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Getting lost in Jungle Temples
Inspired by Lara Croft, my feet were itching to get going and discover #Cambodia. It is a fascinating mix of a bustling city, then wild jungles with amazing #temples. A #cultural utopia and an #aspirational place.
I had always dreamt about traveling to Cambodia, especially after seeing Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider film with its ominous yet serene jungle temples in the background. A short flight over from Thailand and we had arrived in Siem Reap, a busy and bustling city in central Cambodia. Dirt roads flooded with motorbikes and bicycles weaving and winding through the city like a river.
Colourful and loud we passed through little villages with wooden Kmer houses on stilts surrounded by fruit trees glistening in the sun and market stools dotted along the road selling local foods and precious trinkets.
All seven over us arrived at the Amansara hotel, a five star hotel which would be our base for the next six nights. Around a dozen tuk tuks are parked in the driveway and a beautiful classic Mercedes saloon car hidden in the corner tried to keep her wonder to herself.
Hotel Amansara Resorts
Angkor Temple Tour 2 Days 1 Night
Eager to discover the hotel we hurried up the entrance-way and into the open air reception area where we were greeted and quickly ushered to our rooms. A light and very minimalist hotel with slight Cambodian accents here and there. The silence was utterly relaxing, even deafening at times, broken by the distant chirp of an exotic bird every now and then.
The suites in Amansara surround a large pristine garden courtyard, this in fact was the central lawn on the farmer guesthouse estate that use to belong to King Norodom Sihvanouk of Cambodia. We had chosen the pool suite which was an open plan room, both spacious and comfortable. The decor was modern and light, perfectly zen. From the kingsize bed I couldn’t wait to jump on in delight, you stepped down into the living area with sofa and writing desk, then down again into the bathroom area with a large island bathtub perfect for soaking in after a long day touring the temples. Two very large glass doors slide open up to reveal an airy patio with private plunge pool reflecting the jungle trees above it with sun loungers perfectly placed to take in the Cambodian sun.
The hotel had provided us with a beautiful leather booklet curated just for us with suggested itineraries for the next days.
The hotel had provided us with a beautiful leather booklet curated just for us with suggested itineraries for the next days
After freshening up we met back in the courtyard and took to the pool area to have a cool cocktail to fight the sweet humidity and plan the days to come. We selected three temples to explore and the hotel took care of the rest!
It’s 5:00am and the phone's ringing… I turn over in my fluffy bed to answer it and discover it’s the receptionist waking us up according to our planned itinerary. A sudden excitement rushed over me and I was wide awake and eager to discover the Cambodia I had always dreamt of. The humidity had dissipated in the night to our relief as we hopped on our tuk tuks and chatted to the guide provided for our tours over the next couple of days. A lovely local named Toto who spoke perfect English and had a great sense of humour. My eyes watered as we meandered through traffic in our motorised cart, holding onto my younger brother next to me as he clung on for dear life.
Arriving in total darkness in what appeared to be forest, feeling a little uneasy I wandered over to the rest of my family who looked equally confused as we followed our guide through the looming trees. A large stone entrance with huge faces appeared and the butterflies of excitement fluttered back into my stomach. We had arrived. The guide had taken us to a back entrance before Angkor Wat was even open to the public!
Avoiding any sort of queue, or anyone at all for that matter, the temple was all ours to explore as we tiptoed around inside. The sky started to turn a lighter shade of dark blue revealing shadows around us and with that the outline of the majestic temple above us. Unlike anything I have ever seen before, I stood there in awe thinking it was hauntingly fantastic.
Unlike anything I have ever seen before, I stood there in awe thinking it was hauntingly fantastic
To think this was 1 of 1000 temples in Cambodia I felt lucky to be there but slightly overwhelmed with my ignorance to the culture and history I was standing on. As we emerged from within the temple we were escorted to a lake with Angkor Wat opposite in all its glory and with the sun rising the most exoticly orange and yellow reflection was created upon the lake. Crowds had suddenly arrived and it was our moment to leave, we had understood the beauty in visiting the temple this way and feel truly blessed.
Hopping back on our tuk tuks, passing cheeky little wild monkeys on the way, we head back to our rooms for a cool dip in our plunge pools and got ready for dinner. Gathering in the courtyard once again, strolling through the garden and over stepping stones we arrived at the restaurant where our dinner table was already set up by the pool and settled into our chairs eager to feast on local dishes after our eye opening experience. Given a choice of two, three course menus, a local Kmer menu or a Western menu. Everything made from local and Seasonal produce. Fresh and delicious we left our seats and carried our new weight back to our beds to rest for the next day's adventure. Dreaming of jungle and hidden passages I willingly allowed sleep to take over...
Toto led the way to our next adventure this time to the much anticipated Temple Ta Prohm, where Angelina Jolie filmed scenes from the popular Tomb Raider film. Guided through large stone frame entrances, Bas figures praying over us as we scurried through beneath. This temple is both eerie and intense.
This temple is both eerie and intense
Trees the size of buildings had sprout their way through the stone and were soaring skywards while their long spreading skirts trail across the ground and their endless roots coiling more like snakes than plants. Mesmerizing.
To think that just outside these grey stone walls was a bustling and stirring city, it was hard to believe. Surrendering, serene and a thoroughly interesting trip that will surely never be forgotten...