I had been dreaming of visiting Angkor since I was a child, the great fear when travelling to a place you have dreamed of for so long is that it won’t live up to your expectations.
This couldn’t be further from the truth for Angkor. Whether it was the season, the timing, the pouring rain or just childhood imagination coming to life – Angkor was just as I had dreamed it. Magical and awe inspiring.
The road to Angkor can be easy or hard depending on your transit decisions, being a budget traveller mine was surely not going to be the direct one. This trip came about after a $10 add on to an Air Asia itinerary via Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh in itself was a worthy stopover, what an interesting and vibrant city. Of course there are rich cultural and historical tourist destinations in Phnom Penh. Much like the war museums in Ho Chi Minh City I couldn’t stomach them though. I settled for enjoying Phnom Penh in all of its glory now.
We took the $12 ‘luxury‘ bus to Siem Reap a few days later. While I can’t argue it was a luxury bus compared to some of the buses we passed – it had a TV, a packed lunch and a toilet. It was a long drive though, there wasn’t a freeway and it seemed we drove no faster than 60 km per hour for the full 6 hour journey.
A highlight for me – not so much for my husband – was on arrival in Siem Reap, we disembarked the bus and were swamped by local tuk tuk drivers. More drivers than there were tourists seeking transport. Not to worry for them though, the tourist buses would continue throughout the day. Being a female in some destinations means that sometimes you get overlooked, the crowd went straight for my decision-maker – my husband. I turned around to see him encircled by drivers, he was twice the size of them – towering above them – but he still seemed overwhelmed and started turning in circles looking bewildered.
I myself had managed to organise a driver on the outskirts of this circus and was signalling for my husband to come over. Our drive to the hotel was free – for the driver this meant a confirmed passenger for the next few days. He would wait for us everywhere and be available whenever we needed. For such a small price I don’t begrudge him his business model and also his willingness to negotiate with a female.
And then for the moment I had been waiting, Angkor Wat in all its glory and all of the other Wats of course. I felt like a great explorer – just as I’d dreamed. It was days of temple after temple, amazing variations in style and differing levels of preservation. Temples that had been swallowed up by the jungle only to be dug out and rediscovered again. Hidden gems just waiting for visitors – Angkor in all of its glory.
Our trusty driver was always ready to drive us around at our leisure – get a guide if you will – I had watched so many Angkor documentaries growing up that I just wanted to be the explorer. Then the rain started and didn’t stop for days. To be honest I think the rain added to our experience and it wasn’t going to stop me – besides our driver came offering umbrellas anyway.
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