A love letter to Siem Reap

I’ve been meaning to write to you ever since I got back, but Family Reunion Season had already begun which meant very little time to just sit down and write. Now that life is back to the way it usually is and work isn’t as hectic as it was, I can finally put into words how smitten I was – and still am – with you.

I must be honest, I did not expect to fall in love with you at all. My sister, Karen, and I initially planned on going to Bali for a beach getaway. But when that didn’t work out, we thought of Angkor Wat, which made us think of you.

We were excited, of course. It was our first trip with just the two of us and we were going to this place we’ve never been to before. But at the same time, as the plane descended onto the airport runway, a tiny voice kept repeating itself in my head, Please don’t let this trip suck, please don’t let this trip suck.

It did not suck. In fact, it’s the best trip I’ve ever had in my life so far. I enjoyed every single minute I was there. And throughout my six-day stay, I’d fall in love again and again.

One would think that the best part of Siem Reap is Angkor Wat, and understandably so. I thought so too at first. I thought my enjoyment of the trip would be directly proportional to how much I’d enjoy Angkor Wat. It turned out that while the archaeological magnificence of Angkor Park would be one of my most memorable experiences ever, I ended up loving the other little things a bit more.

I fell in love with your TukTuks. One of the reason why I love long car rides is I find looking out the windows very relaxing. Riding on a TukTuk where there are no windows separating you from the outside, I discovered, is even more so. Inhaling the fresh air of Siem Reap – which was also a surprise to me – while seeing the locals smile at you so genuinely always comes with riding a TukTuk, and I loved it.

I loved your food – I’ve never enjoyed so much vegetables in my life! After we booked our flight, I promised myself I’d try as many unusual street food as I can and I did. The tarantula tasted like chicken, which I enjoyed. The snake not so much; I had trouble chewing it. I found that eating crickets was much more fun when you pair it up with your local beer, which I also loved.

The floating village was a sigh to see as well, not because it was a spectacular sight, but because of how the people live. It’s amazing to see people living completely differently – and arguably with more difficulty – than what I’m used to, and still see peace and contentment on their faces. We spent three hours kayaking around the village with the nicest guide ever, and we got to eat at one of the stilted houses owned by a local. It was such a remarkable experience.

I also fell head over heels with your sunsets. The best part of our trip is when we drove an ATV to the paddy fields to watch the sunset. It’s one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve ever seen. Sitting on our ATVs, having a conversation with our wonderful guide, Phy, and seeing the sun disappear into the horizon, we were high on life. I am still so utterly in love with that moment.

But above all that, I fell in love with the people. From the staff of the hotel we stayed in to the guides who made sure we had the best time, from the vendors at the markets and the waiters at the restaurants to the locals in the villages and the TukTuk drivers who drove us around, every person we met on that trip touched our heart with their genuine kindness and eagerness to help. Karen and I both agreed that we’d come back in a heartbeat and the first thing we’d do is say hello to the people we had the pleasure of meeting. Your people are seriously the nicest and warmest people we’ve ever met. If we did not enjoy everything else, we’d still come back just to share a conversation with you again.

Siem Reap, you are simply amazing, breathtaking and everything in between. I cannot wait to come back.

All my love,

Kathryn

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Seen in one of the small restaurants inside Angkor Park

P.S. For those of you who are interested in finding out details about our trip like the hotel we stayed in and the activities we did, click here.

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Siem Reap in photos

My sister and I had a 6-day trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia last December. It was seriously the most enjoyable trip I’ve had so far. Here are some of the activities we did, and listed below are the details of our trip just in case some of you plan on going and need a few ideas.

1. Driving an ATV to the paddy fields of Siem Reap to watch the Cambodian sunset

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Tour by Quad Adventure Cambodia: http://www.quad-adventure-cambodia.com/

We did the sunset tour which cost $30. You start out at their garage, drive through the streets of Siem Reap and then into the paddy fields. The sunset is so incredibly beautiful. It was as though everything else stopped to give the sun its due. If you’re doing this, I highly HIGHLY recommend Phy as your guide. He’s incredibly warm and friendly, and we had such a great conversation while watching the sunset.

2. Kayaking through the floating village

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Kayaking Tour by Indochine Exploration: http://www.indochineex.com/

We did the kayaking tour to the stilted & floating village of Kampong Kleang. I have to admit, it’s not that cheap, around $120 each because it was only just the two of us. But the entire tour is pretty long and their tours are private, and you get to enjoy a  hearty meal (complimentary) at a local’s house. Our tour guide, Sokun, and his companion, Lee, were so much fun to talk to and they took care of us all throughout. So I’d have to say you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

3. Zip lining inside Angkor Park

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Flight of the Gibbon: http://www.treetopasia.com/cambodia-holiday/angkor

This is also expensive but, again, still worth it. The entire course took around two hours to complete. The highlight of this tour, I must say, are our guides, Rahul and Vanna. They were so hilarious, often making fun of each other and telling us jokes that were so silly that it actually was pretty funny.

4. Well, you can’t NOT see the temples of Angkor Park

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We stayed at the Model Angkor Resort & Residence during our stay. It’s a 4-star resort away from the main road where most of the hotels are located, but still near enough to get there in five minutes via TukTuk or bike. Their rates are high, but luckily I was able to book our room at a special discount + flash deal rate through Agoda which came up at about $60/night. Both of us prioritized relaxation for this trip so we decided to splurge on our accommodations, and just save up on food and airfare, which was a good decision on our part because this place is spectacular. And, just like all the people we met in Siem Reap, the resort staff and employees were so nice, helpful and sincere.

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Basically, what I’m trying to say is if you’re thinking of going on a trip and Cambodia isn’t on that list of possible destinations, well, it should. In fact, you should put Siem Reap, Cambodia on your list of places you SHOULD go to. It has the perfect balance of adventure and leisure. I guarantee you you’ll love everything about it.

And if you have any questions about our trip, feel free to ask. I’ll try to answer them as best as I can.