Siem Reap - Tomb Raider 2

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Trip End Jun 27, 2009


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Siem Reap town is massively pricey, especially when you pay $40 for entry to the temples of Angkor, so, you have to find ways to make every dollar, every 500 riel matter. We did this by solely eating $1 noodles at the roadside cafes, I can't believe that anyone can afford not to. Having said all that, if there's one place in Cambodia that deserves a good, lengthy visit, it's Siem Reap. Here's why .....

It's 4.45am, i'm out of bed and angry. These temples had better be bloody worth it. Our guide, Mr Nov Pov (novpov2007@yahoo.com) is eagerly waiting downstairs and when we meet him, his enthusiasm perks me up (a little). The reason we've woke up so early is to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat, unfortunately, the sky was quite cloudy and we just watched things get progressively lighter, this doesn't help my mood. However, once we take a walk around this huge temple, a symbol of national importance, it all seems worthwhile. The architecture is immense, the five towers rise up out of the ruins and you know why you and hundreds of others are out of bed so early. Mr Pov shows us around the artifacts and insriptions, explaining what each means and how old they are. Angkor Wat is huge, no one who visits the temples misses it. All the temples are at least 800 years old.

I won't list all the temples we visited, that would be boring, but the following are a selection of the most beautiful and inspiring. The Bayon, built by King Jayavarman VII, is pretty damn impressive. It's completely gone to ruin but still manages to be one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen. There's 54 towers, all at different heights, and all covered with huge carvings of smiling faces, 216 in total. 

Ta Prohm is just incredible, inspiring and spooky enough to be the set of the Tomb Raider Movie (Fact). The ruins of the temple are intertwined with the roots of trees, this has caused the temple to look even more ruinous. I think I wasted half my camera battery in this one temple, you walk around open-mouthed, it's magnificent. If there weren't so many people around i'd have definately done some Tomb Raider style acrobatics and pretend shot up a bunch of savage tigers. I did get Charlotte to take a photo of me shimmying across a ledge.

Also particularly impressive was Prasat Neak Pean, which i'd love to visit in rainy season, a central column is surrounded by four pools that would look amazing filled with water, I did get a bit carried away with Tomb Raider memories but I swear one of the levels in the Tomb Raider game was modelled on this Temple.

That night, despite being knackered, we headed out and ended up at Angkor What!, this is an awesome backpacker club, we met some new mates and foolishly drank way too much, the next morning would be hell on earth.

On our second day we arrived at Angkor at 1.30pm and stayed for sunset, we climbed the massive hill that leads to Phnom Bakheng hoping to get the money shot, alas it never came, partly because hoards of chattering Koreans blocked every single angle and partly because of the bloody clouds, again! Climbing down the side of this temple is a death trap ( I actually think it was), the steps are about three inches wide and almost vertical. Like I said, we visited so many more temples but they're just too numerous to mention, some people come and get a seven day pass! Walking around the temples you're constantly harrased by the cutest little kids that look up at you with puppy-dog eyes and ask you to buy various things, I defy anyone to not buy at least a bottle of water (or ten).

Siem Reap is a great place to visit and is quite sobering too. Here, there are constant reminders of the war and especially landmines, it's sad to see so many amputees each having to find a new way to eat, ride a bike, earn a living, we tried to give what we could. Siem Reap is full of street sellers and the kids seem to know a hell of a lot about British political history, not that it makes me want to buy anything. Tonight we're heading to Dead Fish, a bar and restaurant with a live crocodile pit, can't wait.
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Comments

sophie07
sophie07 on

I've been to Siem Reap last year and it was great! I traveled alone, I just brought map with me and made some research here http://siemreap.info/shopping/ for where can I shop. I am just a new member here in Travel Pod and I saw first your post, I wish I saw this before I went to Siem Reap. This is very helpful!

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