03.03.2012 - 07.03.2012 38 °C
We boarded the predictably packed local bus for the 6 hour long journey to the city of Siem Reap. I had to giggle when a ladyboy boarded with his/her own plastic chair and plonked his/herself in the isle right next to Chris. Other than that it was quite uneventful and the bus finally dropped us of at the tuk tuk/taxi rank in Siem Reap. We paid $1 each for a friendly tuk tuk man to take us to our hotel, and only one minor crash later when a minivan bumped into the back of us, we arrived at Jasmin Garden Villa (recommended to us by Callum). It is one of the nicest places we have stayed and quite Moroccan in style – every wall is bright orange, as are the bed covers and the curtains :-/ still, it’s a happy colour and my tan looks great!
The main attraction in Siem Reap is Angkor Wat and it’s surrounding temple ruins dating 9th - 12th century. These are huge, elaborate stone temples built by kings in what was a very auspicious time for the Angkor region. The early temples are typically Hindu, although almost all of them were converted to Buddism under the influence of king Jayavarman II. Western countries discovered the Angkor temples in the 19th Century. The whole area dedicated purely to the temples is about 20km wide and has been largely ‘saved’ from the jungle over the years and turned into a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We had decided to buy a 3 day pass to the temples and we would hire a bicycle the next day to see some Wat. After a lovely lie-in, we headed off at about 11am into the sweltering heat (it’s about 37 degrees here at the moment). We decided to leave Angkor Wat temple for the next day as we would again be joined by Tamsin and Fahd who had caught us up after a whirlwind tour of Vietnam, so instead we took a large loop around to some of the other temples. After a good hour of cycling on what is actually some great roads (for SE Asia anyway) we came across a relatively small temple called Prasat Kravan
This being our first Wat we were quite impressed.
It was in quite a state of disrepair but lots of the carvings were still recognisable and very beautiful.
After this one we craved something bigger so headed towards Banteay Kdei, which is in a relatively poor state of repair with a lot of collapsed sections and scaffolding holding up doorways and walls.
On the way there we stopped at a few other relatively small ones which were in a much better state than the first owing to them being slightly repaired by the Chinese in the 60’s.
Continuing down the road we eventually arrived at a famous temple used in the Tomb Raider Films called Ta Prohm. This one was surrounded by a huge stone wall and once walking through the entrance you then walk down a beautiful tree lined path for a few hundred metres before arriving at the inner temple. This seemed huge and once inside the main doors you were confronted by a maze of corridors and inner small rooms with statues in. It was very impressive and every time you got to an outside area you were reminded of the awesome power of nature. It was like the forest had waited long enough and was now trying to reclaim its land. Huge trees clung to the side of the once mighty buildings and were slowly tearing them apart piece by piece with their roots and branches.
It was a very beautiful place and we spent ages wondering around the corridors
and staring at the trees attacking them. It was a shame that there were a lot of tourists roaming around as well which spoilt the effect somewhat, but it was still amazing.
Filled with new admiration for mother nature and the people who had constructed this amazing place we moved on to the next and biggest complex of temples collectively known as Angkor Thom. It was starting to get late in the afternoon now (around 5pm) and fortunately a lot less people were now pouring over the temples. This complex had two large temples in which one we climbed
and the other had been closed off to the public, but looked like a giant Inca style pyramid. Tired from the cycling in the extreme heat we started the long ride back to the town.
Along the way we saw a few more impressive looking temples, but decided to leave those for tomorrow. The way back into town took us past Angkor Wat just before sunrise so we couldn’t resist sitting on the wall looking across the huge moat at the impressive temple and watching the sun slowly sink away. A long and still very hot ride back into town ended at the hotel reception at the exact time that Tamsin and Fahd had arrived to check in. It was great to see them again so we arranged to go for dinner later after a well deserved shower.
