From Manila to Siem Reap

As of the 1st quarter of 2012, Cebu Pacific flies from the Manila to Siem Reap three times a week. I really like using Cebu Pacific, they’ve been a game changer for flight transport in the Philippines. They are low cost, dependable(I’m talking for myself) and the booking experience is good. I’ve been using CEB to visit other Asian countries(Korea, Japan and Vietnam)  for the last last 3 years .  To get cheap tickets for Manila from Europe I usually book a trip to bigger a hub in Asia(EG like Bangkok), then I book a flight with a low cost airline from the hub to the Philippines. It is a good way to get a side trip from Manila, my other home.

Recently, I did a cross border trip from Bangkok to Saigon passing by  Siem Reap(gateway to Angkor Wat), needless to say I was impressed by the Angkor complex of temples. I used my Filipino passport for this trip, because I did not need Visas for all three countries. With the exception of Burma(Myanmar), Filipinos enjoy visa free travel across the ASEAN countries. I am waiting for the day that Cebu Pacific will serve Yangon (Myanmar) ! And I guess it will not be a stretch for Burma to loosen up its border control and allow visa-free entry one day!

Note that accommodation is cheaper in Siem Reap than in Manila… so, cheap flight, cheap accommodation and Visa Free Travel for Filipinos really makes for a good long weekend from Manila. For Westerners, Visa can be purchased on arrival at the Siem Reap airport.

From Siem Reap, you will have lots of options to go to the Angkor Complex. Tuk tuk, tour bus… or why not even rent a bike!

Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm

For me,Ta Prohm stands out among the temple complex near Siem Reap. It is impressive to see trees strangling out old yet solid humanstructures. It is Nature taking back what it owns, I visited Ta Prohm at noon, I’ll keep a note to visit it early in the morning to avoid the hordes of tourist  that invade the place in the afternoon. Most of the tour groups do a combo of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, the former at dawn for the sunrise and for  the latter at noon. If you ever do this trip, you’ll get more of your visit by  separating this combo. Ta Prohm is great but I can’t help imagining how better it would be to see it in the morning!  I imagine one thing that attracts people to Ta Prohm is that the first Tomb Raider movie was shot there.

Of course you shouldn’t miss Angkor Wat at Sunrise! … even if you have to wake up at 4 am to get a good spot .  It is nice to see the reflection of Angkor Wat  on a pond against the sun.  It is majestic to see Angkor Wat at sunset… just for this view the trip is well worth it. I had the same feeling when I finally saw the Taj Majal and the great pyramids of Egypt.

Another temple that impressed me is Banteay Srei, around 25 km North East of Siem Reap. I particularly like the intricate carvings in  hard red sandstone out there. Being Swiss, I am proud that they have supported the restoration efforts in this temple.  Along the way from Siem Reap to Banteay Srei, visit the land mine museum. I think it is important to also have exposure to this problem of Cambodia. Perhaps back home you could even make a difference by supporting the ban of all land mines, the United States contrary to all its NATO allies is still not part of the 161 countries 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Things  change! Poland only recently joined the treaty  on December 2012.

Angkor Wat at Dawn
Angkor Wat at Dawn

I really like Cambodian cuisine,  Amok is a dish that you can try in most Cambodian restaurants. It is usually fish-based(Original recipe) although you can have amok in chicken… even tofu! Checkout wikipedia to get a dig on Cambodian Cuisine. I would say that Cambodian cuisine is closer to Thai than Vietnamese cuisine.

This has left me hungry … and on the cuisine note I’ll conclude this post.