Day 70, Pt.1: Camera Vs. Monsoon @ Angkor Thom

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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Trip End Aug 19, 2008


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Following a $1 breakfast buffet of unlimited cereal, toast, fruit, and tea, we headed off to the nearest bicycle renter & ATM, both of which were conveniently next door to one another. The ATM was difficult to find, being somewhere inside Siem Reap's indoor mall, tiny by our standards but a mall nonetheless and a symbol of the main wealth difference between Nepal & Cambodia. Unlike Nepal, there are visible signs of foreign investment here and big money floating around (whereas it was pretty clear nobody had money in Nepal.) Also, as with any Western country the mall was a clear favorite hangout spot of all the local school-aged kids, who I guess were either off school that day or didn't go to begin with. Jeff asked around and after some sign language, misunderstanding, and broken English was able to find the ATM on the 3rd floor. "How do you know it's up there?" "See the reflection in that glass?" (Jeff points to a barely decipherable reflection of an ATM sign on a random obscure piece of plexiglass far above us) Jeff was bitten by a radioactive spider whilst in Taiwan and was instilled with superhuman eyesight.

In Pokhara I rented the world's crappiest bike. The bikes here were the world's second crappiest but got the job done, though Jeff's had a working bike bell & mine didn't thus prompting much jealousy from me. We set off on our daylong ride and within fifteen minutes were at the entrance to the temples area. The park workers had to take our picture for the ticket, both of ours turned out silly looking. As we biked toward the beginning of the "grand tour" loop, a motorcycle whizzed by with two whole pig carcasses roped to its back & kind of bouncing up and down as the bike rumbled down the bumpy road. "Did you just see that??" "WTF hahaha" etc. A right turn and fifteen minutes of pedaling led us to the first of many temples scattered around the countryside and a dozen or so of the most impressive on the larger loop. It was nice but a mere lump of dust compared to some of the buildings we'd see in the ensuing seven hours. Over the rest of the early afternoon, we biked around from temple to temple, each one growing larger and more impressive than the next. It got to the point where we were saying to each other: if these are the "small" ones, what'll Angkor Wat itself going to be like? The excitement was building fast.

My camera began to act up while climbing around what turned out to be the largest of the outer temples, prompting me to ask Jeff if I could transfer my memory card to his camera for a bit. Not sure if it was compatible, he opened up the card door on his camera, tapped his card to eject it, and BLOOP... it shot out and flew a couple feet into the air. We both watched in horror as it bounced onto the ground, fearing it would fall off the edge and land in some inaccessible corner of the ruins. It instead by some freak luck/unluck landed deep inside a crack between two of the boulder-bricks forming the floor, a crevice too narrow to simply reach in and pluck it out. We made slight fools of ourselves over the next fifteen-odd minutes as we used every twig like tool in our possession, mainly the wristband of Jeff's watch, to try and push it along into a more accessible corner of the crack. The stakes were high, some of the pictures on Jeff's memory card were irretakable and with mine nearly full, we'd basically not have a camera for the rest of the foreseeable future if Jeff's was disabled. Thankfully a nearby tourist found the perfect tool (and actual twig instead of a twig-substitute) and we were able to get the card out, fhew. A goofy twenty minutes, it was.

At the end of the bike loop, following a $4 purchase of a bootlegged photocopy of the Cambodia Lonely Planet book, was the ancient city of Angkor Thom and just beyond it, Angkor Wat itself. The weather rapidly turned foul by this point, erupting in one of the fiercest rainstorms I'd seen. The water was coming down so furiously that both of us had to pull over to the side and stop biking because our contacts were literally being bombarded out of our eyes. We took refuge in an epic setting, underneath one of the immense stone gates of Angkor Thom along with a half dozen smiley locals. While the rain might sound like it sucked, it offered two priceless benefits: the murky sky would make the grand finale that much more atmospheric, and the water would chase most of the other tourists away. It was a substantial blessing in disguise.

After a moderate wait and tamer rain, we continued on our way into the ancient city... only to be thwarted again by the rain changing its mind and resuming its former temper tantrum. The grounds were starting to flood, neither of us was wearing rain gear (it was blazing hot earlier in the morning), and we struggled to find new shelter. I noticed an abandoned steel canopy of some sort off to the side of the road, but Jeff (who was in front) whizzed right past it and instead toward a shelter-less temple wall.

"Jeff! That thing doesn't even have a roof, where are you going!?"
"Ahhh I don't know!!" came the agonized mind-blown response.
Chuckling, we biked back onto the road, I nearly got hit by a stampede of scooters but survived, and flocked to the random steel canopy. Here we waited, and waited... drenched from head to toe and overwhelmed (in a good way) by the sheer scale of this park, for the weather to give us a break. Three casualties were sustained. The pirated LP book I'd bought proved less waterproof than an official copy and practically disintegrated from the pounding of the rain, and my beloved Nikon Coolpix, which had survived the OCRC kids, Sushaan and the wrath of a feisty gibbon, finally gave up on life. Not to worry though, Jeff's camera is still kicking and will capture the rest of the trip. The third casualty was the true tragedy. Since he had rolled in his sleeves to combat the unreal humidity, Jeff's upper arms were left vulnerable to the rain's pounding. This had the effect of washing away his deodorant, something I didn't alert him about but can totally make fun of here because he'll probably never read this. So yeah Jeff was stinky for the rest of the evening, neener neener neener.



By about 4pm we were able to continue on our way. We first poked our heads out of the eastern gate to check out another outer temple, then back in to see Angkor Thom's main central monument. It was named the "Bayon" and was a grouping of a dozen stone turrets covered in large carved faces of Emperor Chingpangdongpingwangdingding. It was one of the most impressive feats of construction I'd ever seen, not that I've seen that many ancient ruins to compare it to. In fact, the only ruin more impressive than it was probably Angkor Wat itself, which we reached a half hour later. As predicted, the rain chased not all but a solid chunk of the mass hordes away and while we were left literally wading through the Bayon instead of walking, there were only maybe 6-10 other tourists present. After a couple loops around and through it, we left the Bayon and biked toward Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is, as I've said before, regarded as one of the man made wonders of the world, and with every previous temple in the park either matching or exceeding its hype, I started to grow a lump in my throat out of anticipation. And yes, it lived up to the hype. Though we weren't allowed into most of the structure, it was an awe-inspiring sight to behold. From afar the temple didn't look too terribly big but as we walked the long stone bridge leading toward it, we squinted at the entrance:

"Those people look very small..."


To be continued. It's getting pretty late in the morning and it'll take at least twenty more minutes to finish writing about this day. See you next time!


---Image of the Week---

A small monkey climbs up a tree, it's larger playmate trots along, yanks the other's tail and pulls it down from the tree.



Food Poisonings = ZERO

Weight = Recovering a bit, I think.
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

cdnski12 on

Clueless in Siem reap. You 2 are not the brightest apples in the barrel. Always carry a spare charged Battery and a spare Memory Card. An all day Tuk Tuk can be rented for around $10 per day. Mr Khen, our driver spoke decent English and was ready to pick us up at every temple.

sirrocko711
sirrocko711 on

Except we didn't want a tuktuk, we wanted to bike...

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