Temple Time!

Trip Start Jan 09, 2010
Trip End May 20, 2010

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Friday, February 19, 2010

So, one miserable bus ride later, we got to Siem Reap!

I'm not going to go into too much detail here, as its been quite a while since I was there (its now early April - sad, I know it takes me this long to get my act together). But I didn't want to post things out of order, so I have to finish this entry before I can tell you about my more recent adventures!

We stayed at this place just across the river from the old market, so as soon as we got off the bus, go checked in and freshened up a bit, we headed over to explore, and I went souvenire crazy - there were so many things! I got hammocks and kramas (checkered scarves) and this awesome silver elephant bracelet (Hayley got one too, and together we did a good bit of bargaining!) and a bunch of other things I'm not going to write about since I don't want to ruin the surprise. I also got what was undoubtedly the cheapest haircut of my life - $4 US - and got my head massaged and hair done up by a ladyboy. The haircut was perhaps not ideal, but just the head massage was so worth it after a night on a bus, and the hairstyle was something I could never have done myself.

Then we went back, rented bikes from our guesthouse and biked out to lunch (we happened to stop right across from the new market, so we checked that out as well). Thoroughly marketed-out, we headed up to the entrance to the temples of Angkor and waited around until we could buy a ticket for the next day (which included sunset for the day before - success!) and then biked up to Ta Prohm (this is the temple where they filmed tomb raider), getting there JUST as they were closing the gates - we had to beg the security guard to let us in for a bit, but he was nice and let us get away with it. Ta Prohm was really cool - its not 'restored' like a lot of the other temples, they just let it stay they way they found it, so you can literally see the jungle reclaiming it - trees growing out of giant walls, their roots almost engulfing it, and tumbled stones everywhere like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Very neat.

That night we grabbed dinner right by the old market, found a tea shop that was to Hayley's liking (and mine and Bea's!) and then walked over to the night market. On the way, we passed a million places advertising something called a 'fish massage' - take a look at the pictures. It's essentially a little pool full of these little fish, and you sit on the side with your legs in the water and the fish nibble all of the dead skin off your legs/feet. You'd think they'd be indistinct, ticklish bites, but no, you can fully feel them going at it.

The next day, we went to the temples, saw Angkor Wat at sunrise and had banana pancakes (asian style - phenomenal - they're plate-sized and thin, almost like crepes, but not quite). Then we rode elephants around the Bayon temple (the one with all faces everywhere) and it was incredible. Afterward, we fed them bananas, and they reach out with their trunks and grab the bananas right out of your hand!   Then we wandered around some more, went to the terrace of the elephants, and found this awesome deserted temple - so many of the big ones are super crowded, but if you just walk around a bit more, you can find smaller, totally worthwhile and quiet temples, where you don't just feel like a total tourist.

After we went back, had lunch at the guest house and napped a bit, Bea and I went back to actually see the inside of Angkor Wat and do Bayon at sunset (and this time I remembered to bring my sketch pad and pencils to take some rubbings of the low-relief carvings, and do a bit of sketching), while Hayley (who was feeling a bit templed-out) just relaxed in town.

Dinner was at this phenomenal place where everything was white and you ate stretched out on day beds with little trestle tables. The pumpkin soup was the greatest thing I ate all trip.

Then a morning bus ride back to Phnom Penh, an afternoon at S21 (a genocide museum that was interesting, if not particularly enjoyable) and then some time in a used bookstore, ending with a night with phil and arthur hanging out on the back patio at our absolutely awesome guesthouse (forget lakeside - this was lake-ON). And thus, with an early morning tuk-tuk ride to the airport and a dairy queen blizzard for breakfast (they did the flip-upsidedown thing!), our week of adventure ended!
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