Today, we are going to do something a little different. We are incredibly excited to announce the first post of our brand new series A Solo Traveler's Journal by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly experience different cultures, people and historical locations one country at a time.
First entry to the "A Solo Traveler's Journal" is the curious Cambodia. This was probably the biggest life decision I'd made this year, to start traveling alone. I decided that since no one wanna travel to these countries with me, I must step up and do this alone for the sake of my precious time. I stopped everything and started planning an easy trip to Cambodia. I also booked the flight right on that same day because I know that I would eventually back out if I hadn't create such a commitment and I'm glad I did. After telling people about my plan, I was met with concerns from my family members and friends. They believe that Cambodia is dangerous to travel alone. "I will proof them wrong", I thought to myself and they were wrong indeed.
Let's begin the journey:
Gloria's Angkor Hotel really cheap for a hotel with comfortable private rooms and friendly staff. The service sure exceeded the price.
At the Suwannabhumi International Airport. It always feel great when you are about to leave for a trip of your life, don't you think?
I thought our Thai language would be somewhat similar. I had never been so wrong.
At the Siem Reap International Airport
Tuk Tuk pickup accommodation from the hotel, Gloria's Angkor Hotel (Super cheap, the service exceeds the price, great rooms).
As you can see, there are no sidewalks, only a dusty side roads.
Arrived at the hotel. It wasn't in the city area as I hope it would.
Pub Street & Night Market
Let's head to the Pub street in the old town area. Pub street is a great place to escape after an all day tour around Siem Reap archaeological parks and temples.
This place is filled with nice restaurants and not as crowded as I thought (Well compared to Khaosan Road in Bangkok anyway).
I ended up at the Khmer Kitchen Restautant, trying out the traditional foods. The taste was okay. A little dull for my Thai tongue. :)
Rule number one, first thing you order at a local restaurant should be a local beer. Since tomorrow I have to wake up at 3 AM to go see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, a beer should send me straight to bed.
Angkor Wat at Sunrise
Woke up at 3 AM, and my private driver was waiting for me at the hotel lobby (Very punctual). He drove me to the ticket booth, and I paid $30 USD for a one day access to all temples. My driver reminded me that I have to keep this ticket at all times because there will be guards at the entrance of every temples checking my pass.
It was a little cloudy but still, it was magnificent. Especially the sunlights reflecting in the water. Magnificent..
I was bored watching the sunrise with other hundreds of tourists so I decided to take a walk and explore a little bit more before the crowd flocks in.
As I walked inside I saw a corridor that seems to continue to no end. The scale of this place is humongous!
People started flocking in to the compound.
Unfortunately, some parts are still under renovation.
Looks like a great place to sit and look at the horizon. The Angkor Wat in the morning was so calm and quiet, I could see myself wandering around this place for hours.
It's amazing how they could create a sculpture so perfect and detail without the help of modern technology. Amazing.
Since I have to be back again in the afternoon, it was time for me to leave the Angkor Wat and headed to another remote temple, the Banteay Srei.
It took 40 minutes to reach this particular temple. It'd better be good.
Another crazy detail sculpture, this time on red stones.
The infamous Banteay Srei Monkeys. Too bad I couldn't go in there and take a closer look. It was fenced out probably due to the ongoing renovation.
The Banteay Srei is also called the pink temples. Now I know why. They are built with red stones.
Tomb Raider's Temple: Ta Prohm
The infamous Tomb Raider's temple, Ta Prohm where nature took over the remnants of a once mighty civilization. Man-made objects coexist beautifully with nature. Truly amazing.
A lot of the areas at Ta Prohm were still under renovation.
It was time to leave for another highlight, the temple of the smiling gods.
Welcome to the Bayon Temple. It was around 12 when I arrived. The heat was unbearable but I no longer mind it once I saw the beauty of this place.
I asked my driver why there were so many headless buddha everywhere in Cambodia. He said it was due to several civil wars that happened in Cambodia and people cut off these buddha's heads to extract gold inside. Tragic.
Several gigantic smiling faces of the god. It must have took them ages to carved the detail on this pile of rocks. Imagine if there were one mistake, wouldn't they have to redo the whole thing again?
Time for lunch! My driver recommended this cool restaurant in front of Angkor Wat. This is amok, a traditional chicken soup inside a coconut. Good stuff.
Around Angkor Wat
Now, back at the Angkor Wat once again, but this time, I explored every single corners of this place.
The heat is unbearable and there were almost no shade for me to hide under.
With better lighting, the beauty of the Angkor Wat really shines. It was truly breathtaking.
I realized that these monks weren't actually living here inside the Angkor Wat. They basically traveled from Phnom Phen to experience the beauty of Angkor Wat like all the others.
Another detail wall sculptures. I wonder how they were able to craft a stacked stones into these seamless beautiful wall sculptures.
Seriously, I could just sit here all day. It wasn't crowded at the top and because of the way windows are positioned, the wind breeze cooled down the heat making this the perfect spot in the Angkor Wat for me.
If I were traveling with companions, I won't be able to just sit, relax and be with myself. Freedom with no compromise is truly the benefit of solo traveling.
After a few hours at the top, it was time to say good bye to the Angkor Wat. Nothing can be compared to the scale, the beauty and the history of this place. Its uniqueness will render you speechless, I guarantee.
I just couldn't keep my eyes off the Angkor Wat. :)
Art Center/Night Market
There was nothing for me to do at the hotel so I decided to go for another Angkor beer at the night market and to absorb the local atmosphere before I leave. As I walked I stumbled upon this cool art center behind the night market. This place was filled with all kinds of art related shops selling hand crafted sculptures, T-shirts and paintings. I decided to grab a few things that would remind me of this trip later in life.
I found a nice cozy restaurant called the Triangle Restaurant. The service was awesome. One of the waitress approached me and asked where I came from. Since Thailand is a close neighbor of Cambodia, we did share some similar stories. Apparently the waitress was about the same age as me as well so it was fun to learn about life in Cambodia.
It was time to head back home. I woke up early to catch a plane back, but there was one cafe that I had always wanted to try, the Blue Pumpkin. I heard that this place is one of the most popular local chain that are currently spreading throughout Asia. The coffee was very good but the price was a little too steep.
And this concludes the first "A Solo Traveler's Journal" entry. If you are looking to travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia, here are a few tips:
- The majority of people here use US dollars so you should prepare only USD for your trip. Keep in mind that they don't usually accept coins and sometimes they will return a change in riels if they do not have enough USD.
- Siem Reap is very safe. I saw a lot of police officers patrolling around most of the attractions. People are generally very nice and most of the people I met speak good english.
- 30 USD for a one day pass. Keep the ticket in your pocket at all times because you will be asked to show the pass every time you visit a temple.
- If you are looking for a 3G SIM card, try Hello by Smart or Telcom (my driver recommended this). When you arrive at the airport there will be several booths for you to buy 3G SIM cards at a very cheap price. There will be people to help you activate right on the spot or you can activate manually by following the english instructions on their websites.
- I hired a car with a driver for 45 USD for a whole day trip from Angkor Wat Tour. The car is very good with air condition and free drinks. If you do not want to deal with touts and scams, this is a good way to see Siem Reap in short amount of time.
- The hotel I stayed was also very good. Everything works in the room, and the price is super cheap. They also offer free ride and pickup to the night market/airport as well.
And that's it. I hope you enjoy the post and If you have any suggestion and recommendation on how to improve this post, feel free to let us know anytime.
We also would like to know which country you want us to visit next. Let us know in the comment below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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