I took the plunge and woke up at 4AM for a 4:30AM departure to make it to Angkor Wat by Tuk Tuk in time for sunrise – a must do for anyone traveling to the temple complex of Ankor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. While I didn’t have the iconic sun shining through the temples, I was graced with a moody blue hued sky that began to open up around as the morning progressed. After realzing sunset wasn’t really going to happen I decided to leave the crowds by the lake, as they waited…and waited some more, and wander into Angkor Wat. As I walked away from the lake I discovered a virtually empty temple complex as the other tourists hadn’t made it there yet. What an absolutely amazing and magical experience in Cambodia.
Having three full days in Siem Reap I had time to really explore and get to know this Cambodian city during my visit. I decided to stay near the main tourist area – but just off the main road away from the noise, the boozy visitors, and all the tuk tuk honking! I loved wandering the streets in search of a good deal and it was fun to find little local areas with good coffee and quiet shops. One afternoon, to escape the heat and humidity, I found a pool side restaurant where I could relax and go for a swim … a must in Siem Reap!
After a few hours of hiking in the Kep National Park I wandered down the coastal road and into the Crab Market – one of the popular stops during a visit to Kep. Here locals come to buy fresh crab and tourists come to watch the fishermen and their wives bring in the loot from the day in the ocean. Next to the Crab Market are tons of little family run restaurants selling dishes which incorporate the local crab and other seafood.
After spending a few days in Phnom Penh I decided to take the Cambodia public bus down South to Kep. This tiny costal town is known for its tropical islands off the main land and its seafood … specifically crab! This was the first part of my three month long journey where I changed my planned itinerary and decided to listen to my fellow travelers about some of their favorite places in Cambodia and Kep came up many times! Rather than staying another two days in Phnom Penh I booked a bus and headed to Kep for a perfect 24 hours.
I booked a sweet little bungalow room ($14 USD for the night!) and wandered all around Kep by foot – including a few hours in the Kep National Park where I climbed up and down a tight dusty path to reach a deserted ancient Pagoda in the woods. I concluded my day in Kep by visiting the Sailing Club, the bar/restaurant to an uber – luxurious hotel in the area, and felt like the rich and famous for an hour or two over rose and flavored peanuts!
I loved the colors, smells, and constant reminder of the Buddhism religion in Cambodia. There were signs of their religion around ever corner and it gave the cities and towns such a sense of life and passion. From burning incense to offering flowers, birds, and green bananas the locals were constantly engaging in their Buddhist beliefs.
After spending over two weeks in Vietnam it was time to head onto Cambodia! We arrived to Cambodia via the Mekong River and took a Tuk Tuk to our hostel where we unloaded and headed off on the next adventure … exploring Phnom Penh. PP has so much to offer … from roadside food trucks to pagodas and shops there was so much to see in 24 hours in the city.