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SIEM REAP

17 November 2016

You can't go to Vietnam without hopping over to Cambodia, and you can't go to Cambodia without visiting Laos - but following that same logic you can't go anywhere for less than a month. (This is why Japan has been top of my list since I was a teenager: I want to spend a couple of months there, so I still haven't been.) In an ideal world, we would have spent at least eight weeks in Asia this spring, but with only three we had to prioritise and went with four places in eleven days in Vietnam and two places in six days in Cambodia before heading up to Hong Kong.  Whilst in Cambodia we wanted to visit the laidback city Battambang, see Irrawaddy dolphins in the freshwater TonlĂ© Sap lake and visit the isolated, unspoilt southern islands (one day I'll stay at the Song Saa private island in the Gulf of Thailand - it looks beyond idyllic), but instead covered the essentials, packing as much as we could into three days in the capital and three days in Siem Reap.

Pre Rup in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Our lovely hotel in Phnom Penh hired a driver to take us up to Siem Reap and we arrived at the beautiful Angkor Village Resort, via a few stops at vibrant roadside markets and ancient bridges along the way, five hours later. We checked in, went for a swim, had a massage in the hotel spa and got ready for dinner in town. I loved dinner at Malis (the Cambodian name for the white jasmine flower), where we ate Cambodia's best-known dish, amok, which is a curry made with river fish sweetened with coconut and seasoned with spices, steamed in banana leaves and served with fragrant rice, and delicious crispy noodles prepared at the table.  For nightcap cocktails we went to the iconic FCC housed in the colonial home of a former French governor before getting a tuk-tuk back to our hotel.

Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Dinner at Malis, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Keen to squeeze in as much as possible, we woke up early and bought the three day temple passes so we could stagger the sites over several days. Angkor Wat obviously needs no introduction: the iconic UNESCO-protected temple complex spreads over 400 square kilometres and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Asia. The crumbling remnants of the Khmer Empire's capital city is the largest religious monument in the world and everywhere you look there are intricate stone carvings, sculptural decorations and symbolic statues. The amount of detail and the sheer scale is breathtaking. We spent several hours here before hopping back on a tuk-tuk and heading to Angkor Thom and the huge carved stone faces in the Bayon Temple.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Giant tree roots around Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Asia travel blog

We walked amongst giant trees and sprawling roots at Ta Prohm - the 12th century Bayon-style temple seen in Tomb Raider - and climbed the steps of Prae Roup to watch the hazy sun set into the misty jungle and frangipani trees below.  Another favourite was the dusty pink Banteay Srei temple meaning 'city of women' and built in the 10th century out of beautiful sculpted red sandstone. What a lot of bucket list sights in one trip.

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