Published: September 13th 2008September 11th 2008
September 8th, 2008
Where to begin? We began our trip to Cambodia at the Hualamphong Train Station in Bangkok where we purchased our bus tickets. Curtis, being the ever punctual man that he is, had us showing up 30 minutes prior to our departure time. Sadly, we forgot that all of Thailand is on "Asian" time and ended up sitting there waiting for nearly an hour before our bus showed. Not really that big of deal, but when the station lacks air-conditioning, it sucks!
The bus ride to Cambodia was very long. Setting off from Bangkok at around 9 am, we did not arrive at our hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia until after 9:30 pm. The 12 hour ordeal began with a bus ride to the border for about 3 1/2 hours. Shortly before arriving, the company had us pull over at a restaurant to grab a bit to eat, use the toilet, and get everyone's visas and passports in order. Luckily for us, we had purchased e-visas (very simple, very quick, highly recommended) and didn't have to worry about much. Soon after, we were back on track arriving at the border around 2 pm. The border was
a bit frantic. The guide swung us by banks before crossing the border. He said that ATMs were not readily available in Siem Reap. This was something we had read in blogs and books, as well as infomration we had heard from friends. As such, we were plenty prepared with our American dollars (Cambodians prefer the dollar) and continued onto the border. Once there, it was quite easy to manuever. We had read about timely crossings, arguing with border agents, etc. We had no problems. The trek from the Thailand border to Cambodia's border, was a bit long with our packs, but at least it was dry!
Soon we found ourselves back on the bus heading to Siem Reap. Sadly, the bus was not air-conditioned. However, the open windows made for a nice breeze. About halfway druing the trip to Siem Reap, the weather forecast caled for RAIN with a chance of sunshine till we left. The road itself is under construction and will eventually be paved. As said by our guide, "the drive came with free massage." Be prepared, it took 6 hours before arrival. Upon arrival, we were handed over to a tuk-tuk driver named Liam. A
stylish young man, Liam offered us his services for two days...the first being the mini-tour costing $10/day/person, the second day being the grand tour driving to the outer-lying temples costing $15/day/person. The cost was a little higher than we expected to pay, but Liam's english was very good, he seemed very knowledgeable, and he was funny to boot! Having hired him for the next two days, Liam was kind enough to drive us to our hotel for free!
September 9, 2008
Wanting to recover from for the long and bumpy travels of yesterday, we agreed to sleep in for a couple of hours before a long day exploring the temples of Angkor. Liam, prompt as ever (he obviously is not aware of the 'Asian' time table) was waiting for us at 9 am and we left straight for Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is just one temple in a complex of many, and it takes more than a day to navigate and explore some of them. We chose a 2 day tour of the most popular. Due to the constant rain, we were fortunate not to run into to many tourists.
The largest, most popular, and most
Sally Giving Curtis the Bird
After this trip up East Mebon it became abundantly clear to Curtis that it is NOT cool to make fun of Sally and her fear of heights! Grumpy Girl!
intricate temple, sits at nearly the center of the Angkor National Park. The temple and park are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites and thus are the primary reason anyone goes to Cambodia. We wandered the maze like structure for almost three hours. A few areas were closed due to restoration as the temples are still an active archeological and restoration site. The temple was awesome! In books, the Wat is grand but to see it in person is surreal. On each of the 4 sides of the outer walls contain life-size bas-reliefs depicting themes in Buddhism and Hinduism. Curtis' favorite was the Churning of the Sea of Milk, a theme found thoroughout the entire park. After the temple, we ventured back to our driver where we sat and ate lunch (the best meal yet on this trip), drank coffee, and talked with Liam about life in Cambodia.
