Angkor Wat: Cambodia’s Most Beloved and Best Preserved Temple

One of the must see places in South-East Asia is Angkor Wat. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Cambodia. Angkor Archaeological Park which includes forest area stretches over approximately 500 km2 and contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century. Preserved are the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple with its breathtaking sculptural decorations. The Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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Sunday morning we awoke at 3:30 in order to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, which was amazing.

We’ve got the one-day pass, because I forgot my wallet and that one day pass ticket is all that we can afford. Anyway, there were a lot of people nearby, which took away some of its majesty. Most of the temples were indeed crowded, but that was expected. That day we went to Angkor Wat, Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants, Thommanon, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, and Prasat Kravan.  My favorite was Ta Prohm because the trees growing within the temple looked astonishing.

Day 2 – Monday, we went to the temple a bit later, and went to some of the lesser well known temples. We explored Preah Khan, Banteay Prei, Neak Pean, East Mebon, Banteay Srey (which was 36 km from the main park), Banteay Samre, Pre Rup, and finally Phnom Bakheng.  Many of the temples we visited today were not that crowded, aside from Banteay Srey and Phnom Bakheng. We were not able to see the entire park, but we witnessed all of the major temples.

 It was all worth it in the end to see one of the most well preserved and impressive archeological sites in the world.

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Sihanoukville: A Paradise Found

One late afternoon, we arrived in Sihanoukville after a 5 hours bus ride from Pnom Penh. The bus dropped us off in the city center, from there we were swarmed by the Tuktuk drivers who offer us a ride to the beaches around. Flat rate was 10 USD and will take us just anywhere. They were asking too much for such a small island!

There are around 5 major beaches in Sihanoukville: Occheuteal Beach and Serendipity Beach, Sokha Beach, Independence, Victory, and the most discreet of all, the Otres Beach.

Occheuteal Beach is a long and narrow strip of beach lined with trees, grass umbrellas, rental chairs and little drink huts as well as bigger restaurants and night-time party spots.

Sokha Beach is located just west of Occheuteal Beach. This beach is privately owned by Sokha Beach Hotel, the first five-star luxury beach hotel in Cambodia. It provides many facilities with a wide white sandy beach, but hotel guards may prevent visitors who are not guests from going on to the beach.

Independence Beach is located next to Sokha Beach on its west. The beach was named after the old Independence Hotel. This beach offers a good stretch of clean sand.

Victory beach is situated at the furthest north of the peninsula of Sihanoukville. It was the original backpacker beach and is still popular with budget travelers. At the northern end of the beach is located the deep sea port. Apart from white sand and blue sea, this beach offers a good spot to enjoy the sunset.

Beyond a small headland at the south end of Ochheuteal is the similar Otres Beach. Otres beach is the dead-end of all the beaches in Sihanoukville. It is not even on the map of Lonely Planet. Anyway, we picked the Otres Beach – it was highly recommended by Mr. Khoun of Jasmine Guesthouse in Siem Reap. It is located 12km away from the city center.

We stayed at the Papa Pippo’s Bungalows  – it is a father and son business, they’re from Italy too, so Valerio and I got a very good discount for the bungalow with a big bed, a mosquito net, own bathroom (others have communal) with a consistently running water. For a week in Sihanoukville, we stayed so close to the waters that it sounded like the waves are just underneath our bed.

Our days were amazingly simple. We would wake up, walk down to the beach, order a breakfast at the Mushroom Point and eat there, alternate reading and swimming, order lunch and eat there, alternate reading and swimming, ride the moped around the whole city (moped for 5 bucks a day!!! and around the city is feasible for a full tank – 2 bucks) shower, and get back in our seats to watch the sunset.

Kids sold fresh fruit on the sand, the ladies sold seafoods, others offer massages and mani and pedi on the spot.

Sihanoukville has a special place in our hearts, we kept picturing ourselves coming back there. But we’re kind of hesitant, for it will no longer be the same. It will be full of tourists (blame Google!) The culture, time and place and people are not static; Changes will happen soon, good for the businesses but not too good for the mochilleros!