Seeing Angkor Wat at Sunrise: PRICELESS!!!

Trip Start Jan 12, 2008
Trip End Oct 01, 2008

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Now, I didn't dive into my bus ride in yesterday's entry so I want to add a little color to that debacle.  Upon sitting down on the bus, I began talking with a 20 year old Finnish guy (Janne) and a ~28 year old Norwegian couple.  Throughout the day we formed an invincible team avoiding all of the border scams, of which there were plenty, and learning how different some people can really be and still enjoy each other.  Anyways, the four of us led the charge to hitch hike and by the time we won the race into Siem Reap we had become a team that moved in unison like the New York Giants on their Super Bowl Championship run this year! 

I walk towards my hotel at 5:30am thinking that today is probably Monday or Tuesday but did that mean anything?  Think a little more and realize that today is actually a Friday and in fact, no, it only meant that today was as good a day as any for an adventure!  I really want to experience the temples of Siem Reap properly and decide to not even bother waking up Janne, the finnish guy from the bus who I split the hostel room with. 
I snag a tuk-tuk ride to Angkor Wat and arrive by 6:00 or so, just in time to be realize that I'm not as early as I had thought.  There were a few hundred people in the complex by the time I showed up and I even sat and talked to a group of English kids I had seen in the bars just a few hours earlier.  Unfortunately, the sunrise was kinda blocked by the clouds, but I still found myself wondering how amazing this would have been ago 1,200 years ago when it was built. I proceed to walk around the entire complex on foot, and it turned out that the distances between the temples was a bit longer than I had imagined!  I wound up walking something like 25 kilometers by 2 in the afternoon and had seen Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, the entire Angor Thom complex, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Kdei.  I was dead at the end after having taken a half hour nap at the top of one of the temples.

These structures were large, complex and intricately built making them extremely impressive even in comparison to some of the more recent sites I had just seen in India.  This whole city must have been majestic in its prime and I am finding myself to be extremely taken by the whole thing despite being really tired by the end.  The entire day was peaceful as I walked a few miles between each site and had a chance to be walking in the middle of the jungle all alone save the occasional tourist bus shuttling passengers between sites.

Angkor Wat, not built until the 12th century, was probably the best of the temples but that is certainly up for debate because they were all uniquely breathtaking.  Ta Phrom was incredible, except for the sheer madness created by every tourist in the whole world trying to get in to see the trees that have intermingled with the stones and were featured in the movie Tomb Raider.

At the end of it all I took a looong nap and woke up impossibly rejuvenated.  A night on the town and I'm ready to crash like Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500...
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