Island Life | Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

We woke up the next morning ready for our next destination, Koh Rong Sanloem, the island life. To get from Kampot to Koh Rong Sanloem, there is quite the mixture of transportation modes. We knew we didn’t want to waste a day traveling, and after a small amount of research we knew we wanted a goal of the 11:30 am ferry. In order for that to happen, we had to leave Kampot by local bus at 7am and make the 3 hour journey to a town called Sihanoukville.

Getting There and ATMs

local bus

Ferry times from Sihanoukville to the Cambodian islands, Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong are limited, running between 8am and approximately 4 p.m. We didn’t want to count solely on the last ferry at and risking getting stuck in Sihanoukville. (rumor is there might be a later ferry, but in April 2019 the last ferry was at 4pm)

Everything worked out in our favor, though I’m still not sure exactly how we managed. You see, we went from a local bus to ANOTHER bus, then had to walk down a hill/road to arrive at the ferry dock. Why? It’s still a mystery to me, but it all worked out. It did provide us with several opportunities to get to an ATM, which are located along that main road.

THIS IS A MUST, because the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem are cash only with ZERO, NILCH, NADA ATMs located on them. Oh, did I also forget to mention that much of the island of Koh Rong Sanloem is cellular data limited. This means, you’ll be disconnecting from everything for a few days!

While in Phnom Penh, we had decided in advanced to stay at the Mad Monkey hostel on Koh Rong Sanloem. Mad Monkey KRS is located on a private beach only accessible by long boat. They have courtesy pick-up and drop-off at Saracen Beach at select time. They partner with ferry company, Speed Ferry, so those select times are in correlation to Speed Ferry. We managed to take the 11:30 a.m. boat as planned and arrived at Saracen Beach about an hour later. It was a pretty simple ferry ride and the Mad Monkey long boat was waiting for our arrival.

Mad Monkey KRS

Mad Monkey KRS is a large hostel located on a private beach/cove with several options for small to big dorms. There are several options from hillside view dorms, private ensuite beachfront villas, and sea view dorms from 4-12 beds.

We pre-booked our accommodations via the Mad Monkey’s website directly and received a 10% discount. None of us really knew the set up a head of time, so initially booked the 6-bed mixed dorm room. After arriving and noticing the large 12-bed dorms open air, beach front location, we requested to move dorms on our second night.

Each bed comes with their own mosquito net, as bugs are ruthless here (NOTE: BRING BUG SPRAY AND LOTS OF IT). There is a lock box for each bed and plenty of space for luggage. I never felt like I was walking on top of my dorm-mates.

Mad Monkey has a large common-dining-bar area with a beautiful view of the bay. This area is where most of the action happens. There were even bean bags available for some light reading or sun bathing.

MMKRS dock

Mad Monkey is a cashless property, which means keep your money in the room. During my visit in March, they were in the process of making the switch from paper tabs to an electronic tab system. Upon arrival, you will get a bracelet that will be used to track your room cost and purchase food, trips, and beverages. When you check out to leave, you will get a final bill. Again, make sure you bring enough cash to cover all possibilities for the amount of time you stay.

fire dancers

Mad Monkey offers a variety of events and excursions. Several days have nightly themes like “pizza night” with their stone oven. Some nights have shows like fire dancing on the beach. During the day, there is an option for a $10 boating/fishing excursion, which takes you on a 4 hour long boat adventure.

This adventure includes friends, music, drinks, snorkeling, and learning how to fish using the traditional Cambodian method. I HIGHLY recommend adding this to your list because it was such a great time. Even though, I was awful at the fishing part.

Everyday between the hours of 3-6 p.m. is happy hour on the pier. This is a large wooden area in the middle of the bay with a large bar and covered area, a swing and rope swing, plenty of bean bags, and platforms to jump off.

Basically, this hostel has everything you could ask for while enjoying the Island Life. My friends and I participated in basically everything, but because it was service-limited and Wi-Fi free, I rarely had my cell phone. Meaning, I took little to no photos during my 4 days at Mad Monkey. Oops.

