At 5 am, we were ready, went down to the hotel lobby to pick up our breakfast, and then headed out. We skipped our wonderful breakfast, I still miss that noodle soup, but it was all worth it for the Angkor Wat sunrise! The driver dropped us off at some place, it was pitch dark that we turned on our flashlight and followed Sok. He brought us to a place with sitting spaces to wait for the sunrise. I was surprised that there weren’t many people here and Sok said yes he recommended here for fewer crowds. Something doesn’t feel right so I set up my tripod, took a photo with long exposure to check it out. OMG the Angkor Wat temple was so far away, we were on the other side of the moat!!! I told Sokunna to come over to take a look, this is not what we wanted, it’s not the iconic Angkor Wat sunrise! We told Sok that this is not what we want to photograph, he said okay and walked us into Angkor Wat while the rest of Sokunna’s family stayed there. Once we get there, it was packed with people that there was no space to set up our tripod 🙁 So lesson learned, make sure you tell your guide on where you want to have the sunrise photo!
We were behind two rows of tripods and people yikes! As the sky started to light up, I did my best handheld my camera and cranked up the ISO for the photos. Then, you have those idiots with their iPads photobombing the photo like the one below. I can tell you that selfie stick and iPad are photographers’ enemies!
Even though it wasn’t a spectacular sunrise, there were still some colors reflected on the clouds.
A few seconds of purple and orange! Since we entered Angkor Wat through the East entrance the day before, we didn’t get to see the reflecting ponds and now here they are, magnificent!
To give you an idea of how crowded it was:
Right after the sun has raised, people started to leave. We were waiting for more colors but gave up. As we walked out to find Sok, he told us to give it a few more minutes for the magic. Sure enough, when the sun was rising up more, the sky turned golden tone! Since most of the tourists left, we were able to have a better standing spot facing the front of the temple.
The sun came up and it was indeed magical!
Wow, this was the picture in my mind for Angkor Wat sunrise, so glad we waited!
The morning golden light lit up the temples, so beautiful!
The monkeys were awake ready to steal food from people’s backpack so make sure to secure your food!
We went back to meet Sokunna’s family and our driver drove us to the side of the Angkor Thom next to the river to have our breakfast.
Our breakfast boxes from the hotel. I like how they packed a few logans in the fruit box, the logans in Cambodia tasted different than the ones I had at home….less meat but juicer but different taste. It was interesting.
After breakfast, we made a quick stop at the entrance of Angkor Thom once again. Sok explained two sides of statues, one for demons and one for gods. It resembled the balance between good and bad.
We saw tourists having an elephant ride!
Lotus filled the manmade river.
Next stop was Banteay Srei, nicknamed the Women Temple due to that it was built by all women! You can see the differences in the details, much finer details and more feminine symbols like flowers. Also, this temple is built by red sandstone so it’s more red and orange color; best time to visit is the early morning or late afternoon that the sunlight will bring out the saturated colors of the temple! This is my second most favorite temple and you can see why!
It also has a little pond for its reflection!
It is also popular that it was hard to have a photo without other tourists but we waited….
The colors and details were speechlessly beautiful! I’ll let the photos to speak for it, words just can’t describe it!
Afterward, we went to Preah Khan Temple:
This temple has left mostly unrestored that made it feel more like an ancient ruin.
The full wall of cravings!
Our tour guide, Sok, had a blessing by the monk inside the temple.
This two-story building has rounded columns which were quite unusual as we have been seeing square columns.
Next off to Neak Pean surrounded by a much large lake, I read that the temple is on a manmade island!
The long and only pathway to the temple.
A small temple in the circular “island” surrounded by water that was believed to have healing powers.
It was super hot in the opening so we didn’t stay for long and left.
Lunchtime, Sok brought us to Bunzak Restaurant, another tourist trap!!! Expensive and food were not even edible, worst than the one we had in yesterday! I guess all the restaurants close to the temples are tourist trap but no choice to save time and place for a clean toilet!
Knowing it’ll be a tourist trap, instead of ordering a dish per person, we ordered few dishes to share. The pineapple fish filet…..the fish filet was totally dry and hard and the pineapples weren’t sweet at all urg!
We quickly filled our tummy and left! It was around $10 per person on the mediocre food.
Next was another less visited but amazing temple – Pre Rup.
There were not much people but they come in and out constantly so it was difficult to have a good photo 🙁
Without further wait, we climbed up to the temple and the panoramic view was great up there!
The blue sky with just enough clouds was perfect for photos although a bit hot even in January, I couldn’t imagine how hot it can be during the summer time!
Lastly, Prasat Kravan temple and only us were there!
Before we headed back to our hotel, we made a quick stop at a “crafts market”. It was totally different than what we expected..it was like a huge store of expensive statues craved out from woods and “high end” souvenirs. We took some photos of the workers craving out Buddha statues and left.
We went back to our hotel and that was the conclusion of our tour. We hang out at the pool for a while and then dinner in the hotel. Jason and I felt that although a little bit pricey (still cheaper than at home), the food was much better both in terms of flavor and ingredient! We went to Le Blanc Restaurant where we had lunch before and it was closed!!! Urg…we walked to the reception and looked at the menu of the other restaurants in the hotel and picked Damnak Lounge Fine Dining. The restaurant offered French and Khmer cuisine and the Khmer cuisine menu was not as expensive so don’t let the “Fine Dining” scared you.
The free Amuse-bouche – crabcake, it was very good, I wish they have that in the menu!
The virgin pina-colada was too sour.
Jason had the 4-course set dinner while I ordered from a la carte. I had the Grilled River Prawn:
Jason’s seafood 4-course:
The dinner fit the name “fine dining” and was very good! Our dinner total was $52.80.
The next day, we booked the airport transfer through our tour guide as it was cheaper than the hotel at only $12. Our flight was at 8:40 am so we had the last chance to enjoy the hotel breakfast before our departure. I had two bowls of noodle, one bowl of congee, and crepes with fresh mangos!!! Then, we headed to the airport. With our Priority Pass, we had access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap Airport and it was the most luxurious lounge we have been to! Who would’ve guessed a small airport has such a grand lounge!
They also have a noodle station there too……fish ball noodle soup anyone?
Other food selection in the lounge:
I was still full from the full breakfast but I had to give the fishball noodle soup a try! It was good, not as good as the hotel’s, but still very good for an airport lounge!
Lastly, my thoughts about Angkor Wat and the temples:
Angkor Wat has been on my bucket list and I never realized how easy it is to access it, from the online visa application to the flight into Siem Reap, you are then minutes away from the World Heritage Site. Afraid of being in a 3rd world country and not speaking the language? There are plenty of reputable tour companies and very affordable private tour – driver and tour guide. We basically did not need to worry about the language barrier as menus and staffs in restaurants and hotels speak English! Brian was saying that Siem Reap was much safer than he thought and we agreed. We just exercise our common sense and hold on to our valuables; we did not sense any suspicious people even in the city center. The whole Heritage Site is much larger than we thought, even after 3 days visiting countless temples, I think there are still much more to be explored. The tour guide picked the popular temples and some lesser known ones along the routes and all of them are beautiful in their own way. My favorites are Bayon and Banteay Srei. The one disappointment in Cambodia was the food, cheap but not good! If you want good food, pay extra (not expensive) to dine in a high-end restaurant, it’s worth it! Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples are a must visit, I highly recommend the trip!