Published: July 23rd 2012July 23rd 2012
Despite the revelation about the Tuk Tuk driver; we had already decided the best way to see the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom temple complexes was by Tuk Tuk. Other people were hiring bicycles to get themselves around, but because of the 35C temperatures neither of us was up for that.
You have to pay to enter the region where the temples are located, the princely sum of 40 USD for a three day pass that grants you entry to the Angkor temples and a few much further afield. Once we’d bought our passes we were off to see Angkor Wat, which is the largest single religious site in the world. The temple itself isn’t as big as a lot of the large European cathedrals say, but the temple is located in sprawling grounds with all manner of moats and other much smaller structures. The temple itself is a hugely impressive sight, originally dedicated to the Hindu faith and later Buddhism it’s a bit of a hotch potch of carvings, sculptures and statues. Great start for Rach, as despite wearing long shorts and bringing a shawl to cover her shoulders, she was not allowed in the
central part of the temple, frustrating to say the least! this luckily was not a problem anywhere else!
We spent a few hours wandering around its many levels before moving on to see the Angkor Thom temple complex. Essentially a walled and gated city housing around 15 individual temples and a couple of terraces thrown in for good measure. The best of these was the Bayon temple, with 57 towers with the four faces of tower being carved with the face of a Hindu god. A bit of an astonishing sight as you come out of dense woodland and it appears. As part of our little tour we saw all of the main temples; all seemed to fit into two categories, ones which had tiers or levels and those which were all on one level but sprawled for up to half a mile in some cases.
As I mentioned above there were also some temples further afield and on the 2nd and 3rd days we decided to go and see them. The most impressive was Banteay Srei, a temple constructed about 1000 years ago, similar to all of the other
Angkor temples. Constructed out of a pink rock and with some fantastic carvings it was pretty special. The journey out to these temples was fantastic, through some really small villages and we got to see some real Cambodian life! (and 3 live pigs strapped to the back of a scooter!!....note to self, there is nothing that cannot be carried on a scooter!)
There were a few sour notes about the temples, mostly due to the people selling tat to foreigners. They would ask you to buy something and if you said no would follow you around chirping at you to buy something. Tiring work having people follow you around all day. We also learned not to take anything from anyone, as on entering the first temple, we were handed some incense sticks, which we took, thinking it was part of entering the temple, only to be told we owed them money! And that if anyone approaches you trying to give you information about the temple, however friendly and innocent they seem, they are going to ask for money! The other bit that annoyed us both was when we decided to have lunch; we were yet again sold
on by the Tuk Tuk driver to one of his friends. We assumed he got his lunch for free as part of the deal.
In the afternoon of the third day we were encouraged by the Tuk Tuk driver to go and take a boat ride to a floating village on the great lake of Tonle Sap. It ended up not being a great experience and soured things for us a bit. After a half hour journey there, we paid 23 USD each for the privilege of which we found out that only 2 dollars went to the people on the boat. The rest goes to the Cambodian government. If you ever happen to be in Siem Reap, don’t bother with the floating village. Made even better by the boat driver deciding he wanted to take us to the school for orphan children, before which he took us to a floating shop where he said we must buy them a present, not many ways out when on a boat!
Siem Reap itself only really exists because of the temples and the tourists they attract. Because of this it’s more of a resort than a
town in its own right. It’s a nice enough little place but there’s nothing really there other than the bars and restaurants. It was fairly surprising how open the locals were about having one price for locals and one price for foreigners. On the wall of one café was a price for “Khmers” and one for “Foreign”. We didn’t go there.
The town itself is a big party place for westerners with two main streets, one full of restaurants and one full of bars ("pub street") lots of cheap drinks offers and late night partying, and we finally managed to meet some people. We are finding it is not so easy getting to talk to people when in a couple!
We were really impressed by the temples, absolutely stunning. Just stick your ear plugs in and ignore the tat sellers.
There are more photos below