I visited Thailand and Cambodia in September 2013. It was a memorable trip. I was there on invitation from Tourism Authority of Thailand. It was my first Thailand Cambodia trip. It was also my first experience of visa on arrival which went without a hitch at Bangkok!
Tourism Authority of Thailand was quite gracious as they got us into Bangkok a day early. That day could have been utilized to recover from the travel fatigue. But every extra day in a new country is meant for exploring and that is what I did.
Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand
My first stop in Bangkok was the iconic Wat Arun. It took me two ferries to reach there. The Tha Thien pier is the closest to the temple. The temple is directly across this pier. It is a great structure and you can climb up its steep stairs to get a magnificent view of the Bangkok city. A large percentage of population in Thailand is Buddhist but I thought their architecture is different from our Indian Buddhist architecture. As it was novel for me, I liked it all the more!
Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
My second stop on the very first day was Wat Pho. The temple is known for its giant statue of the reclining Buddha. However there is much more to the place. The temple complex is huge and really beautiful. So do explore the complex once you have seen the reclining Buddha. I can’t tell you how tired I was even after this short excursion. In the evening we had a cocktail event hosted at our hotel Dusit Thani. Thai vegetarian food is quite good and my wine and dinner were excellent.
Taling Chan Floating Market, Bangkok
I slept like a log after the dinner. The next day after an unhurried breakfast at the lavish buffet of Dusit Thai, I was ready to explore more of Bangkok. We once again took a ferry, this time to go to Taling Chan Floating Market in Bangkok. It is a local weekend market and it is a riot of colors. The ferry took us through the Chao Phraya river, first through wide open channles and then via narrow ones. It was an incredible experience. Our guides from the Absolutely Fantastic Holidays made sure that we had a good time at the market and tasted all the sweets and savories from the market. In the evening we were supposed to visit the famous Chatuchak (also known as JJ) Market but it rained heavily later in the day. We had to be content by visiting a mall instead.
Four Seasons, Bangkok
Our dinner that evening was at Four Seasons, Bangkok. Now Four Seasons is one hotel that was held in such an awe with my colleagues from the hospitality industry back when I used to teach at a place that had hospitality programs. They were correct, Four Seasons was grand, the champagne excellent and the food exotic. For some of us it was vegetarian too! It was a lovely place and a beautiful evening.
Creation World Wide, A Mango Wood Factory, Thailand
I heralded the next day with another heavy breakfast which included a big plate of exotic tropical fruits. After that I was ready to travel again. We were going to Nakhon Nayok. On the way we stopped at Creation World Wide, a mango wood factory. They gave us a goody bag which had a very beautiful book mark made of mango wood. That is the only book mark that my daughter has not taken away and destroyed. She threatens me though that she can break it. I don’t know what she has against my bookmarks!
Royal Hill Golf Resort and Spa, Nakhon Nayok, Thailand
After this stop we continued towards Nakhon Nayok. We stayed at the Royal Hill Golf Resort and Spa. The picture above is of the hotel premises! The region has Khun Dan Prakarnchon Dam and in the vicinity quite a few adventure activities. The dam area is quite scenic, there is a 3 km long viewing platform.
Bhumirak Dhamachart Project, Nakhon Nayok
We also visited the Bhumirak Dhamachart Project which depicted the importance of water for the local ecology. But they had a very interesting display about the effects of addiction to internet!
Rafting at Nakhon Nayok
We went for adventure activities in the evening. I did the flying fox and rafting. I could have done rappelling and ATV ride as well but somehow I gave them a miss. I thoroughly enjoyed rafting in the area. It was gentler than rafting in the Ganges. After an action filled day I was looking forward to the dinner which was at the the hotel itself.
Chao Phraya Abhaibhubate Building, Prachin Buri, Thailand
This beautiful building is attached to the hospital by the same name in the Prachin Buri area. This was our first stop on the following day day when we left Nakhon Nayok. We were eventually going to reach the Thailand Cambodia border at Aranyaprathet. The hospital has a wing for traditional treatments. They offered us a traditional Thai massage which was out of this world. It was a dry massage as they didn’t use any oil and yet it was so refreshing! I felt like a new person after it. They offer the massage to the tourists as well.
