- Travel Dates: Jan 17 – 21, 2017
- From: Manila
- To: Siam Reap, Cambodia
- Our Hotel: Owl Inn Hotel
- Travel Companions: Went with 5 other friends
- Estimated Cost of Whole Trip: 15,000 PHP (excluding air fare, just tours, food, hotel) per person
- Activity Summary:
- Went to visit Angkor Wat and all the other temples. We took the Big Tour and Small Tour
- Went to see Phare Circus
- Went to Pub Street
- Went to Buffet and watched the Apsara Dance
- If you are carrying U.S. dollars, you don’t need to exchange it for the local Riel currency. They accept US dollars as payment in Siam Reap. Everyone does, that includes the van and tuk-tuk drivers, the cheap and expensive restaurants, the hotel, the convenience stores. We made the mistake of exchanging some of our dollars at the airport (where the currency exchange is lower) thinking we need it for the payment for the van, but they accept dollars, and almost every price listing has the dollar equivalent written. You may need to have lower denominations of the dollars you carry (food costs $2-2.5) though, so it would be easier for them to give you change. We paid $10 for the van from our hotel to Owl Inn.
- The minimum fare for tuk-tuk is $2 for a maximum of two people, it could go higher depending on the number of passengers.
- Dress appropriately to get into the temples. It was really hot there so you would want to wear light, airy, comfortable clothes. But you need to also follow the temple’s dress codes. The shoulders should be covered, so no spaghetti straps or sleeveless shirts and the knees should not show, so no shorts or short skirts. If you are wearing a sleeveless shirt, you can wear a cover up, the guards at the entrance will ask you to if they see you without it. There are no restrictions to the footwear, so just wear comfortable slippers or sneakers that has a good grip just to avoid slipping, because you’ll be walking on a lot of stone and climbing some of them too (don’t worry, they have stairs, no need for ropes). Nothing too difficult but there’s just a lot of walking that you may not be used too. After we’ve been to a couple of temples already, a friend of mind joked that we seemed to be playing a live action temple run. Also bring some umbrella or cap, because at noon it could be really hot, having something to shade your head from the heat will bring help keep you a little cool.
- If you want to enjoy the night life there and want go to Pub Street every night of your stay (because hey, life’s a party!), then I suggest that you get a hotel that’s just walking distance from it. If you like to party and mingle with the other tourists there, you will love pub street. It’s alive with lights, music, food, booze and people partying the night away. It was like that almost every night we were there. You can check out the bars like Angkor What? and Temple Bar. If you want to experience the music and dancing crowd, go to the first floor of Temple Bar; if on the other hand you want to have a more chill out and laid back vibe, and hang out in a place where you could have conversation with the people you are with, then you can go to the second floor of Temple Bar. It’s less noisy and you can play billiards.
- There are also a lot of restaurants around pub street that serve delicious food, so you can have lunch or dinner there. You can have a good but cheap meal that cost $2-2.5 per dish or you can try the more expensive ones that cost about $7 or higher. There are food carts around the area that also sell food, where you can get desserts like the ones we had, it was a banana rolled in pancake for a $1. Food is not too expensive, so if you are on a budget, it’s easy to eat delicious and filling food without breaking the bank.
- You can use English there to do basic transactions, like buying and going to places. Most the locals we interacted with were able to understand and speak basic English. So talking to them isn’t much of a problem, although sometimes, some English words they say will be hard to recognize at first because of the accent. I’m guessing French is used there, too, but not as widely as English is. There are French translations of the writings in the temples and also in the Phare Circus we went to.
My Travel Highlights
I was awed when I saw Angkor Wat. It was huge and beautiful in its current state. There are no colors left on the roof, the walls, and the columns. It’s all muted gray now, the color of the stone that they used to build the temple. From the documentaries that I watched before visiting the temple, the roof was painted gold, the walls painted white. It must have been magnificent during its time.
The details of the columns and the walls are amazing. There’s a huge wall with intricate carvings telling the story of their king, it has a very detailed wall carving. It was like watching a cartoon etched in stone. The carvings also don’t have any color anymore, but we were told that it too had been painted back them.
Our guide told us the history of the place but sometimes I’d tune out because I was trying to imagine how it would look like in all its glory. How the king, his wife and concubines, and the various residents in the palace looked like as they were walking the very same path that I was walking right then. I wondered what their everyday lives were like, which rooms they frequented, where they usually gathered, and what they like doing for fun. Did kids play hide and seek in this huge, magnificent palace? It just amazed me that the temple, now visited by tourists taking photos of the walls and taking selfies, were once used as a home by people of long ago.
The next memorable temple we visited is Ta Phrom, where the huge tree roots is trying to reclaim the walls. The temples in Angkor Wat were forgotten and left to the forest for centuries after the King’s empire scattered. For centuries, no one knew where it was, the people living near the area didn’t know it existed, until a French colonist rediscovered it. Can you imagine being that French dude, assigned a scout duty, expecting to find just more of the same trees and such, and then suddenly stumbling upon this huge temple? The awe he must have felt when he first saw it! All impressive and marvelous stone in the clutch of nature. The first band of explorers sent to explore further, must have felt like Indiana Jones. Sometimes I wish they had digital cameras back then, I would have liked to take a look at what the temples looked like when they first saw them, all raw with untouched beauty. Now parts of it were restored and cleaned up for tourist access. It must have all been covered up in trees and grass back then. Oh, this was also the temple featured in the movie Tomb Raider, that starred Angelina Jolie.
This isn’t a circus with animals in it, so no worries if you are against that sort of thing (which I am). It’s a circus because of the acrobatic performances.
It’s the life story of Sokha, a child orphaned because of the atrocities of Khmer Rogue. It’s the story of her struggles from losing her parents and friends, to being adopted, learning dance, and eventually teaching. It’s all told in dance with acrobatics and painting mixed in. No dialogue at all. It’s all very creative.
Usually, I get bored with watching a performance with only dance, but not so in this case. The storytelling through dance was amazing. I never thought you could convey a full story with dramatic and happy moments like that.
The passage of time, for example, were depicted by the main lead Sokha, changing clothes and posture from a hunched old woman wearing a wrap to a grade-schooler wearing a school uniform. There were many moments like that. They also used painting, created in just a few minutes, to depict what was happening in their time and the mood of their environment. And of course, they used acrobatics to wow the crowd. I really loved watching it, I highly recommend it.
For more details visit the Phare Circus website.
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