A Dream Called Cambodia: Siem Reap & Flooded Forest

The moment I saw the riveting Tomb Raider movie I knew that sooner or later I will get to the temples where some of the scenes were filmed.

This dream started to become real when we were organizing our first trip to Thailand, more than a year ago. I was staring at the map when I realized how close Bangkok and Siem Reap actually are. A fast check on trip advisor confirmed that getting there should be as easy as pie. So, the online visa was obtained, the hotel was booked, we only had to buy the tickets for the bus that would take us from one city to another. It wasn’t possible to purchase them online and as soon as we arrived in Bangkok, we went to the ticket office at the bus station (Mo Chit II). And guess what? They were all sold out. The only available option*** was taking a bus to the border, cross it, and then look for another mean of transport that would take us to our final destination. This seemed quite an extreme adventure to do on the only second day in Asia, but hey, take it or leave it, Angkor was waiting for us!

The bus drove us near the border and we had to take a tuk tuk for the final 1-2 km (it is all about business there). When we got there, we and our travel companions were approached by local men who handled us the immigration forms we had to fill and asked us for 600 baht (currently 18 usd) for a shared private car to Siem Reap. Basically we had to pay, cross the border and then look for our car. We were extremely wary, suspicious and distrustuful about the whole thing, but since no one else was and we didn’t really have more valid alternatives we decided to go for it. Luckily everything went as smooth as silk.

Once on Cambodian territory, the first thing that grasped our attention was the so called national highway which is actually a two lanes road, one for each direction. The ‘motorway’ boasts plenty of segments in abysmal conditions, large unpaved areas, people and vehicles moving in all directions, unsignalized intersections and men at work. We enjoyed this authentic and unpolished experience though, even more when we arrived safe and sound at the hotel later that evening.

Siem Reap is an extremely touristic city whose laid back, peaceful past, has been long forgotten. Now it is full of bustling bars, pubs, restaurants, massages and night markets with cobra whiskey. It took us no more that half an hour to explore.

The next morning we hired a tuk tuk driver for the day (15 usd) and we headed to the main purpose of our trip – the stunning architectural gems of Angkor. We spent hours exploring the hundreds of structures that testify the rise and fall of the Khmer empire. I can not put into words how immense and incredible and inspiring they are. I was in a constant state of awe and I couldn’t believe it that I was actually seeing this grandeur with my own esys.

The next day we met the our tuk tuk guy from the first evening and he drove us to the boat that would take us the floating village of Kompong Phluk and to the flooded mangrove forest that surrounds the area (another one that has been on my wish list).

On the way there we were passing on unpaved red-dirt roads, through rural areas and small villages with small wooden one-room huts, kids in pijamas playing in the dust and anorexic dogs chasing cars. The vivid scenes of heart-breaking poverty that unfolded one after another during that day made me wonder how this could still exist in the world. And another trivial questions arose in my mind like why I wanted that glossy Chanel bag that I saw on the last issue of Vogue and why our Western world is so materialistic.

Later, while we were having dinner with our driver, he confessed us that he sleeps at the temples of Angkor and is desperately looking for another job that will allow him to pay the studies of his younger brothers so that they can have a better future. The most coveted jobs in the city are the ones in the luxurious hotels and resorts. But to get there you need to be recommended by a friend and this is not for free. You must give a one-time fixed amount plus a percentage of your monthly pay.

This is Cambodia!

***For our way back we headed to one of the many tourist agencies in Siem Reap and booked a shared mini van that took us to Khao San Road. The driver was probably trying to beat all the speed records and we were sure we wouldn’t arrive alive in Bangkok ( but we did). Now we know that an infinite number of mini vans and buses leave the area daily, in all directions.

*****We found the best hotel rates on Booking.

  • Gosh! Thank you so much for sharing your visit to Angkor! It’s so beautiful! I wonder how these people built Angkor without the machine construction workers use today? It was built right on the water? Amazing just amazing. Thank you!

    • I have to thank you! 🙂 It is surrounded by water and they used the canals to transport the stones. People were able to do so many things without technical knowledge!

  • You are absolutely right in calling Cambodia a dream , it was mine too a few years ago and I fought to go there. Siem Reap , Angkorwat – can talk about them endlessly. I too loved the quaint town streets , shops , bistros , the tuk tuks , the treks , everything. Thanks for making me revisit Cambodia thru your pics !

    • It is an unforgettable experience indeed and far beyond my expectations. Even if I saw the most important sights, I wouldn’t mind going there again, but this time I would stay there a month or two, so that I can feel more deeply the local culture. Have a nice weekend 🙂

      • Gabi , i visited Cambodia with my friends, I would now like to take my family and as you said , stay for a longer duration and explore. I cant take off for that long as you plan , but certainly a few days. happy weekened to you too.

  • have shared it on my FB page

    • Thank you! This is so kind of you! xo

  • Im impressed how you do photographs of so many impressions. When I see your pictures I feel like I am right there. Unfortunetly I havent made it to Ankorwat myself till now. I love your Blog because I love to travel a lot as well like you. 🙂

    • Awww thank you 🙂 I wish you to go there soon, are you still in the area?

      • no unfortunately I am already back home 🙁 but I am sure I will be back in Asia soon! it’s really amazing over there.

        • It is! I have never felt so at ease in a place where I don’t understand a word

  • Great pictures to travel through 🙂

    • Thank you, dear!

  • Try all of you to stop by our country Indonesia there were you would get a very beautiful paradise. such as Bali, Djogjakarta, Gunung Kidul, Puncak, Bogor, Borneo and many more. http://kliklayanan.com/

    • Indonesia is on my To-do-in-the-near-future list. It must be amazing! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  • I can still remember with a sense of awe that feeling when I looked out of my tuk tuk and first saw Angkor Wat appearing across the other side of the lake. One of the most majestical, magical and mysterious places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

  • Omg ! It’s amazing ! You are amazing !

    • Oh wow, thank you! You are too sweet ?

  • Great site.! Amazing photos.! Thank you for the blog follow too 🙂

  • I visited Cambodia and Siem ReipAngkor Watt a few years ago; it’s an amazing place! I just loved the people. Thank you for following my blog; glad to have found yours!

  • Beautiful. Cambodia is next on my list now ❤️

  • Awesome photos! I was there in May and the water levels were lower so we elected to skip Tonle Sap. I’ve obviously got good reason to go back! 😀

    • Ahaha sure, any excuse is good? and I haven’t seen it with the low water level … ?

  • This is actually my first blog article that i read from an unknown person, but it was definitely worth it! I am in Australia at the moment, but i want to go to Angkor wat too, after i went to new Zealand and Thailand, so it was really cool and interesting to read about your personal experiences. I definitely have to thank you for liking my last post or i would never have seen your article. ☺
    Btw. if you are interested in fashion design you might want to look into my sisters blog. Vavajaco.tumblr.com
    It’s not my kind of stuff but it seems that some people like it. ?
    Ciao bella 😉

    • Wow, I feel really honoured! Thank you for your time! If you will need any suggestions for Angkor let me know, I will be glad to help ( if I still remember ?). I’m absolutely going to check your sister’s blog, I’m design addicted and also very curious! Your Italian is really good 😀 Ciao xxx

  • Reblogged this on bears goats and strawberries and commented:
    Having a “flashdance” moment?