Siem Reap

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December 31st 2007
Published: January 1st 2008
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After spending the afternoon on arrival around the pool we thought we had better get on and do some sightseeing. Hired a tuk tuk for the day $15 for the 3 of us (but I think price same regardless). Driver was lovely and very helpful. First stop Angkor Wat - very impressive entry, the moat around it is so huge it makes English moats look like puddles. Hard to imagine how many people and time it would have taken to dig. I had not realised how large the whole thing is, Angkor Wat itself covers an area of about 1 sq km and is the largest religeous structure in the world. It is amazingly well preserved and there is also work going on to restore the worst bits and also to bring back the carvings to a better state. Would help if people travelling did not keep reaching over the rope to touch them.......
The outside square is jungle and going early before too many tour buses was so peaceful and very beautiful. Only downside is the sellers are a little more hassle here - not bad though, if you keep saying no they give up fairly quickly.

Next to Angkor Thom, Bayon and the elephant walk. This is quite different, being Budhist rather than Hindu. This is smaller but just as fascinating. When we had finished wandering we all realised that none of us remembered the nuber of the tuk tuk, what colour the seats were or the bike. There are a lot parked here and it took us a while to work it out. Obviously we need someone who is more visual!!!

Lunch here and then on to Chau Say Tevoda where 2 locals were restoring parts of the carving. It looked like painstaking work and in the heat of the day, but it really showed up how stunning the carvings once were. Next to Ta Keo which is very run down with blocks of stone and walls going in all directions. It is an incredibly tall building, almost like Egyptian pyramids. There were notices everywhere saying it was dangerous and we certainly were not going to climb on it but of course a few were - some even right at the top.

The hardest thing with any of the temple climbs is the stairs, they are narrower in places than the width of my feet and also very steep. Makes coming down very interesting.

Next to Ta Prohm - the famous tree covered temple. Absolutely wonderful and the favourite of us all. A guide attached himself to us, and although he did not really speak English he was invaluable and he showed us lots of hidden carvings and interesting nooks and cranny's. Well worth the 2US.

Last for the day was Bateay Kdei - by this time we were pretty tired after lots of walking in the heat. This one was pretty but nothing outstanding, so back to the hotel and the pool. Bliss, very relaxing and cooling and we spent a couple of hours just swimming and reading.

Not being able to make up our minds about the next day we decided to give the temples a miss and try and sort out a trip to the bird sanctuary and do some other bits and pieces. Not a successful day, could not work out about bird sanctuary so that is now off the agenda. Took a tuk tuk to Landmine museum but he did not take us there but to a war museum which we did not go in as had read it was not much good. Most of the day in the pool and socialising with a fun bunch of aussies and americans that we met. Did actually get round to organising taxi for the next day though.

Early start, no breakfast as it is apparently a long day - 200km round trip on rough roads.

In the end not that long a day 7am till 3.45am and roads not that bad - they have obviously not driven on outback roads in Australia. Driver took us first to Banteay Srei which has the most preserved and intricate carvings. Most people leave for these trips at 8am, so by leaving earlier we missed the bus tours at every stop - Real blessing.

On to Kabal Steen which is a hike up the mountainside to river carvings. Stunning scenery, very peaceful and we are really glad that we did this early in the day as it was steep and hard in places. Would have been not much fun in the heat of the day. We all loved this one and it is amazing how they managed to do all the carvings underwater. On the way here we had passed the landmine museum (too early to be open) and realised it was miles out of the city amd also that it was in the park. As this was our last pass day we now could not see that now. One of the places we had wanted to visit was a conservation park but had not been able to find out where it was. It was actually right next to Kabal Steen and we thought we would make the opportunity and visit that but it was closed on Sundays.....

Last for the day a long ride to Beng Mealea, a temple of similar size to Angkor wat but a ruin and still covered by jungle. This was most probably the highlight of all the temples. Again a guide attached himself to us but again it was well worth it, he took us over the fallen stones and down into dark corridors/tunnels. Real Indiana Jones stuff. You could almost imagine how scary it would be to have been the first to discover it.

One more day in Siem Reap, we will go down to the floating villages. Stay tuned for that in the next blog.

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