Our trip through Cambodia was something of a whirlwind. With limited vacation days but an unlimited bucket list, hard choices had to be made. We were hoping to see the most of Southeast Asia as possible in a short amount of time – focused on hitting all the once-in-a-lifetime highlights this go-round, while hoping we’d have the opportunity to return and experience more another time.
My better half (MBH) & I decided we would spend the majority of our time in Vietnam, a decision we don’t regret – except that it came at the cost of time in Cambodia. Whereas in Vietnam we visited multiple cities and were able to experience more of the culture, our time in Cambodia was an all-out sprint through Siem Reap’s famed temples, trying to pack in as many spectacular views while also trying to beat the brutal December heat.
With a four-month-old.
And a toddler.
For this trip, we’d invested in traveling with a private tour company, another decision that we would wholeheartedly recommend for anyone wishing to travel with children this small. We already had an ambitious travel agenda – packing in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand into ten or so days – and when we factored in the cultural differences, waiting in lines, potential difficulties with transportation, waiting in lines, the snafus that always come up when you travel internationally, and waiting in lines – with two small children – we knew we’d spend money but we’d save on time, which we were already limited on.
In Cambodia, that decision truly paid off. There’s no way we would have experienced a fraction of the beauty or the awe of Siem Reap’s most spectacular temples on our own.
Our guide met us early in the morning to (try and) beat the heat, and from the moment we embarked on our trip through the countryside, he told us stories of Cambodia and its history, walked us through some of the most epic locales imaginable, and let us linger as long as we liked.
Most people travel to Siem Reap for Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in existence – but my favorite temple complex by far was Ta Prohm.
Hidden away for centuries after its abandonment, when the temple was re-discovered, nature had almost completely taken over, with large tree roots crawling up and down the ruins. It’s a sight so wondrous that film scouts chose it immediately for Tomb Raider, and arriving at Ta Prohm was one of those moments in life where you appreciate exactly how lucky you are to be there and witness something as special as this.
Our daughter probably wasn’t as impressed as she should have been.
Our son, however, immediately set off to explore.
I hope he always has this sense of adventure and joy in exploring the world.
Every time we travel somewhere ancient, I always try to imagine what it must have been like to just… live here. To live your life visiting this temple complex in a routine day. Were there markets outside? Was it kept pristine and aloof from the rest of the villages? It’s so hard to picture sometimes what the actual lives of the people who built these spectacular places were like.
Did they, perhaps, have little kids that played in the halls?
There’s enough clues to tell me there was for sure some dancing.
Probably some stoop sitting.
I couldn’t get enough of the views – both big and small. Seeing these spectacular buildings framed through the hallway windows somehow struck me often as so, so beautiful – so I took lots of photos to document.
The heat, the trees, and something about the water all reminded me quite a bit of Florida – and then we’d come upon a view like this and know there is no place on earth quite like Cambodia.
Our trip would not have been possible without the expertise of Indochina Pioneer travel company. They arranged our hotel stays in every city and had excellent guides in every place we visited. Our guide in Cambodia was wonderful – explaining the often painful history of the country while giving us hope that, through tourism, it is on its way toward a better future. I would highly recommend Indochina Pioneer if you’re planning any time in Southeast Asia – we hope to return to Cambodia and visit their beaches on our next trip!