Amazing Angkor

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Sep 26, 2010

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

When we woke up early on the 10th after I had still spent most of the night in the washroom, we both wrestled seriously with the idea of not going to Siem Reap even though it had already been paid for and visas acquired in advance. That is how bad I was feeling. I knew if I got any worse than to go for a hard day of travel to a more remote location would probably be a very bad idea, but if I was getting better then it would be worth it. Anyways, with about 15 minutes before our minibus arrived, I decided I could struggle through the day as I hoped and prayed the worst was over.

I won't lie, the day of travel was terrible. Even with the A/C minivan I felt awful all morning until the Cambodian border. This is a very difficult leg of travel in Asia as well as the whole thing is basically a scam to make you stay at certain guesthouses and make it an uncomfortable day of travel so you choose not to put up much of a fuss and end up staying with the guesthouses they try to force you to stay in. The border was an absolute joke. To get out of Thailand took nearly 2 hours. The lineup for foreigners outside is baking in the sun and in my depleted state it was really difficult. I drank as much water as possible but C pretty much carried me across by herself. They let on average about 3 foreigners through the customs building for about every 100 Thai people going through, so the waiting times were atrocious. Once stamped out of Thailand, we had to walk across the neutral area then get stamped into Cambodia, and thankfully they sped that process up a little bit to about an hour. This of course is when we found out that the taxi we had booked in Bangkok for this part of the journey would not drop us anywhere except the outskirts of Siem Reap unless we booked a guesthouse ahead of time. Big scam of course but what can you do!

The drive from the border to Siem Reap was a bit of a scare as they overtake in oncoming traffic with speed and seemingly no regard for their lives. Random cows wander into the road at a moments notice and there are hundreds upon hundreds of motorbikes and bicycles being ridden on the side of the road, sometimes by children. Eventually we made it safely to our place and settled in, and I went straight to bed. It was 11 hours of extreme discomfort.

We decided to stay for 3 nights. The reason we were there of course, was Angkor Wat, known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The next day I was starting to feel a bit better so we explored a little bit. Siem Reap is a charming place, but it is also home to a lot more poverty than anything we have seen before. The children here relentlessly beg, and don't take no for an answer, they will follow you and follow you. There are also many victims of landmines here so quite often in the street amputees or people with extreme disabilities are seen. It was very sad to see that part of Cambodia's history. Towards the end of the day we decided to go buy our Angkor passes for the next day because it included a free sunset that night. So we made the journey to Phnom Bakheng, one of Angkor's temples. It is the temple best known for watching sunsets. We made it just in the nick of time and found a spot amongst the crowds sitting on the random ledges and steps of the temples and watched the sun go down. That night we had some traditional Khmer curry which was nice.

The next morning was what made the journey worth it. We woke up really early for a 5am tuk-tuk ride to Angkor Wat with our driver, Sky. We made our way into the temple and found a spot for sunrise. It was a pretty unbelievable experience seeing the sun rise over the iconic temples of Angkor Wat. After that we had a few hours to explore this massive complex, and it felt like we only touched a bit of it. We then spent a couple of hours at Bayon, another of the temples in the complex, this one with Buddhist undertones compared to the Hindi undertones of Angkor Wat. Finally, we spent another hour or two at Ta Prohm, the famous jungle complex. It was a truly unforgettable day and experience.

After about 7 hours we decided that it was enough and it was too hot to continue so we went back to our room. Unfortunately when we were gone we had been burgled, someone had smashed in our door and stolen C's iPod. It was a really frustrating setback to an otherwise amazing day. Also was tough for me to relive part of the situation I had in Laos, but C took it in stride and we tried not to dwell on it too much considering what we had gotten to do that morning.

That was it for our Cambodian experience. We left the next morning on a bus back for Bangkok, hoping the return journey would not be as bad as the voyage to get to Siem Reap. The bus to the border was OK but crowded with local Cambodians sitting in the aisle. The border crossing was also good and did not take much time. Then we had to wait though, for about 3 hours, for no apparent purpose as they waited for a bus. When it arrived it turned out to be a bus with no A/C so the 5 hour bus ride from the border to Bangkok was not pleasant at all.

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