(I need to check out my footage from my GoPro since I have no idea what I actually captured)

A Little Something Extra

To me, Island Life means one thing…Scuba Diving. I hadn’t heard much about the diving in Cambodia. I was itching to get back into the water as at this point, it had been close to 8 months since my last dive. I was going crazy not being in the water.

After googling and surfing trip advisor, I settled on a company in Mpai Bay, another bay on Koh Rong Samloem. They did not offer pick up from Mad Monkey, but they did offer it from Saracen Bay. At the time of booking, I did not realize that Mad Monkey partners with a dive shop in Koh Rong which included pick up. Hindsight. I wish I would have used this other company strictly for the convenience.

The company I used for was a decent shop with good equipment and my particular dive master was amazing, but customer service was a bit “eh”. The dives themselves were nothing special and I was told that visibility was always very poor in Cambodia’s waters. I wish I would have known this prior to diving, as I probably would have saved my money. I did see an octopus on the second dive so BONUS, but in the process, I did lose my dive master because of visibility.

Regardless of the poor visibility and “eh” customer service, I still thoroughly enjoyed being back underwater. It always gives me such a peaceful mind and spirit. I still wouldn’t recommend diving in Cambodia (especially after diving the Thai Islands), but if it’s your only opportunity while in S.E. Asia, then go for it!

Four days came and went very quickly and I really wish I could have stayed longer, but it was time to continue on my solo backpacking adventure. I left the boys and many friends on the island and ventured back to Phnom Penh to catch my next flight. Stay tuned to find out where…

A Peck of Peppers | Kampot, Cambodia

After two days of Phnom Penh and a couple good nights out, my friends and I decided to keep moving through Cambodia. We’d talked to several other travelers who recommended visiting the town of Kampot; a quite town along the coast of Cambodia, and it’s exactly where we headed.

We were able to find a bus leaving mid-day arriving into Kampot just past dinner time. We thought it was the perfect timing for a bus, however, like most things in Southeast Asia, it took WAY LONGER than expected.

What we encountered was a completely tore up highway, packed with traffic, and a ridiculously bumpy ride. Reason: a huge freeway (actually a few) is being build throughout Southeast Asia connect China to the coastline. It wasn’t the most fun bus ride but we made it safely to our quiet hostel located in the center of town.

Accomodations

Although Mad Monkey does have a location in Kampot, the guys and I decided to branch out and try another hostel, a non-party but social hostel, called Monkey Republic. This hostel is located pretty centrally and very easy to walk to from the bus depot. The staff was super friendly, breakfast was delicious (extra cost but located onsight), and the cost was reasonable. It was approximately $6-7 USD per night, which is ideal on a backpackers budget.

It should also be noted that one of the hotspots to stay for backpackers is called Arcadia Backpackers Kampot. Located on the outskirts of town along the river, Arcadia offers backpackers more than just accomodation. They have a variety of water activities including a waterslide, blog, tubes, rope swing, and so much more.

We were pretty intrigued by this hostel, but made the ultimate decision to use Kampot as a “chill spot” before the islands. Plus, Arcadia is located quite far from the main city center and would require a tuk-tuk ride to and from the location. It was something we didn’t want to hassle with at that moment.

Tourist Attractions

One of the main “must see” is going to visit a pepper farm. Apparently Kampot is known for its pepper and as someone who had never been to a pepper farm before, I was very intrigued.

Through the help of our hostel, we were able to gather some information about how to visit one of these farms. The front desk told us many of the tuk-tuk drivers have different types of “packages” of touristy places we could visit, with prices varying. We ventured outside to the main road and easily found a tuk-tuk. As a group (we had another hostel mate join us), we decided on a package that included a visit a local lake, a salt field, and the farm.

