We left Kept on the morning of New Year’s Eve and spent most of our day on a bus to Siem Reap. We arrived at night (around 6ish), quickly checked into our hotel and then headed out to city of Siem Reap for a NYE dinner.
We walked to the bar street to check out the scene- and it was quite happening! We didn’t end up staying (it ended up getting super crowded) and instead had dinner at a local grill.
Confession- we did not stay up for the midnight countdown. Instead, we woke up really early the next morning to start the New Year with a sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was well worth it and a memorable way to start 2017.
After sunrise, we started our biking tour of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom, which was recommended to us by our friends. It was fun exploring by bikes as we ended up taking back roads and go around places that cars and tuk-tuks. A few of the places got tricky for me as we biked through some sand and then down through some tree branches. (Note- this is probably super easy for most but tricky for clumsy me!)
It was great to be able to share Angkor Wat with Matt, as it was one of my favorite memories and experiences when I backpacked SE Asia in 2009. Although it’s grown quite a bit (there are lot more tourists), the ruins are still incredibly beautiful and inspiring. It’s amazing that humans were able to build these intricate and massive structures without access to the tools we have today. It’s almost impossible to imagine the pure blood, sweat, tears and broken backs that went into each temple and structure.
The tour was also very informative of the Khmer history and we even dove a little bit into the time of the Khmer Rogue and its impact on the temples. We had done a tour of CHEOUNG EK AND TUOL SUONG in Phnom Penh and learned more about the sad and terrifying history of the Khmer Rogue and had learned about “Year Zero,” where the regime had decided to erase the past history and ties in order to start over anew. We were hit hard by the Khmer Rogue’s impact on humanity, society, politics and culture in Phnom Penh. However, the historical, archeological and religious impact of it really sunk in at Siem Reap.
A rich history surrounded the temples we visited which the impressive sights only sweetened.
One full day at Angkor Wat, combined with it being the tail end of our Asian tour, we ended up being a bit “templed-out.” Other travel friends had warned us this would happen but I didn’t think it would happen to me since I LOVE temples. But yeah, it happened.
Given that, we did something a bit different and not exactly “touristy” on our last day at Siem Reap: we did an escape room! It’s something we’ve wanted to try and there was one with good reviews in town, so we decided to give it a go. It was both of our first time, so it was a bit tricky but it was a lot of fun being able to work as a team to solve a problem. Plus, our escape room was Angkor Wat themed, which we thought was very fitting (so we kinda did temples….?)
We (basically) finished the puzzles (with some clue hints) and (basically) escaped. The experience was super neat: we ended up having to crawl through a space in the wall (that we didn’t know existed in the beginning) and it involved breaking into more than one room.
All in all, I guess you can say we had both a typical and atypical Siem Reap experience that we wouldn’t trade!