227 Kms from Stoeng Treng
The walled complex of Angkor Thom was built by the Jayavarman VII who is touted as the Buddhist architect of the empire and the one to bring in all the Buddhist influences on the architecture, culture and religion. The most famed of the temples in the Angor Thom is the Bayon temple which stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital.
230 Kms from Stoeng Treng
We booked our tickets on the Mekong Express bus for 13$. I highly recommend this bus service about which there are glowing reviews everywhere online too. They provide a minivan pick-up from the hotel to the bus station and the buses themselves are super comfortable with plush seating, toilets, air-conditioning and most importantly, curtains to keep out the harsh sun. The Cambodian countryside is soothing to the eyes and after a while most people on the bus dozed off for a bit. We arrived at Siem Reap at 1:30 p.m. having left Phnom Penh at 8:30 a.m. and there were tuk-tuk drivers jostling for customers at the bus-station to take us to our hotel. Another Air BnB find, our hotel was very strategically located...just walking distance away from the hustle and bustle of Pub street but tucked away into a quiet lane right beside one of the exits to the Arts Market. At 4500 INR for three nights, we thought it was a steal.Our hotel reception, as I am guessing will be the case with all hotels, was a treasure trove of useful information about day tours to Angkor sites and other interesting sights around Siem Reap. It was from here that we booked tickets to the Angkor National Museum for 12$ each it saved us the expense of hiring a private tour guide to be with us on the two days that we planned to devote to Angkor temple sites. It was a smart move as it not only saved us nearly 60$. The hotel also helped us with hiring a tuk-tuk, who at 12$ a day was going to take us on a half day tour of all the major and minor sites.
247 Kms from Stoeng Treng
Cambodia has a difficult and painful history of genocide in the not-so-distant past. Between 1975-1979 almost 3 million out of 8 million Cambodians died of starvation or were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Note of caution: I was prepared for what was to come since I had read up about the genocide but it was still very depressing and emotionally taxing. At the gates of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or S-21 prison we paid 6 $ each and got audio head sets, players and a map each. To see this building from the outside nobody would dream of the nightmarish atrocities that happened inside it. The audio tour is a good investment as it takes visitors through numbered points in the school-turned-prison building. Our minds numb with the horrors of history we had just witnessed, we set off for the next destination: The Killing Fields. This is the mass grave-site where prisoners from S-21 were taken and killed. The main structure here is a memorial built in traditional Khmer style housing hundreds of human skulls and bones that were found there. There is an audio tour here too which explains what happened here and there is a short video that is played for 10 minutes every half hour for visitors.
177 Kms from Stoeng Treng
Pakse is supposedly the fourth largest city of Laos. That’s not saying much considering Vientiane is so sleepy that you barely remember it’s a capital city. It is located 670km away from Vientiane and is nestled along the Sedon River and the mighty Mekong. The town itself is quite cute, with wide roads, open spaces, and actual footpaths you can use, though most are very dusty and muddy and being Laos, there are a few holes in the ground and rogue metal railings poking out so watch your step. Pakse is the logical gateway to the South of Laos, and is primarily used as a base to see the surrounding Bolaven plateau, the Khmer temples, and most famous of all, the 4,000 islands (Si Phan Don).