Tuesday we checked out of Bangkok. We made an online reservation for two spots on a bus to Siem Reap. At 8 am the bus would leave at the big bus terminal in Bangkok. At 6.30 am we took a taxi from our hostel to the terminal. After a 40-minute ride and some laughter with a jubilant taxi driver, we arrived well on time.
At the terminal (as big as Antwerp-Central, but much uglier), we had to find the bus company’s counter and get our tickets. All went smooth and at 8.15 am our half-full bus headed for Cambodja. We passed time with sleeping and daydreaming while the Thai countryside passed by. The roads between two cities are mostly well-maintained, so the bus could easily pass through. After a pee brak we arrived at the border with Cambodja.
By itself, the border crossing isn’t hard, but as Europeans we aren’t used to crossing national borders anymore. We had to stay alert. National borders seem to attract some obscure figures and that’s no different here in Cambodja. When a bus full of Western tourists stops here, some of them see opportunities. Watch out another article about crossing borders later.
We finally managed to cross the national border with our Cambodian visa and passports. The ride to Siem Reap was quite something and so we were glad when we arrived. Once we reached our destination, a tuk-tuk driver was waiting for us already. Free guesthouse service, thank you! He friendly introduced himself as ‘Bonheak’ and made it clear that he’d gladly drive us around in the temple complex of Angkor Wat for the next few days. We told him we’d keep his offer in mind.
Once checked in, we took a moment to revive and we roughly planned out the next few days. We definitely needed a chauffeur and so we addressed Bonheak. The Angkor temple complex is gigantic, so you don’t want to do it on foot. Tourists (luckily) aren’t allowed to explore the complex by scooter, so a tuk-tuk was our only option. You could do it by bike if you want, but over 40 km in humid temperatures that exceed 30°C made us decide to go for the tuk-tuk.
There are two standard routes through the terrain, a big one and a smaller one. There’s more or less the same to see on both routes, only the distance between the temples is closer on the smaller route. You can avoid a lot of hubbub by asking your driver to complete the route in the opposite direction. Most people start their tour at the Angkor Wat temple, so it’s more quiet when you start at the other end of the route. Which is exactly what we did.
The ancient temple ruins are impressive, the eye for detail and craftsmanship involved is almost supernatural. We really looked forward to this and it didn’t let us down for sure. You can find more info on these temples here.
Wednesday and Thursday we mainly visited temples and in the afternoon we hung around in the guesthouse. There was a swimming pool and a bar, so we couldn’t complain.
On Friday we drove to a farther temple by car, which is called ‘Banteay Srei’, or ‘Temple of the Woman’. It’s tinier and more detailed than the average temple, so it must be ‘made by the hand of a woman’. The temple is made of red sandstone, turning it into a beautiful red palace.
Saturday morning we took a minivan to Phnom Penh.
To be continued…