The first pit-stop was to a salt field, which was nothing but a field. It was dry season so I wasn’t expecting much, but our driver did provide a little explanation of how salt…grew? Was made? (not sure the correct verbiage for salt)

The lake wasn’t anything unique, since at this moment it was dry season, but there were a few small huts surrounded by rice fields that made it quite beautiful. It was quite bumpy to get too, but the route took us through local villages and rice fields. Unfortunately, the downside was the amount of plastic we saw on the ground and in the rivers/water. There were many moments that were hindered by the sight of garbage.

Kampot Pepper Farm

After the lake, we continued to La Plantation, a certified organic Kampot pepper farm located roughly 22km in Kon Sat; a particular area with the perfect temperament and climate for pepper to thrive. I read something to do with the combination of the salt water/salty air, the air, and the amount of rainfall.

When we first arrive to the farm, we were greeted with a beautiful walkway surrounded by plants of different shapes and sizes. This walkway lead us to the main building, where we joined in on a FREE walking tour (with pepper tasting at the end.)

The tour walked us throughout the pepper and spice plants teaching us about the 22 hectares farm. From how the plants are grown, to how they harvest the pepper berries, and finally, about the different types of pepper.

Prior to my visit, I couldn’t tell you anything about pepper. Now, I can tell you that pepper plants grown upwards on wooden poles. The different berries all grown on the same stalk and have to be hand picked and hand sorted, as flavors from the different berries wouldn’t blend well with the others. There are four different pepper berries: green, black, red and white; each with their own tastes and purpose. And there’s a unique difficulty to collecting the white and red pepper berries, which apparently are rare.

Plus, La Plantation is more than just pepper. Their array of plants also include a variety of spices like turmeric and chili and other peppers like long peppers, which are all grown throughout the farm.

One of the perks of visiting this particular farm is the pepper tasting that comes at the end of the walking tour. It provides an insight into the various flavors of each pepper. A chance to taste before deciding to purchase a product. Plus, it’s just fun. I never fully understood that extent of pepper but I have a new found appreciation for pepper thanks to this tour.

The Rest of Kampot

After we returned home from the farm tour, we didn’t really have a plan. Thankfully, when this happens it usually means food is in the near future. There was one place we were told is a good area for food, the river side.

We found a little restaurant located near the river and indulged in local Cambodian cuisine. Afterwards, we walked along the riverside admiring the boats lined up. We were told they offer boat cruises at sunset but we were more interested in just having a beer. That is exactly what happened when we ran into several other hostel mates. It was a pretty tame evening as we were leaving for another location in the morning.

No affiliation with any of the hostels listed.

For more information regarding La Plantation, please visit their website at https://kampotpepper.com

Travel occurred in March 2019

Party in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Following my relaxing day in Siem Reap, my friends, Dean and Edwin, and I decided it was time for a change of scenery. We talked it over and choose our next location, Phnom Penh, which is the capital of Cambodia.

One thing that I love about staying at hostels is how easy it is to make a change of scenery. You simply walk up to the reception desk, ask them about transportation to a location, and they will help you book it. That being said, there are limitations. I’m not totally sure they can book flights, but I know they can help with buses, taxis, and trains.

Mad Monkey Siem Reap did just that for us. We simply asked about buses to Phnom Penh and before we knew it, we were booked on an afternoon bus.

Let’s talk about this bus journey. According to the website, 12go.asia, the drive should only take about 6 hours. Well, welcome to Southeast Asia. Our drive ended up taking about 7-8 hours. It included making EXTRA stops, turning off the A/C and rolling down the windows because our van kept OVER HEATING. In addition, a lady had been car sick the ENTIRE ride and was making very nasty noises. Let’s just say, we couldn’t stop laughing. It was quite entertaining but also extremely gross.

If you thought that was enough entertainment for the ride, it’s not over. When we were less than 3 km away from our final destination, our van COMPLETELY DIED. Seriously, right in the middle of a major round-a-bout. It was just another adventurous component to our journey across Cambodia.

After we exited our van and hailed down a tuk-tuk, we made it Mad Monkey Hostel Phnom Penh. That’s right, we decided to stay at another Mad Monkey hostel.

