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!
I have long given up trying to click pictures from a moving bus. I mean I do click a few when I see beautiful landscape but without much hope. Most of them get blurred. My road trip from Poipet-Siem Reap was an exception. Poipet is on the Thailand-Cambodia border and popular for road crossing. The sky was full of white fluffy clouds, and with the rolling paddy fields it was a magical combination. It kept me glued to my window seat!
Scenery from the Poipet-Siem Reap Road
I liked the landscape so much that I tried to click pictures in earnest. There are only three good ones to show for all my effort. But I am happy that I gave it a try! I was also very sleepy from constant late nights which was all my fault, I had to update my blog, Facebook and Twitter every day, that meant late nights. A moving vehicle’s rhythm is so soothing to already sleepy eyes but I managed to stay awake all through the trip and glued to the window. It was that beautiful!
Paddy Fields, Poipet Siem Reap Road, Cambodia
There were so many spots when I want the bus to stop so that I could take a proper picture. But with a bus full of bloggers, if they really allowed us to do that we would reach Siem Reap two days later!
The Scenic Drive, Poipet-Siem Reap, Cambodia
The entire drive was a feast to the eyes! I can only imagine what it would be like to see the fields at sunrise/sunset. I hope I will these fields again, maybe on a trip with my family and soon. The Poipet Siem Reap journey otherwise is of roughly three hours.
This post is part of Sky Watch Friday. Do check them out. It is addictive.
Out of nowhere the rain started falling heavily as we were nearing Angkor. My heart sank, I have had way too much of rain on many of my trips this year. I was left wondering if I would see Angkor in pouring rain! It was not what I wanted. Heavy rains mean the camera stays in the bag and the umbrella comes out. I did not want it at any cost.
The First Look- Angkor, Cambodia
However as we neared one of the gates to Angkor Thom, the rain miraculously stopped. Bayon is at the center of Angkor Thom, the ancient capital of the King Jayavarman VII. People from my group told me not to Google it and wait till I saw it. With a lot of difficulty I managed to stay away from searching about it the night before.
Bayon, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The first look was quite impressive. If I could have it my way I would have stood rooted to this spot by the water for at least half an hour. Alas it was not to be, our guide the soft spoken Sophiya asked us to move on after what felt like just 5 minutes to me. The temple is said to have been built in the late 12 or early 13th century. When we are talking about such ancient times, what difference does a mere few years make?
The Murals on the Wall, Bayon, Cambodia
On the outer walls of the temple there are intricate carvings that depict the history, war and the way of life in Cambodia at that time. Water, boats, fish and crocodile also feature prominently.
The Smiling Faces of Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
The most striking feature of the temple are the giant smiling faces that beam from the upper terrace of the temple. King Jayavarman VII was a follower of Mahayana Buddhism but later on the temple acquired features from Hinduism and later Theravada Buddhism. I remember the day as quite humid, my hair went completely limp by the time we were about to leave the place.
The Smiling Faces of Bayon- Another Look
In spite of the heat and the humidity and the carrot of visiting another temple Ta Phrom (Lara Croft The Tomb Raider has scenes from Ta Phrom), Sophiya had to cajole and cox us to get out of Bayom. He even mentioned an air-conditioned bus and cold water waiting for us but we still took our time. In the end I can only say for a place like Angkor and Bayon once is just not enough.
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.