We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia after an all-day, no AC, train ride from Bangkok’s main train station – Hua Lumpongh. The entire journey was breathtaking. Leaving the bustling city and making our way East through the countryside, we saw beautiful green rice paddies, a few mountains in the distance, and the daily life of hardworking Thai people. It was a hot, humid, and sunny day…until we had to get off the train.
About 5 minutes before we arrived at the Thailand-Cambodia border, a torrential downpour took us by surprise. We were not prepared AT ALL. As we got off the train we were greeted by a tuktuk driver ready to take us to the official border crossing but first, we had to trek through muddy streets. Although frustrating, it has become a funny joke on the trip (more to come).
We cleared customs on the Thai side and made our way to get our visa for Cambodia right after. Next stop was Siem Reap – The home of Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is the most famous religious monument in Southeast Asia and happens to be the largest religious monument in the world. It tops the list on many travel sites “must-see” places every year – for good reason! The temple complex is huge! Originally founded as a Hindu temple, it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. (source)
For 20USD, you can purchase a one-day pass or 40USD will cover a three-day pass. We opted for one-day starting as early as sunrise. Jet lag worked to our advantage on this excursion. We were awake well before we needed to leave the hotel and we started getting exhausted as the heat of the day hit high temperatures. Our hotel arranged our tuktuk and packed us a quick breakfast (hard-boiled eggs and bread) and we were off to one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.
Joined by hundreds to thousands of tourists, we all sat quietly with our phones, GoPro’s, and cameras rolling. The sun slowly came up over Angkor Wat and the sky turned a beautiful pink and blue shade. The pictures will never do the temple justice and it has no way of showing the emotion of the experience.
I’ve dreamed of going to Cambodia even before I moved to Thailand and this moment was nothing short of inspiring. I felt accomplished to be back in Southeast Asia after I abruptly left, I felt thankful to be experiencing this beautiful morning and trip with my Mom and my Aunt, and I felt motivated to keep doing what I love – travel to learn, grow, and appreciate.
Once the sun popped over the temple, we started touring the grounds of Angkor Wat. You could spend all day in just this temple. There was something eye-catching at every turn! You really feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The ticket into Angkor Wat also grants access to the other temples surrounding the area. One of our favorites from the day was Ta Prohm. Made famous by the large trees that are taking over and growing through the stones, Ta Prohm can be seen on your TV screen in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. Ta Prohm is currently under a great deal of restoration but it did not deter the overall experience. In fact, you couldn’t really tell construction was taking place.
By 1:30-2pm, we were battling the heat, sweat, and exhaustion. We made our way back to the hotel and enjoyed an evening by the pool with a traditional Khmer dinner.
We felt one-day was enough time to see Angkor Wat in the detail we wanted to. If you are a history buff or you have a love for incredible architecture, the three-day pass might be more your speed. The heat will get you, so start your day early and hydrate the entire time.