I also got to know that by back was not really happy with my traveling schedule and sleeping hours. It is still not happy with me. The hospital also had a shop where you could buy herbal products. I picked up a few as gifts as well as some for my own use.
Ban Dong Village, Thailand
Our lunch was at the traditional village of Ban Dong. Other than the lavish meal, we enjoyed visiting the local houses which preserve their old customs. We also saw dances from the village. Some of us even tried our hands at stilt walking. After spending a few hours we were on our way to the border market of Aranyaprathet. The next day we would cross into Cambodia.
Aranyaprathet Border Market, Thailand
Aranyaprathet Border Market is also quite colorful. I had a good time strolling through it. It is good if you are looking for buying fashion clothes as well. I am told it is incredibly cheap if you are a bulk buyer. I did pick up two pretty skirts one for my daughter and another for my niece. Both of them liked it a lot! We stayed at Tournesol Boutique Hotel which was comfortable and nice for a border hotel. The next day we were crossing into Cambodia. It was almost the last leg of my Thailand Cambodia trip!
The road trip from Poipet (the Cambodian side of the border) to Siem Reap was scenic. I had just one night in Cambodia and how I wish to go back, both to Thailand and Cambodia. At Siem Reap I was staying at the beautiful Sokha Resort, Angkor. I visited 3 main temples in the Angkor group of temples, Bayon, Ta Prohm and of course the beautiful Angkor Wat. Each one of them is unique in its own way. Bayon had giant smiling faces looking at you from every corner of the temple.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm is said to have been abandoned at some point in history. And it was during this phase that trees start taking hold of the temple, nature was trying to reclaim the space that once belong to it. Today the giant trees around the temple are the prime attraction. They feature in the famous Angelina Jolie movie Lara Croft- The Tomb Raider. Indian government is also contributing to the restoration of Ta Prohm. It is a stunning place.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The last monument that I visited on this trip was Angkor Wat. It is a concept, it is not just a place. I was completely awed by it. If you can catch the sunrise at Angkow Wat, do go, it is not to be missed. I visited the place later during the day as well. One short trip does no justice to it.
And that brings me to the very end of a memorable and beautiful Thailand Cambodia trip. I can’t thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand enough for inviting me on this trip!
After strolling through the Pub Street and the Night Market I managed to hit the bed by mid night. When the alarm went at 4.30 am the next day in spite of being disoriented I did not want to fling the cell phone against the wall. You see, I was going to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I had only one night at Siem Reap, the weather was unsettled but I was anyway going to give it a try. I had kept an umbrella in my bag, just in case all I got was the rain. Sunrise or rain, I was going to give it a try!
I had arranged for a tuktuk with my guide Sophya which would wait for me at 5.00 am at our hotel. I was out by five sharp and there he was waiting for me. It was still dark when we started for Angkor Wat. The ride goes through dense tree cover. I had not expected so many tuktuks going in the same direction. It was a fabulous site to see so many head lights on dark streets. The dark and the moving headlights created a surreal scene.
Dawn at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
It is a long walk to get to this pond outside the main Wat. Wat means temple both in Thailand and Cambodia. If you want to see all the pillars reflecting you need to take your position to the left of the pond.
Also a lot of people come to watch the dawn (see here in a video) so you need to get there early so that you get a good space to click the picture. I was late but people let me go because of my tripod. I set it and then crouched in the front row to click pictures. I am told the maximum crowd gathers around Chinese New Year and then at times you cannot get close to the pond.
Angkor Wat at Sunrise (Picture from my Nokia X-7)
There are restaurants around the pond and they come to you to say you could have coffee or the breakfast at their stall. As it was the rainy season I did not get a clear sky and the sunrise colors associated with it. But at least it was not completely grey either. More so did not rain! I liked Siem reap so much that I want to go back to Cambodia. Let us see if and when it happens.
This post is part of Sky Watch Friday. Do check them out.
I usually search for the dress code when I am about to visit a new country. Being from India I cannot go really wrong as we are conservative in our dressing sense. But the advice I see often is done without any photos. I have now made it a habit to do a post on the dress code myself after coming back from a new country. But I do it with pictures, after all seeing is believing. So here is my take on dress code for women in Cambodia.
