Howdy friends! Did you guys enjoy our travel video? (If you haven't seen it, just scroll a few posts down) I'm sorry I've been MIA for a couple of days now..I've missed you guys and I'm happy to be back home with our wifi and a bajillion photos from our Cambodia trip.
Our friend Lea booked our promo fare tickets eons ago, giving us ample time to save up for pocket money, tour&hotel budget. In fact, it was soooo long ago that it actually slipped our minds already. Like the rest of Luzon, we were still reeling from the horrendous effects of Maring and not exactly in "travel mode" when we flew out last Thursday night. We got on the plane with heavy hearts..ang hirap naman kasi mag-bakasyon knowing that your country is in shambles. But since we already prepaid for everything, not pursuing the trip would only mean a waste of our hard earned money. There were things that were beyond us and already in God's hands---so we chose to make the most out of this trip and still carry on.
Now that we're back from our quickie getaway, I'm happy we pushed through. It was great to re-visit mystical Siem Reap with friends, it really is such a magical place and one of my favorite cultural heritage sites in Asia. And more than anything, it was a meaningful bonding experience for our group. For this trip, we were accompanied by fellow newlyweds Lea&Drew Pacis and Joann&Mic Palanca. Both Lea and Joann are two of Patrick's closest childhood friends---I knew Lea and Joann also in grade school, along with Patrick they were one batch higher than me in our super small school ICA. As much as I enjoy traveling with my husband and enjoying some QT with my man, it's also great to plan trips with like-minded friends. Having a group dynamic is really different at dahil marami kayo, di kayo mauubusan ng jokes at side stories so it becomes a never-ending laugh fest! AND you get to save too because tours, transpo, even meals can be split 6 ways. The bigger the barkada, the more savings!
Siem Reap is a very laid back kind of city with a LOT of similarities with our local provinces. It has the rural charm of Bohol or Dumaguete, my kind of slow paced chill. Cambodians are generally friendly and kind, I guess one could credit this to their religious beliefs as most Buddhists and Hindus are very peaceful and calm. We never felt unsafe throughout our stay and other than the tuktuk drivers (na kukulitin ka "Tuk-Tuk? Tuk-Tuk?" ten times, think the vendors in Greenhills who pester you "Dibidi? Dibidi?"), we really didn't encounter any problems with the people. Mababait at malambing din sila tulad natin :) :) Southeast Asians rock!
As a traveler, it's always important to show respect to the locals since you are an outsider stepping on their turf---if you show respect to them, normally (and ideally) they will show respect back. Showing respect doesn't necessarily mean kailangan mo mag MANO PO sa tour guide, hehehe. It could be in your manner of speaking using a soft tone, keeping your voices down when in big groups (don't you just hate rowdy and loud tourists?!?!), being neat and clean (no littering!), wearing appropriate clothes, being on time for your tours, and being mindful of their customs and traditions.
We arrived just before midnight on Thursday so we officially started our Cambodian advenchooor Friday morning. We hired a private tour guide for the day for roughly 30USD, split it 6 ways in a barkada---that's a steal. That's just 200pesos per head for a private full day guided tour! Parang nanood ka lang ng sine or nagbayad ng toll sa Skyway!:) Some people opt to just buy a tour book and explore the temples on their own---which I totally understand if you're a lone wolf kind of traveler. But I always like to hire a private guide because 1)There are things you can learn from a local guide that you won't pick up in your books 2)It's good to support the hardworking local guides especially when you're in a third world country like Cambodia. Our guide Saroun was very knowledgeable and brought us to all the "secret" passage ways away from the hoards of tourists. Sulit na sulit ang bayad namin sa kanya.
The Angkor Wat complex is located around 5 kms away from the city center and easily accessible via tuktuk. Since it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's heavily protected and secured. There are several mini temples around Angkor Wat which is why you would need one whole day (at least) to really soak in the temple experience. The Temple Pass is mandatory for all visitors, it cost us 20USD each for a full day pass. One whole day to explore the MAIN temples should be enough for first timers. If you really are into temples and have a longer stay planned, then you could opt for the 3 day pass.
Each temple has a different story to tell, so I would definitely encourage you to explore the other temples aside from ANGKOR WAT. My favorites would have to be the Bayon Temple and Ta Phrom Temple. Of course, Angkor Wat wins in the "OMG" department--it's all you could ask for in a giant temple: massive, majestic, awe-inspiring. I don't want to share too much info so I don't strip you of that WOW moment when you guys visit one day. It's other worldy and amazing--and a place you really should visit before you die.
Just a word of caution, it's extremely HOT in Siem Reap so be sure to pack a LOT of sunscreen. We assumed the weather would be bearable after all this was considered their "rainy season". We packed light jackets and rain shoes but we were greeted by the glorious, sweltering heat of the sun. The weather is very similar to ours, wherein it's scorching hot in the morning up until 2-3pm then a little rain passes in the afternoon. In the Angkor Wat complex, visitors are expected to dress appropriately after all it is a place of worship. So ditch your short-shorts and tank tops! Girls have to cover their shoulders and legs---so the best would be a tshirt or a kaftan top paired with some loose pants/long skirt. I got my whole outfit from SUITEBLANCO in Sm Aura: a breathable cotton white tshirt, the most comfortable polka dot pants, a neon green sling, and of course for a bit of "arte" I wore a nice silver statement neckpiece. I wore TOMS shoes, I recommend breathable rubber soled shoes that will be sturdy enough for all-day walking. No wedges and heels please, unless it's always been your big dream to have a sprained ankle.
I personally subscribe to the Christian faith (Jesus is mahhh homeboy!), but visiting Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples was still a very spiritual experience for me. We all have our own belief systems and we all can live harmoniously together even if we worship differently---it's all about RESPECT and LOVE! It really is a personal relationship at the end of the day, it's between you and God. But the common denominator for most religions would be this---there's always something out there that is BIGGER than us. Something more powerful, all knowing, and sovereign that as humans we will never ever comprehend fully. And just as I marveled at how the Buddhists/Hindus built these temples in all its grandeur to honor their gods, I took the time to also reflect on my own faith. Am I as bold and proud of my faith as the Buddhists/Hindus who built these mega structures? Hindi nila ikinahiya yung mga paniniwala nila, ipinagmalaki nila, ibinigay nila ang lahat ng maibibigay nila. I don't plan to build an Angkor Wat 2 in Metro Manila (it'll probably look like SM Aura, hehehe)---but I can be as passionate and dedicated to MY God just as these Cambodians were (and still are) to their faith.
So that concludes PART 1, I have several blogs to follow. We did a lot of other things (non-temple related) in Siem Reap that I'm excited to share with all of you. So please stick around for more posts :)