Tag Archives: siem reap

Part 7: View From the Top

Part 1: When You Wake Up at 3 AM for a 6 AM Flight…
Part 2: Only 18 Hours to Go
Part 3: How to See Angkor Wat
Part 4: The Many Faces of Bayon
Part 5: Trees Galore!
Part 6: Cambodia’s Floating Villages

After our visit to Kampong Khleang, our driver took us to see another temple on the way back to Siem Reap.  The temple did not make much of an impact – I can’t even remember what it was called – but the view from the top certainly did. A twenty minute hike up the mountain gave us stunning views of another floating village on the banks of Tonle Sap Lake.

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Part 3: How to See Angkor Wat

Part 1: When You Wake Up at 3 AM for a 6 AM Flight…
Part 2: Only 18 Hours to Go

For many, seeing Angkor Wat is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. And so, I wanted to make sure we did it right.

I did a lot of research on the best way to see Angkor Wat: Bicycle, tuk-tuk (a motorcycle pulling a carriage), or a personal driver in an air-conditioned Camry. Bicycle was obviously the cheapest and tuk-tuk seemed kind of adventurous, but in the end, my Western sensibilities prevailed and I had the hotel hire a driver and guide for $35 apiece for our for first day in Angkor Wat

And boy, am I glad I did. The guide was nice but not essential. He helped us navigate the sprawling complex that is the Angkor temples and provided us with historical information we never would have known. But the driver… the driver was a lifesaver.

When we woke up at 4:30 a.m. (yes, 4:30 a.m.) it was a balmy 70 degrees outside, but in three short hours the sun was up and hot. The air-conditioned car with a fresh supply of ice-cold bottled water was amazing. Best decision EVER.

You can probably find a driver for cheaper, but having the hotel do it was easier than reading a gazillion reviews on Trip Advisor. Besides, by American standards, $35 for a private driver is a steal.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. was not as painful as it sounds. It was only 4:30 p.m. in New York, and our bodies were still more or less on eastern standard time. And there is something special about seeing one of the most famous structures in the world appear under the dawn’s early light. I highly recommend it.

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After I snapped a couple hundred pictures (probably not an exaggeration), we ventured into Angkor Wat itself. And while The Boyfriend listened to our guide explain the history of the massive temple, I snapped away.

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The carvings are extremely intricate and impressive. I wish I could tell you what they all mean, but like I said, I was doing more snapping than listening.

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The complex is huge, and the best way to appreciate its hugeness is to walk around the entire grounds from top to bottom as exhausting as it is.

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We meandered about as we waited for the entrance to the third and final level to open at 7:45 a.m.

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After that, it was time to start climbing. As tiring as it was to scrambled up these modern makeshift steps, imagine was it was like for the people of old to climb up the incredibly steep stone steps built into the temple structure.

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The views from the top of Angkor Wat were incredible.

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By then, it was 8:30 a.m. already and we had been up for a good four hours. We were hot and hungry and asked the guide to drive us back to hotel for a quick breakfast. Walking back through the front of Angkor Wat there were a few more fascinating sights along the way:

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Part 2: Only 18 Hours to Go (AKA SFO – REP)

Part 1: When you wake up at 3 am for a 6 am flight…

We had a three hour layover in San Francisco and I was excited to see the Asiana lounge. I’m sorry to say I was a little disappointed. The lounge was very small with an outdated decor. There were few comfortable seats in the business class room so I slipped into the first class lounge and no one batted an eye.

On the plus side, the first class lounge had a couch (remember, I was going on four hours of sleep), had decent wireless and an endless supply of free diet cokes.

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Business class lounge

Asiana’s business class product more than made up for the lackluster lounge: Comfortable lie-flat seats laid out to maximize space and privacy. There was plenty of space, movie options, and of course diet coke on demand.

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Asiana even gives you comfy slippers!

Due to our short layover in Seoul, I only had five minutes to check out the Asiana lounge at ICN airport, grab a free drink and snap a photo. My cursory impression was very favorable. Too bad I didn’t get to enjoy more than five minutes.

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Finally, the last leg of our flight: From Seoul to Siem Reap. At this point, I was thoroughly exhausted and could barely keep track of what day it was. Asiana’s business class from ICN – REP is more comparable to domestic first class in the United States — not the lie-flat seats that we had on the SFO-ICN leg. Even without lie-flat seats, I was so tired, I managed to sleep for a majority of the flight.

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And finally, at 11:00 p.m. local Siem Reap time, we arrived in Cambodia. As we disembarked, the first thing we noticed was how steamy and tropical the weather felt. We were clearly a long way from New York’s freezing temperatures. The Le Meridian offered free air port pick-up and I was awfully glad I had made arrangements to take advantage of it before the trip. Our driver was waiting for us outside, and the long journey to Asia was finally over.

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