Day of exploration in amazing Angkor

Trip Start Oct 24, 2011
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Trip End Jun 01, 2012


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Friday, November 25, 2011

Well I reached the Cambodian town of Siem Reap yesterday, which will be my base for the next couple of days to explore the ancient capital of the great Khmer Empire, Angkor.

This is a place that I have always wanted to go, one of the great wonders of the world and one with considerable historical significance with awe inspiring temples among the tropical jungle.

First impressions of Siem Reap were good, nice friendly taxi driver, for a change!, from the airport and the town itself quite compact lying along a nice picturesque river. Had booked the "Happy Guesthouse" and it was very much happy, fantastic clean comfortable rooms, on suite, nice friendly chill area where you can meet fellow travellers and all for a ridiculous 3.50 a night. 

Cambodia has had a tumultuous past, the Khmer Empire dates from the 9th Century and many of the great temples still standing today were built in the 12th Century. When the Empire fell in the 15th Century much of the whole area was left buried and forgotten for about 6 centuries. The rise of Communism following the period of French rule in the  mid 1970's and the establishment of the Khmer Rouge under Poi Pot heralded a bitter time in Cambodian history with over 1.5 million people meeting their deaths under their rule.

My driver from the airport gave me a very good sell for a tour of the area which seemed reasonable, however he did turn out to want to sell me more add on’s and take me to places which he was obviously on commission with and continually tell me how he doesn’t like to rip off tourists and gives a very good service without telling me anything about the temples im visiting at all, so more just a driver than a guide.

Our first stop was to Angkor Wat, probably the most spectacular temple complex in the area. Built in the 12 Century, it has a magnificent 5 tower centre with intricate carvings all over the internal walls with panels of Bas reliefs inside the perimeter walls, with the whole area surrounded by a massive moat. The scale of the building has to be seen to be believed, it was truly a wonder. My visit in the morning here was only for an hr so I agreed with my driver to take me back here just before sunset, which was an amazing sight.

My second area to visit was Angkor Thom, this is a massive complex in it’s own right. The centrepiece is The Bayon, an extraordinary structure with around 50 stone towers with mysterious faces carved upon them. The Baphuon was once one of the most grandest of temples and little remains of the original structure but It is still quite a sight, built in the 11 century as a Hindu temple in a spectacular mountain shape. My last port of call in this complex was Terrace of the Elephants, original used as a viewing platform for military purposes it has hundreds of carved elephants on the vast wall.

The Third area to visit, after lunch, was Ta Prohm and probably the most mysterious of all the areas in the Angkor complex. The jungle here has reclaimed the temple in spectacular fashion with temple stone walls smothered in vast crawling tree roots. One of the buildings was used in Tomb raider when Lara Croft appeared from the doorway below the massive tree.

We returned to Angkor Wat in the late afternoon, which allowed me more time to explore this amazing complex as well as see the sun go down over Angkor to end a magical day and one which I shall never forget.

Im only here for 3 days unfortunately, not enough time, and I would love a week here as I love the area so much but I have to get down to Thailand where I have booked some time to relax for a couple of weeks on the wonderful beaches down there.

As for annoyances, well there is still very much hard sell here as it was in Vietnam, tuk tuk drivers lie in wait and haunt every street and I must have said “no” hundreds of times as they all ask if you want one. They also have a very bad habit of clapping their hands, waving and shouting to you and this is one way to get me to just blank them!.  Shopkeepers to wont leave you alone when you enter their store, I have now resorted to telling them if they don’t leave me to look round on my own, I walk out and they soon get the message. It’s also very difficult to walk past a restaurant without being shouted at to please come inside. My rule has been if a don’t get hawked I go in as they are generally doing the best food anyway.  It’s also very sad to see the vast number of handicap kids and adults around trying to sell paintings, books and anything really to the tourists. It would not be so bad if it was just a couple now and again talking to you when you are trying to have a meal or a drink but a new one every minute gets annoying.

So I leave Cambodia knowing I will be back again one day to see this amazing place but looking forward to getting back to Thailand again, not looking forward to the 6 hr stop over in Kuala Lumpa however as it’s a 2 stage flight to Phuket, but at least it allows me time to catch up with the blog.

BTW - more pics will be uploaded soon, very slow connection here in KL airport
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