All roads lead to Siem Reap

No trip to Siem Reap is complete without a visit to Angkor Wat. Anyone other than a returning visitor to Cambodia can simply not get away failing to see the worlds largest religious monument – it really is a MUST SEE!

We had arrived in Siem Reap after yet another gruelling 8 hour bus journey, this time making our way from Phnom Penh in the south of Cambodia. We were once again subjected to some rather ballsy driving as the bus we were on weaved its way in and out of traffic cutting across oncoming cars, trucks, buses and even a horse and carriage as it went.At times we were even travelling down some “roads” that seemed impassable for even a car, let alone a full sized coach.

From the very moment we made it to Siem Reap we knew we had struck gold and arrived in an extremely cheap country when we pulled up at the coach stop late at night and quickly found a Tuk Tuk driver who took us direct to our hotel in the pouring rain for only $1! I was a happy chappy – even the rather rude hotel receptionist couldn’t stop me from smiling.

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I should have savoured the rain that greeted us, as for the remainder of the time were were there it was hotter than hell. Our only saving grace and means of cooling down when we were away from our air-conditioned hotel room, were the delicious fresh fruit smoothies that seemed to be on sale at every street corner.

Ha, saving grace… that’s a good one. When you travel in South East Asia you’ll often be told “don’t have ice in your drinks” – LISTEN TO THIS. At one stage, things got so bad it felt like the world was falling out of my arse. I’d been foolish enough to laugh at my friend as she spent almost a week glued to the toilet and doing a very good impression of a tap, only to have that laughter turn against me when I suddenly lost all ability to contain the contents of my bowel for more than 3 seconds.

Forget Delhi Belly, we had a severe case of the Cambodian Craps…

Here’s a friendly tip for when you’re venturing to Siem Reap; a lot of hotels are situated just a couple of miles out of the city centre and with Tuk Tuk rides coming in at such a cheap rate, it’s worth staying a little further out and bagging yourself a little luxury – all for as little as $10 per night.

In the city centre the streets are alive with food stalls and clothing markets. Restaurants and bars can be found down many a side street, with beer on draft for as little as 50 cent. The food is delicious and I can highly recommend trying out a Cambodian curry – which is much like a Thai curry, but with a thicker consistency.

A large indoor market sprawls out not far from the river, with all manner of textiles and souvenirs, just as you would expect. Be warned, as is the case at most market stalls in Asia, you get what you pay for – I remember riding on the back of a Tuk Tuk in Bangkok wearing the trousers I’d bought in Cambodia only for them to split massively down my crotch area; I wasn’t wearing any underwear at the time either. It was rather liberating, I must say!

When it finally came to the time where we were set to visit Angkor Wat excitement was at an all time fever pitch, though I’d politely told our driver he was mental when he suggested picking us up from the hotel at 4am. We had heard on the grapevine that if you headed to the main gates of the temples after 5pm, the day prior to your visit, you could buy your tickets for the next day PLUS they would also let you in that same night to watch the sunset. Sure enough, as we jumped out of our Tuk Tuk and purchased our ticket, we were then ushered back on board and whizzed up to the main entrance where throngs of people had congregated to take in the magnificent sights that bestowed us.

One thing is for sure, Angkor Wat is NOT wheelchair accessible. Luckily I had totally expected this, I mean, you cannot presume that such an ancient religious site would be somehow geared up to accommodate the disabled. It is not exaggeration to say that every three or four meters there was a new set of stairs to contend with. Sometimes there were only two or three steps, other times there was a steep, never-ending staircase. Needless to say when we returned the following morning we were both in for a rather sweating work out.

Unfortunately my words can’t really do justice to how brilliant Angkor Wat was, so I’ll just leave you with some pictures from my time there so you can see for yourself. (Click on any image to enlarge).

I truly felt like an extra in Indiana Jones and I also did wonder if at some point Angilina Jolie would pop out from behind a stone statue and take me off on a quest with her as Lara Croft’s devilishly handsome and oddly disabled side-kick / obvious eventual lover.

When I wasn’t crawling up yet more stairs, dodging elephants, dragging my wheelchair through mud or crying from my severe sun burn; I spent my time chasing monkeys and trying to become at one with the pack. I really am an ignorant traveller at times. Apparently those buggers are vicious and riddled with all kinds of nasty diseases. Oh well, none of them looked even remotely interested in harming me – perhaps it’s because they thought I was already one of their own.

During the whole day that we spent at Angkor Wat we were with the same Tuk Tuk driver as he insisted on waiting for us at every temple we were viewing. It’s highly advisable that you high the services of a Tuk Tuk driver, especially if you’re only opting for the $20 1-day pass into the Angkor Wat grounds as the place is monumentally big and you’ll never see enough if you’re travelling by foot. We spent at least 12 hours with our driver and all for a final price of just $15 (we gave him $20 though) – crazy cheap. We never saw him again for the rest of the week, prompting us to assume he’d taken the rest of the week off!

I seriously loved spending time in Siem Reap and at Angkor Wat and it wasn’t until I left that place that it really sunk in that we’d just played witness to one of the most magical places on earth.

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