Our second stop, this is the largest site on the grounds of the park and contains several temples, shrines, and barays (water reservoirs.) The Bayon temple inside offered more spectacular masonry and artistry and climbs to about 50 feet high (estimated guess.) In our awe, we still found ourselves quite
puzzled by the steps throughout the temples. Cambodians and the Khmer people, for the most part, are not very tall but the steps are more than a foot in elevation between each stair. The stairs made Sally very nervous, carefully manuvering her way down as Curtis would run by, laughing all the way! As we approached the exit, Curtis took one wrong step (for the record, he was not running down these stairs, just walking) and WHAM!!! Curtis pulled a Sally! Luckily, Curtis was able to save the camera which escaped with a mere couple of scratches. Unfortunately, Curtis was not as fortunate. He ended up with a nasty sprain on his ankle.
After Bayon, Curtis hobbled alongside Sally to a brief walk to the Baphuon temple, Terrace of the Elephants, and the South Kleang. Baphuon was mostly in ruins but still remained spectacular to see. After wrapping Curtis' foot with his bandana; Curtis, Sally, and Liam headed out of Angkor Thom.
Ta Keo & Ta Prohm
In the guide the temple sounds fascinating but after seing the amount of steps, it was decided a drive by look would suffice. The last temple visit of the day was
Ta Prohm. For those who are Angelina Jolie or Tomb Raider fans, this is the temple used in the movie and it is easy to see why. Ta Prohm is the park's most jungle-like temple. Where trees sprout from the ruins and vines and moss cover the facades. On this site are many Buddhist statues and intricate reliefs to be found on the walls.
Pharmacy, Dinner, TukTuk, Oh My...
Back in town, we headed out to find a pharmacy. We were pleasantly surprised to find one open and so willing to provide us with a plethora of drugs, including codeine and ibuprofen. With drugs and brace in hand, we headed out to find some dinner. During dinner Curtis, in much pain, decided it would be a good idea to take a codeine pill with his dinner (and beer). Once done with dinner, Curtis excused himself, saying he was a bit light-headed and wanted to step outside. This was a bit strange considering Curtis still had half a beer (Curtis is never one to not finish a beer) and needed to pay the bill. Leaving Sally with his wallet to pay the bill, Curtis left to head outside. While paying
the bill, the waiter rushed to Sally stating 'your friend, he is sick'. As Sally turned around, all she saw was two waiters helping Curtis to his feet. Around him were tipped over chairs and umbrellas. Sally hurriedly paid the bill, the waiter found us a tuk-tuk to drive us back to the hotel. Curtis was so out of it that we had to have the waiter put Curtis into the cab (his first few attempts by himself were most humorous but sadly, not successful). RECOMMENDATION: Be careful with how much pain reliever you take.
September 10th, 2008
Liam had convinced us that we should get up early to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat. This entailed waiking up at 4:30 am for pick-up at 5 am to venture back to the temple. Unfortunately, there would be no sunrise for us. Rather, we stood there as we watched the sky turn from black to grey, darks clouds, and Japanese tourists as for as the eye could see. Disappointed, but excited to have an early start to our day, we headed back to find Liam for our next temple. As we approached the tuk tuk we noticed that Liam
was passed out sleeping. He later informed us, that due to the excessive rains of the previous night, he had recieved just an hour of sleep before picking us up (he also works at a guest house and had to stay up all night helping unclog a sewage pipe - YUCK). Curtis and I told Liam to go take a nap while we grabbed some breakfast!
Preah Khan & Neak Pean
After giving Liam a bit of break and with Curtis' foot feeling slightly better (thanks to the drugs he acquired at the pharmacy) we began a circuit of the temple lying along the outer perimeter of the park. The first was Preak Khan, a fun and higly explorable temple once serving as a monastic complex. This temple also sufers from a lot of Hindu vandalism during an insurgance in the late 12th century. Neak Pean is an interesting temple which does not follow the pattern expressed by its predecesors. It is a small, shrine like building lying in the middle of a man-made lake surrounded by 4 ponds found at each side of the compass. In the main (dried up) lake is the horse, Balaha, saving drowning sailors.
