Siem Reap, Cambodia and Bangkok

Apr 01, 2016 Avatar Dan Ilves Dan Ilves

From Vietnam, we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia, certainly a highlight when visiting Southeast Asia. We stayed at La Residence d’Angkor, a Belmond hotel. This is a traditional Khmer -style hotel centered around gardens. We also visited the Raffles Grand d’Angkor which we loved, as well as Amansara, which was very peaceful and serene.

The first afternoon we went to the temple of Bayon, where there are the striking faces on each column. We were entranced – so fascinating. Also by coming to this temple around 5PM, we had the place almost to ourselves and the heat was much less intense. Timing is important when visiting these temple sites!

The next day we drove out to Ton Le Sap Lake and took a boat ride to see the floating villages. This is not to be missed – boating past houses on stilts, and seeing how the villagers make their lives is such a different lifestyle and fascinating.

We visited so many temples – Ta Phrahm with all the tree roots growing over and through the temple’s stone blocks, (think Tomb Raider), Bantay Srei, the woman’s temple, and the best of all, Angkor Wat itself.

We visited Angkor Wat at sunrise – sitting on the bank of the moat, watching the sun slowly rise and light up the temple was breathtaking. It was one of those unforgettable moments that always will stay with you. We walked through the temple, climbing the steep stone steps, taking in the expanse of it. We made friends with the children who followed us around, doing their best to sell us fans, scarves or whatever. Impressive how many languages these enterprising kids can communicate in!

Our Cambodian guide did not hold back when telling us about their tragic war history, and the terrific plight and suffering these people endured. However, they are incredibly welcoming to Western tourists, understanding that our support helps them with the country’s recovery and ultimately, their well being.

We left Cambodia and arrived in Bangkok – a fully modern city, with crazy traffic. There’s so much going on it’s almost overwhelming. We stayed at the Peninsula Hotel and went across the river to the Mandarin Hotel for dinner. These two luxury hotels face each other and are among the top hotels in the city. We also visited The Siam – a luxury retreat located in the royal district.

This was actually our favorite for style and design, featuring gorgeous pool and gardens,and with only 39 guest rooms.

Of course, in Bangkok we visited the Royal Palace, the Reclining Buddha, etc – we’ve done it before on past trips, but every time I learn something new.

And in Bangkok, there is also the shopping. I love to go to the night market and bargain with the vendors. Taking a tuk tuk back to the Peninsula is the best way to get through the traffic and feel like a local.

I look forward to going back – I felt a great affinity for the people in Vietnam, especially Hanoi. I missed Halong Bay so there is definitely something to go back for!

Katie Cadar