Christmastime in Siem Reap (Part One)

After over 24 hours of travel and three flights, Hubs and I finally made it to Siem Reap. We both arrived delirious and had to get through two more hurdles. Thank goodness we planned well in advance and secured our e-visas before arrival, because as soon as we arrived in the immigration hall, it was pure chaos. There were several lines for visa applications (there is an option for visa upon arrival).  We headed straight away from chaos to the orderly lines, since we had our visas and the arrival cards already ready to go. Their immigration process for visitors was more intense than the US.  We fetched our luggage at baggage claim and started to look for our tuk-tuk transfer to our hotel. For the next 20 minutes, we tried really hard to enjoy our very first tuk-tuk ride on what seemed like dirt roads, passing by locals, seemingly emaciated cows, and many stray dogs. Upon arrival to our hotel, which was a little piece of paradise, Hubs and I were greeted with freshly made passion fruit juice and cold towels. After checking in, we took showers to wash away the airplane stench and fell into bed for the next five hours. We awoke only to eat, brush our teeth, and then slept for another 12 hours.

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When planning this trip I made sure we had one lazy day on arrival, because we had two full days to see several temples in Angkor Archaeological Park and it would be intense in 80% humidity with temperatures in the 80s. I’m so glad I planned it this way, we were in no shape or form to be climbing temples and such on our first full day there. Jet lag can sure mess with you. 

Hubs and I hired a private guide and driver for our two days of exploring. It would be nearly impossible to do the Angkor area without both.  We were covering 400 acres and not all the temples are adjacent to one another. Plus, it was nice having the air conditioner on full blast, water and cold towels waiting for us every time we got back into our vehicle. And note, it was not expensive, plus the de facto currency in Siem Reap is USD.  And it’s super easy to get USD, as the ATMs dispense it by default.

Now, coming to Cambodia I knew I wouldn’t be packing cute outfits. It’s probably the second hardest trip to pack for we’ve taken. First of all, you have to wear stuff which covers your knees and shoulders to be permitted into most of the sacred temples. You might be thinking “how the heck do you do that in tropical weather without wanting to faint because you’ve got too much clothing on?”. The solution? Gym clothes. That, plus my humidity hair made me feel and look like a hot mess the entire time.

I don’t know if I had high expectations or built up my anticipation too much, but I wasn’t blown away at the first sight of Angkor Wat. Maybe it the weather.  When we arrived at Angkor Wat, it was cloudy, raining, and humid. The dampness of the day made it feel muted and cold in appearance.  Later on the first day, the sun started to poke through and some of the other temples did have the warm yellow-orange hue. If you notice the pictures as you go along, you’ll see what I mean.  There were a full two days of temples to see, and day 2 had full sun.  It made the temple exploring way more enjoyable and awe-inspiring, however, more sweaty.

In my heart though, I’m really happy we got to see what we did.  It is a place we won’t soon forget.  So, if you’re planning to make the same journey there, check out the weather and plan your days accordingly.  You’ll need a minimum of two full days to see everything in the Angkor area – with a guide and driver.  Doing it on your own will take longer.

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