Mad Monkey Phnom Penh

Mad Monkey Hostels would be what you could call a chain hostel. In fact, their are several hostels, Mad Monkey included, that have locations throughout Southeast Asia. One benefit is that when you stay at these chains, you learned a lot about how the company is ran and the expectations of the hostels. It was a pretty easy decision to make, to be honest. I know what I’m getting whenever I stay at a Mad Monkey Hostel.

Once we arrived at Mad Monkey, we did the normal routine of checking in. Except we couldn’t stop laughing and talking about our bus journey adventure. At the time of check-in, there was another traveler checking in at the same time. He just happened to be in the bus directly behind us when our van completely blocked traffic. The four of us couldn’t stop laughing and talking about our very eventful journey. The party started right here and then, in the lobby of Mad Monkey Phnom Penh.

We headed up to our 12-bed dorm, and immediately upon entering, the three of us just felt at home. We walked into our dorm to our fellow dormmates having a mini-party! Within 5 minutes upon entering, the guy from the lobby, Dean, walked into our room. It was fait. We becaming one giant group of friends almost immediately! It was the absolutely greatest dorm room I have ever stayed in during all of my travels.

For the two nights we stayed in Phnom Penh, we didn’t really do much sightseeing. I had done quite a bit of online research, I didn’t really find many points of interest to me. So, I choose to just veg out for a couple of days.

My routine was pretty simple. During the day, I’d hangout near the pool and talk with hostel friends. At night, I would hangout with my dormmates and go out with the hostel. I can say this. Phnom Penh has a pretty decent party scene. It wasn’t the BEST I’ve been to in the few countries I’ve been to in SEA, but it was still good. I couldn’t even tell you where we went, but it was walking distance from Mad Monkey. It’s always a perk having the hostel close by to where you go out.

The Killing Fields

It’s not like I did NOTHING i. One of the thing Phnom Penh is known for is the genocide center or killing fields.

Before traveling to Cambodia, I could not have told you anything about these fields. I truly didn’t have ANY clue about Cambodia as a whole, except for Angkor Wat. Thankfully, staying in hostels mean you get opportunities to talk with fellow travelers who have traveled to where you are staying. Many of which recommend the killing fields when in Phnom Penh.

Another friend, who I meet in Siem Reap, happened to be overlapping with me in Phnom Penh before we depart in different directions. We both decided to venture to the Choeung Ek Genocide Center together.

Choeung Ek is the location of a former Killing Field, which is one of many sites the Khmer Rouge used to execute over one million people. It is also mass grave of the victims killed during this regime between 1975 and 1979. Four years is what it took for this horror story of over 1 million Cambodians and foreigners killed by this regime.

It was an extremely somber morning listening to the history of the Khmer Rouge and the terror they instilled on Cambodians. It is still extremely hard to put into words, the feeling I felt wandering this sight of nearly 9,000 humans.

This dark moment in Cambodia’s history still haunts them today. It was only 40 years ago that many were in fear of their life. Throughout the country, landmines are still being located and people are still dying from them. My thoughts are that any traveler, who plans to spend time in and around Cambodia, should learn about this block of time in their history and should try to make a trip to Phnom Penh to visit Choeung Ek.

To the Next City

After the morning at the killing field, I met back up with my two guys friends and together, we ventured further south via bus to the city of Kampot. Stay tuned as my Cambodian Adventure continues…

***7 Months Later I realized I barely took ANY photos during my time here. oops***

Fall Equinox at Angkor Wat | Siem Reap, Cambodia

While in Siem Reap, I found out that twice a year, the sun rises directly behind the middle tower at Angkor Wat. This sunrise occurs in March and September, which corresponds with the Spring and Fall Equinox. I just happened to be exploring Angkor Wat at this exact time in March. Talk about a special sunrise.

