Temples, temples and more temples... Angkor Wat

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hak's House

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, February 12, 2012

We've learnt that you have to get on a bus early in the day in Asia as you never know how long it’s going to take but you do know it’s going to be at least a couple hours more than you’re told. So we get an early bus up to Siem Riep, it takes a while due to the cattle, horse and carts on the road and the driver’s need for a break every two hours.  We stay at Hak’s House in Siem Riep which is a basic Cambodian run guesthouse and the staff are again very friendly and helpful.  It’s unlikely that we’ll get somewhere really nice in Cambodia due to the complete lack of decent plumbing in the country and so we’re used to running the tap in the sink and getting wet feet as the waste water pipe isn’t connected to anything and is meant to run into the drain on the floor.  Or showering over the toilet, it all takes a bit of getting used.  What surprised us about Siem Riep is that I’m not sure what would be left if you took away the hotels, guesthouses and tourist restaurants – it’s very tourist focussed which means you have plenty choices for dinner but the town lacks any character.  It also means we sit and have 50 cent beers while watching the world go by.  We’re still on Cambodian food and so after another good meal (and free dessert) we head for another few drinks.

We’ve hired a tuk tuk and driver for the day to take us around some of the temples as it seems to be the best way to do it.  We do the large temple circuit which involves going 30km out of town but it was interesting to see the countryside.  The people live in wooden houses on stilts  and seem to have been given access to water by privately sponsored well projects.  We wondered whether these people were better off as tourists see how they live and so are more inclined to see how they can help.  Overall although it is a basic way of living, the people seem to be doing well working the land and we see that a lot of the children do attend school as well as work.  We see many different temples in one day but each are interesting as they vary from intricately carved to large structures.  Given that we are templed out by about 3pm and head back to town (another good thing about having your own driver!)  Plus he showed us which stall to have food at for lunch and it was really tasty. 

In the evening we head to the Foreign Correspondents Club in Siem Riep which is newer and much more modern than Phnom Penh one, we take advantage of happy hour while sitting out listening to live jazz music before heading into the tourist strip for dinner.

Our second day with our tuk tuk driver involves an early start to see sunrise at the well known Angkor Wat.  We leave at 5am to join the rush to get to the temple to get a good spot to watch sunrise.  When we get there, there are carpets down on the grass and the locals are charging to sit down.  I like the entrepreneurship but I’m not paying to sit down and so we stand awkwardly between two mats.  The views are nice as the sun rises from behind Angkor Wat but I would say it’s worth going early more to explore the temple in the early morning sun while the tour groups are away having breakfast.  The temple was peaceful for another hour or so which gives you time to try and contemplate the size and age of the temple (built between 900 and 1100 AD).  After Angkor Wat we had a few more temples to visit including the one that featured in Tomb raider and some big complexes.  The scale of all the temple complexes in the area plus the fact there are probably more that haven’t been found yet or aren’t as accessible is impressive.  It’s very interesting to see the remains of an empire and try and imagine it in full glory.  We only last to lunch time today before heading back to the hotel to escape the heat for a little while.

For dinner we head to pizza place where we go for a normal pizza rather than a 'happy’ pizza where an additional substance ;) will be added.  We also get to listen in to a conversation an ex-pat is having with his friends.  I think he is trying to explain how he has managed to get a pretty young Cambodian wife at his age and to be fair he’s perfectly upfront about the situation ‘My main concern is that she will get the opportunity to re-marry once I’m gone’.  Just a little insight into the world of expats in Cambodia. 

Our final day in Siem Riep is spent in a pool which is a pleasant relief after walking around temples in the baking sun for the past couple days.  We then get on a ‘sleeper bus’ to Kampot on the coast.  The Asian take on sleeper bus is interesting and I don’t think we’ll try it again.  We get on a relatively comfy bus with reclining chairs at 8pm to change buses at midnight onto a normal coach, we then get dropped off at another station as 5am and have to wait until 8.30am until we are stuffed into a small bus bound for our final destination.  
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