One of the 216 of them in this temple
After a night of worrying about our border crossing to Cambodia we were less than impressed about our 4.30am start! We'd decided to go it alone after hearing so many horror stories about the package deals on offer along Koh Sahn Road and headed straight off to the train station for the 5.55am train we'd found out about the day before. We arrived early as you had to buy tickets on the day and seats weren't reserved so we didn't fancy the 6 hour journey sitting in the aisle... even though the ticket had only cost us 90p! What a steal!
The train journey was fine despite being 3rd class and no air con, we wouldn't have wanted to sleep on it but for a day trip it was quite comfortable. We arrived in Aranyaprathet at 11.30am and were immediately approached by eager tuk-tuk drivers to take us to the border. Thankfully we'd done our research on this border crossing so were completely aware of the scams they might try to pull on us so when we pulled up at a 'border office' to assist with our visa we realised that this was not right and asked to be taken
to the border and nowhere else.. eventually he reluctantly agreed and dropped us off at the official border where we could go though the correct procedures without being ripped off. After being stamped out of Thailand, walking across no mans land and into Cambodia we purchased our Cambodia visa, got stamped in then had to deal with the tourist transport cartel that forces you to go with their buses & taxis rather than doing it alone. Thanks must go to Dale at this point for saying this was his third trip to Cambodia and bagging us a taxi along with 2 German girls for the sum of $40 rather than $65, still pretty expensive but at least it was better than getting the bus which was $10 each anyway and would have taken far longer. The 'tourist transport' people have seen to it that there are no local buses going apart from at 6.30am each day so short of going with a 'non official' taxi driver who looked way too high on drugs we were left with little option so hopped in our discount taxi and welcomed the air con after standing around trying to sort it out for the
best part of 30 minutes.
We arrived in Siem Reap in good time at 4.00pm, certainly in less time than the estimated 18 hour journey it would have taken with the package deals anyway and after following the advice from our tuk-tuk driver found a really nice guesthouse complete with a tv, private bathroom and wait for it.. a bath!! Amazing we wouldn't normally have gone with them but for once they pulled it off!
So after a few relaxation days nosing around Siem Reap town centre we headed out to one of the wonders of the world.. the Angkor Temples and my what a wonder they were! We had booked our tuk-tuk driver to take us pretty much to any temple we liked for the pricely sum of $20 for day 1 and $15 for day 2 but although this seemed a little expensive at first we soon ensured we got our moneys worth...
For the first day we visited the furthest of the more local temples on the Grand Circuit but before this we had to pass by the breathtaking Angkor Wat & Baylon temples on the way and nothing can prepare you for how
amazing these temples are the first time you set eyes on them. We don't really want to give a full rundown on each temple we visited as it will mean nothing to those who haven't been and sadly nothing can match the feeling of actually being here and experiencing it in person. We also agreed that this was one of the places we have visited on our journey when no matter how many photos we took it could never convey the beauty, size and feeling you get when you explore these temples but we shall attempt to do our best and give you the rundown on what we did....
Day 1 Preah Khan
- amazingly huge temple to explore for our first one! The number of corridors and passageways here was incredible and a great way to start out day Neak Pean
- this is quite a temple.. well more of a small temple with 4 lakes around it which must look amazing in the wet season but in the dry season it gives you an opportunity to look into the underground
chapels Ta Som
- quite a small temple with the highlight being the Eastern Gate which has been
totally taken over by a tree that you actually get to photograph as there is hardly anyone there! Banteay Srey
- we had a bit of a battle with our driver to take us here as it's 40 minutes away and he wanted extra money.. we on the other hand felt we'd given him quite enough so after a heated debate he took us! This temple really is very pretty in pink sandstone with a moat and huge walls all around and the best carvings we'd seen of the day.. so good that Sophie got quite annoyed when she was taking a photo of some and a man came and stood right beside her completely invading her space so he could take a photo too.. why he couldn't have waited we will never know! Pre Rup
- a real treat for our last temple of the day.. we were expecting something small not a huge towering pyramid temple we had to pull on our hiking boots to climb up the steps! The day was ended by Dale playing a kickabout game with a cute Cambodian boy inside the temple walls
Day 2 Sunrise at Angkor Wat
5.30am start for us this morning in order to get to the huge Angkor Wat for sunrise. The colour changes on this temple as the sky goes from black to pink to orange are something never to be forgotten. Banteay Kdei
- another unexpected gem and possibly Sophie's favourite temple of the lot with fantastic carvings and lots of very wobbly looking walls and roofs to explore amongst the picture frame doorways Ta Prohm
