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Siem Reap & The Temples of Angkor

We arrived in Siem Reap bright and early after the border crossing, a little shell shocked at what we had seen (being hounded by taxi drivers and scammers) but we were ready to put our bags down and get out to explore this new city.

The first thing I'll say about Siem Reap is that it is HOT. I mean H.O.T. Obviously no more warm than anywhere else we've been, but due to the lack of a breeze the temperature feels much higher than it really is, but hey what else should we expect being in Asia eh?

Our first night saw us venturing to the infamous Pub Street, an area in Siem Reap popular with tourists and holidaymakers. Yes, holidaymakers. Maybe we've been living under a rock but I never realised Cambodia was such a popular tourist destination for people of all ages, from all walks of life - you learn something new everyday. Or when you're travelling about a million new things everyday.

A lot of what you read in the guidebooks will tell you of the horrendous plight the Khmer people went through in the mid to late 1970s at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime - and really it is horrendous. The worst is that the effects of such times are still very much present in day to day life. It's estimated that there are still approximately 4 million landmines undetected in the countryside. Government backed charity organisations are doing their best to remove the land mines but it's a task that will take a long time; there's still a long way to go but they're making good progress with continued funding and support. A lot of people are victims of landmine explosions and have lost limbs in the process, and it's tough to see. I guess the main thing to take from the experience is to know that events like the one the Khmer people have been through should never ever have been allowed to happen and can never happen again, and through awareness and education we can help stop it.

That's not to say that our time in Cambodia has been totally doom and gloom (although in all honesty both Shay and I struggled with mixed emotions and a strong sense of consciousness for the first few days), after settling in, the next day we hired a tuk tuk for the day to go and experience the amazing ancient temples of Angkor.

I'm kind of lost for words when it comes to this day, nothing I could possibly say would come close to describing how awesome the ancient city really is. Just to put everything into context, Angkor was at it's most powerful in the 1100s and was home to a million people - at the same time in history London housed just 50,000 inhabitants. Which is quite something to try and comprehend. Our tuk tuk driver took us around for the whole day (a brilliant 7 hours of driving) for US $20 - total bargain.

The best bit about going to Angkor is just how interactive it is. Neither Shay or myself are that hot for museums or galleries as we both like to get stuck in - just looking at things tends to wear a bit thin, quite quickly. HOWEVER, at Angkor all of our British health and safety rules went out the window as we joined in climbing up, down, in and around the temples and ruins - obviously being respectful at the same time, but it really is the best part of visiting as you get to see all the intricate details of the carvings on every wall which I have tried to capture in some of the photos. But really, no picture will ever do these magnificent buildings justice.

And upon arriving back at our hostel, for a well-needed shower we found dinner at a local NGO restaurant serving the most delicious (also very very spicy) Khmer food for local prices.

After getting to grips with prices in Thailand, we did struggle ever-so-slightly with the prices in Cambodia - compared to at home, nothing is really relative in price, mainly because as a tourist you'll never pay local prices but if you seek it, you will get close to finding it. As a reference point, a plate of Western or Khmer food on pub street will set you back anywhere from $4-$8, but if you find where the locals are eating, you're more likely to pay $1.50-$2 a dish which works out at £1-£1.20. Cheap as chips, or fried rice to be more exact.

The day after Angkor we had a lazy day, but we did have one amazing experience. As always we went out for dinner, this time walking away from the loud, and westernised pub street area, and found ourselves in the night market in search of cheap but delicious food. If you go to Siem Reap I thoroughly recommend a place called Stephen Corner Barbecue, it's on a corner, would you believe, and it'll be packed out, every night. Most dishes range between one and two dollars and are absolutely divine... But because we were enjoying ourselves so much speaking to a retired Vietnamese-American couple all the way through our meal and filling our faces with food, I forgot to take any photos (naughty food blogger), so you'll just have to wait for Siem Reap take two to find out more about this place but for now, hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Battambang we go.