I have few memories of Siem Reap itself from 2003. Any that might have remained were likely overwhelmed by either my experience of Angkor or the frenetic pace of development that has seized the town (thanks to the unrelenting flow of tourists).
After a few days rest, we hired a guide and a tuktuk driver for three days to take us around Angkor. That’s about as much as any person can take before getting “templed out”. It’s easy to say we would have enjoyed Angkor more on our own, and at our own pace, but there are so many sites, and so much history, it helps to go with someone knowledgeable to make sense of it all, especially when that knowledge is coupled with experience in the art of finding spots less obscured by the throng of tourists (like us).
The itinerary for a three day guided tour of the temples is fairly well established. What we didn’t account for were some ill-chosen meals on the days preceding our tour that would wreak havoc on Stephanie’s digestive system. After passing through the south gate of Angkor Thom, some unpleasantness was passing through Stephanie, so we made a beeline to the toilets, and then worked our way in reverse, through the Leper King and Elephant Terraces and the under heavy renovation Baphuon.
By the time we got to the crowd-pleasing Bayon temple, Stephanie was “clenching her cheeks” and in visible distress. Rather than eat near the temples, we opted to head back to the hotel for an extended lunch break, to see if the spell would pass.
Stephanie decided to sit the afternoon out, which ended up being a blessing in disguise, as the weather became thickly overcast. Rather than visit two of Angkor’s greatest hits, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, in bad light without her, I went with the guide to visit the Rolous Group, several older and less photogenic temples 13km east of Angkor.