sunset must be soon, but we only got the tickets 15 minutes ago. We keep cycling, this place really is very big.

We’re nearing on the google maps location, it’s about 17:30, the sun is down now and we’re in twilight. We keep cycling onwards.

Now we’re in total darkness. Even if we get there soon there won’t be much to see. Why is it even still open now? If you’re going to offer tickets for the sun set, at least give people a chance to get there for it!

I keep cycling, I start thinking that the Cambodian Tourism couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. But then a piss-up in a brewery has its challenges; you need to check IDs, liquor licences, transport to and from said brewery, I imagine the brewery is operational so there will be areas which you need to keep the – probably inebriated – clients away from, drinking vessels, service clearing empties, people serving drinks… not an easy task. The Cambodian Tourism board’s job is FAR more simple: Get people to buy tickets, direct them how to get there (during the hours of sunlight), let them see the buildings that someone built 800 years ago for you which you are making money from today. Job done. Not that difficult. If you’re still struggling with it, I can get some very qualified brewery tour organisers in touch with you for their help.

It’s 18:00, it’s too late. We take a left and go back to the hotel, still not at the destination yet. We’ve now cycled over 50km.

Attempt 2 – fail.

Angkor Wat – ATTEMPT 3

05:00. We enlisted the help of a friendly tuk-tuk driver and given the bicycles back. Yep, this was cycling fail. Bikes 2 – 1 Late20sCrisis.

We had an amazing day, tickets already purchased, crowds beaten by being so early, sunrise caught.

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We started in Angkor Wat, then on to a decrepit old Temple called Ta Promh made famous by the filming of Tomb Raider. Amazing trees growing out of the building and seemingly keeping it together, seemingly symbiotically keeping each other upright.

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Our tour ended at Bayon, another beautiful, unique temple.

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Siem Reap was a smashing end to our Cambodia journey, we both loved what we saw of the country, would definitely recommend it to anyone considering the area.

Next destination: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!


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Much Love,

Late 20’s Crisis

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