It is pitch black dark. I am trying to find my way through a maze of people, with Emma-Kate in my arms. There’s a lot of people everywhere. Some have flashlights, others take their cell phone to try to walk on the uneven pavement. I am following Clinton, who’s on a mission, just like everyone else: we all want to find the best spot to take the most breathtaking picture.
We finally settle for a spot by the water. We patiently wait, like everyone else. Minutes pass. Then the sky changes from black to a dark blue, and lightens up more and more every second. The blues change to shades of pink, red and orange. We can still see the moon shining, as if it wants to witness the vista too.
The sunrise is majestic. Nature is waking up, and we are there to witness the ever-changing colors in the sky. The magnificent nature is surpassing the grandiose temple of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat at sunrise is the #1 show everyone wants to see here, and it’s unforgettable, printed in our grateful minds.
For many people, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat are the same thing. It’s not, of course, but Angkor is Siem Reap’s main attraction, and Cambodia’s too. Lonely Planet ranked Angkor #1 attraction in the World! No wonder why there are so many tourists here!
Obviously, there are the temples. Since we are not history fanatics, we visited the main sites in one day. It took us 6h with a toddler. I am sorry for everyone who’s fascinated by history and temples, but one day, with a toddler, was enough for us! If you are visiting with your young child, forget about the stroller. It will be useless, even with a jogging stroller. Bring a baby carrier instead, if the two of you can bear the heat. Also important to know: Angkor isn’t design to accommodate people with disabilities.
Angkor Wat is one of the temples of Angkor. And it is fabulous! It’s the ultimate expression of Khmer’s genius, and can only be compared to world wonders such as Petra or Machu Picchu. Angkor Wat is the Khmer’s national symbol and unlike the other Angkor monuments, it was never abandoned to the elements.
There’s also Angkor Thom, or Great Angkor (Great City). The gates are gigantic. The sum of all Angkor Thom’s parts adds up to a greater whole than Angkor Wat.
Bayon is right at the center of Angkor Thom. Huge 216 enigmatic faces staring at the jungle! And we were lucky to be almost alone visiting!
Finally, we visited Ta Prohm, Tom Raider‘s temple. This is the perfect example of nature taking back its ownership from the human made structures. And it was my favorite temple to visit. I am personally impressed by nature and its wonders, and seeing nature’s power over men’s creations, it makes me feel tiny in front of this Godly force.
Flying Through Ankor’s Pristine Wilderness
One exclusive adventure I was lucky to experience at Angkor is the zipline and the canopy tour with The Flight of the Gibbon. It’s the only zipline located within a UNESCO World Heritage site! That makes the experience even more thrilling: everything is more exciting when it is forbidden! Actually, it’s not forbidden, but it would be if The Flight of the Gibbon didn’t work so hard with the community and to help the rehabilitation of Angkor’s gibbons.
As I arrived, I had the chance to see 3 gibbons! A daddy, a mommy and a baby gibbon! They are actually the only 3 gibbons in the area. Since the mother gibbon stays 3 years with her baby, she can only give birth every 3 years or so. There will eventually be more gibbons jumping from tree to tree in Angkor when the breeding resumes.
Some might be afraid to try ziplining in Cambodia because of our perception of their security standards. I would have been afraid too, but trust me when I tell you it is very secured! My Sky Rangers (Hul and Rithy) were very meticulous and thorough when it came to safety. They didn’t even want to take pictures of me because they only concentrate on safety. Being designed by experts from all over the world, the structures of the 21 stations aren’t dangerous at all, and we were being attached at ALL times. The team is very professional, kind and very friendly too! As soon as I arrived on the site, my Sky Rangers took really good care of me, from A to Z: they are the ones who fixed my harness, walked me through the security briefing, ziplined and secured me all the time, and made me laugh!
One simple thing I really appreciated is the bandana The Flight of the Gibbon provides all their guests. I ziplined at other places before (in Canada and in Belize), and they are the first one I see who gives one for people to wear. There’s no such thing as having to wear a helmet that hundreds of people have sweated in before! So no sweat transfer at Angkor!
I have to say I had an incredible adrenaline rushes going down the 10 ziplines. The 4 hanging bridges were quite stressful too, even if I am not afraid of heights. The mix of the adventure and the vistas of the jungle, dried out by the burning sun (it was the dry season in Cambodia) makes up unforgettable memories: the tall trees, the gibbons, the lizards, the black ants working hard, the slow warm breeze on my hot skin, the sun dazzling in the cobalt sky, and then the rush of adrenaline in my blood and in my head!
To finish the course, I rappelled 50m down and finish the adventure with a nice stroll in the jungle, learning interesting and fascinating facts about the fauna and flora of Cambodia. And since doing business with The Flight of the Gibbon is a whole experience, I could taste finger-licking traditional Khmer food for lunch and get a ride back in a van with AC to my hotel (The Flight of the Gibbon provide return shuttle services, complimentary).
This adventure and experience will forever stay as one of the best I had traveling around the world! I want to thank so much The Flight of the Gibbon for those unforgettable memories!
Besides those main attractions, Siem Reap is a touristy town where you will find everything you need. Almost everyone who visits come for the Temples. You will notice that there’s no skyscraper in Siem Reap. The reason: no structure shall be taller than Angkor Wat! Another fun fact: there’s no direct flight to Siem Reap International Airport, since huge airplanes would damage Angkor’s structures with the vibrations they cause. And local people are being careful with their supply of underground water, since Angkor sits on water! If the water dries out, the temples will collapse.
Accommodation: Siem Reap is one of the best place in Asia to find cheap, new and clean rooms. A lot of hotels offer nice pools, free breakfast, wifi and airport shuttles. Our hotel, Kiri Boutique Hotel, is fantastic! After our accommodation on Koh Rong (read Koh Rong Island: Lost Paradise or Living Hell?), I was ecstatic with the hot shower, fresh bed sheets, AC and the refreshing pool!
On the other hand, I really want to tell you food in Siem Reap is delicious, but my food poisoning experience keeps me from developing on the subject! Sorry!! Pub Street is THE place to eat at night, with people all over the world talking about their life-changing experience at Angkor!
Shopping is very interesting in Siem Reap! There’s a lot of fake copy brand merchandise, but also pretty pieces of clothing that are very cheap. It’s time to indulge! I got myself 2 t-shirts and 1 dress, Clinton bought himself a t-shirt and we bought Emma-Kate 2 tops, for a total of $17. There’s a lot of jewelry too!
One last thing for you to enjoy cheaply in Siem Reap: massages!! We got ourselves 3 foot massage, the 3 of us at the same time! That’s quite an experience, with a toddler! Myself and Emma-Kate tried the fish massage too: it feels a little weird at first, but I got used to it pretty fast, but not Kate! She kept moving her feet, so not even 1 fish touched her!
Around Siem Reap
Still, there’s a lot to discover around Siem Reap. There’s Angkor Butterfly Centre, the largest fully enclosed butterfly centre in Southeast Asia. There’s also the Angkor National Museum, that tells Angkor’s history, religious significance and cultural and political context. You can also visit the famous floating villages of Chong Kneas. It’s an easy excursion from Siem Reap. Although these visits seem very interesting, we unfortunately didn’t have the time to do them all, so I cannot recommend them or not.
What did you enjoy doing in Siem Reap?
A special thanks to The Flight of the Gibbon for hosting me on the zipline and canopy adventure. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.