Ever have Indiana Jones fantasies?
Without a doubt, the main reason to come to Siem Reap is to view the breathtaking temples at Angkor Wat. Built during the Khmer Empire's height of power between 842 and 1432 AD, the temples rise out of the jungle to demonstrate the force of this civilization in Southeast Asia. There's nothing like that first sight of one in the distance as you approach!
The 216 staring faces of Bayon Temple
Interestingly, when Angkor Wat was at its peak and held a population of over a million people, London only had a population of 50,000. (I'm embarrassed to admit I knew nothing about this ancient civilization of Angkor Wat until Angelina Jolie starred in Tomb Raider) On another interesting note, Angkor Wat was somewhat of a secret until the French "discovered" and revealed it to the world in 1860.
Wall Reliefs at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
We are siamese if you please. (Okay, I know this is not the land of Siam, but I couldn't resist)
Sawadee pose at Bayon Temple
How do I get a hold of the fish costume on the end for Halloween this year?
Cambodia Travel Tip #3: While these days you can actually visit the temples on the back of an elephant, I recommend hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day to tour you around the temples and city. We paid about $15 for ours, and he took us anywhere we wanted to go, including areas outside the temple complex. And while at one point, he seemed as though he too was going to take us home for a feast of chickens, we had a special bond with him and used his services for 3 days.
Me, striking the Cambodian universal tuk tuk driver afternoon pose
Cambodia Travel Tip #4: If you plan on touring temples for several days, start with the lesser known places and gradually work your way up to the more resplendent. You'll avoid temple fatigue that way... trust me, they start to look the same after a few hours in the blaring sun.
Pilgrimage to the temples... monks, tuk tuks, tourists