Without a doubt the main drawcard for visitors to Siem Reap, and Cambodia as a whole, is the famous Angkor ruins. For us, it was definitely the main reason for visiting and spending a week in Siem Reap.
Despite only having six full days available in Siem Reap we settled on a three day pass to visit the Angkor temple sites which would allow the family a rest day in between. The three day pass came at a cost of $62 US/$85 NZD for adults with children aged under 12 years free; however proof of age is required when purchasing, and even entering the ruins each day, so we carried the boys passports with us. We arranged for the same tuk tuk driver to take us to the ruins each day and for each visit we paid between $10-18 US ($13-25 NZD) depending on the distance we were intending to cover and the length of time.
To say the temples are incredible is almost a disservice to them. From the individual carvings in the stones, to the sheer size of the ruins, they are nothing short of breathtaking. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and rightly deserves its place amongst the wonders of the world, however the Angkor ruins are so much more than the one wat (temple). With each and every site offering something different and special from the last. We visited and saw over a dozen sites during our three days but with over 50 sites, we still left so much unseen.
Each member of our family had their own favourite site; for me it was Bayon, this site has 216 gigantic faces carved into the spheres above the ruins. Each individual face has been carved so skilfully, especially considering this temple dates back to the 12th century, when only the very basic of hand tools existed. Paula and I both spent a considerable time at this site exploring the nooks and crannies while we afforded the boys a little rest time in the shade under the watchful eyes of those many faces. Here, like many of the other ruins, you could spend hours at the one site alone, however with so many sites to see, you really have to allocate time efficiently.
Although we were not on a timer at each ruin we were well aware that for the children the allure of them would wear off fast. Especially with the scorching heat and the distances we were covering by foot, needless to say lots of water is a mandatory requirement. Each of us would also look forward to getting back into the tuk tuk and having the wind cooling us down as we travelled from one site to another.With Cambodia being a very poor country there is a lot of people on or below the poverty line. This is very evident in the amount of beggars and people aggressively pushing souvenirs and homemade crafts in your face as soon as you arrive at temple sites. Sometimes we would find ourselves surrounded by up to six people at a time begging us to buy something or with their hands out. If the person was selling something that appeals to children they would also push it in front of Lincoln which he found a little unnerving at times. I even watched as children aged a little over five years faked medical conditions to try and get a sale, despite how much we felt for the people we were warned over and over again never to give any money unless we wanted to be mobbed and hounded even further.After a day of exploring the temples you would always build up a thirst, and luckily Siem Reap is the land of the cheap drinks. With beer a miserly $0.50 US/$0.70 NZD, poured cold, it was hard to go past after being out for the day in the sun. I know I would have a lot of friends back home that would love to be paying a mere 50 cents for a beer, especially when your third beer is free. Even cocktails were very much on the cheap side at around the $1.50 US/$2.05 NZD mark.
Siem Reap is also host to numerous day and night markets, which often border each other but seem to be their own seperate entities. Most stalls sell the same thing with stall owners actually sharing items with one another when they have a customer inching towards a purchase. This can at times make getting a bargain a little harder, however we still managed to find and barter down some NBA singlets to $25 US/$34 NZD for two, as well as some cotton singlets for a couple of dollars each.
Siem Reap proved to be a wonderful introduction to Cambodia and it’s people. One week into our one month visa and it is already fast on its way to becoming one of our family’s favourite countries. Our next stop is Phomn Penh, Cambodia’s largest city and metropolitan capital. It definitely has a lot to live up to.
Average Daily Spend – $133.35 NZD ($39.15 under budget per day)