Visiting Angkor Wat From Ho Chi Minh City
The following is an article “Visiting Angkor Wat From Ho Chi Minh City” by Marc Pulisci.
Southeast Asia truly is a melting pot of cultures just waiting to be discovered, and Vietnam and Cambodia are arguably the roads less traveled vis-à-vis neighboring Thailand, what with its capital Bangkok being the preferred destination of many.
The heat is on in Saigon
If time permits, the best way to appreciate the sights of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is to spend a night there before making the 10-hour road trip to Siem Reap, gateway to the ancient, breathtaking temples of Angkor Wat.
Once you’ve settled in a hotel, take a walk on the sidewalks of HCMC to get a feel of the city’s vibrant pulse. One of the first things you will notice are the ubiquitous scooters that are the preferred mode of transportation of the locals, so take care crossing the roads as they tend to suddenly appear from all directions.
A trip to the War Remnants Museum is highly recommended, which, as their brochure describes, “specializes in research, collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the remnant proofs of Vietnam War crimes and their consequences”.
For the adventurous traveler, it’s hard to miss the abundance of sidewalk vendors peddling bottled liquids mixed with curious scaly objects which, upon closer inspection, turn out to be preserved snakes. This so-called snake wine happens to be a Vietnamese specialty used to treat rheumatism and lumbago.
The road to Cambodia
The drive from HCMC to Cambodia, whether you rent a car or go by air-conditioned bus, is by no means a short one. At 10-11 hours long, your best bet is to break the journey in two with an overnight stopover in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Getting there by road is an adventure in itself, as you make the necessary stops in various restaurants for your dose of pho or deep fried tarantula (yes, you read that correctly).
Far from the modern car ferry vessels you might be familiar with in the West, part of the road trip includes a short crossing of the Mekong River on a flimsy-looking barge, which will have you wondering whether it can carry a dozen people, let alone a tour bus. Fortunately, it isn’t as flimsy as it looks and I lived to tell the tale.
The big reward
You will most likely arrive at Siem Reap at dusk, so use that time to recharge, enjoy a nice Khmer dinner, and get enough sleep for a very early start the next day. To fully appreciate the spectacular view of Angkor Wat’s famous main temple at sunrise, you will want to jockey for prime position along with thousands of other tourists as early as 4:00am.
And when the sun finally does make its grand entrance on the horizon, transforming the blackness of the sky into a kaleidoscope of colors ranging from a deep purple to blood orange, give yourself a minute or two to absorb the beauty of it all, before whipping out your camera to capture the moment for posterity.
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