Angkor At Last!

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
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Trip End Mar 08, 2010


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The morning call at 3:30 comes too soon. After a re-org of luggage for today's journey, I got to bed about 1 and didn’t really sleep at all- not possible with only 1.5 hours available.

Met D&J and W&D in lobby and walked into dining hall- I mean a really big room. More like a banquet space. And in the dark since they haven’t officially opened yet. One of the Bangkok 7 introduces himself and then the others volunteer as well. My mind isn’t coherent enough to keep a name with a face, but apparently with the addition of the Narita 6, there are 2 Wendy’s, 2 Judy’s, a Don and a Donna- 13 all together. We somehow automatically align ourselves at two tables in that same split. Even so, Mark has to come and get us- were past due in the lobby for our bus.

Seems like we were just on this same road a few hours ago- in the other direction. The ride isn’t as quick as the one in just a few hours earlier, but still fast enough. Luggage gathered, on to the ticket counter, boarding pass obtained. Is that how it’s supposed to work? Very long wait through the crowded lines at passport control. Security check is very fast in comparison. The a loooooong walk through the gateway filled with stores and restaurants. I’d stopped for a restroom break and ended up alone and a little panicked that I was getting late for boarding. But not so- I finally arrived at the gate and discovered that most of the gang wasn’t there yet and boarding hadn’t begun yet. Little bus across the tarmac to our plane- very cutely painted- looks like a cartoon version of a plane.

Then we have at least 30 minutes waiting in a long queue of planes waiting to take off. After finally leaving the ground, the attendants whip out a box breakfast …and come around just as quickly to collect the remains. I think the flight took less time that the wait to take off.

The Siem Reap airport terminal is small and cozy. The building looks like classic Thai with points protruding from the end of the roof peaks- was that to ward off demons? Everyone gets in line to get their visa, except me. I head straight for immigration, wondering if my eVisa will actually work. And it does. The officer scans in the bar code on the visa. I can see my picture popping up on her monitor. All’s well. I head off to the next room which is baggage pickup. I grab both J’s and my luggage and wait for the group to show up. Doesn’t take them much time at all, and we’re all heading out to the van that will take our big bags to the hotel. We schlep our carry-on to the small bus. The heat and humidity envelops us. We’re introduced to our guide Seth, who begins explaining what we will be seeing that day. Everyone loads up on suntan lotion and deet as we head for the Angkor Park and the entrance building. On the way we can see Angkor Wat ahead through the front window of the bus. I’m really here!

We all get out at the entrance center for a quick photo. Not more than minutes later, they bring us our 3 day passes with our embedded photos. Now it’s off to Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple with its four smiling faces pointed in each direction. We get off the bus near a short bridge. At the end is the gateway to Angkor Thom, a formal royal capital. The bridge is lined with sculptures that commemorate the Hindu legend of the battle between the gods and the demons, pulling the great ropes. The demons line up on our right at the edge of the bridge and the gods on our left. Each face is different though some have been badly damaged over the centuries. I actually like the demons better- they show a good deal more character . I’m finally busy taking photos- I’ve been waiting days for this opportunity. And to make the occasion even more special, several groups of elephants, decked out in red sedan chairs and their mahouts. We walk through the gateway on our way to Bayon. This is the iconic Angkor temple with the four large smiling faces on the tower walls- each facing a different direction. I’m snapping more photos – I can’t stop. The ongoing battle with the heat is almost incapacitating- I’m dripping wet- my face is burning. I’m drinking water and it’s not really helping- I sweat it out immediately. We trudge on to the terrace of elephants and the leper king. Finally, we all collapse onto the air conditioned bus that takes us to our hotel.

 It’s now nearly two- we had breakfast at 5. We’re given small glasses of fruit juice while we wait for our room keys. I think everyone makes the decision to stay right there in the bar and have lunch. Then finally, to our room. I grab a shower to clean off the deet, sunscreen and sweat. We have a lecture on building the wats at 5. Unfortunately, the combination of early morning departure and debilitating walk in the heat takes a toll- we nearly all of us are falling asleep. My sympathies for the lecturer! Then we all are driven into town for a dinner in a restaurant that’s open-sided. Banners of cloth hang down to mark off seating sections. The food is different- maybe French Cambodia California? Not all that special I think. The bus takes a back to the hotel. And ends a very very long and magnificent day. Angkor and I have finally met. And I’ve got several hundred photos to prove it!
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