Thursday, January 01, 2009

Travelogue - Siem Reap, 25-28/12/08

How could I even describe it? Super-awesome-excellent-superb-priceless-all the good things rolled into one!!! There. But still, no words could exactly describe our experience in Siem Reap!

Thanks to Razeif, we had pre-booked our transportation for the 3 days there (USD 45 /day) per van. And our driver cum guide – En Shukri – spoke Malay too! Double bonus!

We booked our flight and hotel through Go Holidays for RM 1003/pax.

Tip # 1 : Don’t! You’d be better off just booking the flight only. There are loads of hotel / budget hotel around Siem Reap. You could do a separate online booking. Hotels there are cheap. Our 4 star hotel – Princess Angkor – costs only USD 20/person/night. So you could imagine how much less the budget hotels would cost.

Day 1
Tonle Sap – Cultural Village

There’s only one flight out to Siem Reap daily – at 0700 hrs, so we arrived there early, around 8am local time (Cambodia is one hour behind). It was a full flight, so we didn’t get to sit together, and we didn’t have breakfast on board. So we decided to have breakfast first, & we were brought to a Malaysian restaurant : D’Wau. Good nasi lemak & kuey teow sup (local flavoured soup – they make use of every part of the beef, including fat.

D'Wau restaurant

A quick stopover to buy charger for Mas’ video cam, then we were off to Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in SEA. We went to the Chong Kneas floating village. People here live on houseboats & make a living by fishing. We took a boat to see the village, boat ride costs USD10/person.

Tip # 2 : Be sure to buy the boat ticket at a travel agency, instead of right at the jetty. A friend bought the ticket for USD20/person at the jetty.

Siem Reap city

Otw to Tonle Sap~ villages & padi field

The villagers who live along the causeways and rivers have to adapt to the rising and falling water levels. Those who have floating houseboats, simply tow their homes to the most suitable location. Excerpt from
this website

On the way to Tonle Sap, our van broke down, the radiator fan, to be exact. So we waited about an hour for our replacement van. This gave time for cam-whoring ;-)

on the boat

Second destination was Cambodian Cultural Village. Entrance fee = USD 11. It’s basically similar to Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching, except that we couldn’t enter the houses to see the insides. But they did have shows on their traditional dances & wedding ceremony. And a funny skit : Finding Fiancé. Ironically, there was also a Judgement Tunnel, where we find it a bit scary.

That night we ate at Java House, a gallery cum restaurant which sold Indonesian furniture and handicrafts. Our hostess was a Miss Ratmi, she worked at the embassy before. Her nasi goreng was excellent, it was really good! With a sprinkle of kicap cap bango. Heavenly! After dinner we stopped by at Central Market for a bit of shopping.

Nasi goreng yg sedap gila!

Java house

Shopping at Central Market

Day 2 – Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom & Bakheng Hill

Today is the highlight of our tour. We were contemplating whether to take the 1 day pass (costs USD20) or 3 days pass (costs USD40). Since we only had 2 days left, it would cost the same if we buy a 3 days pass or two 1 day passes, Mas suggested that we buy the 1 day pass first & see if we could cover the essential temples within 1 day. Thanks Mas for the idea!

We woke up early that morning & went off right after Subuh to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We had packed breakfast, provided by the hotel. We didn’t get the best view of the sunrise though, as Shukri told us it was not the season (too cloudy). But anyway, it was still priceless!

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Here’s a bit about Angkor Wat: It is a temple complex built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century (so it’s about 800 years old!!) as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation –first Hindu, dedicated to Vishnu, then Buddhist. It combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple. Read more here

Next stop was Ta Phrom – the shooting location for Lara Croft : Tomb Raider. Here is where the humongous ancient tree grows through the temple. I’m not quite sure which is older, the tree or the temple. Ta Phrom is nestled in a forested area, so it was a bit cooling here.
But before we went to Ta Phrom, Shukri made us climb up a tree, but there wasn’t much of a view from up there. I think Shukri was just teasing us because he was laughing so much when we came down. But then again, he laughs a lot, I should have made a recording of his laugh lol!

