FEBRUARY 21, 2016 (SUNDAY)
Similar to our first day, Mr. Kim fetched us from our home before 5AM so that we can do our 1st activity, which is to watch sunrise at ANGKOR WAT. We decided to enter Angkor Wat using the popular West Gate since the route using East Gate was way longer than this one. We could not imagine making our way through the darkness using East Gate — need to pass through the land with monkeys, enter numerous areas, and climb multiple flights of stairs before we reach the pond where people await for the sunrise.
Once we got off our tuktuk, we ran from the West Gate entrance until we reached the pond. Ideally, I wanted the spot right in front of the water but I did not have high hopes for this. I was right because by the time we got there, lots of people were already standing near the water. I spotted a rock in front of the pond where Kim and I would fit. It was as if the universe conspired to enable us to watch the sunrise with an excellent view!
One of the best things during downtime period of exploring is being able to talk to other tourists and share stories. A small group of French tourists who were sitting beside us asked if we knew the time for sunrise. After that, we talked a bit about where we were from then their near travel to the Philippines.
A few minutes after 6AM, I looked behind my back to check out the crowd gathered… To say that there was a large crowd is a total understatement. If I were to estimate the number of people there, it was at least 200 people.
Good thing we were able to secure good sitting spots for the sunrise. We were able to see the sun rising behind Angkor Wat, and it was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen in this lifetime. When we exited the temple, Mr. Kim stopped our tuktuk after less than a minute of ride. He pointed to where Angkor Wat was and even the view outside was also awesome.
The best thing though that I saw when we were at that spot was Mr. Kim and other locals taking out their phones to capture the sunrise. It made me realize that even if they see the sunrise there frequently, they still get mesmerize by its beauty.
Our 2nd destination for the day was TA PROHM, which is very famous as one of the location sets for the Tomb Raider film. While on the way to Ta Prohm, we passed by the South Gate of Angkor Thom. Mr. Kim stopped the tuktuk and asked us if we wanted to take pictures there. Of course, we said yes!
We were at Ta Prohm a few minutes after 7AM and we were surprised it was closed. Mr. Kim told us that opening time is at 7:30AM and when we looked at our ticket, yeah it was indicated there. We decided to have breakfast in the only eatery near Ta Prohm. Ugh, food was not good so we just drank lots of water to feel full. T.T After eating, we rushed inside Ta Prohm since tourists were starting to pour in.
Ta Prohm is famous structures that are being ran over by humongous roots of trees. It looked fascinating as you see the struggle of a historical piece versus nature… But, we do hope that there is a way that the buildings will not crumble or get destroy because of the roots. We saw some supports inside the structure so this is most likely one step of preserving the buildings there.
Ta Prohm is another place with a huge space, probably bigger than Pre Rup. One can easily get lost here because there are numerous doorways, hallways, and structures. Good thing that there are arrows that point towards the exit so if you feel like you are lost, just follow the directions.
We got lost at one point and when we were about to start retracing our steps, an employee asked us if we were looking for the Tomb Raider spot. We already found one and took pictures there so we were not that interested anymore. Despite that, we still answered yes. He gave us directions since the spot was near. We thought that it was the same spot we went to earlier… apparently not. There were a few tourists lining up to take their pictures so we followed them.
When it was our turn, I asked the kind old man behind me to take pictures. Funny because when he saw the picture he took, he jokingly said that he should probably start taking up photography. Here’s the picture he took of us…
After this, we retraced our steps to the main entrance since Mr. Kim was waiting for us there instead of the exit side. When we were on our way to Ta Keo, turns out that the exit side was crazy — full of vans, mini buses, and loooots of tuktuk so it would be difficult to spot ours if he waited there.
Our 3rd stop that day was TA KEO. Relatively smaller than Pre Rup, probably similar area size as East Mebon. The stairs leading to the main area of Ta Keo was steep even if there was just less than 10 steps. Right after entering, we saw a couple going down this flight of stairs which has big and steep steps. Uhh, my first thought was to take a pass because going down at that side seemed dangerous (we found out later that exit should not be done there since that part was more of an entrance…).
