Trip Start Nov 03, 2009
40Trip End Jul 15, 2010
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Surprisingly the internet has been quite prevalent in some of the more remote places we have visited whilst on the road and fairly quick too, so upping the pics en route when we've had the chance has been really easy, it's just finding the time to type up a diary that's been the tricky part. Give it 5 years and you'll have satellite uplinks available deep in the Cambodian jungle and you won't even need a wi-fi connection in a cafe or bar to get all this done on the road
So anyway on to Siem Reap, a place we have wanted to visit for many years and it didn't disappoint one bit. Our journey from Thailand wasn't the smoothest in reality, we got ripped off on our Cambodian visas (only a tenner each but it didn't make any of us particularly happy) and the journey was a total nightmare from start to finish. So much so that we cut our losses and decided on a cab from Poipet once we crossed the border (Poipet is a mental and well shady Cambodian casino town) as we didn't trust the bus we were booked on to get is to Siem Reap that evening due to various horror stories read/heard. It was a real squeeze with 5 of us piled in a modestly sized Toyota Camry, but this was a way better option in getting to our hotel that evening and relaxing with one or 7 bottles of red vino.
Had a few communication issues with the taxi driver when we got dropped off at the 'Siem Reap taxi drop-off / tuk-tuk pick-up station' without any explanation, we thought it was another stitch up which didn't help matters at all. By now we were well tired and a little pissed off after our 14 hour hell trip from Ko Chang, so our patience was thin it's fair to say. Anyway, we made it to the hotel eventually and checked in. We then proceeded to annihilate the entire stock of Malbec they had in the bar and 3 more bottles from the shop outside
Decided on doing the 3 day option for Angkor and the surrounding temples/ruins but got a ticket that allowed us to do it over the course of a week as opposed to 3 consecutive days which we though would become a little too much and result in us being well and truly temple'd out quite quickly. As we got our ticket at 5pm we were able to visit ruins that day for sunset at Phnom Bakheng (which was dangerously busy with tourists climbing over every inch of the ruins), we would then start the full tour the day after so we could relax by the pool and wander about Siem Reap more and recover from our journey from Thailand.
On the first full day we started at Angkor Wat at around 4:30am for sunrise, the place was rammed and it got even busier but we found a good spot and waited. There were 100's of tourists armed with DSLR's and video cameras, there must've been over £300K's worth of gear on show. Quite amazing but at the same time a bit annoying (even though we were proper tourists too obviously) with quite a few folk constantly walking into people's carefully set-up shots with no regard for the fact we've all been waiting hours for the sun to come up and they had just got off the tour bus a few minutes ago
Angkor Wat is quite incredible it has to be said and we went there twice in the end which they recommend you doing. It's the most in-tact, grandeur and largest singular temple site in Angkor (Angkor Thom is made up of many different sites spread out). It's more like a complete city, with swimming baths, a moat, libraries etc all perfectly symmetrically positioned throughout. It's quite amazing that this place was built in the early 12th century.
From there we headed to the Angkor Thom area and took in Bayon (all the smiling faces facing in N, S, E & W directions), Leper King, Elephant Terrace, Royal Palace group, Baphuon and the ruins surrounding that. We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day as there was just 4 of us (Don was unable to walk much after the bike crash) so he zoomed us all about the place, we did a fair chunk on Day 1 and the heat was really heavy by 10am. Next up was Ta Keo which had the steepest steps I've ever seen (and climbed) and then on to the Tomb Raider Temple AKA Ta Prohm
Another day we visited the remote site of Beng Mealea which is quite similar to Ta Prohn in the sense that it's been completely overrun by the surrounding jungle and until a few years ago the area was mined and not accessible in any way. The road is now privately owned and you have to pay a toll to drive on it, seems everyone is trying to benefit financially from the ancient past of this place, even the national Petrol company Sokimex, a parent company of Sokha Hotels (as mentioned in the Kampot entry) controls the ticket distribution to all the main Angkor sites, chronic commercialisation is not just limited to the Western world it seems.
All the sites and ruins we visited over 3 days were incredible and a testament to what the Khmers achieved over the course of many centuries. A fascinating place for sure and one, if you ever get the chance to visit that should be thoroughly explored to fully appreciate it. I think we only missed out on a few ruins but did the majority, in the searing Cambodian heat it was no easy task though
Other notable highlights of Siem Reap included the night market, good food & boozes, great company and new friendships formed (hello Oliver) and being secret agents on one rather hectic evening in town and buying 12 pairs of fake Raybans from a rather happy seller..I'll leave it there I think..it's been a long entry this one.