Published: March 4th 2009March 2nd 2009
Day 48/49/50/51/52 - Siem Reap
Yeah it wasn't the most memorable day of our trip, making the 10 hour ride to Siem Reap from Kratie. However, we managed it with just a little bit of complaining (most of the whining came from S). In Siem Reap, we chose to stay at Garden Village as it was recommended to us by Andrea in Sihanoukville. They had "dorm style" rooms for $1 a night, but it was literally a huge bamboo hut with a 3 inch mattress and mosquito nets for walls - no security for our stuff and no hot water in the common bathrooms. So we opted out of that and took the private room with a ceiling fan and an en suite bathroom with hot water for $6 a night. I know all the hardcore backpackers reading might think we should have manned it up for cheaper room, but they need to come to Siem Reap and experience the heat for themselves.
The center of town in Siem Reap is lined with restaurants, handicraft shops, bars and travel agencies. But despite being completely overrun with tourist, it still did have a bit of charm. The range of visitors
was pretty vast from Easterners to Westerns from rich older folks on tour groups to the poor backpackers like ourselves. Our tuk tuk driver from the bus station agreed to take us around to the temples of Angkor Wat the next day for $12. It seemed like an okay amount so we agreed. Since we were going to have to meet him at 5:30 AM the next day, we just got a bite to eat that night and hit the hay.
The next morning we mumbled and cursed when the alarm went off at 5AM, but half awake we finally made it out the door at 5:25AM. Our tuk tuk driver had school that day, so his father would be taking us around. He was a lovely man and spoke well English.
A three day ticket costs $40, but sadly these ancient temples have been leased to a private company that has basically paid the government off. Only 10% of the proceeds go to the maintenance of all of Angkor Wat complex.
We had heard that most organized tours go to Angkor Wat proper for sunrise so we decided on Phnom Bakheng which is a temple high
up on a mountain. It wasn't that over-run with tourist, probably just a handful so we had a peaceful view of the sunrise. We then stopped for some breakfast before starting the arduous task of seeing the miles upon miles of temples. We split an "American breakfast" and when they said fried pork we figured they meant bacon, but oh no they meant actual fried pork. Not sure where they ate breakfast in America but it sure wasn't Denny's. The food and water prices were actually quite low as they are all individual business. If Angkor Wat was in America or the UK, you know one company would have the exclusive rights and a bottle of water would be $3.00 and a hot dog with fries would be like $12.00. Even the souvenirs were cheap, G got an acrylic painting for only $8 and we each got t-shirts for $2.50 each.
We then proceed to the following temples - Angkor Thom, Bayon, Thommanom, Chau Say Thevoda, Takeo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang, Prasat Kravan and Angkor Wat. It's a bit hard (and lengthy) to describe them all so we posted a bunch of pics on this blog to
give you guys an idea of what we got to see all day. It is really awesome that they let you more or less climb all over the ruins. Only a few sections were labeled "no entry". The only real flaw we found in the architecture was a lack of escalators, elevators and air con. Other then those things that ancient Angkorian people did pretty well.
We were really lucky and avoided tour groups the entire day, except for Ta Prohm which thanks to Angelina Jolie and "Tomb Raider" has become one the most popular places in Angkor Wat. But of course it was chosen as a site of the movie and draws in the tourist because it is absolutely awe-inspiring. The temple has truly been reclaimed back by the jungle with trees growing right through the temple walls. Our favorite temple was the famous Bayon temple with its many faces that does have a bit of an eerie feeling. One of our least favorites was actually Angkor Wat. We had waited to do it just after lunch - around 2PM to beat the crowds. But still, it just wasn't as intriguing as the smaller, more intimate temples.
We had booked the tuk from sunrise to sunset but had complete the short circuit by 3PM and really couldn't be bother to wait around for the sunset, plus we had two more days to see it, so we headed back to town. We relaxed for a good 2 hours on the couches at the Blue Pumpkin restaurant and cooled off in the AC. We walked around the town for a bit and then headed back to the guesthouse for some a shower and some more R&R. Like many times before, G ended up chilling out while S went down for a good 3 hour cat nap. At night, we walked around the city, did some window shopping and had some curry for dinner.
The next day we went further out of town to see Kbal Spean & Banteay Srey and the landmine museum. Kbal Spean commands a bit of a hike - about 1500 meters to see the waterfalls and ancient carvings, which we were not prepared to do in the sweltering 11AM sun. We then headed back to the Angkor Wat complex and toured around to see the last remaining temples - Pre-Rup,Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah
Khan. There might have been a few more but after two days if sightseeing, they all do kind of of start to look the same. Plus, the heat really does play with your mind. We must have gone through 6 water bottles each that day and still felt terribly over- heated. We finished up the long circuit by 4PM and again couldn't be bothered to wait around for the sunset, so we had our driver take us back to our guesthouse. We tried to cool off using our meager ceiling fan and a cold shower. As we were laying down, Rob - G's friend form London - suddenly popped by our room, scaring us at first but once G realized it was hit gave him a huge hug. Via email , Rob said he would be getting into Siem Reap, the next day so we weren't expected him at all. The rest of the night, G was on cloud nine since she got to see someone from back home. We had a great dinner at the "Red Piano" restaurant and swapped stories & pics about our travels in Cambodia and Vietnam and Rob's travels in Malaysia and Thailand. Unfortunately, Rob
had been in the hospital in Thailand for 3 days with salmonella poisoning, so we decided not to have any celebratory drinks until he got better.
The next day, the two of stayed back while Rob and Mark ( a Swiss guy he met while crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia) went to checkout Angkor Wat. The two of us shopped for a bit and got some real bargains, but the heat eventually had its way with us and we ended up at Blue Pumpkin cafe for two hours in the AC sipping on fruit and ice cream shakes. We then re-treated back to the guesthouse and got ready to met Rob and Mark for the elusive sunset in Angkor Wat that we kept missing. We watched the sunset from Pre-Rup, which was a bit crowded but all in all it was beautiful and we even got everyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to Rob since it was his birthday. The four of us then headed back into town and since the two of them were sweaty and exhausted from the long day, we suggested the Blue Pumpkin cafe again. So we headed back there for the second time
that day for an an dinner. Rob still wasn't feeling 100% so we ended up just having a drink at our guesthouse with a handful of other travellers. Rob actually was the first one to say good night, but the two us had a great time chatting with our newly made friends. (Again it was a UN representation - 2 Swiss, 1 New Zealander and 1 Aussie)
However, Rob made a school boy mistake by falling asleep first and lets just say we used our artistic skills via permanent marker on his flesh. The two of us finally got the little brother we never had growing up - it was awesome, well for us it was awesome, him maybe not so much. But Rob had no time to retaliate in the morning as we had to catch the bus at 6:45AM for Battambang. The trip was suppose to take 5 hours, but we rolled into town after just 3 hours. The roads weren't in the best shape but we did see lots of construction so hopefully in a few years time it will be an even shorter trip.
We can't wait to tell you about the awesome time,
the three of us had in Battambang. Well, the awesome time G and S had torturing Rob. More about our shenanigans later.....
There are more photos below