Published: July 19th 2012July 19th 2012
After a long spell of bad internet connections and a detox from alcohol and western food, flying from Myanmar to Bangkok was in many ways a relief. I have explored Bangkok a few times on previous trips and so i was keen to move on quickly and head to Cambodia. The bus picked me up early in the morning and immediately i met an English guy on the bus. We chatted and halfway through the journey we met some Irish girls. The trip wasnt particularly taxing, mostly due to the fact that everyone was in good spirits.
Upon my arrival to Siem Reap we asked a tuc tuc driver to take us to a cheap dorm, we went to two places that were full before giving up and checking into a cheap double room. The next day we elected to hunt for a better place and postpone Angkor Wat, i found a place named 'the siem reap hostel' despite the unimaginative name the place was one of the nicest ive seen. The rooms were comfortable and air conditioned, there was a bar, an indoor pool, pool tables and a movie room. The dorm beds were only 6 dollars per night....a little more than i usually pay, however it was worth it for the atmosphere.
After spending a day doing very little we took a tuc tuc to see Angkor Wat, pretty expensive as far as monuments go, the taxi was 12 dollars split between two and the entrance price was 20. My complaints however were short lived as 10 minutes after arriving I was mesmorised. Travelling around Asia i often bumped into people who told me they werent impressed by Angkor Wat, maily due to the large influx of tourists spoiling the views. After seeing for myself I could not imagine how anyone could leave with negative oppinions....yes there were alot of tourists, in fact, there were thousands. But the architecture and detail of the designs was in my opinion unparrelled by any other temple in Asia.
We decided only to do a one day tour and started the day at Bayon temple, almost every wall was riddled with hand carved art, stones were shaped into faces and the parts of the temple that were fragmented seemed only to highlight the age of the buildings and elevate the impressiveness of the architecture.
From there I headed to elephant terrace and the temple behind it. I am terrible with names but if you are going it has a long bridge with a small lake on either side. Elephant trunks made from stone hung down from platforms the height of an average human. I have no doubt that my novice writing ability and grasp of technical language doesn't appropriately give justice to the temples at Angkor.
We visited various other temples which were covered in huge trees of varying species, i later found out that this was the set for tomb raider. I cant imagine a more fitting environment for a film based around an ancient village. The trees weaved around the temples almost unimaginably, in all honesty i could have oogled at these temples for weeks. There were so many corners unturned and unexplored, 1 day was definitely not enough time.
For the sunset we headed to Angkor Wat, the long bridge across the moat created a build up which did not end in anticlimax. The spiral towers in the centre looked similar to pinecones and rose high above, the detailed art work was not damaged by time as the moat protected Angkor Wat from the surrounding jungle. I found myself daydreaming about how on earth they constructed this 1000 years ago, and why is this not included as a seven wonder of the world?
After a day of temple exploring we headed back and stopped off at a smaller version of the killing fields, there were hundreds of human bones and skulls in a glass cabinet, and to illustrate the scale of the massacres were photos, children, women, men. Everyone.
The pictures were mostly of people just before they were killed, however there were pictures of the act in progress and also of people already killed. I couldnt look and left quickly after. It was the most harrowing thing i have ever seen.
Siem Reap the city is bascically a tourist trap, its hard to find a doorway designed without tourist intentions. However the restaurants are top quality and the people are extraordinarily friendly, after 4 days i hadnt eaten a bad meal, nor had i encountered a rude local. The nightlife was average however being low season my expectations were minimal. Alcohol is cheap here and all in all its a nice place to have a drink and a dance, the only disadvantage is the near constant bombardment of tuc tuc drivers and drug dealers offering drugs and taxis to everyone and anyone.