When I tell adults I've been to Cambodia, they always say - "Ah, did you see Angkor Wat?" and I go "yes - but I also sailed around floating villages, went to a lantern festival and played Angkor mini golf!" We spent a week in Siemp Reap, and while many might think it's just about ruins, there's in fact lots to do for us kids!
Content by Sienna Juul Nyegaard / Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul
The above picture is Philip and me in February 2016. Chris wasn't born, he was kicking along in mummy's tummy while we spent the Chinese New Year holiday here in Cambodia.
We flew directly to Siem Reap from Singapore and stayed 2 places - to begin with in a small boutique hotel centrally at Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel, but hidden away from too much street noise.
It a small place, but the pool was great and staff really nice - they taught Philip and me to do these beautiful flowers and always played with us as soon as we got in the door.
We were out doing stuff every day though, the first day we rented quad bikes and drove through the outskirts for Siem Reap, through the rice paddies to Wat Bo Temple.
It was so much fun, we had to wear masks on our mouths, so the mud wouldn't splurt up in our faces, and mum let me drive sometimes which was pretty crazy!
The temple was actually really beatufiul with gold all around and not so many people and we saw some funny geese who were not scared of humans!
In the evening we got a bus out to this famous lake called Tonal Sap Lake. There were a looot of long tails going out for the sunset trip, but we got on a a pretty fast one, that after a while managed to make some distance to the others.
And then, as we were getting out of the river, we started seeing these houses, on stilts! Then a whole village appeared, schools, doctor, supermarket - all standing on stilts in the water, with no roads between them, only water.
Our guide told us that it was a hard way to live, on the water and that all food that wasn't fished out of the water, had to be transported by boat.
Quite a lot of the families were poor, and also the school, so we donated a big bag of rice that could last them all a week's lunch. There are a lot of poor kids in Cambodia, many don't go to school, and many were sellingthese whistles and funny magnets near the all the tourist attractions. "Two for one dollar", "Two for one dollar" they always said.
Floating villages is weird, people live on water - and we even went to this one house on poles, that had crocodiles and turtles inside a small pool!!
It had been a long day, but we needed to get some dinner, so we got dropped off in the center of Siem Reap and as we walked into a great burger restaurant on Pub Street, we saw that everyone was waiting for something to happen. And just as we were waiting for our food, the street filled up with lights and a parade of people. We'd landed in the middle of the annual Giant Puppet Parade and saw handmade lanterne puppets in the shape of a duck, catterpillar and a crocodile - to name a few!
After doing activities in Siem Reap that had little to do with the reason most people are there, there was no longer any way around it...Angkor
- one of the most famous ruins in the world was on the list, and not really the children kind of list.
The day started off very chilly, February was unusually cold before the sun had risen properly, so people were eating breakfast in their bumper jackets and when we got out in our rick shaw, we wished we'd brought some long pants, it was cooold!
But, very fun - we just loved going on rick shaws - we used them all the time in our Siem Reap stay.
So you will probably ask me now, you were in Angkor, a lot of ruins - that equals a lot of walking. And yes, we did walk a lot, but my parents had bought a 7 days pass to the park, so that we didn't try and do all in 1-2 days, but only spent a morning or a couple of hours every time. Typcially we would see two temples and then do something else for the rest of the day. The first thing we went to see, whas Angkor Thom in Bayon.
1 million people lived in Angkor 1200 years ago, and the ancient city was discovered about a 100 years ago by some French people. Angkor Thom was the centre of the city.
We saw one more temple that day, Ta Prohm - apparently some big computergame-film called Tomb Raider was filmed here years ago, but for us the most fun thing was how the trees and their roots had taken over the ruins completely!
Similar was the trip the next day, where we saw Preah Kahn and Preah Neak Poan - here there were even more crazy trees and also a really cool bridge where you walked over a swamp to get to the temple.
We were saving the best for last - the famous Angkor Wat, but before seeing this, we saw a miniture version, when we went to Angkor Mini-golf. We had so much fun there, all the golf holes had a ruin from Angkor placed as an obstacle. The place also had a trampoline and I wish we'd brought our swim stuff, because there was a big bumper castle waterslide for kids to go on that looked like a lot of fun.
But thankfully we could get into our swims when we got back to our hotel - and for our last two nights we had changed hotel, so we were now nearer Angkor, but also had our 'own' pool (shared with 3 other families) and two rooms rather than one for all of us. We loved Angkor Village Resort because it also had another big pool, shaped as a canal where you could sail in a little boat and jump in from a bridge. And oh yes, they had a crazy big bath were the whole family could fit it - and the best room service with burgers and fries - think we deserved both after our long days of sightseeing!
But we didn't sightsee all the time. A lot of the time we walked around Siemp Reap, went to the Psar Chaa Market and got cheap and cute dresses for me or just had amazing kmer food in the food alley or had one of the many homemade icecreams, where we had to try a new one every day of course. We loved the atmosphere in Siem Reap - although seeing very poor kids and adults who had lost a leg or an arm in the war was very hard - the people there were so nice and the place really pretty.
We were almost ready for our sunrise trip to Angkor Wat, but the night before we also had to see a famous sunset. After we had been to Banteay Kdei Temple, we climbed up Ta Kao Temple and after a quick walk around we sat for an hour (with quite a few other people) and saw the sky turn yellow, then orange, then red and then, black.
And then quickly home, because we had to leave at 5am the next morning to see it rise again.
We couldn't see anything to begin with, but we had brought torches and our guide lead us the way through the dark. We were not the only ones, but we didn't feel like we were part of a big crowd. The sun slowly made the sky a bit lighter - and just then, did we skim the top of the temple.
The sun was visible now, the sky changed colour, Angkor Wat appered clearly and we realised we were standing by a lake, with waterlillies and lotusflowers.
And then a big shock - it wasn't just us and a small group - there were hundreds of people standing around the lake - and a.... pig. Yes, I don't know how it ended up there.
We walked into the area and we could see why it was the most famous temple - even though we had now seen plenty until now. It was fun to jump around there, walk in the little alleyways and light a stick and make a prayer to the Gods like Philip and I always do on these trips.
As it was only 9am by the time we were finished in Angkor Wat, we decided to return to Angkor Thom, the place we went on our first day in Angkor. That day Philip and I had seen people riding elephants around the ruins and we'd begged mum and dad to try them ever since. So we did, a little scary at first, to get so high up, but fun! Although, after our trip we heard that these elephants are not treated so well, so we felt a bit bad about paying these people and going on the elephants if it turns out that they are not happy.
We had our last homemade icecream and were ready to come back to Singapore. Initially we had been a big worried about walking around ruins all day long, but as it turned out, we got to see Siem Reap from a quad bike, a canoe, a rick-shaw, with a golf club, swimming and riding an elephant. Now looking back, Siem Reap was actually a really cool place for kids!
TRANSPORT: Flight from Singapore - Siem Reap return.
REASON: My mum had always wanted to see Angkor Wat ever since she had to cut her world trip short in 2000. We'd heard from other friends that Siem Reap was cool for kids too, so we gave it shot!
ITINEARY: Staying in Siem Reap and doing trips from there.
PRICERANGE: Cambodia is not expernsive and our two hotels were medium price range at the time.
STRETCH: 6 nights, February 2016.
SIENNA: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (could still be less ruins) MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
Hotels: Khmer Mansion Boutique Hotel http://www.khmermansionresidence.com
Angkor Village Resort: http://www.angkorvillage.com