Fall Equinox Angkor

The rumor was that this event was going to occur Friday, March 22nd. Laura and I just happened to be planning our third and final day at Angkor Wat. We weren’t necessarily planning a sunrise visit, but when we heard this “rumor,” we knew we had to go. Plus, there were a few other temples on our list that we wanted to visit/re-visit too.

The day before with spoke with Morl about another day with his services and our plan. He agreed.

One thing I forget to mention was that in addition to his tuk-tuk service, Morl offers photography services. I opted in for both services, even though I enjoy taking my photos. Reason: it’s sometimes nice to have candid shots of myself.

At 4:45 am, the three of us were heading towards Angkor Wat. Having a local guide, like Morl, during the sunrise, was highly beneficial. Not only did he have a plethora of knowledge, he knew the best location to watch the sunrise.

By the time we arrived, Angkor Wat was already getting widely busy. We weren’t the only ones hoping for that perfect sunrise. Thankfully, Morl suggested we hang back by the entrance to get the best shot.

Fall Equinox Angkor

We were all saddened when the sun began to rise slightly, off-centered from the middle tower. It wasn’t the “perfectly centered” sunrise we hoped for, but it was close enough. Plus, when we walked to the left side of the entrance, we were able to stage a perfectly centered sunrise. This was going to be my last Angkor Wat sunrise, so I didn’t mind a little staging. After all, it was close enough.

Now, if you read my first Angkor Wat blog, then you’d have read about my experience at Ta Prohm. Outside of the main temple, I was most excited about this temple, and my first visit was far from perfect. Thankfully, Laura felt the same way. We both knew we wanted to return when it wasn’t so busy.

Return to Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

After a short time watching the sunrise, we headed back to Ta Prohm. Morl told us that if we go first thing, it might not be super busy and he was right. We were able to experience an authentic feel of Ta Prohm and the massive trees protruding from the ancient temple.

Morl, being the amazing photographer he is, knew the special tricks to be able to capture the perfect shots. It’s one of those phone tricks that I ALWAYS forget about- panorama mode. Let’s say, returning to Ta Prohm was 100% worth it.

Banteay Srei

Other than the sunrise, Laura and I wanted to visit Banteay Srei. This 10th-century temple is located roughly 25 km northeast of Angkor Wat and built primarily out of red sandstone. Banteay Srei temple’s history is unique, as it is the only significant temple not built by a king. The translation of Banteay Srei is “Citadel of the Women” and built in honor of the Hindu god, Śiva. It’s basically one badass women’s temple.

The drive out to Banteay Srei is very peaceful. You pass through several small villages, rice fields, and another major “thing to do” in Siem Reap, the Cambodian Landmine Museum.

Cambodian Landmine Museum

Did you know Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world? According to the Cambodia Landmine Museum website, this is because of a long line of major conflicts including the Khmer Rouge regime and American bombings. In fact, there are still Cambodians injured and killed each year from landmines.Did you know Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined country in the world? According to the Cambodia Landmine Museum website,

This museum teaches and educates visitors about the history of landmines and the clearing of them throughout the country. It goes into particular detail about one Khmer man.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to this museum but spoke with several backpackers who spoke highly of the museum.

Night Life and Pub Street

After touring Banteay Srei, both Laura and I were “templed” out. Three days at Angkor is a lot but needed to be able to see everything it has to offer. We both decided to head back into Siem Reap and just chill at the hostel. I, however, had plans to switch hostels to meet up with friends I had met previously in Pai.

Onederz was a great hostel for the few early mornings at Angkor due to the quietness component. I did meet a few people in the lounge, but I was ready for a change.

If you know me, you know that I am a very social human. I had heard from other travelers that Siem Reap has a very active nightlife. I was itching to go out and experience it.

My friends booked at a known party hostel, Mad Monkey, and I wanted to be with them for the last few days in Siem Reap. One of the many benefits of Mad Monkey is the social aspect, and it didn’t disappoint.

I walked into several people hanging out in the pool, which quickly turned into mini pool party. This pool party continued even after my friends and I went out to dinner. When we returned, the party had migrated to the rooftop bar, which was the pre-game spot for the PUB CRAWL.