- probably the most famous of the temples thanks to the likes of Angelina and Indiana! This temple really is something else and exceeded all our expectations on how beautiful it would be as it is overtaken by nature. Shame about the million Japanese tourists that we had to share it with though.. you just need a lot of patience to get the photos you want in this one and thankfully we were prepared for it! Ta Keo
- mountain boots were needed for this one too.. another huge pyramid temple with the steepest steps you have ever seen! It's not so bad going up but it's coming down that's the problem especially with no handrail, steps missing or very uneven and the constant fear that
the whole thing will collapse at any second if you grab the wrong stone!! Baphuon
- this one is a work in progress and has been for the last 33 years! Thought to have been the second grandest temple after Angkor Wat the restoration on this temple has been going on for 33 years after it was taken apart piece by piece in 1970 and all records on what went where were destroyed. There are 300,000 stones to find homes for and in among this is the massive reclining budda they are trying to restore at the back which is truly awesome once you squint a bit to see where it is! Maybe next time we come this one may be completed and restored to it's former glory, the guys we saw working on it are doing an amazing job when you think of what they have ahead of them. Terraces of the Elephants & Leper King
- 2 stone terraces sit side by side with the Elephants depicting.. elephants funnily enough and 100's of them and the Leper King depicting 100's of characters faces in various poses which are best preserved on the inside wall. Phimeanakas
- a small
but tall temple.. by this point we were way too hot to climb up the steps so just left it to viewing from ground level! Banyan Temple
- OH WOW! This is probably the best of the lot! Until you start to climb the steep steps to the top of this temples it's difficult to pick out the 216 faces that are around it. When you are on top though you can't do anything but see them. This temple is amazing.. enough said!
On the third day of our pass we didn't fancy a whole temple day again so just saved the main attraction of Angkor Wat for then and spent a good few hours wandering around and around.. this place is HUGE! The most amusing thing of the day here was us asking an old Japanese man to take a photo of us in front of the temple. This photo could well contend for being the worst photo ever.. not only did he not manage to get all of Dale's head in but he zoomed in so much on our faces that you can't see any of Angkor Wat in the background! We just thanked him and ran
Sophie in Ta Pnohm
being Angelina in Tomb Raider.. this is the door she came out of
off sniggering at just how bad some photographers are!
So aside from the temples, our moody tuk-tuk driver (who we named arseface as he had the face of a smacked arse all day!) the thing we will most remember about the temples is.... "Sir/Lady.. want to buy sum-sing? I have 10 postcards/10 bracelets/3 hangy things/1 strange musical instrument/1 book on Angkor or Killing Fields or Cambodia/1 silk scarf from Cambodia/1 T-shirt/1 cold drink/ 1 pineapple (delete as appropriate) for ONE DOOOOOLLLLLLLAAAAAARRRRRRRR"
ok so the books & shirts are slightly more but you get the idea
The kids are so cute but it does wear you down after a while, not because they ask you but once they latch onto you they go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on........ and on..... until you get in the tuk-tuk and drive off! The thing is you can't get annoyed as we saw too many people doing as they are just trying to earn a living the best way they know how and occasionally (well once) we relented as the kids were just too cute but we did bargain them down to
a more reasonable price! Oh and if you are coming this way never ever say you'll think about it as you walk into a temple as they never ever forget a face and will make you feel worse by saying you promised to buy something.. we didn't do that again after the 1st time! These kids are also so smart considering that most of them have never set foot in a school.. one girl knew how to count to 10 in about 5 languages which is quite amazing considering she was only about 4! (she proved it to Sophie as she repeatedly counted out the bracelets she was trying to sell!), not only that but most can name any capital of a country, the prime minister and many other facts about your country.. you tell us what 4 year old you know can do things like that?
The other highlight of our time in Siem Reap was our fish massage.. yep a massage by fish! Well this is what they call it but what it actually is is a pool with a load of fish in, you dip in your feet and they come and nibble at your feet
& toes. It's so funny and they have a guarantee that if you don't leave with a smile on your face you will get your money back.. we really couldn't imagine that they have ever had to do that though as everyone we saw, including ourselves are in fits of hysterics. Obviously it tickles loads, you do kind of get used to it after a while but it still feels really funny and just watching these little fish nipping at you is amusement in itself.. do this if you come here.. the pool is found in the night market and you can't miss it!
All templed out we left Siem Reap after a week bound for Phnom Penh where Dale has hopes to play with big guns and to sample some of the strange foods Cambodians eat.. snake blood & tarantula anyone?!
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