Siem Reap, Tuk-tuks and Temples
Trip Start Nov 01, 2011
12Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Siem Reap rooms Guesthouse
What I did
Angkor, Siem Reap
the journey though cambodia is one through stunning countryside so i feel in good spirits as i reach siem reap. as soon as i hit the quirky little town i fall in love with it. it's a relatively small but pretty town and the atmosphere about the place is both electric and laid back at the same time.
the guesthouse that i'm stopping at, siem reap rooms, came recommended by a girl in bangkok and it's surprisingly good given the price of $6. it's run by a canadian couple Melissa and Dave who are uber-helpful, excellent company and who i get to know a lot better over the next 6 days as we spend time sat on the patio drinking coffee
i meet up with chrissi, a german girl that i'd met some days earlier at the nap park in bangkok, who's doing the same route so we decide to share the cost of the tuk-tuks for angkor and head out for some tea and discuss the forthcoming days sightseeing. plans sorted and some khymer food duely consumed and i head off for an early night to get some rest in preperation for a few days tomb raiding ;)
angkor was the capital city for the khmer empire which ruled between 900 and 1200 AD and as soon as we hit it i can see that it's something very special, it's set in a lovely forest and there's carved stone everywhere and this place is BIG!! when it was a functioning city the infrastructure covered over 1,000 square kilometres and housed over 1,000,000 people :O
the first temple that we get to is preah khan, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII and covers an area of 136 acres. after a nice walk around the grounds i head into the temple itself. again there's carvings literally everywhere in the stone but what really strikes me is that you can just climb all over the thing and really interact with it and get different perspectives of the temple. i'm sure if it was in the west you's be standing 100 metres away looking at it through binoculars ;O
the temple hasn't been restored unlike many of them and is half ruins although it's still very big and very ornate with interesting little rooms everywhere
the rest of the day follows a similar pattern and i see neak pean, ta som, and east mebon which are all equally as impressive. i get to pre rup in time to watch the sunset over the forest which is pretty awesome after such an astounding day and inspirational day. as i watch the sun setting i think about the khmer people that would have been here over a 1000 years ago watching the same thing and feel inspired by what is achievable when we put our minds to it but i also pretty insignificant and small.
the following morning is a early start as chrissi and i head out to see the sunrise at angkor wat which was unsurprisingly chocca with tourists but is an angkor must see. after the obligatory photos we sit by the moat and have a nice picnic breakfast before heading back in for a few hours for a scout about. again it's a massive temple coming in a 65m high and with a 2.2 mile long surrounding wall and 800m of intricately carved bas reliefs.
we then head out about 40 kms to banteay srei on the tuk-tuk through the beautiful cambodian countryside
we head out again to k'bal spean to see the waterfall there and check out some 1000 year old stone carvings in the stream and grab a quick swim which is much needed after the hike up to the waterfall and a day of wandering around temples in the baking cambodian heat. on the way back we stop off at the landmine museum which was set up by ex-child soldier aki ra as a way to tell the world about the horrors of landmines in his native country. the facts and figures are pretty grim and cambodia still has an estimated 4 to 6,000,000 landmines still scattered around the country and even today in cambodia one person is killed and one person is maimed each week from undetected landmines :(
the last day at angkor we decide to see angkor thom, and ta phrom (the one in the film tombraider) and yet again they're vast and spectacular temple complexes
After my final day at angkor i get back to the guesthouse where Dave and Melissa are having a depate with an american lass about politics, not being one to shy away from a chance to be sociable and to participate in a debate, i join them for a couple of hours and relax after another hard days climbing up and over temples. later that evening chrissi and i head out to meet up with an american group that we had met at the nap park in bangkok for a nice meal and in keeping with my theme of eating 'local' food i decide to try bbq frog which i have to say was pretty damn tasty.
after a hard 3 days checking out angkor i decide to have a low key day and relax and catch up with some chores at home and sort through my photos so i head onto the porch with my notebook, some coffee and cigarettes. it's here that i meet the american lady again and we get chatting. i find she's called kara and she's certainly an amazing and inspirational person. despite having had a lot of personal tragedy in her life she's a really upbeat girl and she's also very smart and extremely funny so we chat for a couple of hours before deciding to head off out into town and beyond in search of some real cambodian culture
after a nice dinner in the aptly named butterfly cafe we head back into town and stumble across a traditional aspara dance show which is a lovely end to a thoroughly pleasant day.
on my final day in siem reap i rent a push bike and head to the natural history museum which offers some good insight into angkor and on melissas recommendation, i head off out into the padi fields on the outskirts of town to enjoy yet another beautiful cambodian sunset!! :D as i ride through the local town i'm still surprised by the cheery nature of the cambodian people as i get many soo-sa-days from the people that i pass along the way.
in the evening kara and i head off out to meet some of karas friends at a local khmer restaurant and to try the beef and ants there (sat go cha ang grong) which is reputed to be very nice and it certainly didn't disappoint ;P afterwards we head out for a drink and one of the chaps in the group sees some people he had met previously somewhere up near chang mai
my last day in siem reap is spent wandering around again and i decide to hit the local market for a spot of shopping whilst i wait for the bus to phnom penh, the capital of cambodia, and i'm a little sad to be leaving this quaint and quirky little town but i know i'll be back at some point, maybe even to live here a while and my spirits are lifted again.... :D