As usual, Kim bravely climbed the steep steps. She stopped halfway and I took her pictures. After she got down, I told myself to overcome my fear so I climbed halfway too. I was right that getting down was hard because one wrong step could make you fall. After I got down, Kim climbed again up to the very top. This woman loves challenges and it seems like she does not fear anything. 😉
We went around the temple and we found a set of wooden stairs. We climbed it and we thought there would be more wooden stairs that would take us to the very top… Wrong! What lied ahead of us were pure rock steps that were big and steep. What else to do but be brave and climb it.
Climbing all those steep steps was worth it since the view above was rewarding. I told myself to just worry about going down if it was already time to go down. Phew. Even if it was just about 10AM, the heat was starting to become unbearable so it was a good thing there were parts there with shade.
After resting a bit, there was another long flight of rock stairs to be able to get to the topmost tower. I already passed on this one because my knees were starting to shake a bit so I was not confident if I could go down properly once we finished seeing the topmost tower. We decided to go down and even if the steps were steep, I realized that there is enough space for my small feet to go down without any worry.
When we returned to our tuktuk, we were surprised when Mr. Kim handed us a plastic of sliced unripe mangoes with salt + crushed chili as dip. We were familiar with salt as dip since this is also done in the Philippines (bagoong is another kind of dip which I prefer more), but seeing the crushed chili mixed in it was new to us. I was happy that the unripe mango was not that sour and dipping it in the salt + chili was a perfect combo. If it wasn’t for my low tolerance for spiciness, I would have eaten more. Kim finished about 2/3 of what Mr. Kim bought. 🙂
Our next stop was ANGKOR THOM, which is a huuuge complex that where you can a number of temples to explore. There are 4 gates here, but South and East are the more popular ones. If the temperature was more bearable, we would have done the “Wall Walk” where you start your adventure at one gate then walk by following the walls of Angkor Thom. I read some travelers doing this, and they said that it was a unique and different experience compared to just visiting tempeles. It would probably take about 2 hours since Angkor Thom complex is way bigger than Angkor Wat.
Our first destination inside Angkor Thom was the Terraces. Mr. Kim dropped us off here and told us that we can walk to visit the different areas we wanted to see in Angkor Thom so our meet-up would be in the West Gate of Bayon. We visited TERRACES OF THE ELEPHANTS and TERRACES OF THE LEPER KING but since these were out in the open, we did not last for 10 minutes. It was too hot already even if it was just 10:30AM.
PHIMEANAKAS was our next stop in Angkor Thom. We only spent a few minutes here then moved on to walk to our next stop…
We followed the trail going to BAPHUON and when we saw the open space, we just laughed weakly since we were not sure how we would last under the heat. However, when we saw from afar that people were climbing stairs to get to the topmost part, this was enough to revive our spirits. We had a goal to accomplish in Baphuon!
I initially thought that we were going to climb using rock stairs again but they had wooden stairs with railing instead. Yay because I do not need to make big steps! The climb was still quite scary though because the railing was too thin. A lot of people were holding it for support so whenever one of them accidentally shook the railing, we could feel it and the vibrations. I was just doing a silent prayer that the stairs would keep its hold.
Upon reaching the top, the climb was worth it! Well at that point, I felt that all climbs we did in temples were all worth it especially when we see the view from our vantage point. We spent around 15 minutes in the area before descending. Heat was already unbearable at that point.
Our last stop before exiting Angkor Thom and having our lunch was BAYON. Famous for the numerous stone carvings of faces, it was not surprising to see tourists flock this place.
We did not mind the crowd at this point as a lot of travelers shared online that Bayon is eternally crowded. Only downtime would be during opening time, lunch time, and closing time. Our only problem was that we were out in the open so the heat was really a killer. At some point, Kim already sat down under a shade to rest. I roamed around some more to admire the faces and take pictures, then decided to sit beside Kim.
That was the time when we saw a solo traveler who was really good-looking. *-* We eventually made small talk with him by asking him to take a picture of us using my Instax then in return, Kim took his picture. We jokingly told each other that this guy became the main highlight of the trip instead of the Angkor Wat sunrise.
We made our way back to our tuktuk, and Mr. Kim brought us to back to the restaurants near Angkor Wat. He chose a different restaurant since we told him we were not happy with our lunch at Angkor Reach Restaurant before. We ordered fried spring rolls, squid with peppercorn, and a noodle dish. This time around, we were happy kids because everything tasted good.
