Following my two-day quick visit to Phnom Penh- I flew to Siem Reap on Cambodia Angkor Air - in a turbo prop (was a bit nervous) which is about a 45 minute flight.
The next four days spent in Siem Reap were amazing, with time to visit several significant sites namely Angkor Wat, trying out more glorious food (a post to follow stay tuned) and time to relax in town. The city reminded me a lot of my hometown of Pondicherry (South India), a relaxed city with a real colonial feel to the buildings and streets - The monsoon added the final touch to make me feel as though it was all so familiar...maybe it was just the monsoon that brought it all back - either way loved Siem Reap.
We managed a 4 am start to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise. Though I was not able to capture the classic sunrise picture (it was overcast) it was still nice to start your day with the light breaking over Angkor - hard to imagine what it might have been like it its heyday!
Angkor Wat does stand as an impressive monument and its sheer size commands your attention there is no doubt, however visiting some of the smaller temples in the area such as Banteay Srei with its more delicate and intricate patterns shine just as bright. I felt like Lara Croft at Ta Prohm (tree temple). Each temple as glorious as the other but shone in their own right. The only regret was Bayon temple as it started to rain we were not able not make the most of our visit and it was rushed especially after having spent a good part of the day exploring Angkor Wat.
Here is a list of some of the temples and some suggested activities that are worth checking out if you are every in Siem Reap:
Cambodia is an easy country to travel to with kids, I know mine would have loved it - The only thing I would probably not include in my itinerary would be to take the children to the Genocide Museum or the killing Fields - They are too young to fully comprehend what has happened and would probably just run around the killing fields just being kids. Rightly or wrongly part of me wouldn't share this history in full detail with young children and show the ugliness that humans are capable towards one another. Having said that, I think parents are able to make their own decisions as to the suitability to visit the sites for their own children.
The other suggestion especially in hot weather, is to have a hotel with a pool - tour in the morning and then come back to your hotel for some rest, pool play time and return to more activities later in the afternoon.
The kids would also love to get around in the tuk tuks - in Siem Reap look out for the Ferrari, Batman ones and in Phnom Penh a hot barbie pink one!
Casa Angkok - Siem Reap
This is a cute hotel, loved the colonial style look of the building . Classed as a three star, it has a good swimming pool, serves buffet breakfast. A bar where you can order pizza and fries if you want something more familiar to home. Spa and beauty service - The rooms have free wi-fi, tv with good choice of channels, bar fridge and room safe.
The only down side of the hotel was the hot water & AC did not work in and had to call for that to be looked at - which was dealt with promptly.
Ask for the exterior facing rooms - some rooms face into the open air passage way and don't have much privacy.
A side note: Mindful Travel - As a traveller we all have a responsibility to visit a country with as little adverse impact as possible - The most apparent aspect of travel are kids begging or selling books and postcards, it is difficult to not give them hand outs and toss a few coins their way- having my own kids makes it even harder - The problem is that this creates and industry whereby kids are pushed by family members to get onto the streets to earn a living - this also means that kids are not in school which is where they ideally need to be.
The most distressing new 'trick' in Siem Reap is young teenagers carrying a baby and asking for money to buy milk - it seems that tourists either give them money or buy the milk - the teenagers promptly return the milk to the supermarket for hard cash - I saw a teenager with a young toddler and she kept shaking the hub upside down and the proceeded to bite the toddler till she cried! - tears equal tourists that take pity - we could stand it no longer and reprimanded the teenager who got defensive and took off. We can all help by doing our bit and ensure that tourism does not destroy the reason for which we travel in the first place.