Day 17 - Angkor Wat

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February 3rd 2018
Published: February 3rd 2018
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Today is the first of our two dedicated Temple Days - otherwise why come to Siem Reap? We booked the short trip to Angkor Wat with our hotel by Tuk Tuk, half day USD20 excluding the passes at USD37 for one day, Or USD63pp for three days. As the temple possibilities are huge, we agree to get a three day pass.

The media universally recommended the Sunrise tour, involving an 04.45am departure by Tuk-Tuk. We reluctantly agree, although Leo has deep reservations. We set the alarm and present ourselves at the front desk at 04.35am. There is a young desk clerk who asks our room no which we give , he supplies us with our pre-ordered stirofoam packed breakfast. All the other guests leave by their designated Tuk Tuk's, but not a driver for Room 101. We observe a worried Desk clerk check and recheck his computer. Disaster, we are not on his Tuk Tuk list, although being on the early breakfast take away list. Around 20minutes later, he stirs a local driver with no English, who is told to get us there 'fast, fast, fast'. and off we go.

He does as told at break neck speed. To catch the Sunrise, we overtake countless fellow visitors. After about 20 minutes Leo comments on seeing a sign say Ticket Booths 3 km, at a right hand junction, we carry on straight. Five minutes later we reach the entry booths. Elated, we note no queues or congestion, fantastic, we are ahead of the game! The gate guard asks for our tickets?. Here we go, egg-shaped! We have to turn around and go all the way back to the junction sign from there about 5 km later we reach the payment building/ticket booth.

As by now we are very late , the process is quick and 10 minutes later minus USD126 we are on our way back to Gate Guards. Through quickly, we then have another 10 minutes to reach the drop off point. At this point we are feeling quite stressed, which is not quite what we expected, and once parked near the site, we race off, having checked with our driver Koon, when we will meet later, he says '2' which we take to be 2pm. (We later realise he means to see us in 2 hours time) Following the masses towards our target, Angkor Wat, we stumble in the dark over steps, stairways and lake pontoons and only thanks to fellow visitors with torches, manage to avoid disastrous trip ups. Walking along the Central walk way, we have a a right or left option to approach the ponds that apparently give the Sunrise spectacular, we choose right.

Hundreds and hundreds of people , I phones/ Pads/ Cameras in hand awaiting the Sunrise. Leo comments our pond is more like a muddy puddle. We wait, and wait, until at about 0630 it started to get light, but pollution and cloud meant there was really bugger all to see other than faint dark outlines. We decide to beat the crowd and move into the complex proper. It is very difficult to negotiate as the steps are for small Asian feet probably 6 inches wide. Because of this they have overlaid wooded steps on the major routes. We go to one of the inner sanctums and decide this is a nice spot to sit and eat our breakfast in privacy. How hilarious, as we unwrap our baguette and hard boiled egg, we realised that hundreds and hundreds of 'Watters' are all around us, taking photos and posing , most bizarre, we sit and giggled until our stomachs hurt then abandoned our picnic and followed the masses once again. We decided not to join the queue for the upper Central Sanctuary, partly as Paula baulked at the steep staircase, not so much as getting up, but getting back down! Not to mention Leo's hatred of queueing. So we wander elsewhere, away from the hordes and happily do our own thing for an hour.

Eventually, Leo needs a loo so we finally find them, and we have to say other than in desperation you would not use any of these facilities. Given the money this site generates for Cambodia, they are appalling. However this call of nature has its benefits as by the time Leo re-emerges, the Sun finally starts to appear, around 0715. We rush to what was the left side of the site where there is a beautiful lily pond, in time to see the Wat in all its glory, two of probably only 100 lucky tourists, thousands of others missing the spectacular completely. Feeling euphoric, we wander and manage to spend another 2hours before wanting to leave and head off towards Tuk-Tuk car park, hoping desperately that Koon may be there to take us back to our hotel, and yes, a rapturous reunion, and 20minutes later we are back at hotel and enjoying fantastic breakfast and cups of wonderful coffee!

We would say that three hours is adequate for Angkor Wat, however fantastic, unless adding further sites to your tour. Enough for us today. Wandering into the Old Town in the afternoon, we enjoyed viewing the King's residence, and in the public park beyond, we saw the appalling stalls selling birds for food, exotic and song birds, which bearing mind we live in Cyprus, maybe we cannot be too judgmental. But these cages even contained Love Birds, very sad. We could have bought terrapins too all in close proximity to Royal Residencies. Given their history, protein when in scarce supply during the war years, and starvation a reality. Who are we to judge after all? Another enlightening day tomorrow, early night. Hopefully less dramatic start that today's excursion.

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