Siem Reap/ Angkor Wat, Cambodia (10.17.11 – 10.24.11)

This post is obscenely picture heavy, so I apo… no I don’t. I don’t apologize one bit. There are lots of pictures, and they are awesome.

Siem Reap is the town outside of the Angkor Wat temple complex, so it’s where people stay when going to see the temples. The bus arrived on the outskirts of town, and I got chatting to some others from the bus as the tuk-tuk drivers vied for our patronage. There was some debate about getting into town, as Siem Reap was still suffering from the flooding that plagued a great deal of Southeast Asia due to two typhoons that passed through (same ones that interrupted my travel in Ha Long Bay and Hue). The drivers tried to take us to a hotel outside of town, saying that everything else was affected by flooding, but the prices were outrageous, so we had them take us into the town anyway. We were dropped off, and the six of us walked around until we found somewhere we were happy with. We checked in, showered and reconvened to head into the town center for food. Our band now included Giulio, an Italian who was traveling by himself, Rikke and Christian, a Danish couple, and Lara and Diego, an Italian couple. We walked into town, wading through water that was knee high at times, a task that was somewhat comic in its novelty. We had dinner and drinks at a restaurant in the center of the night market, followed by more drinks. It was a superb night, filled with some spectacular people.
On Tuesday, Giulio, Christian, Rikke and I went to Angkor Wat! We hired a tuk-tuk and spent the day exploring one temple after another. We visited the temples of Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, and Bayon. As soon as we entered Preah Khan, I felt that we were somewhere truly remarkable. This is obvious immediately upon catching the first glimps of a temple, but their was a magic that I felt in the air; I’ve never felt anything like it. Preah Khan was a highlight as it is the temple best known for tree roots growing on the temple. Bayon was another favorite. For dinner we were joined by Lara and Diego once again, and the six of us went and had a superb dinner of Khmer (Cambodian) barbeque. Giulio and I shared a barbeque; our meal consisted of chicken, beef, snake, alligator, and kangaroo that we cooked on the hot plate before us, while a soup boiled around the edge of the pan, cooking veggies and noodles. The kangaroo was the best of the meats; I can’t wait to have another opportunity to eat kangaroo! We had a few drinks and called it a night, tired from our day of exploring.
On Wednesday, we had the tuk-tuk take us to the Angkor Wat temple at 5AM, so that we could watch the sunrise there. This is a very popular thing to do, so we were far from alone. It was nice getting there so early because we were able to explore the temple without busy hordes of people. After Angkor Wat, our tuk-tuk drove us miles and miles from the main temple site, getting a flat on the way, which certainly was a fun adventure, to an area called Kbal Spean. Here we hiked for an hour to reach a waterfall, which was lovely albeit very cold. By the time we had hiked back down, we were quite tired, but we were coaxed into visiting Banteay Srei. As we were all sleepy and exhausted, we didn’t stay long, but it was a fantastic temple, that was architecturally quite different that any of the others we’d seen. Once back at the hotel, we rested for a few hours and reconvened for dinner. That night, Christian, Giulio and I decided to try the “Dr. Fish” pedicures that we’d seen all around town. For those who are unfamiliar, this pedicure consists of sticking your feet in a vat of water, and letting groups of tiny fish nibble at your feet, ridding them of all the dead skin. We laughed uproariously for a good five minutes straight. We were howling so much that seemingly everyone in the surrounding restaurants was staring at us, and then they all began to laugh, because we were laughing so much. It was a pretty wonderful experience. After a few minutes, the sensation becomes bearable, and we were able to enjoy the pedicure without sounding like hyenas.
On Thursday, we each spent the day by ourselves. I spent the day resting and writing postcards. We had another wonderful dinner together on what was the last night in Siem Reap for Rikke, Christian, and Giulio. I said goodbye to Christian and Rikke that night, sad to see my new friends go.
I was staying on for a few more days, so on Friday, I said goodbye to Giulio, and ended up staying holed up in my room for the rest of the day, as I felt very unwell. My back hurt, and my kidneys started to ache… which is not a particularly good sign.
On Saturday, I still felt very unwell, but I eventually headed out to see the sunset at Angkor Wat. That was the extent of my activity for the day.
On Sunday, I still felt poorly, so rested all day, despite my wish to go to Angkor Wat once again. I did head out to visit the night market, where I picked up some gifts for friends back home.
On Monday, I left and headed to Bangkok because although I was sick, I felt that if I didn’t head for somewhere new, I’d never leave. And so I headed onwards and left Cambodia. I loved it. I think it’s definitely a country that I will be seeing again in the future.

Evidence of the flooding, that we saw at one of the rest stops on the bus ride to Siem Reap.

Starting to wade into the town center for dinner

From left to right: Rikke, Christian, Diego, Giulio, and Lara

My Angkor beer. I like this picture, in spite of, if not because of the blur. 🙂

At the bar…

Into the temples!!! This is Preah Khan, the first temple we visited.

Oh hey, what’s that thing that looks like a crack in the ground?

A TRAIL OF ANTS. THAT’S WHAT.

Ta Phrom

If my eyes were open, it would be such a good picture! Oh well… it’s mostly good like this.

Khmer barbeque

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Laughing at the fish pedicure. The laughter was so contagious, we continued howling even when we’d had to pull our feet out of the water when we couldn’t bear it any longer!

It’s faint, but when I visited Angkor Wat to watch the sunset, I caught a rainbow over the temple. 🙂

 

Angkor Wat was incredible, and something that is definitely worth repeating. I absolutely loved the time I spent there.

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