Mad Monkey Siem Reap hosts many pub crawl throughout the week (as do many of the other MM). It’s by far, the best way to meet feel travelers and experience the night life. Obviously, my friends and I joined in on the pub crawl and hit up Pub Street for some nightlife entertainment.

Pub Street is the main street for restaurants, souvenirs, and bars. It’s a place where you can eat a scorpion and was it down with a cheap beer. It’s a place where you can stay out late and listen to music. Basically, it’s the social central of Siem Reap and it’s worth the visit.

Grand Circuit at Angkor Wat | Siem Reap, Cambodia

I have been told that “one day is plenty for Angkor Wat,” especially if you are on a budget.” Thank goodness, I didn’t listen. Although I was on a budget, I chose to purchase the 3-day park pass upfront, just in case, I did want to return. And in all fairness, I know me well enough to know that I was going to want to go back. I can tell you now, with a high level of certainty, that ONE DAY is NOT enough.

This time, however, was going to be different. My new friend, Laura, and I decided to hire a tuk-tuk driver instead of opting for the hostel’s tour. We were able to make contact with my original tuk-tuk driver, Morl, and hire him for the day. (Exchanging contacts with him was one of the best things to come from Siem Reap. We’re even still friends and will be using him again come October!)

Exchanging numbers with Morl was one of the BEST things to have happened during my week in Siem Reap. It not only gave us the freedom we both wanted but allowed us to create our own “tour” experience by selecting which temples to visit.

Angkor Wat is WAY more than just a sunrise. Before I visited, I didn’t know much outside of the main temple and that it was an ancient city, and I limited my research before avoid spoiling the adventure.

As mentioned in the last Siem Reap blog, there are commonly two “drives/tours,” you could follow during your visit. On my first visit, I did the Sunrise Petit Circuit tour, which consists of the temples in the inner circle. This time, Laura and I decided to do the Grand Tour, or outer loop, with the sunrise AND sunset option.

When you hire a tuk-tuk driver, it allows you freedom to choose what you want to do and where you want to visit. It’s always good to have a general idea and discuss it with your driver ahead of time. For us, we both knew we wanted another sunrise, AND we wanted to see the sunset at Angkor Wat.

When Laura and I were in the initial stages of planning our day, we were sure where we could do sunrise. We did Angkor Wat the day before, so we asked Morl for his recommendation. He mentioned Srah Srang. I had no idea what this was, but he explained that it was the king’s pool. So, at 5 am the next day, Morl was at Onederz Hostel to pick up Laura and me for sunrise at Srah Srang.

There was a striking difference between the “famous sunrise at Angkor Wat,” and this peaceful, non-crowded, quiet sunrise over a beautiful water reservoir. I think, in total, I may have only counted 10-12 other people at this location. The sunrise at Srah Srang is how a sunrise should be experienced, in my opinion.

One thing I remember when talking to my hostel-mates was about “how to beat the crowds at the temples?” After the nightmare feel of Ta Prohm, Laura and I both knew we wanted to beat the crowd. One tiny piece of advice they had for us, “Do the circuit BACKWARDS!” Simple as that.

Typically, the circuit begins by leaving Angkor Thom’s North Gate heading towards Preah Khan (Banteay Prei). It continues to Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and ends at Pre Rup. Instead, we started our journey at Pre Rup. Since we went there first, we had the entire temple to ourselves. It was so refreshing compared to the day before’s sardine feel.

Grand Circuit: Pre Rup and East Mebon

Pre Rup is a 10th-century Hindu temple, believed to be the sight of funerals. It is built out of combination of brick, laterite, and sandstone, which gives this temple a slight pinkish color. Upon entering the temple, I was staring onto a grand staircase with a small stone “cistern” placed in front. The grand floor plan surrounded me with small towers in every direction. At the top of the stairs stood five towers in a quincunx formation. Each built with their own deities to stand guard. In this formation, one tower is placed in each corner with the final tower in the middle.

