GUEST ARTICLE: After visiting Phnom Penh we rented a car and driver and drove 300kms to Siem Reap. Getting out of the city was a bit slow going at first because of the traffic but fortunately it thinned out as we entered the countryside.
About 70kms out of Siem Reap we came upon a town called Skuon and stopped at “Tarantulaville.”
I’m not the biggest arachnid fan but considering this very unique tourist attraction my curiosity soon took over. Before I knew it I had a very big hairy new friend walking up my arm. Luckily they de-fang those big boys beforehand as they are quite poisonous. Amongst a throng of other terrified and curious tourists there were big white buckets full of live tarantulas ready for the deep fryer, and then laid out on platters to be sold to any takers. I chickened out on the taste testing but got some great shots of others enjoying these deep fried morsels ~ eek!!!
After that rather interesting experience we were back on the road gazing at the beautiful countryside. Along the way we passed small bamboo huts and ladies raking out rice on driveways to dry in the sun. There were plenty of smiley faced children pedalling home from school and local farmers with little stands set up alongside the road. About 5 hours later we reached the picturesque city of Siem Reap.
We checked into a great little boutique hotel we found on Tripadvisor called Pavillon D’Orient. So far the accommodations we’d stayed at had been excellent and very beautifully done in Cambodian style. This one was particularly good because of the price and also because we had at our disposal our own personal car and driver during the day and a tuk tuk and driver at night. That was an especially nice perk and the drivers were excellent guides to all the must see and do’s.
Dining in Siem Reap was a great experience. Downtown there is a network of cosy little alleyways boasting all types of restaurants and cuisines. After dinner we wandered over to the local Night Market and scoped out the shops. Once we had our fill of shopping we partook in a massage. I love Cambodian massages and the price is the lowest we’ve ever seen at $3/hr! We also tried a Dr.Fish massage but the whole feeling of thousands of little fish attached to my skin gave me the willies.
The last two days of our trip we spent touring all of the fascinating surrounding Temples (which of course is the main reason everyone goes to Siem Reap). We found an excellent guide called Vanny and he took us to a series of different temples found just outside of Siem Reap. The weather was stifling hot so it was always best to do these tours as early as we could to try and beat the heat. We wound our way through a labyrinth of the most beautifully carved temples we had ever seen.
Our fist temple was the Bayon Temple. The architecture and intricate carvings were mesmerising and learning about the history from Vanny was very interesting. All of these temples were built between the 11th and 12th centuries. There are many stories depicted on the walls of these temples and tell of the daily life, tragedies and victories that occurred over the centuries of different rule.
One very unique temple was the Lady Temple. This particular temple was definitely worth a look since it is the only temple with all of its carvings done into brick. The colour of the temple is warm rosy pink and when the sun is just right it looks really beautiful. We learned that carving into brick was very delicate and timely work but the result is nothing short of amazing.
The Angkor Wat Temple is really majestic and massive. The long cobblestone walkway to the temple is impressive and once we passed the outer gates we got a really good look at the grandeur of the temple in all its glory. Huge carved columns jutted out and a maze of lengthy intricately carved stonewalls within were absolutely breathtaking.
One Temple that really stood out to us and I have to say was our favourite was the ‘Tomb Raider’ Temple. They called it this because this is where Angelina Jolie made her film Tomb Raider back in 2001. The people really love her and all the publicity it produced for the area.
Giant Silk Cotton trees grow throughout the temple snaking themselves amongst the stone and hugging it in all the right places. We loved this place it was like stepping into some kind of fairytale land. Luckily for us there weren’t that many tourists that day so we got to spend quite a bit of time there exploring and taking it all in.
There were a few temples that we didn’t get to but that just means we’ll have to return again one day – no problem!! We were absolutely taken with Cambodia, with its culture, wonderful people and history. It is an amazing country and we fully enjoyed our trip. This is one of our favourites by far, make sure to put this one on your hit list its not to be missed
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!