Ankor Thom

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January 27th 2010
Published: March 14th 2010
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27/1/10: We landed in Cambodia with a hazy dry landscape all around. I was surprised at how flat it was and thought it had more hills. Jacinta tried to spot Angkor Wat from the plane but the visibility was to poor. We went through the visa terminal in a breeze and couldn’t believe the efficiency. We handed our passport to one guy who took our $20USD each for the visas and then the passports all got handed down the line to a team of 15 Cambodians who proceeded to stamp and issue the visas in our passports until they were spat out the other side ready to pick up. I think we were through the whole ordeal in 5mins. As usual the passport stamping took a little longer but our bags had been around the carousel several times by the time we were all stamped. We had to get into town and find accommodation but with the airport only having one company running the transport it was way

overpriced. We saddled up and tried our luck outside the airport knowing that we would find a tuk tuk for half the price. We didn’t even get out the gate before we were noticed by a Cambodian offering his assistance. We are always suspicious of people offering to help and we had our guard up. He offered to call a tuk tuk for us to take us into town and also to help find accommodation of our own choice and budget, so it only cost us $4 USD for our ride into town instead of $10. Travelling towards town there were massive hotels lining the streets and some looked like 5 star accommodation. I realised how many tourist this place must have to be able to support this many hotels. With our budget only $5USD/ day for accommodation the tuk tuk driver showed us The Greentown Guest House. They wanted $7 but we agreed on $6 if we stayed a couple of nights. Our driver also doubled as a means of transport around Angkor Wat. We originally agreed on $5USD/ day but ended up costing $12/day, he would wait for us until we were finished looking around the temple and needed to proceed to the next. This was the best means of getting around and I would highly recommend doing this if you come to see Angkor Wat because it is so massive. We decided to get our driver to pick us up at 4:30 so we could witness the sun set over Angkor. It was worth doing as you can get your 3day ticket when the ticket booth reopens at 5:00pm and the first day will not start until tomorrow. Your ticket is given to you with a photo of yourself from a web cam, very similar to a passport but with poor resolution. This would cut out any possible way to counterfeit a ticket and as we would later find out we were asked for our ticket twice before entering every Wat. From Siam Riep Angkor was only 7km and when we caught our first glimpse of the mighty Angkor we couldn’t believe the size. We drove straight past to reach our drop off point and I think half of Siam Reap came to watch the sun go down over Angkor. We walked the 800m or so up to the top of the hill and got close to our first ruins, there was a temple located on top of the hill called West Mebon and being our first temple proceeded to take hundreds of detail photos that I later deleted after seeing better temples. 2000 people all tried to get the best vantage point for that special photo. I managed to work my way around the crowd until the sun started to glow more and more orange. At its peak the sun looked like a florescent round globe trying to light up the smoke filled sky. It only lasted 5min before disappearing behind the thick blanket. We had to wait unit everyone cleared the temple before it was our turn to get down the steep steps. I was satisfied we had got some good shots of the sun but upset that we couldn’t include Angkor in them because of the orientation.
We had the driver drop us off at the old markets so we could look around and have something to eat. The market was filled with tons of cool stuff and it wouldn’t be hard to fill the house with brass, wood and resin carvings, paintings, statues and moulds. They also had a lot of jewellery and scarfs that Jacinta was tempted to buy. We ordered Kymer food for dinner but didn’t think too much of the taste and walk back to our hotel ready for a big day tomorrow.

28/1/10: Our journey started at 7:30 and we hopped into our tuk tuk for the leisurely ride to our first temple. Not knowing too much about the layout of Angkor we left it up to the driver to take us to the temples he recommended seeing first.
Our first temple was The Bayon located at Angkor Thom and this was my most favourite temple apart from Angkor Wat. First glimpse of the temple took our breath away and instantly you became your own archaeologist exploring the ruins which almost made you feel like a child again. It’s hard to explain every little detail so you just let the camera do the explaining for you. The Bayon is the faces carved in the sandstone which faced four directions around the stupa. We walked through rooms and alley ways having to remind ourselves to slow down and actually take time to look around and soak it all in. I found myself not giving some of the carvings and rooms the time they deserved and this was the only time that the grass was actually greener on the other side with something more exciting and interesting with every turn. We carried on after spending 2 ½ hours looking around and proceeded to walk to the next three temples located just next door to the Bayon in Angkor Thom. We walked to Baphuon first that looked similar to a Pyramid with its top cut off and steep stairs leading up on each side.

We were ambushed by touts and once they latched onto you there was nothing you could say or do for the next ten minutes until they gave up. They hung beside you repeatedly saying “you buy you buy something from me” this would carry on as they repeated there price which somehow magically drops by 5X from the first price. If that didn’t work then they would give you a guilty feeling and work your conscience for awhile saying stuff like “you buy please so I can go to school” or my favourite “I need the money for my hungry sister.” At first this hits you like a ton of bricks and is very confronting but once you have heard it from every tout then it goes in one ear and out the other. I found the worse one to be when Jacinta was greeted by a young man and she somehow got caught up in a well rehearsed conversation. It usual starts by them talking about the history of the temple and what part you are actually looking at, this follows by where do you come from and before long you are talking about his rundown school in their village that needs funding for the children. They are more than happy to take a huge cash donation but when asked if Jacinta could go out to see the village and help out he insisted on cash. He kept asking for money and Jacinta kept saying “Iwant to see the school” until it was more convenient for him to not understand English anymore and left. I witnessed all this from a distance and sniggered wondering how Jacinta would handle the situation she had got herself into. When finished she immediately came over and said why didn’t you save me? I laughed. On a later temple I witnessed a young girl aged 8-9 holding a little baby as her ammunition. Her prey was a Japanese man and she latch onto him like a leach asking for food even though the man was only carrying a camera, it was clear she just wanted money. I watched curiously to know how far she would walk and pestered him, I lost interest after 200m.
Feeling tired after just these two temples we carried onto Preah Palilay and then Suor Proat and then hopped into the tuk tuk to go to Ta Kev and finish off with Ta Phrom. Ta Phrom was featured in the film Tomb Raider and it has massive jungle trees growing through the temple. It’s beautiful but being small and narrow it was hard to get great photos from all the tourist in the way. By the end of this temple I was absolutely stuffed and I had no energy at all. I would later find out that this was the start of 3-4 days of being sick. Jacinta wanted to look at the handy craft market next to the museum and being close to our guesthouse we thought we would go and have a look. It was time to pay the tuk tuk driver our agreed price of $2USD to take us out to the sunset and $5USD/ day after that. We gave him the right money but looked confused, He said $12USD not $5. Jacinta and I had both heard him say $5USD several times but he insisted it was $12 and maybe there was confusion with the accent. We were both totally pissed off because he didn’t stick to the agreed price but also we had a feeling of maybe we got it wrong? He was very polite about the whole thing so we paid what he wanted and got his mobile number and said don’t call us we will call you. This left us with no money to see the museum and a sour taste in our mouths. We latter found out that $12USD was the going rate and were happy to have paid that knowing that we didn’t get ripped off.

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