Up a tree!

Anyway, here’s a bit about Ta Phrom : It was built in the late 12th and early 13th century and originally called Rajavihara. It was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found with trees growing out of the ruins. The temple's main image, representing Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom, was modelled on the king's mother. It was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 80,000 souls in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies. The design of Ta Prohm is that of a typical "flat" Khmer temple (as opposed to a temple-pyramid
The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm. Two species predominate: the larger is the silk cotton tree and the smaller is the strangler fig. Read more here

Since it was a Friday, and Shukri wanted to perform his Friday prayers, we stopped by at Masjid Al-Nikmah, where we also had our lunch at the Muslim Family Restaurant. We had sumptuous lunch, I particularly liked the clear Tom Yam soup and Daging Lembu Naik Bukit. Why the unusual name? It’s actually just the cooking pan – it has a bump in the middle, hence the “bukit” and the ingredient was beef and mushroom. It tasted really good! Shukri even helped with the cooking!

After solat we continued our journey to Angkor Thom or Bayon. It was really hot by the time we reached there, at about 2pm. But nothing could stop us from cam-whoring heheh. So here’s a bit on Angkor Thom : It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. The city lies on the right bank of the Siem Reap river, a tributary of Tonle Sap lake. Within the city was a system of canals, through which water flowed from the northeast to the southwest.

I think the most distinguished feature of Angkor Thom is the face tower. The faces on the 23 m towers at the city gates (which are later additions to the main structure) take after those of the Bayon, and pose the same problems of interpretation. They may represent the king himself, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, guardians of the empire's cardinal points, or some combination of theseThere are also statues at the gates (Victory Gate) from which roads lead to the Bayon at the centre of the city. The Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of Elephants are also found here. Read more here

Terrace of Elephant

Terrace of Leper King

Statues at Victory Gate btwn Bayon & Bakheng hill
Next destination was Phnom Bakheng, at Bakheng Hill to catch the sunset. Liza wanted to take the elephant ride (cost USD 15 per ride), but then changed her mind. So we all hiked up Bakheng Hill, which took us about half an hour. The place was fully pakced, perhaps because everyone wanted to catch the sunset. Some tourists were also very pushy, just couldn’t wait for their turn. It was a bit tricky to climb up the temple as the steps are very narrow and steep, we almost had to crawl up. It was even trickier to go down. Anyway, it was worth the effort as the view from up there was breahtaking, especially the sunset. And my Lumix did a good job, yeay, giving Prince Alpha a little bit of rest.
OK here’s a bit about Phnom Bakheng : it is a Hindu temple in the form of a temple mountain dedicated to Shiva and was built at the end of the 9th century during the reign of King Yasovarman (889 – 910 AD), which makes it the oldest temple of the 4 temples we visited that day. Phnom Bakheng is a symbolic representation of Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods, a status emphasized by the temple’s location atop a steep hill. Read more here

For dinner, we went back to D’Wau restaurant. We met another group of Malaysians, my friend actually – Naz, and 2 of her friends. They were actually staying the same duration as us at Siem Reap, on the same flight to and fro. What a small world! After dinner we stopped by at the Noon Night Market, which was actually just a walking distance from D’Wau. Before retiring, the girls had the complimentary 15 minute shoulder massage by the hotel.

Day 3 : Silk Farm, FCC Café, Artisans d’Angkor

We started our day a bit late today at 9.30am – giving a bit of rest to Shukri and our faithful van. It was also time for posing at the hotel - Princess Angkor.

Our first stop of the day was the Silk Farm. Nice weather today, very cooling. Here, the guide showed us the process of producing silk right from the silk worm to the finished product. The worms were fed mulberry leaves. It’s a really meticulous process, weaving the silk. I would rather feed the worms lol!

