After yet another less-than-perfect bus journey, we arrivied in Siem Reap at 4am, only 6 hours late thanks to the driver stopping for a nap! With it being so late we had to rely on our bus guide to take us to his friends guesthouse in his own tuk tuk which he promised was very nice, can't realy afford to be fussy at 4am and not sure what's got 24hr reception!! We arrivied at Siem Reap Temple Villa and were pleasantly surprised!! Our room is massive, huge beds, balcony, own bathroom, hot water AND there's a lovely little swimming pool!! Only downside is we're on the 4th floor, so plenty stairs to climb!
We arranged with Nan, our bus guide come tuk-tuk driver, to take us around the temples for a few days and so he came back for us after a few hours sleep. First we went to Angkor Wat. It's just amazing!! Far too hard to describe and do it justice! May is quite a quiet season for tourists so we managed to get good photos without people in the way. As we wandered around, getting loast in the maze of corridoors, it really did feel like we had the place to ourselves at times. We were both amazed that we had free run of the temples, you can basically go wherever you want, climb on the actual temple ruins, go through crooked doorways and sit in ancient window frames!! Not like at home where you would be directed from place to place, unable to put a foot out of line with a sectioned off walkway and probably 3feet between you and any carvings! Made it all the more exciting!
We encountered our first child beggars, which really is heart breaking. They should be at school. However, watching for more than a few minutes you can see the adults in charge, sending them over and watching them. Makes it clear that any money these kids make isn't going to them at all.
We also spent the day at Angkor Thom - the old capital (fortified) city - Where we seen: The terrace of the leper king, terrace of elephants, Baphoun, climbed to the top of Phimeanakas and finished up at Bayon. Bayon was amazing, the faces of Avolokiteshvara are a little bit creepy, but the work that's went into all the carvings is unreal. We then attempted sunset at Phnom Bakheng, but were basically washed back down the hill by a sudden rainstorm and dark grey skies!!
We had a walk around the night market and had our first Khmer bbq for dinner. Where you get a hot plate type thing and cook yourn own meat (we weren't adventurous enough to try crocodile and snake!) whilst creating a noodle and veg soup around the sides. Was really good and great fun!! We had a quick drink in Angkor What? to see what it was like, again great fun! The walls are all graffitti'd and it's a really fun place. We were completely shattered so headed home early for bed!
Up we got at 4.30am for the infamous sunrise at Angkor Wat. Here we found all the tourists that had been missing the day before, poised with their tripods waiting patiently!! Sunrise was cool and very peacefull even with the 300 people alongside us, but would love to see it from the hot air balloon!! After a breakfast stop we had a very busy day of temple visiting. We seen (here we go...): Ta Keo, Banteay Kai, Sra Srang, Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider one), Eastern Mebon, Ta Som, Preah Neak Pean and Preak Khan!! All were completely amazing and all different. Again we felt like the only people there at times, which was fantastic and a relief after sunrise. We had great fun pretending to be Angelina at Ta Prohm with our Doc's on!!
The temples that have been left to the mercy of the elements and nature were our favourites. Crumbling walls with huge twisting tree roots was a spectacular sight. Had a brilliant day, but all that climbing up and down, up and down, up and down all over the temples is very tiring!!
After a much needed disco nap we headed out for a quick dinner and a night out at Angkor What?. We had an almost-lethal bucket of long island iced what? which made the music almost bearable. Everyone was loving it, but after 8 weeks of travelling and only hearing dance tunes, Rhianna, Lady Gaga and 'moves like jagger' it gets a bit annoying! Still we had a great night and enjoyed that there is no curfew in Siem Reap!!
We had a day off from sight seeing and relaxed by our pool for the day. Although it wasn't very sunny, which would have been appreciated the day before when we were 'Lara Crofting' around the temples, but not so great for a tan! (We'll be white forever!!) We wandered around town and around the markets, glad not to be hearing '10 post cards $1, 184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.9.10, 3 bracelets $1, elephant flute $1, magnets $1, anything and everything $1' from the kids at the temples. The markets really do have everything and afterwards we had a nice meal in a very busy Mexican place.
Nan collected us again at 8am and we headed to get a boat to the floating villages, which was a little bit of a rip off but the only way to see them. Our boat driver and guide were great fun and let Laura drive the boat!! The villages are amazing, with houses etc built on bamboo rafts. We visited a school/orphanage (but not before we were herded to a shop to buy them food or water first!) where the kids seemed to be in the classroom with the teacher but didn't appear to be having any sort of lesson... We were at St. Pauls education centre and went to the joined on Chapel (floating, obviously) whilst we were there - so Auntie Peggy, Laura's Gran and Monique will be pleased!! lol. We were then taken to another stop, a crocodile farm we were told, which was just odd. A rather small cage thing with some crocodiles wedged in - not exactly animal friendly! The place also had alot of information boards that were really good and gave alot of info on the river in different seasons and how the villages work. The trip lasted about 2 hours and, other than the price, was very good!
On the way back Nan took us to Wat Khang Phnom Kro, which is a new-ish temple up a rather steep hill. The views from the top were amazing! Could see for miles. The lake, floating villages, fields. It felt like all of Siem Reap was sprawled out infront of us. He then took us to Wat Aotaweao, which isn't in the guide books according to Nan. A late 10th centuary ruin where we were completely alone. A temple all to ourselves!! Had a great time exploring before heading home and saying bye to Nan (who was going straight to work on another bus to be the guide again).
Siem Reap has been amazing, the temples of Angkor just fascinating and the nightlife just as fun!!
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