October 22, 2008:
Stayed again at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel. Had a couple of croissants for breakfast from
the coffeeshop in the lobby. Then I deposited one of my bags with the bellboy and took the hotel shuttle
to the airport. I was booked on a Bangkok Airways flight to Siem Reap. Check-in was fast and smooth.
Flight time to Siem Reap was about 50 minutes.
Once we got into the arrival hall at Siem Reap Airport, I had to get a visa. It was interesting to see how
many people it takes to get a visa. There were about 10 people sitting behind a counter, all in uniform and
all of them had a look in my passport while they did whatever they did in order to get the visa process
done. After a few minutes, I had my visa, picked up my bag and walked outside. A driver was waiting for
me and he took me to my hotel, the Shinta Mani Hotel. I booked this hotel as it got great reviews on
tripadvisor.com but also because its philosophy is to provide work and training for Cambodian youth in
the hospitality sector. I was pretty happy with choosing this hotel, although there are many cheaper
hotels in Siem Reap offering similar quality.
At check-in I asked the lady about a guide for the afternoon as I wanted to go to Angkor Wat right away.
She organized a car and a guide for the afternoon for US-$ 20 and not an hour after I arrived in Siem Reap
I was in a car with a guide on my way to Angkor Wat. At first we stopped at the ticket counter where I got a
three day ticket for Angkor. This ticket is checked regularly at pretty much every temple complex. If you
don't have a valid ticket you have to pay a fine.
A few minutes later, we were at the entrance to Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is only a small part of the
temple complex of Angkor but its most known. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire for about
500 years between the 10th and the 15th century. The oldest ruins are in the Roluos Group dating back
to the 9th century. The expanding Thai empire and social problems were the main reason Angkor was
abandoned in the 15th century and the capital of the Khmer empire was moved into the area of today's
capital, Phnom Phen.
After the driver dropped us off, my guide and I stepped onto
the causeway which leads over the moat into Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is the largest and one of the most intact
monuments in the Angkor group. It was built in the first half of
the 12th century by king Suryavarman II and it is widely
believed that it was a temple where a god was worshipped
and a mausoleum for the king after his death.
Once over the moat and through the Entrance Tower, we could see Angkor Wat. It is spectacular. The
only drawback is that there were many many tourists. My guide showed me the different galleries of
Bas-reliefs. These galleries cover about 1,200 square meters (12,900 square feet) of sandstone carvings.
The galleries cover the inner wall of every side of the monument and extend for 2 meters (7 feet) from top
to bottom. The details of these galleries are impressive and every gallery tells its own story with the most
famous probably the "Churning of the Ocean Milk". This myth derives from the Hindu epic
"Bhagavata-Purana" and centres on gods and demons who have been churning the ocean of milk for
1,000 years in an effort to produce an elixir that will render them immortal and incorruptible. My guide
explained all these different galleries to me in detail and I have to say that I was mightily impressed by the
details of carvings almost a thousand years old.
After looking at all the galleries the sun came out for a while and I got a couple of good pictures. For the
most part of my three days in Cambodia it was cloudy and rainy, so I was glad I got a couple of pictures
with colors. We continued our tour of Angkor Wat and around 5 pm returned to the hotel. I booked the
same guide and driver for the next day, all-day for US-$ 35.
After taking a shower I went downstairs to the bar. I befriended the bartender who I thought was a great
guy. We talked for a long time that night and also every night when I had a beer at the bar. He gave me lots
of insights into the daily life of Cambodians and politics. I wanted to eat dinner at the hotel but they had
buffet night and I despise buffets. So I went to a restaurant I read about on the Bangkok Airways Inflight
Magazine, the Tell Restaurant. German cuisine Cambodian style. It was easy to find on the road towards
the Old Market. Dinner was really good and it was frequented by a lot of Westerners who looked like they
were living/working in Siem Reap. A chicken cordon bleu with fries and a salad for 4 bucks, wow! After
dinner, I went to the Night Market. Browsed through the stalls and bought a handpainted sunset picture
on canvas from Angkor Wat for a few bucks. Then I walked through downtown Siem Reap. There are
quite a few restaurants and bars there in the pedestrian zone and it has the typical feel of a resort town. I
really liked Siem Reap. Back to the hotel and talked to my bartender friend for a long time.