The last of the Circuit
Contained in this last description are Ta Som, East Mebon in the East Baray, Pre Rup, and Banteay Kdei. Ta Som is small and flat, resembling a miniature Ta Prohm. It was easliy accesible and fun to explore. A tree is growing out of the east gopura destroying the gate but makes for a great photo. East Mebon lies in the near middle of the now dry East Baray. This is a strictly Hindu temple and is dedicated to Shiva. The temple climbs over 70 feet and provides an awesome view of the park. Funny enough, Curtis being the hurt one moved up it faster than Sally, as her fear of heights got the better of her (see photo.) We got up it and spent the next 30 or so minutes guiding her down the temple. Curtis constantly reminded Sally not to look down, but did she listen? He would have blind-folded here but we didn't need two gimps hobbling on the rest of the trip. Pre Rup is similar to East Mebon but remains nicely intact. Detailed and intricate carvings decorate this temple, making it wel worth the visit. The last temple was
Banteay Kdei. Folwing the long pathway in, the temple proved to be an easy hike due to the level ground. Also lying in mostly ruins, it offered us a nice end to our adventures in Angkor National Park.
RECOMMENDATION: Get a great tuk-tuk driver while in Siem Reap. We recommend Liam. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call him at 012362816. By the way, he is single ladies ;o)
September 11th, 2008
After two days of Wat Touring, Curtis and Sally decided it was time to head back to Thailand (so much to see, oh so little time). We began our journey early in the morning being picked up at 7:30 am by a tuk tuk driver (questions are already arising because we were told a bus would pick us up). We got to the travel center and figured, oh, they'll have everyone meet here for the bus. Oh no. The rains of the past few days made it nearly impassible by bus and that we would have to go in cabs. Doing so would require us to pay an additional $3 per person. Curtis and I didn't see it as a big deal but the group
of Australians standing next to us were quite upset! Finally, we headed out with our new friends Carlos (from Mexico) and Walter (from South Wales). As we headed out of town we realized the tour center wasn't lying. The road, which is still mostly under construction, was a mud pit, slipping and sliding the entire way. We now have a new found faith in the Toyota Camry to serve as a all-terrain vehicle! Sally, sitting b*tch got a spetacular view of people on mopeds trying to manuever through the mud, trucks nearly crashing into us, slidding across the road towards pedestrians, crazy foreign bicyclists, and much more! We finally arrived at the border after only 3 1/2 hours (much shorter than our original bus ride, though just as bumpy). After getting through the border crossing, we were looking forward to getting onto an air-conditioned bus for a nice, relaxing ride back to Bangkok. WRONG! Because of the bussing issues, the travel center decided to put us in mini-buses. Not a bad deal really, the mini-buses are nice, air-conditioned, and drive much faster. However, none of this is relevent when you're packed in like a can of sardines, especially when riding
in the back, on top of the wheel-well, with all the back-packs of the riders leaning (eventually slipping) on you. This ride is only made worse by the sudden arrival of Sally's motion sickness. Knowing that a pit-stop was a long way off, Sally took Curtis's advice and breathed through a bag for nearly 2 hours. Sally finally found a moment to yack (by the way, throwing up in a squatter is a story that only Sally can share). As we got into Bangkok, we hit traffic. No big deal, we were just heading to the train station and that was close by. As Sally sat in back, quietlly praying to not throw-up, Curtis expressed his concerns that we were not headed to the station but rather Kho San Road, and he was right. Sitting in traffic, passing by the station only made the trip that much painful. Once at Kho San Road, we grabbed a cup of coffee (or rather Curtis did while Sally went to yack any and all that was still sitting in her stomach). We finally regained our composure and headed out into traffic to find a taxi. With it being rush hour, we soon learned
that getting a metered taxi was impossible and ended up paying the 'set' price of 200 baht (in non rush hour this would cost us 50 baht or little less than 2 dollars). Finally, at the station, end was in sight. We reached the counter and asked the man for two tickets south. The train was CANCELLED (damn the protests and the PAD). Sadly, Sally looked at Curtis and together we said, "North it is, Chiang Mai, here we come!"
There are more photos below