Without a doubt, Angkor Wat is one of the most incredible sites I have visited. I highly recommend people to visit, but do it when you are physically fit, as there are lots of steps to climb, long walks to take to reach the actual temple from the road, and the heat will zap you of your energy. One of the earliest visitors to Angkor Wat wrote to a friend, "Come to Angkor Wat, my friend, for its beauty and its dreams." I don't think it could have been said any better.
Today is my last day in Siem Reap and visit to the Angkor Wat complex. As I have walked these sites, I hear the same thing over and over from other tourists: "I'm just waiting for Indiana Jones to appear." It does have that feel. While these sites bring awe, I feel sorry for the people who had to build them, as many of the kings wouldn't even let their subjects visit them
. At times I feel like my visits are scenes out of the book and film "A Passage to India," where Mrs. Moore, the elderly lady, is in awe of what she sees. I'm also impressed by the number of people who opt to visit the temples by bike. In this heat, and the distance from one site to the other, it is rather impressive. I would have liked to have done one day by bike but, given my navigation issues, I'd either still be searching for my way home, or given up and thrown the bike in the back of a tuk-tuk.
My driver is waiting for me in front of my hotel, same drill. Today I want to see some lesser sites, and hopefully fewer people. I am also damned and determined to return to Bayon to find a particular photo image that the books use when showing off the complex. While there, I don't find the exact image that the books show, where they put a full face and a profile into one photo, but I do find it in the reverse order. I am happy with my find, so call it a day and wish I had more time to visit other sites.
Sites visited today: Preah Ko, Bakong, Lolei, Prasat Kravan, Sras Srang, Banteay Kdei, Ta Keo, Bayon.
After my temple visit, my driver takes me back into town to buy my bus ticket for tomorrow
. The travel agent he takes me to tells me the ticket costs $8, with free hotel pickup included; she's really big on promoting this free hotel pickup thing. So this is where the WTF moments start to happen. I ask her how this hotel pickup thing can be free, if a bus ticket costs only $5, so she's really charging me $3 for the transportation. (All bus seats cost the same.) She insists the pickup is free, but can't justify the $3 charge as really the cost of being picked up, I'm like, "What ever.". I start to purchase a ticket, thinking that I'd have to hire a tuk-tuk to take me to the bus station anyway, so it would come out in the wash. Just as I am getting ready to hand over my money, she asks me the name of my hotel. I give it to her. She then tells me that she can't offer me the free hotel pickup service, as my hotel is too far out. I ask her how can that be, given that my hotel is on the same road as the bus station and is about 2 km (about 1.2 miles) closer to the bus station than the travel agency! She insists it's too far out. She still wants to sell me the ticket, so says I have to be at the agency at a certain time, and from there I can join the free bus service. I tell her that makes no sense, as I would have to backtrack into town at an earlier time, pay for the tuk-tuk, which means I will now be paying $10 to get to the bus station that's just 3 km (1.8 km) away from my hotel, that's located on the same road as the bus station and for a ticket that really only costs $5.. She doesn't understand the logic, just wants to sell me a ticket for $8. As I start to walk away, she says that she'll make a deal with me: $7 for the bus ticket and the free shuttle from her office. I walk away and tell her that's no deal. She mumbles something in Khmer to her co-workers, and the tone doesn't sound pretty. So what, I am still in possession of the $8. Oh yes, when I was about to buy my ticket, I asked her if the bus leaves at 7.30, then what time should I arrive at the bus station
. Her answer was 7.30...WTF?
I then go to the next travel agency. The woman tells me the ticket is only $5, that the first bus leaves at 7.30 am, and it takes three hours to travel to Battambang; this is what I have read and heard as well from other sources. Since time is of the essence, I purchase the ticket. Now that I have my ticket in hand, I can relax and enjoy the rest of the day, but ask my tuk-tuk driver that I want to be at the bus station by 7.15 the next morning...no Cambodian time for me, as I need to be on that 7.30 bus. .