We went back to our Airbnb lodging after lunch so that we can rest. During our official first day in Siem Reap, we saw that the pool was not that clean so we asked Bunthai if the pool can be cleaned over the weekend. When we returned, we saw her near the gate and told us that the pool was newly cleaned. We rushed to our rooms so that we can change swimwear and took our time in the pool. Definitely a must do to beat the heat!
After swimming then resting, Mr. Kim fetched us so that we can return to Angkor Park. Our 9th stop inside the park was PHNOM BAKHENG, which is a famous spot for watching sunset. We had to be there before 4PM since the temple only allows maximum of 300 people at the topmost part. We thought that the walk to the temple was just short but we were surprised that it turned into a short hike. Walk was between 8-10 minutes and when we reached the line, an employee approached us and told us we cannot enter because of our sleeveless tops. A few travelers mentioned that women can enter with sleeveless tops as long as the shoulders are covered. Mine was a short-sleeved top while Kim had a vest on top of her top that covers her shoulders. Since we were not permitted, we had to go back to our tuktuk and find another place to watch the sunset.
I think this one is worth mentioning before I move on to where we eventually watched sunset — near the starting point of the short hike to Phnom Bakheng, I saw an attraction where people can ride an elephant for a certain fee. PLEASE, DO NOT RIDE ELEPHANTS especially in Thailand and Cambodia where their spirits are broken through torture and isolation. BE A RESPONSIBLE TOURIST! Here are a few articles to help convince you:
- http://www.travelfish.org/beginners_detail/cambodia/119 — you can also read some tips here how to spot if elephants are well-treated, if you are really determined to ride one
When we reached the parking lot, I already had Pre Rup in mind as a place for sunset since other travelers recommended this as an alternative to Phnom Bakheng. Still, I asked Mr. Kim just to check a local’s perspective. He recommended PRE RUP so I was fully convinced that this would be our 10th and final stop in the park.
We climbed to the topmost part of Pre Rup and took a rest under a shade since it was just 4PM. A few minutes before 5PM, we sat on one part of the edge so that no one would block our view as we watch the sunset.
After the sunset, I asked Mr. Kim to take us to TOUICH RESTAURANT for dinner. He asked us if we made any reservation since it was a popular place, and I said yes. Good thing there were travelers who shared online that while the place accepts walk-ins, reservation is still recommended to ensure seats. You can shoot them an e-mail here for reservation: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we got there, we were the first customers to arrive. We thought that that night might probably be an off-peak day but we were wrong since after an hour, the place was already full. A friendly reminder when going to this place — bring a mosquito repellant since there were quite a lot of mosquitoes around. That will save you from all the annoying bites.
We ordered Banana Flower Salad with Chicken, Sand and Salt Grilled Red Snapper, and “Loc Lac” Beef Stir-fried with Fried Rice. Similar to Marum, their prices are not dirt cheap. Our total bill was about USD 20 but we did not mind since every penny was worth it.
The banana flower salad was good for 2 people. We loved the hint of citrus flavor in the vinaigrette they used plus puso ng saging is a favorite of mine.
When the snapper dish arrived, we stared at it with a puzzled look. We looked at the server and she asked us if it was our first time to order this. We nodded our heads and she proceeded with opening the leaf. She expertly removed most of the fish bones using just utensils, leaving the meat part only. Amazing! The meat was soft, flavorful but not too salty. Initially we wanted grilled squid but we changed our mind when the server recommended this when we were ordering.
Remember when we had a bad experience on beef loc lac 2 days ago? We were expecting that Touich’s version would be 5x better… and it did not disappoint! The beef had the right amount of saltiness, not overpowering. It tasted like the salty beef tapa here in MNL. The sauce that came with the dish was also a perfect pair with the loc lac. The kick of spicy flavor was a good welcome to our palate, not sure if it was ground peppercorn.
After our dinner, we went to Pub Street to have a massage at Lemongrass Garden Massage & Beauty Spa but we had to wait more than an hour before being entertained. Mr. Kim took us to a massage place that his friend manages. We had to wait for more than 30 minutes before getting a massage. We took a pass and decided to just go home since we had to wake up very early the next day.
LINKS TO OTHER SIEM REAP 2016 POSTS: