Exploring the magnificent temples of Angkor!!!

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
Trip End Jun 19, 2013

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Arriving in Siem Reap.
We paid a whopping $34 each for a bus to Siem Reap, in which our journey would start at 8.am from Don Khone and arrive in Siem Reap at 9pm. We firstly had to get off the island to the main land by a small boat and then walk about 10 mins to the bus companies shop. Here we joined lots of other travellers all waiting to cross the border into Cambodia. Next we had a decision to make. Either pay a man from the bus company $30 each to take our passports and complete the visas for us or do it ourselves. The visa should cost $20 each but we had heard lots of stories about corruption for example they charge a dollar to stamp you out of Laos, then a dollar to take your temperature, then another dollar to do the paperwork etc. we decided with a long day ahead of us we didn't want the hassle of fighting over a few dollars and paid the bus guy to sort it for us. Most others also did this and after everyone filled in their forms we took a bus to the border crossing 20 mins away. Once at the border we split into 2 groups, people who wanted to do it themselves had to go and get stamped out while we, along with most others, went straight through, only to be stopped by a 'nurse' who checked out temperature (apparently for malaria). Luckily we didn't have malaria (get in!!) and we went and waited at some conveniently located stalls waiting for the return of our passports. After an hour of waiting and sweating (it was so incredibly hot and waiting with your bags is not good) the do-it-yourself travellers started to come through. The general outcome was they paid $27 so we were pleased with our decision. Then we had to wait another hour, not sure why it took so long, probably so we had to spend money at the shops we were waiting at, which was really annoying. Eventually our passports got returned to us safely with our completed visas in and we were on our way, this time of a different bus. This bus was pretty awful with rubbish air-con so we continued to sweat as we made our way. About 30 mins later suddenly we heard a really loud bang from under the bus. This was not gonna be our day. We pulled over to find the tyre had blown to pieces and after everyone had gathered round to take a photo, the driver and his crew spent the next 40mins changing the tyre. The spare didn't look much better with absolutely no tread on it whatsoever. We were now getting agitated, we were so hot and sweaty, and hadn't eaten much plus due to our own fault we had little money on us. After the tyre change we all herded back onto the bus and continued on. For 90 mins. Then it happened again. Everyone on the bus groaned simultaneously as it happened and this time we had no spare tyre. The driver shouted "new bus, 2 hours" and once again we all left the bus. Luckily we stopped outside a restaurant and the owners face lit up as all these tourists headed towards him. We joined them and ordered some much needed food. Now all our money was gone and we needed an ATM. After hour and 30 we checked out the bus situation and it turned out we also broke down outside a tyre shop! They had swapped the blown tyre and the spare also so we could continue on. Good stuff. For 2 and half hours. Then it happened again. 3 blown tyres on 1 journey. Everyone was seriously annoyed now. "Can we swap drivers for one who doesn't drive over massive rocks" was one 'helpful' suggestion shouted towards the front of the bus. Once again we got off. It was now 7pm and our 9pm arrival seemed hilarious at this point. After changing the tyre again, we boarded once more, everyone praying this was the last time. On a positive note, apparently Ferrari have contacted the bus company as they need some experienced pit men! At 9:45 we stopped for dinner, although we had no money. The bus guy sorted out a random man to take Mark on a moped to an ATM 5 mins away. In Cambodia they use American dollars mainly and their own currency, reil, for small change. Once returned from the cash machine we ate some awful chicken rice and changed buses (we checked that this bus didn't have balloons for tyres). We managed to get some sleep and woke up finally in Siem Reap. It was 3am and we were thankful we had booked accomodation ahead for the first time in ages. Outside the bus we faced millions of tuk tuk drivers all shouting at us. Not what you want at 3am when you've just woke up. We picked one and spent another half hour being driven around Siem Reap while our driver tried to find our guesthouse. We were greeted by a friendly man once we arrived and promptly lead to our room. We have never been so thankful for our bed!

6 days in Siem Reap.
Day 1.
We woke at 9am, surprisingly early after our nightmare the day before. We decided we would be taking it easy and over our free breakfast (eggs on toast) we chatted with the owner who explained our options for seeing Angkor Wat. The temples of Angkor are spread out over a huge complex and there are so many to visit, so we decided on getting the 3 day pass ($40) to be used within 7 days. We also agreed to use a tuk tuk as the distances are so great and its so hot. That cost $50 for 3 days (sunrise to sunset). After all the talk about Angkor we thought we should check out the national museum. Although we're not usually 'museum people' we were very excited at seeing Angkor Wat and thought we should find out more about it before we visit
We paid an entrance fee of $12 each to the ultra modern looking museum. Inside there were different sections; a brief video explaining the importance of the rooms, a room containing 1000 buddhas, a section explaining which kings and rulers built what temples in a sort of time line. We watched some videos explaining the history of Angkor and atleast we now know some basic details before exploring one of the wonders of the world. Early evening we headed into town to check out Siem Reap. We got as far as the first bar which had a board offering draft beer for $0.50 or 30p. That's right 30p a pint. I could get drunk for under 2 haha. Even cocktails for Jade were $1.50. We've even calculated its cheaper to get a return flight out here to get drunk than have a night out in Notts! After a few drinks we walked along 'pub street' and around the alleys leading off to find a nice place specializing in Khmer food. We tried a selection of Khmer curries with fish, prawns, chicken and pork in. All very nice! Again washed down with cheap beer. Siem Reap is a mix of travellers and package tourists with everyone here to see Angkor. The town is clean and has so many good bars and restaurants. Most impressive for us is the fact it still feels as though your in Cambodia unlike what's happened to Luang Prabang. 

Day 2
We left at 10am after breakfast, and headed out to our first temple tour of the Roluos Group. They are situated about 18km east of the city and are some of the oldest, dating back to the 9th century. We visited 3 temples; the first Preah Ko with 6 towers all with beautiful carvings. Then Bakong, the most impressive of the temples and was once the at the centre of the first capital. And last was Lolei, we thought it was a bit pointless coming to this temple as the whole thing was covered in scaffolding and being renovated so unable to take any pics. We did get some cool monk shots though. Everywhere we went we got harassed by women selling food and drink and kids wanting you to buy postcards, books and key rings. Normally if we said no to someone that would be it but it seems they had selective hearing and badgered us non stop. We stopped off at a market on the way back and Jade bought some new Sunnies for a whopping $2 and some cheap toiletries. Once again in the evening we headed to the main area and found a cheap place to eat and enjoyed watching the world go by. We also visited the night market and ended up buying a pillow case recycled from a cement bag.....as you do.

Day 3.
Why does everything great have to involve sunrise? After waking up at 4am we met Shari, our tuk tuk man and made our way to Srah Srang. An alternative to sunrise at Angkor Wat where hordes of tourists go, we sat infront of the man-made lake and watched the sun slowly make its appearance with about 30 other tourists. It would have been nice and peaceful if not for the local kids hanging around insistent that we should by some postcards off them. Some chinese tourist tried to shoo them away with handfuls of sweets. That lasted about 10 minutes until they came back knowing they would get more. We took plenty of photos of the beautiful sunrise and then headed to our next temple. 
Very surprisingly, we were the only people exploring the Pre Rup temple at about 7am. I think we were extremely lucky to get the place to ourselves and could snap away without any problems. The temple looked really special during the end of sun rise and the views were terrific from the top. The downside to us having the place to ourselves was that we couldnt have a nice photo with us both in it haha.
Afterwards we climbed back into the tuk tuk and made the 40 minute journey to the next temple. To see Banteay Srey you have to pay 5 more as it is quite far from the grand circuit. This was one of our favorites; quite a small temple made of pink sand stone but with the finest of carvings and examples of the Khmer art. Again we were pretty lucky as there were only a couple of other tourists and it was very peaceful exploring the temples ourselves. We had breakfast outside the temple and didn't they see us coming? The prices were western prices and we had to pay it, we are sooo bringing a pack up on the final day of temple touring!
On the way back to the grand circuit we stopped off at Banteay Samre, a large and mainly flat temple with a German tour guide who was shouting not speaking as he took round his tourists. As they got back on their a/c bus we were left with an empty peaceful temple listening to the birds sing away. 
At about 10.45 we headed to East Mebon which was very similar to Pre Rup. The hordes of tourists had started to make an appearance so we couldn't really take any decent photographs so we made our way to Ta Som.
Ta Som has a large tree growing out of its eastern gate, a photo classic but you can see where it is slowly destroying it. Here is where we met a small girl selling 10 postcards for a dollar she must have been about 6 and was counting to 10 in English, French, Spanish and Japanese. Extremley impressive. 
We were looking forward to seeing Preah Khan, the last temple of the grand circuit as it is one of the biggest. The temples seemed to go on forever, maze like corridors and huge stone bricks spilled out over the floor after every turn. The carvings were so detailed, from the door arches to the pillars. In the courtyard area outside you could get a better idea of the size of the place. Huge trees entwined around walls and window frames. Moss covered the stonework with the weathering affects taking there toll on the outer walls especially. Preah Khan is an impressive temple.
We told Shari we wanted to see Angkor Wat at sunset and he suggested we climb this hill with a ruin on top to get the best view. After we climbed in the heat for half an hour we reached the top. The views were really good but Angkor Wat was still far away so you couldnt appreciate it that well and sunset was the other side so it was pretty pointless. We left early and passed bus loads of tourists all heading up for sunset. We're glad we didn't hang around up there. In the evening we found a nice cheap place to eat some yummy food, I tried fried quail. It was nice, if a little awkward to eat. I had a friend though as the restaurants cat sat next to me as I ate my dinner, occasionally tapping my arm with his paw, just incase I forgot he was there. Jade tried beef khmer curry which she enjoyed. Once again we had a few.....drinks.

Day 4
We had decided to take a day off from exploring Ankgor, didn't want to rush through it so we went to a restaurant with a nice cold pool and relaxed for the day. The pool was free as long a you bought atleast $5 of food. We had the place to ourselves and was nice just to chill out and relax. Afterwards we went to the market area and ended up buying a huge canvas oil painting. We regretted not buying one in Bangkok so we spend 20 and have somehow got to fit it into the bags. For dinner we chose a nice looking place that sold duck meatballs and rice but sadly the portion size was pathetic so we had to go elsewhere for a second dinner. 

Day 5
Another early start to see the huge Ankgor Wat temple at sunrise and when we got there there was utter chaos as a cycle marathon was taking place. The start line was directly infront of the entrance to the temple, not sure who the bright spark was that planned that. Anyway we made our way in the dark across the massive moat and in the entrance to Angkor Wat. We chose a good position to watch the sun come up and get a few photos. The silhouette of Angkor Wat with the sun behind looked really impressive, perhaps more than seeing it in the day as it hides the scaffolding. We also enjoyed watching all the Chinese tourists wetting themselves with excitement whilst setting up their tripods and alternating filters on cameras to get the 'perfect shot'. There were a hell of a lot of tourists but the grounds are so big it didn't feel too bad. After we got our photo we left before the crowds did so we could visit the next temple alone. 
Banteay Kdei was quite a big, flat temple which was unrestored and had lots of bricks piled up on the floor. With the sun just coming through the surrounding jungle trees, the temple looked very atmospheric.
Ta Prohm is the temple where tomb raider was filmed. There was a lot of restoration happening here so we couldn't access parts unfortunately. However it was still amazing as you can see how the jungle has grown in and around the brickwork. Huge tree roots hugged the temples and it was incredible to see how the jungle has reclaimed the land over the years Angkor was abandoned. We decide to have breakfast and left for the next temple at around 9am.
Ta Keo was a tall pyramid shape with towers at the top. The steps up were very steep and in the heat it was quite a tough climb. The views over the jungle were great though. We saw some smaller ruins in between and then made our way to Angkor Thom.
Bayon, Phimeanakas and Baphuon are all inside this 3km walled 'city' which used to be the capital of Angkor. The gates into Angkor Thom are very impressive, they are crowned with 4 giant buddha faces and have a bridge over the moat around. On the bridge sat different statues that all look like they were pulling the gate door shut with ropes. Our most favorite temple inside was by far Bayon. It's a huge temple and what makes this one special is the big smiling faces looking out in each direction. Overall there are 37 towers with most having the faces carved into them. The size of the stones used in all the temples is amazing and to think all this was created nearly 1000 years ago makes it even more impressive. A short ride and some expensive lunch later we visited Angkor Wat one last time to fully explore it. We enjoyed getting lost amongst the endless corridors and rooms within, and checking out the intricate carving on all the walls. By now our feet were killing from all the walking and our early starts caught up with us. We headed back with huge smiles on our faces after an amazing 3 days at Angkor, by far the best place we have visited on our trip so far.

Day 6
We had a well earned lay-in and sorted out some stuff in the morning whilst eating some fried yellow noodles. In the afternoon we went quad biking. When we arrived our friendly guide briefed us and decided that Jade should follow him with me at the back (obviously as men are better drivers haha). After a quick test run we were on our way. Soon enough we were whizzing along dirt tracks and the town turned into the countryside. Without realizing, we had picked the best time of the year to see the countryside as all the rice had just been planted. The rice paddies were all different shades of bright greens and looked stunning in the sun. We saw buffaloes being washed by the farmers children and every time we passed kids they all came out and gave us a wave. Our guide let us stop whenever we wanted to take photos and showed us the best spots. Along the roads we could pick up some speed and the bumpy uneven dirt tracks made it fun even if we did get very dirty! In the evening we went to pub street to enjoy the nightlife at 30p a pint who can blame us! And we tried out this cool Cambodian BBQ restaurant where you cook your own meat on a mini grill on your table. There's the normal meats; chicken, pork, prawn and then the not so everyday meats; crocodile, kangaroo and ostrich. 
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Diana on

Wish I was there... Siem Reap is a special place, don't You think? Can't wait to see THE pictures.


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