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Big Indochina Adventure – Days 12 & 13: Siem Reap, Cambodia

We arrived into Siem Reap shortly after 6:00 PM and made it to our hotel shortly after that. The hotel was, by far, the nicest one we stayed in during the first part of our trip. The room smelled amazing and there were even flowers on each of our beds.

We dropped our bags in our room and headed to the downtown area of the town. My Contiki Tour Manager from my China trip, Kristin, happens to live in Siem Reap now as she works for a tour company that specializes in volunteer tourism, The Bamboo Project, so my roommate and I met up with her at a traditional Cambodian restaurant, Khmer Kitchen. We split spring rolls among a few other things and the food was much better than I expected. It had flares of Indian and was mainly curry based. I think it was one of the best meals I’ve had during the last two weeks.

It was great to see Kristin and catch up. It is one of the best parts of traveling – meeting up with people you’ve met along the way in the cities they call home.

After dinner, we walked around the Night Market and bought a few t-shirts because they had cool designs on them, were soft and were $2 each.  I haven’t mentioned it yet, but Cambodia uses the US Dollar for anything over $1 and the Cambodian Real for any change less than $1. You literally get US Dollars out of the ATM!

After the night market, we had Fried Ice Cream. It was similar to Cold Stone, but they put the batter on an ice cold stone and mix your toppings into it. Then, they flatten the ice cream and roll it into individual rolls. It was so good!

We then headed back to our hotel, but realized we weren’t tired, so we met up with two other people and headed to Pub Street to grab a drink.

After a drink, we headed back to the hotel because we had a 4:15 AM start the following morning!

The next day, we boarded our bus at 4:30 AM to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. It is a bucket list item for any avid traveler, so I was thrilled to be able to check it off. It was supposed to rain and be cloudy, but it was perfectly clear!  The crowds were ridiculous, but I managed to get a few good shots. Even in retrospect, I can’t believe I actually can say that I’ve now witnessed the sunrise over Angkor Wat!

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and was built by the Emperor of the Khmer Empire in the 1100’s.  At about 6:30 AM, we voyaged inside the temple and walked around.

There were quite a few steps, but I was able to do them with no problem. The Temple itself was huge and it was amazing to be able to walk around it. Unfortunately, the staff would not let me climb the steep stairs to the top viewing platform.  It had a handrail and the stairs were modern, so I would not have had a problem. Despite the support of our tour manager, Jess, and our tour guide, our insistence that I had done much worse was not enough.

After Angkor Wat, we went back to the hotel for breakfast and to drop our laundry off across the street.  I essentially was able to wash my entire backpack for $9 USD. At about 10:00 AM, we boarded our bus and headed back to the Angkor temple complex. Angkor has a plethora of temples other than Angkor Wat, so we went to visit two of them. Our tour bus dropped us off at Angkor and we boarded tuk tuks to take us the rest of the way. Our first stop was Ta Prohm, also known as the temple that Tomb Raider was filmed in.

We walked up and immediately found a tree growing out of the top of the temple. This temple was much more natural than Angkor Wat in that we were stepping over tree roots the whole time. The theme of Indiana Jones was playing in my head the whole time as I walked around. It was, by far, my favorite temple.

We then boarded our tuk tuks and headed to the second temple, Bayon Temple, which was built in the late twelfth century and used for multIt looked spectacular from the outside against the blue sky.

The steps to get to the main level were the same pitch as the steps the staff wouldn’t let me climb at Angkor Wat, so it was a bit of a redemption for me. Once we got up to the main level, we walked around for about 20 minutes. There were engravings of Buddhas and other deities throughout the temple.

I even got a picture getting an Eskimo kiss from a Buddha!

After the temple, we headed back to our hotel. A few of us headed into town via tuk tuk to grab lunch and do some final souvenir shopping while in Cambodia. At around 4:00 PM, we hopped aboard our coach for a sunset tour. It was not just any sunset tour, though. We got off the coach and got on ATVs to ride through local villages and rice paddies. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it because I have trouble spreading my legs as my tendons are so tight, but I sat with my legs on one side of it and drove it that way. The company gave me a guide that sat behind me in case I needed help, but I didn’t.

The experience was out of this world. We literally rode around rice paddies as the sun was setting. It was so picturesque. On the way back, local children came out of their houses and waved at us. It was a great way to cap off our time in Cambodia.

After a quick shower at our hotel, we had a final group dinner in town. Only 6 of the 25 people on the tour are doing the full 25 day tour, so it was a great way to say goodbye to 19 friends I will have for the rest of my life.

We went out for one final night with our full group. The first bar we went to had a rooftop with a half pipe on it. It was a bit random, but pretty cool!  Our group bought “I Love️ Cambodia” shirts and we signed each other’s shirts with permanent markers. It was a great way to capture some amazing memories. Then, we went to a club for a few hours before retiring to our hotel.

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