Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away
I learned one of my first travel tips when I was in the 4th grade and the family took a trip to Disney World. One of the days we were there it poured most of the day. While most would see this is as a negative, to us it meant no lines! The usual hour + wait for the uber popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride, felt like we were VIPs walking up to the entrance and getting right on. So going to Cambodia during Monsoon season wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
First of all, monsoon rains while they occur daily, tend to be intense, but short. Really, by the end of a day touring around temples you’re ready for a breather anyway. When we visited Angkor Wat monsoon season also meant “off/low season.” It didn’t seem too quiet to us, but the fact that we got to blow through the Angkor Thom gate rather than waiting in line for 30-40+ min (only one vehicle can fit through at a time) was quite lovely to us.
One of our days at Angkor Wat, as thunder and lightening subsided for the time being, we decided to check out Bakheng Hill, the most popular site for viewing the sunset and views of Siem Reap. While there would be no sunset tonight due to the storm, we decided to check it out anyway. Usually mobbed with people, there was seriously only one other tourist up there, three locals and a great view. The stairs were so steep we didn’t know if it was even possible to get to the top, but we saw the lonely tourist do it, and followed suit. It was so amazing having the place to ourselves (a rarity). We didn’t stay and savor it forever, because there still looked like there was a storm brewing, but it was very cool. Sure a sunset can be nice, but this was really a one of a kind experience.
And if what we experienced was low-season, I can’t even imagine what high season is like. This scene at Ta Pron – one of the most popular sites where the trees have been allowed to overtake the ruins (and stars in the movie Tomb Raider) – was completely and utterly overwhelming with narrow platforms and tons of people. I’ve never seen so many Asian tourists in one place in my life! Luckily we discovered that groups are routed around one side of the temple, so we went the other way, and at least got to savor it a bit more. After that visit I was pretty much done.
We recommend the very compact and less than $5 downloadable Travel Fish guide if you have plans to go to Angkor Wat. And if no travel to Cambodia is on your itinerary, click here to check out my Angkor Wat set on flickr.
P.S. Happy Birthday “weather woman” Michelle!!!
August 27, 2008 at 4:37 pm //
I’d love to see this place but I do confess I’m alergic to crowds.
August 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm //
Oh I would love to see that place! But I also don’t like feeling like cattle being pushed through narrow gates. I shall keep monsoon season in mind.
August 27, 2008 at 7:55 pm //
What a nice weather themed post on my bday… I’ve taught you well! ;-)
Prêt à Voyager
August 27, 2008 at 9:16 pm //
Happy Birthday, Michelle!
Heather and Christy – that one was THE WORST, but there were a couple we got to discover all on our own and those were our favorites!!!
August 28, 2008 at 3:20 pm //
Wow – looks like an amazing time, even with the rain. I’m always a little bummed when it rains on vacation, but you are right – you get to avoid the crowds then!
August 29, 2008 at 12:48 am //
I was in Cambodia and went to Angkor Wat about 6 years ago. I’ve heard about it getting more crowded in recent years but had no idea how much. 30-40 minutes to get through Angkor Thom gate-Wow!
September 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm //
I have to admit I’m rather fond of the Ta Phrom, despite the crowds. I love the sinewy grasps of the strangler trees.
I’m definitely with you on rainy season travel though- Bordeaux and I took a motorbike trip in Thailand at the start of the monsoon season last year, and though we got drenched nearly every day, we spent the whole being completely crowd free. -X