Traveling is healing, traveling is happiness and traveling are freedom. More so when you travel with your childhood friend. My bestie, Apala, and I have been friends since we were kids and now we are also travel-buddies. We stay in two opposite hemispheres, UAE and Australia. So, when we planned a trip together last year, we had to find a middle ground. After some arduous research, we decided to converge at Seam Reap for our epic Cambodia trip.
Here we come Cambodia!
The Seam Reap International airport greeted us with a comparatively small queue for immigration as we already had e-visa. After exchanging hugs, it was time to find our hotel staff who were supposed to pick us up. We reached our destination soon, “Hotel Somadevi Angkor Resort and Spa,” freshened up, fleetingly grabbed a bite and headed off to view the sunset at the world-famous Angkor Wat temple. You can take a three-day pass to the temple to avoid the hassle of buying a ticket every time and save some bucks. A three-wheeled motorized vehicle called ‘Tuk Tuk’ is the key means of conveyance in Seam Reap and trust me; it’s a fun ride.
Angkor Wat, the temple town
Angkor Wat, meaning ‘Capital Temple,’ is the world’s largest religious monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992. An unparalleled blend of Hinduism and Buddhism can be beheld here. The temple stands as a historical epitome and is a witness to several emperors and sovereignties. The engravings on the walls of the temple, which portray Hindu and Buddhist mythology, are worthy of mention. Every carving speaks to colossal talent and craftsmanship.
The sunrise and sunset at the Angkor Wat temple is another delightful experience and a must-watch. To my mind, the silhouette of Angkor Wat after dusk was a fascinating spectacle.
Angkor Wat Temple
Engravings in the Angkor Wat temple
Besides Angkor Wat, Seam Reap is home to some other temples, namely Bayon, Banteay Srei, Phnom Bakheng among others. The Bayon temple is a must-visit, housing serene and smiling faces of Buddha, carved in stone, on the many towers.
Floating Village, Tonlé Sap, Seam Reap, Cambodia
The next day, we visited the ‘floating village,’ that showcased a contrasting landscape to the temples. We were driven from our hotel to a place at least one and half hours from the city, and then onwards to an area, where boats were harbored. Our guide made us board one of the medium-sized boats that could accommodate ten people. The boat set out on the Tonle Sap lake, yet another mesmerizing journey that we will cherish for a lifetime
The floating village of Cambodia has houses on stilts, markets on boats, fishermen with nets, water everywhere and happy faces around. The village has a school and monastery. The village is colorful and even though the houses are small, yet they are well decked up. Everything felt good here in the floating village, but this life I couldn’t have imagined for myself. The school kids were a delight to hang around, and they were surprisingly skilled at posing for selfies! We wanted to give them some chocolates, but instead what they asked for was a dollar ($). I would quote my bestie here,
“Smiles for free! They will choose a dollar over candy. Some of them are the only bread earners for their family. Have known the meaning of responsibilities much earlier in life, but they are still lovable kids looking for pure happiness.”
We continued our journey on the lake and reached the mangrove forest area, where we were transferred to a smaller boat. The boat sailed slowly through the marshy and shallow water of the mangrove forest, while the sun played peek-a-boo and the beautiful silence captivated us. We came across some boats, called ‘market boats,’ where we could buy some snacks and water. We also saw crocodile farms, that was too scary for me to enjoy!. After the mangrove forest tour, we sailed back to the main dock and then were driven back to our hotel by evening.
Seam Reap has filled my heart with a thousand memories. But, the one thought that had consumed me since my visit is the sheer happiness of the villagers, even when all they owned was a rickety house, and the smell of fish everywhere! But they didn’t forget to smile and touched our hearts with their warm gestures and hospitality. With a heart, full of memories, smiles, and warmth, we bid goodbye to Seam Reap until next time.
Some travel tips at hand
- The primary currency used for transaction in Seam Reap is USD, so don’t worry about converting local currency when you go
- There is an online e-visa facility for Indian passport holders
- Some good hotels can be found in http://www.booking.com/
- The hotel we stayed and which was worth it with amazing breakfast (included) and a nice pool – http://www.somadeviangkor.com/ ; The hotel has a concierge, and they arranged all the day tours, just send them an email before you travel, and they will arrange all the trips
- Must watch –
- Angkor Wat Temple, Bayon Temple, Banteay Srei Temple – Get a guide when you do the temple tour
- The floating village
- The museum and city sightseeing
- Apsara Dance
- Tuk-tuk can be used as the means of conveyance but when you are going to floating village, get a car as the roads are very dusty
- Food – Have the local food but avoid too much street food. Coconut water, raw mango, and other fruits are recommended
- North Vietnam: Where Nature Beckons - April 4, 2017
- A Beautiful Cambodia Trip: Two Girls’ explore the People’s Place - February 14, 2017