This similar style of architecture is also found at East Mabon, our next temple. It is only located only a few minutes from Pre Rup. We also were blessed at this temple to be the only ones, until a family of four showed up. East Mabon is another 10th-century Hindu temple dedicated to the god, Shiva. It was built in honor of the king’s parents, on an island in the middle of the East Baray. The East Baray was once a body of water but has since dried.

According to Wikipedia, “its location reflects Khmer architects’ concern with orientation and cardinal directions. The temple was built on a north-south axis with Rajendravarman’s state temple, Pre Rup, located about 1,200 meters to the south just outside the baray. The East Mebon also lies on an east-west axis with the palace temple Phimeanakas, another creation of Rajendravarman’s reign, located about 6,800 meters due west.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Mebon

It still fascinates me how much thought and planning went into these now-ancient structures at the time of construction. From the perfect placement of the sun behind Angkor Wat to the placement of East Mebon and relationship to the other temples, the king’s vision was able to come to life and remain centuries later.

Grand Circuit: Ta Som

We continued the Grand Circuit tour and headed towards the next temple, Ta Som. We were met with peaceful silence. These temples have such a different feel to them when you can enjoy them alone and truly soak up the beauty.

Ta Som was built around the end of the 12th-century. It has a similar feel to Ta Prohm, including massive trees growing amongst the ruins. Ta Som was thought to have been destroyed around the 16th century, and for many centuries remained untouched. It’s layout consists of three enclosures each containing a gateway, known as gopuras, and main shrine. Thanks to restoration, it can be easily navigated.

Grand Circuit: Neak Pean and Preah Khan

Neak Pean was next on our tour. This particular Hindu temple is very different from others, not only the overall design, but the entrance from the road to the temple is a wooden bridge. It was thought to have been built sometime in the late 12th to early 13th-century, and according to our driver, Neak Pean was built to help cure diseases. The design of this temple consisted of

“four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire, and Wind. Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals (maha ajaneya pasu) namely Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion, corresponding to the north, east, south, and west quarters.” (Wikipedia: Neak Pean)

Preah Khan was then next temple along our tour and was far more untouched than any of the other temples we have visited. Preah Khan was built in the 12th century for the king’s father. Its name translates to “holy sword.” It’s a two-story structure, which differs from the one-story Ta Prohm, built for his mother and a features massive trees intertwined with the ancient ruins. This particular temple has been mostly untouched from restoration due to the difficulty of the growth of vegetation and unknown historical accuracy.

Terrace of the Elephants and Baphuon

After Preah Khan, we passed through the North Gate of Angkor Thom and arrived at the Terrace of the Elephants. This 12th-century structure was built in order of the king to view his army and for ceremonial purposes. It is a perfect place for a mid-day walk, just beware of the monkeys.

We walked the entire length of the terrace, stopping a few times to take in the architecture. We continued onto Baphuon, an 11th-century pyramid style temple built high into the sky. To arrive at Baphuon, you walk on a long, elevated walkway. This walkway ends at the entrance and continues to a set of steep stairs. These stairs are a “must climb.” When you reach the top, the view is breath-taking and one of the best in Angkor.

Laura and I were exhausted at this point of the afternoon. With one final stop at Angkor Thom’s Southgate, we made our way home. However, we were not ready to be finished at Angkor Wat. We asked Morl if he would be willing to return us to the hostel and pick up us late to take us back to Angkor Wat for sunset. He agreed, and we were very grateful.

Angkor Wat at sunset was recommended to us by another traveler. We were told that it was much less crowded and much more enjoyable. They were not wrong. Sunset at Angkor Wat did not disappoint. It was very refreshing to watch the day end without the 10s of thousands of travelers.

As much as I have loved Angkor over the past two days, I was ready for a break. I was ready to explore more of the lovely city of Siem Reap. Stay tuned to find out what I did on my day off from Angkor.