The street place we sat and ate in was lovely and very cheap (we have found the food to be very hit and miss in Cambodia) and as we sat chatting to Tamsin and Fahd who should walk past us but Martijn and Bier! They had decided to spend less time in the last town also and so had just arrived in Siem Reap. They were knackered from travelling so a quick hello and offered to meet up with them the next night at the same spot at 8pm. The world really is such a small place!
On the short walk back to the hotel we came across a bar called the TukTuk bar. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, a TukTuk turned into a cocktail bar! Awesome idea, loud music and beers for only 50 cents made us stay much longer than anticipated, in fact 1am we eventually paid up and went back to the hotel.
Unfortunately we had arranged to go watch the spectacular sunrise at Angor Wat so with only a few hours sleep I was up again and pedalling like a maniac in the dark with Tamsin, Fahd and Jayne in a race to beat the sun to the temple. With only a very brief stop to get the others tickets we made it to the temple just in time to watch a fantastic sunrise.
Tamsin and Jayne went for a run around the temples as the sun was rising, they quickly showered in the toilets using the bum guns and rejoined us for a good look around Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the largest, most beautiful and most famous of all the temples and even features on the Cambodian flag. Jayne and Tamsin were not deemed 'appropriately dressed' to be allowed into the very top of the centre temple so I kindly offered Jayne all my clothes (long shorts and a t-shirt) so she could visit too, leaving me in my pants with just a shawl over my shoulders.
I sat in a quiet corner waiting for her to return, although unfortunately 4 or 5 people came over to take my photo in the meantime - hummph.
Fully dressed again, we jumped on our bikes and made our way up the road to the Bayon temple which is well known for its 2000 huge stone faces on 54 towers.
After admiring all 2000 weirdly smiling faces, we all began to feel the effects of the 38 degree heat. With this and being a little bit 'templed out' myself and Jayne decided to head back to the hotel on the bikes. With air-con on full blast, Jayne slept for 6 hours while I had a blog bashing session (still behind!)
That night we ate in the same place but this time with Martijn and Bier aswell. We all struggled with our morals as usual trying to avoid the countless small children asking for money and/or food (general opinion is it's not a good idea to encourage parents to put their kids out on the streets to beg when they really should be at school or in bed). After eating we walked around the souvenir shops and bought a large wooden Buddha statue (we have tried to buy something to remind us of every country). Everyone was tired so we headed back to the hotel, with what was supposed to be a brief stop at the TukTuk bar. However it didn’t end up like that as after the girls went home, Fahd and I stayed up playing card games with the locals until 4am!
The 4am drinking session seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now at 8am with Jayne asking me if I was getting up to look at more temples it really didn’t! I grunted to her to go on without me and Fahd and myself would catch them up later. The morning was spent in some kind of coma until 12o’clock when Fahd knocked on my door and asked if we should go meet the girls. We hired a TukTuk (minus a bar) from the hotel at only $10 for an entire day (including a driver of course) and set off to find the ladies who had hired their own TukTuk, decorated as the Batmobile.
We eventually caught up with the Batmobile at Ta Som where the cutest kids tugged on our heart strings asking for ‘dollar’ for 10 postcards. We had however come prepared with lollypops today so dished out a few of these to the little blighters!! Deciding soon after that we were all a bit peckish, we stopped at an outdoor eatery for the most comical meal yet. I ordered pork fried rice and got chewy beef, Fahd ordered egg fried rice and got a fried egg, and some rice, and poor Tamsin ordered chicken noodles and got something hairy (??!) in a bowl of soup. Jayne happily informed us her food was correct and delicious!
After continuing on together for a quick look at East Mebon, the elephant temple,
we then found ourselves at Pre Rup. The name means 'turn the body' this reflects the common belief among Cambodians that funerals were conducted at the temple, with the ashes of the body being ritually rotated in different directions as the service progressed. We found it to be a beautiful, empty, serene place and we all sat on the steps at the top contemplating life (and persuading Tamsin to join us as she was quite busy suffering a bout of vertigo).
