Siem Reap: Walking in the Footsteps of Kings


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Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap
December 27th 2012
Published: December 31st 2012
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Due to our last minute change of plans, we found ourselves in Phnom Penh again for a night. We coincidentally had the same tuk-tuk driver as the last time we were in PP, Mr. Rrrricky Bobby. After he dropped us off he was super excited when Tyler made him his own facebook page and email address. After catching up with Bobby we settled into our guesthouse and arranged for a bus to Siem Reap the following day. With an early morning ahead of us all we really did was grab some good ol' cheap street food (fried noodles, yum) and call it a night. At 8:00am all five of us were on a bus to Siem Reap.

The bus was great, we had a really nice big bus with real western-sized people seats so it was very comfortable. Since Jaf had arrived the previous day, we were met at the bus station by a waiting tuk-tuk driver holding up a sign for 'Mr. Tiger'. When he dropped us all off we made a deal for him to take us around Angkor Wat the following day. By the time we had sorted that out and found our rooms it was late afternoon. After being on a bus all day we were ready to explore the city. All 6 of us set out heading towards the city centre. We were all sort of hungry and keeping our eyes peeled for something that looked tasty. Jaf and Rebecca saw a fried noodle man walking with his stall and nearly chased him down. We placed our order of 6 fried noodle dishes; he set out 6 stools for us to sit on while he prepared our meals. Then the cops showed up and our fried noodles stall was pushed to the other side of the street. The man said it was okay for us to stay where we were so we continued to wait patiently. The cops meant business though, they were making people move their motorbikes or food stalls, everyone was all over the place and at one point we totally lost view of our noodle man. Once the cops were out of sight everything went back to business as usual and within a few minutes we were all feasting on some yummy fried noodles with egg and vegetable.

We continued to wander around avoiding any bars. Most of us had to be up at 4:30am to get to Angkor Wat for the sunrise; no hangovers allowed. When the sun had set, the night market started to come to life. All of the vendors were setting up their shops of souvenirs, clothes, spices, artwork and everything else. We walked around a bit and bought some “Cambodia wear” from the ladies who were quite amused by our party of people. On our way back to the hotel we got talked into putting our feet in those pools of fish that eat dead skin. Tyler, Jaf and Dan didn't do it but Paul, Avi and Becs did. It was hilarious! The fish biting your feet is a very strange experience, like little tiny suction cups all over. Once the half hour was up we made it back to our hotel without any other interruptions (some people's feet much softer than others).

4:30am is not the ideal time to wake up but when you are going to see an unofficial “8th Wonder of the World” you make an exception. It turned out that Pen our tuk-tuk driver from the day before wasn't actually taking us, he was more like the organizer. We met our guide Vitorn and two drivers and off we went. We got to Angkor Wat at the perfect time, the sun had just started to rise so we got to watch the whole thing. This was Tyler's second time to Angkor Wat, but first time with a guide.

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple and the largest religious monument in the world. It was constructed at the height of the Khmer empire in the late 12th century. The temple was built by King Suryavarman II for the god Vishnu, although it has since been converted into a Buddhist temple. It is THE symbol of Cambodia appearing on their flag, their currency and is the main tourist attraction of the country.

After watching the sun rise we grabbed some breakfast and were taken to Prasat Ta Prohm also known as the Tomb Raider Temple since some of the film with Angelina Jolie was shot there. A lot of the temple was under construction due to restorations going on but we still got to see a lot. There are amazing trees growing in, around and as part of the temple. Vitorn said that most of them are silk trees; that would explain why the tree trunks glimmer in the sunlight. It was really beautiful, especially when we came to an open courtyard that hadn't yet been restored. The courtyard was partially in ruins, partially intact and took us back in time to what the temple may of looked like 800 years ago.

After Prasat Ta Prohm we went to Angkor Thom (the name of the ancient city) and climbed around the Bayon.

The Bayon was constructed in the late 12th or early 13th century for King Jayavarman VII as the official temple of his capital city. The Bayon is most recognized for the massive stone faces carved into the towers which cluster around its central peak. The faces are supposed to be a combination of Jayavarman, Buddha and Vishnu. It appears older and more crumbly than Angkor Wat, supposedly because it was built with less quality materials. To put it into perspective the Bayon took 5 years to complete, while Angkor Wat took 32. With the ancient faces keeping watch over the encroaching jungle, Rebecca said it was her favourite site.