A Woman with Durian near the Cambodian Border
We crossed into Cambodia via the Aranyaprathet Border between Thailand and Cambodia. As soon as you enter Cambodia it feels a bit like India, a bit chaotic. While we were waiting for our van to arrive to take us to Siem Reap I went clicking. Coming from Bangkok I thought the locals were a bit more conservative in their dress.
A Girl on her Bicycle, Thailand Cambodia Border
Both men and women used this kind of head gear, probably to keep the sun out. I am not easily fazed by summer but here it was humid too. I still took it quite well. Not sure why the girl was using long sleeves, was it because of culture or was it to avoid sunburn. In India too women can wear long gloves to keep the sun out.
Girls in Shorts, Thailand Cambodia Border
Then came these lovely girls telling me not all girls wear full length trousers and shorts were also fine. There shorts look identical, wonder if they bought it from the same shop?
In a Hurry
I guess from whatever I saw the local women wore t-shirts and trousers but cover up more. But there is more to dress code in Cambodia, there is the temple question as well. So what do you wear when you go visiting temples?
Tourists at Ta Prohm, Cambodia
I visited three temples at Siem Reap, Ta Prohm, Bayon and of course Angkor Wat. I thought Angkor Wat was the only one out of the three that had a dress code. Here at Ta Prohm, anything was fine. Whether it was respectful to the local tradition is another question. No one seem to be bothered in the least about what you were wearing at Ta Prohm and Bayon.
A Girl in Her Wedding Dress, Bayon, Cambodia
I even saw a girl in her wedding dress at Bayon. I know you and I are not going to wear a wedding dress at Cambodia but if you wanted to apparently you can!
Posing at Bayon, Cambodia
I usually like to click my monuments without people. But at popular places like Bayon and other Angkor group of temples it is a game of patience. When I run out of it I start clicking people as well. So here is another tourist wearing shorts at Bayon.
Time for a Photo, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
And here is a bunch of people outside Angkor Wat. Outside this temple it is still fine to wear shorts. This photo was taken just after the sunrise. But they expect you to cover your knees and shoulder at Angkor Wat.
Clicking at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
This is what is expected of us when we visit the Cambodian temples. That we cover the knee and the shoulder. So this tourist got it absolutely right. The weather wants us to go for shorts and sleeveless dress but is this too much to ask for?
Inside Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
At Angkor Wat I saw almost everyone covering their knees and shoulders. And that is all they expect when you visit the temples. Coming from India it is not a difficult dress code for me to follow. Other than the temples, all kind of dresses are fine.
In conclusion, if you are visiting the temples (and who will not visit them when in Cambodia?) the expectation is to cover the shoulders and the knee. Outside the temples people dress up like tourists! Bayon and Ta Prohm temples seemed to be much more relaxed about the dress code. I personally all the time covered my knee and shoulders when I visited a temple. As I said before, coming from India it is anyway not difficult for me at all.
It was monsoon when I visited Siem Reap. The visit to Angkor Wat was not officially on agenda. So I made efforts to get it on my agenda and I was successful too! Well partially successful I should say as weather is something that is beyond anybody’s control!
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
If I do not do anything else today, my day has been made. I went out of schedule to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise. My day started at 4.30 am. I had my umbrella with me. I was determined to go, come rain or sunshine! The rain gods were mildly kind to me. At least there was no rain and there was some kind of a sunrise too. So here is a video of the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia.
I was warned by others that I had to go in early to get a place near the water body. I was not sure what to expect. Now that I have been there, it really gets crowded and you cannot get near the temple if you do not go early in the morning. And this was not even some special holiday, this was a normal day in the life of Angkor Wat I guess!
There are small shops nearby who try to lure you for breakfast once the sun has gone up high and people have lost interest in it. It sounded like a good idea, only mine was waiting for me at the hotel! My tuktuk driver was also outside waiting to take me back to my hotel Sokha Angkor.
Then I visited the temple again at 8.30 am with the ASEAN Media Group and explored it in greater detail. Siem Reap is is not a place, it is a concept. It is am amazing place. I head back to Bangkok today and them home tomorrow.
I hope you enjoyed the video. It is an amazing place and I guess it is cheaper to visit than many places in India.