Pre Rup is famous for it's beautiful sunsets but not wanting to be surrounded by Japanese tourists jossling for the best picture position we moved onto Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple) again as we had decided it was our favourite of them all and wanted to show Tamsin and Fahd. We watched the sunseting in the trees from here and found it a beautiful and quiet end to our 3 day 'Wat' experience.
On the way back into town Batman suggested he could get us a fantastic deal on a massage. Instead of $30 for an hour he could get it for us at $6 an hour! We decided this was too good an offer to refuse so arranged for him to drop us off at the hotel and pick us up an hour later to take us to the massage spa giving us enough time to scrape the dirt of the day away first.
He collected us at 7pm and drove like a lunatic through traffic for a few Km's before dropping us off at a nice looking hotel. There were several choices of massage so Jayne and I went for the traditional Khymer while Tamsin and Fahd went for an oil option. I went one step further than Jayne asking for a 4 hand massage, which would mean two people massage me at the same time. Now I should probably explain that when I have a massage I like to feel pampered, a nice rub down and some firm but not painful pressure makes me feel great. Jayne on the other hand is used to sports massages and prefers to be beaten around for an hour. Unfortunately this was a massage Jayne was going to enjoy and I was going to have to endure!
We were asked to put on Pj's and lay on the floor opposite each other, all good so far. The two girls sat themselves down next to me, one at my left leg and one at my left arm. Before I knew what was happening one had her elbows pressed into my calfs and the other was trying to rip my arm off! It was like they were training for a cage match on ultimate fighter and I was the training dummy! The next hour I was pummelled, smacked, stretched and bent into shapes I didn't know were even possible. Jayne all this time was finding her massage 'firm' to say the least and was chuckling to herself at the thought that I was getting it twice over.
When an hour was finally up I sat up and wondered why I had paid for the pleasure of feeling like I had been outnumbered in a fight and lost.
Jayne laughed, I cried and Fahd and Tamsin looked asleep as we all made our way back to a restaurant to grab some chow.
Back in town just in time to meet up with Martijn and Bier for their last night and drank a few beers in … yep you guessed it, the TukTuk bar! Martijn, Bier and Jayne left, leaving me and Fahd with 2 other Dutch people and an annoying Canadian. We had a great night chatting and even met a French Polynisian guy who loved my tattoo and we discussed the history of Polynesia. It was 4:30am this time when i got to bed (this is getting to be a habbit).
The alarm was ringing at 8am as we had all decided to depart for Bangkok today, travelling overland. A cab picked us up for the 3 hour lovely comfortable ride (with a/c - hoorah) to the border town of Poipet. We queued for 10mins to have our fingerprints taken to exit Cambodia, then stomped of down the road to Thailand. Another short queue to get our passports stamped and we found ourselves back in Thailand.
We all somehow squeezed into a tuktuk for the 6km ride to the train station and then ate the tastiest food in months (I LOVE THAI FOOD) before taking the most wonderful 8 hour train journey through to Bangkok drinking beer, eating snacks and watching the sun go down through the open window.
Arrived in Bangkok covered in leaves, ash, and twigs and more then a bit sweaty, tired and hungover - it was a blessing to see Megan and Phil waiting for us on the platform! They had booked a room for us in a hotel inches from the station and also our train tickets out of Bangkok to Chang Mai for the next day! (Thank you Megan and Phil!!)
There was just enough energy and time to go to a local eatery and eat another Pad Thai while being chatted up by a very camp waiter before sleep.
This day was a lazy one, checked out late and sat in the hotel reception with Megan and Phil while writing the blog (nearly up to date), catching up on their Burma travels and eating fruit before another meal at the gay guys restaurant and then a splurge in the local 7-Eleven for snacks for the train that evening. Tamsin and Fahd came to say goodbye and waved us from the platform. The train was lovely, again. The trains in Thailand beat the ones in Vietnam hands down. Comfortable, tidy, clean and safe feeling. The beds were super comfy and I finally caught up on the blog (YAY) on the wobbly way to Chang Mai.