First Experience at Angkor | Siem Reap, Cambodia

I don’t even know where to start when I think back to my week in Siem Reap, Cambodia. During the initial planning phase of my adventure, I only intended in staying three full days. I was told that it would be plenty of time. Instead, I ended up staying for six days and LOVED every second of it! It was plenty of days to see both sides of the city, without one spoiling the other!

I knew I wanted to visit Siem Reap because I really wanted to see Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had been told through several travelers that it’s effortless to cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a no brainer.

I pre-booked my ticket with Giant Ibis through 12go.asia, the best website for booking or researching transportation in Asia. I also decided to apply for my visa ahead of time to save space in my passport. It was honestly SUPER easy in every sense of the way.

border crossing Cambodia

The journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap was estimated to take about 8 hours and took about 9 hours. The bus ride was pretty uneventful with a little confusion at the border. Thankfully, Giant Ibis was there every step of the way.

Arrival into Siem Reap

Siem Reap Cambodia Tuk Tuk

Once I physically arrived into Siem Reap, I jumped in a random tuk-tuk and headed to my hostel, Onederz. This random tuk-tuk ended up being the best thing that happened. . At the hostel, my tuk-tuk driver, Morl, mentioned to me that he offers tuk-tuk rides through Angkor Wat. I honestly didn’t know my plans and wanted to “wing it,” so we exchanged numbers, just in case!

At Onederz Hostel, I ended up meeting a girl, Laura. She decided to go ahead with the hostel’s Petit Tour of Angkor Wat. I usually wouldn’t do a tour, but I wanted to learn more about the majestic Angkor Wat. Plus, it was only $12. So, I joined Laura and the other hostel people on this Petit Tour.

Siem Reap Cambodia Currency

One thing I want to explain before I go forward is the currency of Cambodia. Cambodia’s official currency is the riel. However, the majority of the country uses the US dollar, including ATMs. It was extremely WEIRD going back to the US dollar after being on the Thai baht for seven months. Another thing, Cambodia also doesn’t have coins for their currency since the riel to dollar ratio is 4000:1. Meaning, they’ll give you US dollars for bills, then riels for change. It’s a pretty unique aspect to Cambodia!

The particular tour I did with Onederz Hostel was the Sunrise Tour or Small Circuit tour with a tour guide. You can opt for a tuk-tuk tour without guide for $6, but I thought having a guide would be beneficial for the first time visit.

Angkor Wat Sunrise Siem Reap

Now, there is something you should know about Angkor Wat. It has been said to be one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. I was not going to miss it.

The Sunrise Tour started with sunrise at the main Angkor Wat temple. Then continued with a walk around the temple and learning a little about the history from our guide. It continues with a drive through the South Gate and on to Angkor Thom’s Bayon Temple. Next, the tour took us to Ta Prohm (think Tomb Raider), and finished at Banteay Kdei. I’ll go into more details later.

Tour and Ticket Options

Angkor Wat Siem Reap

Sunrise tours in Siem Reap typically mean a 4:30/4:45 departure time and this tour wasn’t any different. The primary reason for the SUPER early departure usually depends on if you need a ticket or not. Plus, the sheer volume of tourists visiting sunrise on a single day means traffic.

You can easily and quickly purchase Angkor Wat tickets the day of the sunrise visit. You can also purchase them the day before as long as it is after 5pm. Bonus, you are able to see sunset if you chose the latter option, for free. There are several ticket options for Angkor Wat; a single day entry for $37, a 3-day pass for $62, or a 7-day pass for $72. Something unique about these multiple-day passes is that you do not need to use them on consecutive days. The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days, and the 7-day pass is valid for 30 days. This means you have options for visiting the grounds of Angkor Wat.

Laura and I both opted for the 3-day pass to give us the option for returning to the temples. The tour itself started off strong with a good history of Angkor Wat. There was plenty of time to experience things like climbing a tower for a view or getting blessed by a monk. However, after the first two temples, it started to become nearly impossible to hear the tour guide, and the speed was becoming increasingly fast.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in hanging back and ignoring the tour guide. There was another couple who felt very similar to the tour as I did, and the three of us pretty much just took pictures of the majestic temples.

Each temple we visited had a different vibe and look to them. This was based on the century in which they were built, the religious entity who they were built for, and the purpose for the building.

Angkor Wat’s temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries. They were built as either a Hindu temple for the Hindu god, Vishnu, or a Buddhist temple, for the Khmer Empire. This means Angkor Wat is a beautiful combination of Hinduism and Buddhism and is currently a Buddist place of worship.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat Sunrise Siem Reap

The largest and main temple on the grounds is Angkor Wat, which faces west and allows the sun to rise directly behind it. This skillful placement is part of why the sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of the most famous sunrises in the world. What’s even more unique, during the equinox, the sun rises in direct alignment with the middle tower. (Without knowing, I was a few days shy of this perfect alignment).

These towers and many throughout the grounds have a particular Lotus flower shape to them. The lotus flower is very symbolic in both Hinduism and Buddhism, meaning divine perfection and purity, respectively. It’s not uncommon to see the symbol of the lotus throughout temples, and Angkor Wat is no exception.

Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia


After we watched the sunrise, our guide took us into the main temple where we learned a little more about the stones, carvings, and design of the temple. I even had the opportunity to be blessed by a monk. It was extremely spiritual.

Bayon Temple

We continued our tour to Bayon, a late 12th-early 13th-century Buddhist temple, known for smiling stone faces. This was the point that Angkor was starting to get ridiculously crowded with tourists. At Bayon, I decided to hang back from the tour guide and truly take in the serenity of the temple(s).

Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei Temples

Next on the tour was the second most famous temple at the park, Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is best known for the massive trees that have physically grown through the stone. They have become one with the structures, engulfing much of the temple. Ta Prohm has been nicknamed “The Jungle Temple,” for this reason. It is also the location where parts of Tomb Raider was filmed. Unfortunately, the majestic site was lost to the glob of tourists, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I was hoping. I felt very rushed and at times, felt like a sardine.

Our final location was Banteay Kdei, another Buddhist temple built in the mid 12th- early 13th-century. At this point of the day (it’s only 1 pm), my brain was slowly fading, and I don’t remember much of the history of this temple. Since we started so early, I was ready to be done. This, I would say, is a con to taking an organized tour vs. hiring a tuk-tuk driver.

Angkor Wat Banteay Kdei

We finally returned to the hostel after an extremely long and hot day exploring Angkor, and I wasn’t up for much the rest of the day. After a short nap, Laura and I met to discussed plans for the next day, and concluded with asking Morl to be our driver/guide for the day! I was ready to be done for the day, but I wasn’t ready to be done with Angkor. Stay tuned for another journey through Angkor Archaeological Park!

Two Friends in Thailand | Phuket to Bangkok

It’s hard to believe how quickly a week vacation went with my friend Chris, but all good thing must come to an end, right? (okay, maybe not always)

Thankfully, it wasn’t quite over. We were all set to fly from Phuket to Bangkok in the afternoon. Chris’s return flight to America, however, was not until Sunday afternoon. So, technically, we had another day and a half, which between the two of us, was plenty of time to do a few more things!

We did allow ourselves to sleep-in Saturday morning, which was much needed before we wandered Patong Beach to find breakfast. After breakfast, we ended up finding smoothies and a fish massage place. . You know, those big tanks of tiny fish that you put your feet into and the tiny fish eat the dead skin. That’s what we decided to do on our last day in Phuket, fish massages.

It was one of the strangest feelings, and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like a mix between a pedicure, tickling sensation, and mini, painless pinches over your entire foot.

We originally paid for 15 minutes, but the guy allowed us to stay for like 30 minutes. It was pretty excessive but it’s Thailand! We told him at least three times that we were done, but he just sat there.

Once we finished, it was time to star gathering our things and wait for our taxi. Not going to lie when I say it was slightly stressful, as our taxi was quite late. Thank goodness Phuket International Airport was a smaller airport and we were only taking a domestic flight.

Returning to Bangkok

The flight back to Bangkok was uneventful, and we quickly found our way to our hostel. When we initially planned this trip, I booked the two of us in a dorm room, but after a few days, I changed to a private room, to allow Chris the ability to spread out and pack easier.

The hostel, Niras Bangkoc Cultural Hostel, was located in the heart of Bangkok and is located across the street from a very famous restaurant. However, I didn’t know that at the time of the booking, but defiantly good to know for future reference.

Our night wasn’t that eventful. It was mostly Chris gathering a few last-minute items and walking around the neighborhood we were staying. The neighborhood was full of beautiful temples, a bit of traffic, and was close to the Giant Swing, a common tourist spot. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming and uneventful, but I guess I can say we’ve seen it.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

The next day, we woke up with little plans. However, since it was a Sunday, Chatuchak Weekend Market would be open. It’s one of the top things to see in Bangkok, and it’s where Chris and I decided to spend our half day.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest weekend markets. It covers nearly 27 acres of land, has well over 15,000 booths, and is the perfect place to gather souvenirs or wander around.

I’ve been before, and since I was at the start of my 6-week backpacking adventure, I wasn’t really in the market for shopping, but it sure was fun watching Chris look around.

Our time quickly came to an end. Before I knew it, Chris and I were in a Grab taxi heading to the airport. Saying goodbye to Chris was hard. It was such a refreshing week spent with a friend who knows me. It also meant that I was about to embark on my longest solo adventure ever.

After Chris left, I only had two things on my to-do list before changing hostels. First thing I needed to do was…get my second anti-rabies shot at a local hospital (SUPER EASY). The second thing I needed to do was to head to a mall and purchase a new GoPro. Mine decided to break while on our Phi Phi Islands boat tour.

Thankfully, regarding my GoPro, I pay for GoPro Plus, which means I can send in my broken GoPro under warranty and get a new one. Unfortunately, I’m in Thailand. This meant I needed to send it home with Chris to the USA to be covered. On the positive side, I GOT TO BUY THE GOPRO 7, which is AMAZING!!! And I did!

My night concluded with me changing hostels, showering, and sleeping. I was heading to Cambodia early the next morning on a bus, and I didn’t want to miss it.

Stay tuned for stories and adventures of my 19th country and second country of Southeast Asia!!!