Sunday, January 18, 2015

Holiday in Cambodia: Spring Festival 2014

As we approach Chinese Spring Festival 2015, here's a very delayed post from last year.

It seems that recently everywhere we go in Asia, we like even more than the last place.  Our recent trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia continues that trend.  Having the week off work for Chinese Spring Festival (New Year) seemed the perfect time to visit.  It was just after the peak season (December, January) and before it gets too hot (March onward).

Many people choose to combine Cambodia with Vietnam and/or Thailand, but we mainly wanted time to relax, enjoy the warm weather and not rush around.  The first thing you notice in Siem Reap is how laid-back and relaxed it is.  It very much feels like the Caribbean with its open air shops, restaurants and bars (with the addition of cheap massages and fish pedicures).

There's every variety of tuk tuk waiting to whisk you around town or to the temples. The small downtown is easy to get around and there's a high concentration of restaurants and bars, along with a lively central market.

Siem Reap has grown up for the tourist crowds, and it's a lively scene at night on the Pub Street and beyond. We especially had fun one night sitting on an upper balcony and watching the street vendors (and a few scammers) below as well as watching a large dance party that broke out on the street.

Snakes and bugs...yum! This enterprising stand charges for tourists to take pictures, since many would do that rather than buy. However, with a zoom lens from above, it's no problem.

We stayed at the lovely Diamond D-Angkor, a boutique hotel just a short walk from downtown. Not only was it a lovely spot, the service was the best we've ever experienced (for the price, especially) and it comes with access to a tuk tuk and driver for your stay, to take you to the temples and around town whenever needed.

Of course, the temples of Angkor Wat and beyond are the highlight of any trip to Siem Reap. Here are a few snapshots from our first outing to Angkor Wat. There's no way to cover all the great snapshots from the temples in this blog, so for those who want to view more check out our TwoWhoTravel photo site (woefully neglected lately).

Ta Prohm was our next visit. This temple, made famous in Tomb Raider, is in the middle of the restoration process which lends it a special quality. You're probably familiar with the images of large trees growing up within the temple ruins. We spent lots of time climbing around and exploring this special site.

Another day, we paid a small extra fee to have our tuk tuk drive us out to Banteay Srei, which gave us great opportunities to see life in the countryside on the long ride out and back (including a very pink wedding celebration being prepared).

Banteay Srei is built out of red sandstone and is a smaller scale temple, with beautiful detailed carvings you can still see today (along with many bullet holes from the war years, as our guide pointed out to us). This temple was well worth seeing and though a tuk tuk ride is not the ultimate in comfort, the peaceful countryside and people living their lives along the way made for a scenic ride.

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