Siem Reap and the Angkor region
Trip planning was an enriching experience, poring over several forums and reviews for weeks, highly enjoyable, useful and exciting. Thank you.
We used the e-visa option. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs e-visa service turned out to be extremely efficient. I contacted enquiry, the govt official's email response was that there is only one e-visa web facility, while there are a number of fake ones. I submitted the visa application for three (13 y/o son, spouse and self) on Saturday night and the e-visa was in my mailbox on Monday morning. The official Govt web site is http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/Default.aspx.
Day 1, April 7, 2011:
Our short stop over at Kuala Lumpur airport was quiet in the early morning. Coffee and breakfast was enough to keep us going.
Arrival at Siem Reap was around noon. First impression of SR airport was that of a clean, laid back place, geared up to welcome visitors.
Immigration was a very simple process, the line was short and we were done in a few minutes. Visitors need to hand over a copy of the e-visa printout to Immigration officials on arrival and another one at departure. So do keep a few copies of the e-visa with you.
Our baggage arrived within a few minutes (always a relief..!!), and we walked out to see a number of phone booths representing telecom providers.
Our tuk-tuk driver Tula Kut had been recommended by a regular poster in the TA forum. He was waiting for us with a placard, a broad smile crossing his face. There was just enough space for our luggage, and off we went.
We had chosen the Golden Temple Hotel, High School Road, less than 1 km from the Market and Pub Street area, a quiet hotel with super staff and ambience.
We were welcomed with refreshing, cool tea...
... and snacks on arrival.
Being our first time to Cambodia, we had carried along a huge assortment of adapters, but, to our relief, found that most outlets are of the multi-socket type, with both round pin and flat pin sockets. We did not need to use any of our adapters. Voltage is 220V.
The room turned out to be of a comfortable size for three, with simple, yet elegant decor. TV, with a few CDs that included the story of the Angkor region and the Killing Fields.
The first thing to do, after a shower and lunch, was to get hold of the Angkor Temples pass. Tula Kut was back by 4PM, and off we went, down the pleasant and clean streets of SR town. We were almost the first in line, and opted for the US$40 pass for 3-days. It turned out that the ticket centre accepts US$ currency notes and does not accept credit cards. We were caught by surprise, being short of notes. Off we went, looking for an ATM. Tula Kut know where to find one. ATMs are not found in plenty. The ATM in the museum complex was not operational, oh no, however, we found another ATM quickly enough on the street nearby.
ATMs provide you US$ notes. There was a US$4 access charge per transaction (April 2011) for the ANZ machine.
Quickly back to the Temple pass office, the line had grown a little longer. The pass making process is quick, though, aided by a Web cam and a smiling thank you with folded hands. Armed with our passes, we headed out to the temple region by about 5:00PM.
Angkor, at last..!! A dream come true..!! After years of wondering what the mysterious jungles would uncover.
Angkor Wat was all golden a little before sunset. We rode by, wanting to spend considerably more time on another day, and went along to the much debated and controversial Phnom Bakheng. There have been so many discussions around this sunset spot that we thought we must take a look.
Handicraft and book sellers greeted us. Mostly little girls. You buy this book? Not now? Later? You buy from me when you come down? I wait for you, ok? I give you cheaper price, ok?
Hundreds of people were rushing up. A few stately, slow elephants, as well. Hundreds of people rushing down before it gets too dark. The wooded trail is really lovely, with a few slippery spots with loose sand. We took time to stroll up and enjoy the cool air. There are a few sunset spots along the way, the light of the setting son is reflected off the reservoir in the distance.
The temple dates back to the 9th century, a highly threatened monument as a result of thousands of people clambering up and down daily to view the sunset. The sight of hundreds of tourists perched up on the temple was not a particularly pleasant sight.
We found the rays of the setting sun against the temple to be a lovely sight, and preferred not to climb up inside the temple. It was getting dark as we walked down. The sun and the sunlight reflected off the reservoir looked even lovelier.
It was then time to do the most important thing to stay connected, which is to buy a local GSM SIM card for the mobile phone. It turned out to be a relatively easy task. Though I was not carrying my Indian passport, my Indian driving license was adequate identity proof at the telecom showroom. We were gifted 50% bonus talk time because of the upcoming Khmer New Year.
Having read much about Khmer food, it was time to sample a variety of veg, chicken and fish cuisine (including Amok) at Khmer Kitchen Restaurant along the Alley parallel to Pub Street.
The gardens and pool at the Golden Temple Hotel were subtly lit up in the late evening.
It had been an exciting first day in Siem Reap and the Angkor area.