Cambodia Trip – Angkor and beyond


I can’t get enough of the temples here around Angkor. No, they don’t start to look like one another. Especially, when someone – ie Sarak our driver-guide-photographer-friend – handpicked them in the right order and on the right time to marvel at.

Pre Rup Sunset

By 5 am we are on our way to go see the sunrise at Pre Rup. Hmmm… not much of a sunrise this time… more of a faint appearance… It is much cooler at this hour of day (or night?), but already we are sweating like hell and probably all the water we drank today has already dripped out of our pores. This is non-stop Vikram Yoga the whole day through…

The City of Angkor is huge… even one temple is huge… and there are so many of them. One of the things I was afraid of was the mass tourism here near Siem Reap. I am not good with that. I don’t like unrelated people in my pictures, unless they are casually posing on the right spot, or are naturally part of the environment. So, one of the challenges Sarak had to deal with is our ask to bring us to the most amazing places at the moments with the least people and get good pictures asif we were the only explorers, combined with the best light of the day. Oh, he took on that challenge and brilliantly succeeded, again and again, temple after temple.

Banteay Srei

This is probably the most carved temple we will see on our trip through Cambodia and you normally cannot get close to the carvings. There is a guided path around the temple for the visitors to follow. Apparently, you can get close under supervision of one of the guards in the early morning hours, when things are still manageable. Obviously, that’s when Sarak brought us there… and we are shown all the hidden gems. We even have time to take our signature panoramic pictures. When I look back at these pictures it looks like we had privately rented all the tourist places for ourselves. This is exactly what we want you to believe.

Poeung Komnou

Sarak has a “memory of an elephant” as we would say in Flemish. We had shown our preparations at the beginning of our trip… our long wish list. He remembered all the pictures we showed him and somewhere between then and now he had crafted the most effective plan for the days we have here. He didn’t tell us this in advance, he just makes it happen like that. And so, we end up on the back of a motor cycle again. We forgot a spot on Kulen Mountain. A spot that we could not reach through the access on top of the mountain. Not sure how he found out where we had to be, but here we are, at Poeung Komneu. So glad we were able to get here…

Beng Mealea

This temple we also had to skip on the first day, so we got it squeezed in today. This is one of my absolute favorites. It is in total decay, completely taken over by nature. Stones are scattered as if Bob the Builder has played around with a wrecking ball. We crawl over and under walls and arrive in a secret world of grays and greens. My imagination is in overdrive. Again, we are alone. Where are all these tourists? They will never know what they have missed out on… We do.

Kampong Khleang

After our afternoon nap at the hotel, we head towards the stilted village of Kampong Khleang. It is dry season. The village is built on both sides of a dirt road, which gets washed away in the rainy season. The houses balance on stilts of 10 meter high. The cars that are parked now will be moved to higher grounds, once the rain starts to come down. The activity of this season is sticking the little fishes onto skewers and dry and smoke them in large quantities. A bit double to see part of the children working with the fish, and other ones sitting in a class room being educated down the road at the same time.

Preah Ko and Bakong

Yes, I did it! I have eaten a roasted cricket. I told my friend if she wouldn’t eat one aswell, “she was not a good friend, right?”. I said this on purpose as I knew she would be torn between her disgust for the cricket and her friendship for me. I put her out of her misery before she felt too guilty. She didn’t taste it…

As with the sunrise, also the sunset was not overwhelming. Can’t blame the sun, by this time of the day we also feel like melted bananas.

Time for food

Finally! We found some “Sticky Rice” on our way back. So yummy… rice and peanuts cooked with coconut milk in a bamboo stick. This snack buys us some time to figure out what we want to do for diner. No standard restaurant please! So, we end up at the Cambodian Night Market. A relax family place with stalls and entertainment. We get installed on a mat with private hammock and order veal soup and some sort of BBQ’d fish paste in a banana leaf. Anything we don’t recognize immediately or looks a bit too strange for our taste buds (like cartilage, shunks of blood, bones…), we throw in Sarak’s plate, where it gets finished regardless.

By the time we are back at the hotel it is time for our ultra-massage of 3 hours… OMG… this hurts… this might have been a bit too much… what did we get ourselves into this time!

*** As you will have noticed we were quite fond of Sarak and would recommend booking him for your trips in the area of Siem Reap. You can check out Sarak on TripAdvisor and reach him through the info on his Facebook page. Say “hi” to him from “Black & White”. More on our trips with Sarak in the next posts. ***