Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
39Trip End Ongoing
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We were met at the boat landing by what seemed like hundreds of pushy, yelling moto drivers (motorbike/scooters = moto) and we basically had to grab two and go for it, as the longer you stand around deliberating, the more and more people crowd around you with such a sense of urgency and desparation. Our moto drivers were named Thip and Fresh (pronounced 'Frez') - not his real name, but that's what everyone calls him
We got up at the ungodly hour of 4.30am on our first day so we could watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, the enormous, main temple complex (the one on all the postcards). Arriving in the dark to see the huge imposing complex in dark shadows was an amazing experience and well worth getting up so early to see. Once the sun rose you could see Angkor Wat reflected in a large pool of water making for a great photo opportunity. We went from temple to temple, exploring and climbing up really step stone stairs in many to reach the top. Highlights included the Bayon which has huge carved stone faces, and Ta Prohm which was been overtaken by the jungle with huge tree roots swallowing the ruins.
We went to all the main sites and many of the smaller ones, each unique and majestic in their own right - some with steep towers, some surrounded by moats and each with a different story to tell. Most ruins are from the 9th-12th century from when Angkor was the capital of the Khmer empire
There are lots of little kids selling postcards and small instruments and they are pretty relentless. They all have their well rehearsed lines of, 'if you buy you buy from me, I will remember you' when 10 of their friends are jostling around you saying the exact same thing, and, 'if I tell you your country's capital, will you buy?' and the worst being, 'if you don't buy from me I will cry!'. They obviously really need the money and are trying so hard, and you feel quite mean saying no to most of them, but I really think our two packs of 10 postcards were enough!!
One of the more sobering things we encountered (on our last day, heading out to some more remote temples, the Roulos Group), was a bus accident which must have just happened. There were three (local) people lying dead on the road in large pools of blood, a woman and two small children. It looked as though a bus must have hit them as they were crossing the road. There were a lot of local people standing around and it was a really bizarre thing to see as there were no displays of emotion and no attempts to cover the bodies (I think they had to wait for the police to arrive as we passed some heading towards the scene)
We ended up going out with them last night after our final day around Angkor - after an offer of 'do you want to try Cambodian wine?' we were a bit sceptical, especially when on the back of their bikes we started heading out of town in the pitch black dark on a quiet road. We actually ended up at a busy, family run, makeshift karaoke restaurant in someone's front yard where we shared a claypot of soup on a gas burner. It had noodles and mint leaves and beef (I think, who knows?!) but unfortunately had unidentifiable bits of offal which we accidently ate thinking at first they were mushrooms or something!!! The 'wine' ended up being some kind of whiskey made from palm trees but it wasn't as potent as you'd expect, we all dranks shots of it mixed with Coke! The joke of the night was that we were joined by their friends, who on our first day in Siem Reap were two other moto drivers who jumped on our boat and tried to carry our bags away so we'd go with them. We thought they were so scary and dodgy so we went with Thip and Fresh instead, and here we were out with them a few nights later! It really helped us understand the way things are done here - not that you can trust everyone but some of the people pouncing at you really just need the business and are nice people after all!