From Bayon Vitorn walked us through more of Angkor Thom. We saw a huge reclined Buddha, walked through some forest, saw where the King had his personal pool and the pool for his 2,000 concubines, and saw where he would pray before getting busy with his selected concubine(s). By this time it was smouldering out, we were all drenched in sweat so we sat down for a break in the shade and had a cold refreshment.

The final temple we had to explore was Angkor Wat itself. Vitorn took us through the hallways telling us the stories of wars that were carved intricately into the walls; he explained how the different levels were only accessible by certain people (e.g. High Priest vs. Commoner); he pointed out the one set of tiny stairs that – are so steep we would have needed mountain climbing equipment to get up it – was only to be used by the Gods. We also ran into a couple of hungry monkeys. When we climbed the stairs to the top Vitorn stayed behind so that we could explore it on our own. The view was beautiful. Most of the landscape is covered in jungle but you can see the temples and pagodas sticking out all over the place. At one point Paul, Ty and Rebecca sat staring out one “window” thinking of what it would have looked like or who would be walking the halls 900 years ago. Sometimes it is fun to go back in time. Hopefully they are able to preserve this wonder so people can continue to come and awe at it's impressiveness. With its several tonne stones so intricately carved and placed, and the complexity of it's architecture, it truly is a wonder of the world.

Getting back to Siem Reap we were all pretty pooped after such an early morning and long day in the sun so most of our party napped for a couple hours before we all got cleaned up and ready for a night on the town. After eating we walked over to Pub Street. Pub Street is a street/area that is full of restaurants, bars, gift/souvenir shops etc. It is a great place to find some cheap beer. The six of us sat at a patio with 50 cent draught beers and people watched. Jaf and Tyler had been here 2 years ago and were fairly disappointed at the lack of tourists. Apparently a couple of years ago the streets were full of vendors and people trying to sell you things; when we were there, we watched a couple of restaurants close at about 9 or 10 and the crowd of people we were expecting later in the night never came. After a while we got pretty bored and decided to move on. The cops have seriously shut down this area. They only let tuk-tuk's on certain roads, there is no parking on the streets, no locals selling anything on the street. Some tourists might prefer the quiet area but it's definitely not the party place it once was. Since we had no idea where to go we started asking tuk-tuk drivers where a good place to drink was. They suggested a hip-hop/reggae bar, but we didn't really want to go to a bumpin' club. We finally decided to go to a beer garden where only the locals drink. There were a few odd glances as we strolled in but no one gave us any grief. As soon as we saw the beer towers at every table we knew we needed one; we ordered two instead. The beer towers became a sort of competition; Jaf, Paul and Ty were on a team while Avi, Dan and Rebecca were on another team – whoever finished the beer tower first wins. What was the prize? We aren't really sure. Rebecca's team won and then we knew it was time to go home. A few of the guys stayed up chatting and listening to music on the balcony while the rest of us went to bed.

The next day was quiet. Paul was rather chipper though, he got up for breakfast and went for a massage while everyone else slept or laid low. Around 3:00 Tyler was ready to leave bed so the two of us grabbed the camera and went to explore a little bit. We walked along the river and wandered through the central market. It was a really nice afternoon alone; since Jaf showed up we have been with a group of people 24/7. For dinner we all ordered delivery (pizza's, burger's, Italian subs) and chilled out for the rest of the day. We also indulged on a 'happy pizza' sort of a Cambodian right of passage before leaving the country the next day.

When it came time to leave, our party had to separate. Jaf, Dan and Avi decided to stay in Siem Reap for a couple of days to volunteer at an orphanage while waiting for their Thai visas, but we had to move on. We left in hopes we would run into them in Bangkok in a few days.

xoxo Ty+Becs


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3rd January 2013

Well you've done it again...
I think I now have to add Cambodia to the (very long) list of travel spots. That looks pretty awesome guys. Especially those pics of Angkor Wat at sunrise...breathtaking! I think I even want to try the fish pedicure! Thanks for keeping us updated on your adventures!!! Happy New Year!!!

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