The Beginning: Siem Reap
The first stop on our two month Southeast Asian adventure definitely did not disappoint. Immediately after we stepped off the plane the birds were singing, the air was breezy and Siem Reap began blowing out my expectations. This city proved to be something special that went beyond the monumental wats.
The first pleasant surprise occurred when we breezed through security at the beautiful airport, greeted by cheerful smiles from the immigration officers. Then we walked out and our hostel’s tuk tuk driver was faithfully waiting for us outside like he promised. When just the small things go smoothly it’s definitely a welcome treat. Then as we breezed down the road into town, I was surprised by the grandeur of the hotels lining the road. I knew Siem Reap was a tourist mecca, but I was expecting everything to be a little more poor and less established.
We arrived to Happy Guesthouse, our $11 a night hostel, shortly after to be greeted by a welcoming courtyard patio and a friendly host. After walking up marble stairs with wooden banisters we were shown to our clean, more than adequate room. We plopped down on the bed, happy to have finally arrived and I knew I was going to like this city. The next 3 days were filled with everyone’s prime destination the Wats. These 1,000 year old temples left over from kingdoms past are really everything you’d imagine and more.
Tree limbs ooze like lava over crumbling rock covered with ancient, cryptic carvings. It’s hard not to get spirited away into a distant fantasy as butterflies flutter in and out of shafts of light. Until you turn the corner and run into another tour group. But even with the hundreds of people around, you can still feel the colossal magnificence of the structures. And it’s not just Angkor Wat, but a number of other unique and contrasting temples scattered around the outskirts of Siem Reap.
Overall, I was truly impressed by the kindness of the people, quality of food and establishments and the unbelievable sights in Siem Reap. The only downside of this city was losing my 6 day old iPod Touch. But I guess everyone loses something in Southeast Asia, right?