WELCOME TO CAMBODIA!!
សូមស្វាគមន៍ (som svakôm) and welcome to my Cambodia page!
We chose to travel on the Sapphire Princess Cruise because we liked the Southeast Asian itinerary that they offered a lot,and also thought it would serve as a great “snapshot” of countries that we might chose to return to for longer, more in depth visits. The itinerary included a day in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, a place that I was not at all familiar with.
When I think of Cambodia, my mind goes directly to the northwestern province of Siem Reap, and I can even recall seeing photos in my childhood textbooks at school, showing images of some of the wonderful temples at Angkor Wat. So, I immediately looked at all of the excursions offered by Princess Cruises in Sihanoukville to see if one might go to Siem Reap. I came up with NOTHING. So, then I went to Trip Advisor. Again, I came up with NOTHING. Then I googled a map of Cambodia, and boy did I feel s-t-u-p-I-d! There is absolutely no way to get to Siem Reap from Sihanoukville unless you schedule an airplane flight. Knowing that this was impossible to do without missing the ship on our half-day stop in Sihanoukville, I pretty much gave up on the idea of going to Siem Reap. That is, until I looked at ALL of the excursions offered for this particular itinerary of Southeast Asia. To my extreme delight, on the day we were in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, Princess DID offer what they call the “Big Grande Overland Excursion”. HOORAY, HOORAY, HOO-RAY!!!
This excursion takes you all over Saigon on a private tour, then takes you to the Ho Chi Minh City Airport to fly to Siem Reap (which is about an hour flight), places you in an unbelievably beautiful hotel, covers all of your meals, takes you on a personal all-day tour of the temples in Angkor Wat in Siem Reap the following day, and flies you back to Sihanoukville on the third day to return to the ship. While you are having the time of your life on this excursion, the ship has a “SEA DAY”. And, on the third day on this excursion, after you fly from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, you are given a private tour of Sokha beach and Wat Krom before you are returned back to the ship to continue the cruise.
NOTE: This excursion was more expensive than the cruise itself and you must book it early because there is limited space available and it sells FAST. There were 30 in our group, but it truly was worth every penny and I would HIGHLY recommend this opportunity if you find yourself in a similar situation regarding a cruise itinerary. For the huge price tag of the trip, you will have expert guides and fabulous transportation. Our group of 30 was divided into two luxury buses so that everyone could enjoy hoping from one side of the bus to the other to snap photos on the way to the various temples. The accommodations were fabulous, which I will go into more detail later. The meals were out-of-this-world amazing. But the main attraction, of course, was Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), NOT to be missed if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the country of Cambodia. For more about this particular Princess Excursion, visit: https://www.princess.com/excursion/exDetails.page?tourCode=PH1-800
After arriving at the Siem Reap Airport, we were taken to our hotel. We stayed at the SOKHA ANGKOR RESORT and as much as I enjoyed the Sapphire Princess, I did not want to leave this fabulous hotel. It truly was the most beautiful hotel I think I have ever stayed in! Our room was gigantic and extremely luxurious! We also had a large balcony that overlooked the pool (which was more like a small lake with gorgeous waterfalls) and each evening there were romantic candles lit along the pool edge by the staff, complete with a spectacular laser lightshow that we enjoyed while sitting in our lush bathrobes on the balcony drinking freshly brewed tea. I kept thinking to myself what a FABULOUS honeymoon spot this would be! CAMBODIA! Who knew?!!
There were beautiful restaurants throughout the hotel and we enjoyed two dinners (one was poolside) and two breakfast meals while staying there. These meals were all buffet style and were fit for royalty. I just don’t have the words to describe the perfection of the presentation of the food, the quality and freshness of the dishes or the vast selections that were offered. We are athletes who chose not to drink, but even impressive alcoholic beverages were included as part of the meals. The hotel staff literally bow to you and do everything they can to make your stay at Sokha memorable and oh-so-enjoyable. I just can’t say enough great things about this beautiful place.
Okay…onto the reason why we came to Siem Reap in the first place. To see and explore the AMAZING ancient temples!
We began our wonderful tour immediately after breakfast and set off for the haunting Ta Phrom Temple where the roots from the gigantic trees have grown right into the stones. This was the temple I had planted in my brain since childhood, and I was so giddy and excited that I probably drove my husband crazy with the camera. However, I don’t think my pictures do the place justice. You really just have to GO to Siem Reap and see this beautiful place for yourself. Visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta_Prohm
The next stop was Banteay Srey Temple which is carved in pink sandstone that is very rare. I was once again blown away by the beauty of this place and marveled at how different it was from Ta Phrom Temple. Visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banteay_Srei
Next, we had a beautiful lunch at the Tara Hotel before we headed to the next temple, Angkor Thom. This place was an amazing 10 square mile city that is the home to the Bayon Temple and the Terrace of the Leper King. Visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Thom
Unbelievable history and beauty is seen here. I just could not get enough of it all!
The highlight of the trip was saved for last which were the FABULOUS Angkor Wat Monuments. The vast temples practically looked woven like carpets and there were over 100 in all which revealed the ancient splendors of the Khmer Civilization. Some were constructed in the 9th and 12th centuries. If you have ever read The Lotus Eaters, a well-known war novel by Tatjana Soli, I think these may have been the temples that were being reference in the book. For more, visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat
Later that evening, after a day of indescribable touring, we enjoyed a poolside buffet complete with Traditional Apsara dancers to entertain us. It was SUCH a lovely experience!
The following morning after breakfast, we walked on our own through the Siem Reap area on our own just to see a few local attractions and people….
Then our group boarded a plane from the Siem Reap airport to the Sihanoukville airport, and were treated to yet another spectacular lunch at the Sokha Beach Resort before a visit to Wat Krom, a Buddhist temple at the base of the Sihanouk Mountain. It is a newer temple and while we were there we watched workers constructing even more temples for future tourists to enjoy. (By the way, Sihanoukville is a resort-like beach town. If you are a beach-goer, you may be happy enjoying the lovely beaches there. But if you are a history buff and someone who travels to learn, Siem Reap is not to be missed.)
If you love exotic travel and exciting adventure, then Siem Reap, Cambodia is definitely the place for you. I encourage anyone that has a love for travel to look into exploring this very beautiful country. I don’t know if I will ever get the chance, but I would come back to Siem Reap, Cambodia in a heartbeat!
លាសិនហើយ (léa sĕn haeuy) and goodbye for now.