Day 5: Siem Reap and Angkor

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April 9th 2014
Published: June 2nd 2014
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4:30AM wakeup for my sunrise trip to the Temples. I had given a headsup to the Dutch ladies that I would be waking them. I skipped a shower because I would have to shower when I got back anyway. I was using the same Tuk Tuk driver as yesterday and he competently drove me to the ticket location. It costs $20 for a 1 day pass or $40 for a 3 day pass. My parents are both Cambodian so I have technical Cambodian citizenship but the lady at the ticket window refused to recognize my claim. DAMN DAMN DAMN. Ok enough of that, I paid the $20 and was on my way. It took about 30 minutes or so to get to the Angkor Wat temple from my hostel.

The Temple is almost 1000 years old and has a reflecting pool in front it. I went for the early morning viewing because I wanted to see the sunrise and I figured it would be less crowded. The sunrise view over Angkor Wat is beautiful but it was very crowded even in the morning. I took my pictures of the sunrise and went to a nearby restaurant. There are locals around who go up to tourists and offering them meals.

I sat down at one of the tables and could see it was setup for western tourists as I was sitting at the Harry Potter table 😊. I had fried rice with pork because I was not really sure about how good the western breakfast would be. It was a bit more expensive than I was expecting, $8 dollars American. Likely the reason it was so expensive was because they have a monopoly over the tourists.

I did a full circuit of the temples and I was impressed so much of it has survived over the centuries. Even the wall art had survived quite well. I did notice where thieves had cut off heads of statues and other artifacts. This made me sad because the temple have survived a thousand years just to have someone steal pieces of it for profit 😞.

There are a few things for tourists as well including a horse that you can feed for 1 dollar and I was told you can sit on the horse but I didn't bother with it. After buying some postcards from a small child who offered it. Buying from children does create a dilemma for a lot of travelers because you want children to be in school but it is hard to say no to children. Any case I did buy 10 postcards for $1 American.

I went back to my tuk tuk and went to the next temple which is built near a causeway and has monkeys climbing around. I wanted to feed the monkeys I saw but none came close enough for me to feed. They were quite adorable too with small babies clinging to their mothers. I found out later if you go later in the day they do come down for food but it was so early they were still resting themselves. I was starting to feel the heat by that point even thought it was only 9AM. It was going to be a hot day and I was sweating like crazy. I got back on the Tuk Tuk and went to the next temple.

Bayan Temple is the temple with all the faces. I was sweating badly and there were no vendors selling water nearby so I was stuck. I was not feeling well but I wanted to finish the temples. In my weaken state I made a classic tourist mistake. I accepted a volunteer tour guide who offered to show me around. I will say my volunteer tour guide was quite knowledgeable and spoke quite good English. He apparently had been working on the restoration work in the temples and started to do tours when that work ran out. He showed me way around the Bayon temple and I did get a better tour than I would have if I wandered around alone. At the end of it he did ask for $25 American. I though this was a bit excessive but he put on a sob story about his family and how he was trying to go to school. In the end I reluctantly gave him what he asked.

Advice to all tourists, never accept a volunteer tour guide even if they don't mention any kind of payment at the beginning. After leaving Bayan I went and got back on my tuk tuk and went to the next temple. This was the one I wanted to see the most. I refer to it as the Tomb Raider Temple after the movie but its real name is Ta Prohm. It is a large temple and takes a fair amount of time to walk through. I got stuck behind this English tour group who were filling the walkway. I ended up walking with them for a while and I got a good education about the temples from their guide, free of charge 😊.

My favourite part of the temple was the giant tree that has literally become part of the temple. It was a funny feeling walking through the temple where the movie Tomb Raider was shot. After maneuvering past the large English group I made my way to the exit. It was only about 11AM but I was suffering badly under the sun and decided to head back to the hostel. My tuk tuk driver who was quite competent maneuvering around the various other tuk tuks and tourist vehicles got me back to the hostel in good time and I happily paid him the $20 fee.

As always after a hot day I took a long cold shower followed by a long nap after I dried off. I was woken up by house cleaning around 1PM. I went downstairs and sat at the bar. They served full meals at the bar so I ordered a burger and fries along with my Anchor beer. Yes that is the name of the beer they served at the bar. The beer is quite good but the burger was not good. The meat itself was fairly low quality and this likely due to the fact beef cattle in Cambodia is usually old animals.

I chatted with some of the other people in the bar and for the first time since I started traveling I met someone from Toronto Canada. It is strange that I have traveled for years and have not met anyone from Canada's largest city. Her name was Georgia and she had recently quit her real estate job to go traveling. I always respect people who are able to throw away everything and go traveling. I debated to wander around pub street but I was told it was very touristy because of the number of tourists which far outnumber the locals. So I stayed at the bar and chatted with people who were mostly from Europe and were heading in various directions. For the people going to Bangkok I gave them some advise and I got some advise for my next stop at Phnom Penh.

I went back upstairs to my hostel and met my new roommates a German guy, A English man and an English woman. Aside from the lack of Aussies it was a standard hostel room setup. I will say the English woman who was named Jasmine was one of the most interesting people I have met traveling. She has seen a lot more of the world than I have and owns her own business back home in England. We exchanged various stories about our travels and talked about ourselves and our homes before she headed out for her next tour. She had booked a full tour guide who also happened to be a retired Cambodian general. I won't put down everything about the general but he was an interesting person as well.

For the rest of the evening I had nothing else plan but I saw they were playing Tomb Raider in the movie room so I headed there. I enjoy irony so that is why I went to see this movie again. It is one of my favourite movies and I enjoyed seeing the temples in it where I had just been. That is one of the reasons I travel so that I can watch scenes from televisions and movies and say I was there as well 😊.

After the movie I was tired enough to go sleep so I went back to my room and chatted a bit more with my roommates. Soon enough it was time to sleep because I had an early morning van ride to Phnom Penh.

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