Goodbye Siem Reap!
After two days in Siem Reap I’m now back in hot Bangkok, sitting in the same internet cafe on busy Khao San Road that I’ve used probably a half dozen times now. While we had planned to originally stay in Siem Reap for three days, we all felt that we had been there long enough and it was time to head south to the beautiful Thai coast.
We arrived in Siem Reap from Sihanoukville very early, around 6 AM. After a couple short hours of sleep we got up to head north to the Angkor region. For those who don’t know, Angkor is a park encompassing a huge number and variety of very old temples. The first we visited was Banteay Srei, a smaller red sandstone temple 37 km north from the rest of the main complex and one of the oldest (10,000 years old). It’s covered in extremely intricate carvings and designs, and we were appropriately awed.
After that we visited the Landmine Museum, which was founded by an ex child soldier named Aki Ra who, after planting thousands of mines in his time as a soldier, has taken it upon himself to clear as many as possible from the country. He estimates he has cleared about 50,000 thus far, and plenty of unexploded mortars, bombs, RPGs, grenades, and incidiaries used by Vietnamese as well as US forces.
After that we headed to Ta Prohm, a temple discovered in 1914 and left to give way to nature. Enormous trees are slowly breaking the stone down, and they grow up and around the crumbling walls in manytimes unlikely ways. It was raining when we were there, which lent the whole exploration a subdued, mystical atmosphere. This was also where a scene from Tomb Raider was filmed, if that interests you. Next was Bayon, one of the newer temples and the second biggest(I think). It is essentially one central tower with smaller ones jutting up around, which gives the temple a cluttered appearance. Each smaller tower possesses a discomforting enormous smiling face on each side, many of which are half crumbling. We ended our day of temples at the famous Angkor Wat, a sprawling complex with outer moat, sprawling outer wall, and of course the tall towers in the center. While the others were impressive due to design as well as character, Angkor awes through size alone.
Our two tuk tuk drivers, who we paid 18 dollars each to drive us from 8 AM to 7 PM, dropped us off back near the night market at Siem Reap where we celebrated Hilary’s birthday with some Mexican food and went shopping. Yesterday two of us got up at 4:30 to make sunrise over Angkor Wat, an endeavor that proved itself to be quite popular with every tourist in the city. A crowd of several hundred gathered around the left-most reflecting pool to capture the quintessential shot, and others (thousands?) milled around throughout the rest of the park grounds. While it wasn’t the personal experience I had hoped for, it was still worth it.
At 9:30 we all made our way out to Roluos, the jetting off point for boat tours through the floating village of Tompong Phluk on the Tonle Sap. The entire village is raised up on very tall stilts, and villagers get from building to building on little canoes. While there were still some dry spots(the main road doesn’t flood till later in the monsoon season), we were able to enjoy a canoe ride through the nearby flooded forest before motoring back to our waiting tuk tuk. I had wanted to catch sunset over Angkor, but was rained out and we ended up hanging out, exhausted, at the guest house for the remainder of the day.
We’re now down to five of us traveling together, and tonight we split once more. I’m still not sure whether I’m flying out in the next two hours to Phuket, card troubles are plaguing one of the group. Three of us will definitely be there one way or another by tomorrow at noon. Talk to you then!