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Published: August 17th 2012
Angkor Wat has been labeled as the 8th ancient wonder of the world and after visiting it is clear why. While I was a little skeptical that it was just going to be more ruins and temples, which I have seen endlessly on my trek through SE Asia, I was pleasantly surprised and a little overwhelmed by just how impressive these places were. I say these places because Angkor Wat is just one (and probably the most famous) of many different temples in an area that covers 400 sq km. The temples were used as capitals of former Khmer empires and most were built around the 12th century.
People who are temple fanatics spend spend days at the sites because there is so much to see. But I can really only see so many temples before I get rather templed out. So my Japanese friend and I opted for a one day tour ($20 for a one day pass was a bit steep if you ask me) and found another professor from south korea that we had met on the bus from Phnom Phen to join us. A very nice lady in her mid-40s (by my guess) she
was what I would call a typical Asian tourist who wants her picture in front of everything that has the slightest makings of a picture spot but was also a very efficient tourist who saw what there was to see and then sped along. Jun and I didn't mind this at all and actually had to hustle to keep up with her at times.
A tuk tuk for the day that would take us all around the sites, wait for us, and then take us to the next one cost $15 total. A tuk tuk is a must if you are going to see all there is to see. We did the mini tour which included the temples at Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm and this took about 4-5 hours in total. Many people choose to see Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset, but it was very cloudy and slightly rainy in the morning so we opted not to do the sunrise. And it was so hot out (by far one of the muggiest days of my trip yet) there was no way we were going to hang out the until sunset. Instead, we enjoyed
what we saw of the temples and considered it a success that we avoided many of the crowds by doing the loop backwards.
We were back to the hostel by mid afternoon and decided to do another mini excursion to a river village built of stilt houses. These villages are built along rivers that flood huge amounts during the rainy season, so they build their houses on massive stilts so their houses won't float away every year. It was pretty cool to see, but unfortunately the particular village we went to see has been turned into such a tourist attraction that the whole experience was a little tainted. The really expensive river cruise ticket is what made me most annoyed because it wasn't at all in proportion with any of the other attractions in the country. I did enjoy, however, the ride out to the village. It took about an hour through more small towns and villages along what they call roads that consisted of really thick mud from the river. Several motorbikes were spinning out or stuck along the way. It was cool to see more rural Cambodian life even if it was passing by us
from our tuk tuk.
Siem Reap itself is a town built totally to cater to the masses of tourist visiting Angkor Wat. Tons of western style restaurants and bars, and lots of English spoken which make it easy to get around. Prices were a little more here than in Phnom Phen, but still very reasonable. Jun and I enjoyed spending the evenings along the main street with the bars and watching the action below and enjoying the cheap drinks at night.
Cambodia was my last country to visit in SE Asia. I spent the following day traveling by bus and mini van back to Bangkok where spent one night before catching an evening flight to China. SE Asia was unbelievable and it amazes me how quickly 5 weeks passes. I visited and experienced many places but had to skip so many more. Yet, in doing so, to just gives me an excuse to come back which I definitely plan to do. Even if just for a couple weeks at a time in the future, you could do that for a lifetime and still not see all that SE Asia as to offer. I've gotten
Looking out from inside Angkor Wat
This is how I look in a picture on a incredibly hot and muggy day after climbing a ton of stairs and being surrounded by pushy Chinese (I think) tourist on either side of me waiting to take their picture
a good flavor of it and can't wait until my next visit. A few random things, thoughts, and phrases that come to mind to sum up my time in SE Asia include:
- Tuk tuk's and "do you want a tuk tuk"
- street and night markets
- "ok special price for you"
- unbelievably crazy traffic
- spicy food
- noodles, noodles and more noddles
- negotiating prices
- hand written paper tickets
- "big Buddha"
- "special massage" offers... Or my favorite name for them in Vietnam "boom boom massage"
- sweaty all day, every day
- so many European travelers
- no shoes inside (I wore sandals every single day here)
- street food and crazy smells
- small streets and alleys
- warm and kind people
But now on to a different beast: China!
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