Next we dropped by at FCC café to buy t-shirts for Razeif’s uncle. A posh café, this. Just a quick stopover, then we were off to Artisans d’Angkor. Here youths are trained for handicraft works for between 3 – 6 months before they graduate as artisans. They learnt how to carve woods, painting, draw motifs, lacquering etc. The silk farm is also part of the Artisans d’Angkor initiative where they help young Cambodian artisans to find work in their home villages and provide them with a trade and role in society. Artisans d’Angkor was established between 1998-2001 with financial support from the EU under the REPLIC program. Entrance is free of charge for both, but visitors could help by buying the products or donating.

FCC Cafe

Lunch was at Java House again to re-visit the mandrem nasi goreng heheh, a bit of rest at the hotel, then out and about again to the massage parlour. We had a foot massage for USD 6 each. It was really good to have the massage after a few days of walking, and erm, sore legs. Mas’ masseuse was particularly concerned about her condition – the masseuse thought Mas was pregnant (haha I don’t where that came from :-p). We were served tea after the massage, then felt energetic again to continue shopping at the Old Market.

Java house again!

Ikan berlado & rendang

Park otw to Old Market

Bridge opposite Old Market

Old Market
After Old Market, we headed to Koulen Restaurant to catch the Apsara dance. Since the food is not halal, we payed only for the dance show, which was USD 6/person. The Apsara dance was some sort of combination of the Makyong dance & traditional Thai dance, minus the long nails.
Cambodians scholars mentioned that Khmer classical dance is unbroken tradition dating back to the Angkor period. Other scholars theorize that Khmer classical dance, as seen today, developed from, or was at least highly influenced by, Thai classical dance innovations from the 19th century and precedent forms were somewhat different. The temple dancers came to be considered as apsaras, who served as entertainers and messengers to divinities. Ancient stone inscriptions, describe thousands of apsara dancers assigned to temples and performing for divine rite as well as the general public. Read more

After the Apsara dance, Shukri dropped us at an Indian restaurant, but it was full, so we headed to the night market instead for last minute shopping. Since we haven’t eaten yet since lunch, we were hungry by now. Once back at the hotel we had a Mamee Kari Berapi party while watching Transformers. Thanks to Liza for the Mamee!
Day 4 : Balik kampung
Sob sob it’s the day to go back already. It felt too short a time. Nothing much could be done today as our flight was early – at 8.30 am. We each wore our Cambodian t-shirts today, idea courtesy of Liza. After breakfast we headed straight to the airport which was just 15 minutes from the hotel. We said our goodbyes to Shukri. He was a really good guide to us! We really enjoyed our trip to Siem Reap and were wishing that it would not end too soon. Definitely a recommended place to be visited!

Bye bye..



Blogger Ummi to NAJLA,EMRAN & RAFEEQ said...

salam nurul

apa kabar?.harap sihat laa yekss...waaaahhh jeleznya nurul dpt g jejalamn hampir whole world..tatau bila laks nk ada peluang..probably after 2nd baby lahir nanti laa :-)))

saya dh posting kt BU..sesenang boleh laa jumpa

Take care


11:23 PM  
Blogger pure leaps and spirals said...


i stumbled on your blog from pamina's and would just like to commend you on the gorgeous pictures... very nice shots really managed to capture the fun i'm sure y'all had! good too to read the casual mention of keeping one's solat while on the road. its heartwarming and inspiring for me personally to see this :)

10:15 AM  
Blogger chinta said...

wah, jln2 lg!! mas pun ada?..patung2 angkor tu really scary wise, mcm mesia jgak ek..

9:42 PM  
Blogger aiyda said...

Tq tq all for dropping by :-)
Yeay! Jumpa gak Yana kat ou ;-)

11:10 PM  
Blogger IZWAN SHAHMIN said...

:) Love Siem Reap

5:49 PM  
Blogger Biqque said...

been there last month...havent got a chance to blog bout it, but i love siem reap :)

5:48 PM  

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