Trip Start May 23, 2009
13Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
We had to hire both a guide and a driver because by Cambodian law, if you're a guide you can't be driving, and if you're a driver you're not allowed to give tours, so you have to hire both. Also drivers aren't even allowed into the Angkor complex.
Just driving the short distance from the Siem Reap airport to our hotel, you could really see that we weren't in a 1st or 2nd world country anymore. The poverty in this country appears rampant, and the contrasts in standard of living to other neighboring countries such as Thailand and Bali are stark. The roads were lined with shanty huts hawking anything and everything. I've seen some difficult conditions in other countries like mexico and Thailand, but this was easily the worst. A lot of people here can get by fairly well on a dollar a day. Makes you feel guilty for all that we have back home, and don't appreciate enough.
It was too early to check-in to our hotel, so we decided to go see Angkor Thom, the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, built in the late 12th century. Inside Angkor Thom is a temple called Bayon, which translated means "Golden Temple". (wow, Kim-san can teach). It was a beautiful site, but it was hard to appreciate all the detailed ornamentation in the 36C heat and humidity. If you can believe it, Siem Reap was even hotter and more humid than Singapore the day before. OMG. We must have sweated off at least 2 litres of water into our clothes every hour.
We eventually finished our tour of Angkor Thom and went to check-in to our hotel, the Somadevi Angkor Hotel. Our room is nice and large, with a balcony deck overlooking the pool. We had lunch at a nearby restaurant called "Nearly K'hmer" and the food was spicy but flavourful. We were advised beforehand not to eat any salads or thin skinned fruits and to drink only bottled water while in Cambodia, but I forgot and ate some of my side salad
After lunch we took a 2 hour "siesta" break, then headed to Angkor Wat, one of the 7 wonders of the world. The weather was cloudy and humid, but going to see Angkor Wat in the afternoon is supposedly the best time of the day to go, because the complex faces west and the setting sun will be shining directly at the complex during this time reducing shadows in your photos. The complex was beautiful. It is surrounded by a 200m wide man made moat, in a rectangular shape. The "rainbow" bridge connects the mainland to the complex and it stretches for several hundred meters in. From the bridge you can easily begin to see the spire towers that are seen in postcards of Angkor Wat. The ruins were really something to behold. I couldn't believe that a civilization was able to build such beautiful structures so high into the sky in the 12th century, only to abandon them in the 15th century only to be rediscovered in the 20th century. Apparently the structures survived the wear and tear very well over the years lost in the jungle. Amazing. It's really something you have to see at least once in your life.
In the middle of our exploration, out of nowhere it began pouring rain. Every tourist in site scrambled for some shelter, but I love the rain, so I stayed out there to soak it all in. The droplets of rain pounded the ruins, and it gave them a whole new appearance. The rocks began glistening and the pitter-patter of the rainfall made the whole place seem to come alive, it was sooo invigorating. I loved it. But eventually the rain did stop, and we finished our tour, headed back to the hotel to have dinner and shower. We have an early full day planned for tomorrow starting at 6am.