Chum Reap Sur Angkor: Around the old city

September 07, 2012 ASEAN Backpacking

Fresh from a long bus ride and sleep, my mind was a bit hazy.  I reckoned that the only way for me to wake up early and still stay up late was to catch up on sleep on our land travels.  Visiting three countries and crossing two international borders, we had a lot on this great Mekong adventure.

All the enthusiasm rushed back as soon as we entered our home in Siem Reap for three days and two nights.  This is probably one of the best places I've stayed so far, and I have been to a lot of fancy hotels from different parts of the world.

Golden Temple Villa is ♥.

A lush tropical garden welcomed us.  The hammock was a bit tempting but we had to check-in.  Good thing the check-in was fast and the staff were nice.  We were informed that we got free wifi, bike rentals, 1 hour massage, coffee, jasmine tea and bananas.


We decided to stow our bags first in our room before our welcome drinks.  But, with a bed set-up like this, how can anyone resist.  It was really the first time someone made up my bed with flowers.

After enjoying our room for a while, we walked to the restaurant where we would take our lunch.  It was already late then and we were already feeling hungry.

Our welcome drinks were ready, complete with chips and cold towel.  We were being pampered so much. 

My travel companions decided to play billiards while I tested the hammock.

I was glad Mervin, our friend who arranged the trip, decided for us to eat here.  Our first tasting of Siem Reap cuisine raised the bar pretty high.

The food here at Golden Temple Villa is amazingly good and very affordable. I am not a big fan of hotel food, but this restaurant changed my perspective on hotel food.


I even got a free shirt for our order of Amok Set, which costs US$ 7.00.  The set included Amok fish, Amok chicken and Amok beef cooked in coconut and wrapped in banana leaves.

Amok is one of Cambodia's well-known and well-loved dishes.  

Sunset ATV Tour

After that sumptuous affair with traditional Cambodian cuisine, we got ready for our afternoon activity, an ATV tour.  

Quad Adventure Cambodia picked us up from our hotel.   

Before the tour, guests were all briefed and were asked to do a safety test.  Lucky for me I passed.

It was nice getting on an ATV again.  It reminded me of the time I was doing consultancy for Enchanted Kingdom.  The ATV there was one of my favorite attractions.  

Anyway, we toured communities and rice fields.  Residents went out of their way to say hello to us, which was really nice.  There was really nothing much to see but Mervin and Quad Adventure really delivered on the promise of a relaxing sunset tour.

The Night Market: best place to get lost in Siem Reap

It was already dark when we finished and we went straight to the night market. 

Mervin thought of some fun secret activities. For this leg, we had to look for a shirt which we would all wear at our Angkor Wat tour scheduled the following day.  That was our shopping agenda, plus the usual souvenirs.

Dinner followed inside the night market, with beer of course, to celebrate our first day in Siem Reap, the third city on our itinerary and the fourth day of our Mekong Adventure.

Catching the sunrise at Angkot Wat

The main reason why I joined this trip is to see Angkor, one of the most important archeological sites in South-East Asia and the largest Hindu temple complex in the world.

We all woke up very early for this trip. We were already on day 5 of our Great Mekong Tour, on our 2nd country and 3rd stop (after Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh) and the energies were still very high.  

It was already dawn when we reached Angkor Wat, one of the most famous and iconic temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is about 5.5 kilometers from Siem Reap.  Most of the tourists have already secured their place at the northern reflecting pool, the most popular sunrise location, hoping to catch a good silhouette shot of the temple against a colored sky.   

Unfortunately, it was too cloudy that day.  Nevertheless, Angkor Wat was still breathtaking and picture perfect.  After a few shots, we decided to have breakfast first to make sure we get enough sustenance for a half a day tour of this 400 km2 archeological park, which contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. 

An Instagram photo of Angkor Wat

Trying to take in everything as I took the walkway leading to the temple was a bit daunting task.   The temple was really a trip back in time even if it buzzed with tourists.

Up close, the carvings are equally spectacular.  I wandered for a while away from my group so that everything was just between me and the past.

After about half an hour gallivanting, I joined my friends for this photo op.

The Great City

Our next stop was Angkor Thom, which translates to "Great City."  Angkor means town and thom means great.  It was a short tuktuk ride from Angkor Wat.  The drivers dropped us off at the south gate, a causeway with stone figures lining it.

We wanted to take a short elephant ride around Angkor Thom, unfortunately all the elephants were booked that day.  So proceeded with our walking tour.  

The most popular temple here is Bayon, the center of the town, which is known for its carved faces on the temple.

Phimeanakas Temple

On our way to meet the rest of the group and our tuktuk driver, we dropped by Phimeanakas Temple.  It can be climbed for a good view of the complex but we just decided to explore the lower sections.

On our way to the parking area, we also saw the elephant terrace, which is another important landmark in the area.

Ta Prohm temple

Our last stop was Ta Prohm temple, located east of Angkor Thom.  

This temple is known for its trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surrounding it.  

We were supposed to meet our tuktuk driver on the exit but with the throng of tourists inside, it was difficult finding our way.  We went out the same way we got in and ended up paying another tuktuk driver to bring us to the exit.  

Nice Beer!

After a good half day tour of Angkor Archeological Park, this was in order.  It was my first bottle with the easy open cap.  Nice! Like it!  This bottle celebrates what we have experienced together so far, traveling from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

Our tour leader Mervin scheduled an afternoon nap for us after a few rounds of beer. 

I was tired but my energy was still high.  I also wanted to do more with my last few hours in Siem Reap, so with one of my travel companions, Erwin, we explored Artisans Angkor, which is conveniently located only a few steps away from our hotel.  

Artisans Angkor

Artisans Angkor is an artists' village that promotes Cambodian fine arts and crafts.  

There are several workshop areas inside the compound like silk weaving, silk painting and stone carving where tourists can observe.  

After a visit to the showrooms, tourists can buy some fine arts and crafts at their souvenir shop.  This is also where we found the perfect thank you gift for Mervin, who organized the whole trip for us.


After the tour, we met-up with the group for dinner at Haven. 

Haven is an apt name for this place because they really serve food for the soul.  Every order of their delightful Asian and Western food supports the company's training program for young orphans.  

Haven offers these orphans accommodation, food, medical treatment and training.  After training, Haven also helped them find work.  

The place opened in December 2011 as a training restaurant and sanctuary for young adult orphans who have to leave the orphanage and have nowhere else to go.   

And this is my little piece of haven.   This little vegetarian dish is called Zuri Gschnetzlets with Swiss Rosti.  This is a traditional Swiss dish, vegetable versions, with most of the ingredients my body loves like tofu, mushroom, onion, cream, white wine and cognac.  It is crunchy, creamy and scrumptious.

I didn't leave without having my photo taken with the Swiss couple, Sara and Paul Wallimann, who provided Haven to Cambodia.

Happy with Happy Pizza

We explored the nearby pub street after and searched for the infamous happy pizza.  We found them at Hospital Street ...

and also this little place that offers another kind of high.


Further down the street is the kind of high girls love, which is shopping.

I got myself everything I wanted - ref magnets, fabrics and other souvenirs. 

That was a long day and the day with nice conversation over bottles of beers and happiness.  It was hard to leave Siem Reap but I made a promise, I will come back. 

See you soon Siem Reap! Up next on our Mekong Trip log is Bangkok.

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