Sunrise at Angkor

I apologize for the lack of originality in the title of this post, but the fact that I was up to see sunrise at Angkor is a feat in and of itself.

We were up this morning at 4 am – which is when I normally go to bed, quickly grabbed breakfast and met our Tuk Tuk driver at 4:45 and were off to Angkor Wat for sunrise. We got there before the Chinese tour groups and were able to get a spot at the ponds before the crowds piled in.

The sun didn’t rise until 5:45, but the best part of the sunrise was as the clouds in the sky. The light scattering off the clouds was mesmerizing. But alas, any zen thoughts I had were interrupted by the hundreds of tourists there.

As soon as the sun was up (and the hawkers were out), we were back in the Tuk Tuk and off to Banteay Srei. This temple is about 40km away from the main Archaeological park and it took us about an hour to get there by Tuk Tuk. Plenty of time to ponder my life (and listen to Lana Del Rey).

We managed to get to Banteay Srei before the masses did. It was amazing to see how the Sandstone has withstood the test of time – this temple predates Angkor and the carvings there were pretty amazing. We climbed into the Tuk Tuk, waited for our driver to finish his breakfast and then we were off to Beng Melea.

It took us about an hour to get to Beng Melea and by the time we got there it was getting steamy outside. This was one of my favourite temples as it wasn’t as conserved as the others and the piles of rocks, and the trees that had grown around them were stunning. This one also had lots of lush greenery around to make it magical. Alas, our incredible time was interrupted on more than one occasion by the multiple asians taking selfies. It was tough to navigate the steps and the ever present selfie sticks but we got on like pros. The signs around the boardwalk weren’t clearly marked and on the way out we got sketched out as we had to climb down a set of stairs into a dark hallway. As soon as we got to the top a local started following us and we quickly bailed on that idea. We decided to head to a viewpoint that overlooked the main gate of the temple and then tried again – with success (and no sketchy guys following us).

We found our way back to the main path, and ran into about 7 buses full of tour groups. Perfect timing. We waited for our driver (who was exploring the temple) and then were off to the Roluos Group of temples – the oldest ones in the area.

By this time, we were both pretty exhausted and listened to our music for the hour ride. It was a great time to get lots of thinking done – but I definitely confused myself about what I want to do after I graduate.

We got to the first temple of the group – Preah Ko and walked around it. Although, there wasn’t much there to see. I ended up having to go into the jungle around it to water the plants – which was a little unnerving because we had seen a sign and Beng Melea advertising the amount of land mines they had removed from the area.

We climbed back in the Tuk Tuk (both still alive) and were off to Bakong. It was really neat to explore this temple as it dates from the 9th century. It was definitely a great way to end the day.

We came back to the hotel to go for lunch – I had amok curry and it was amazing. We then took the longest nap ever and slept through dinner. I was a little peckish so I headed off to a corner store to get some snacks for the bus tomorrow and to nosh on tonight. I miraculously found Nature Valley Granola Bars and Protein Bars. There is some sort of higher being.

I’m off to back my bag. Hopefully its easier with the bigger bag I bought (thanks for having a North Face outlet Siem Reap!) – but I doubt it.

Splurging in Siem Reap

Well, today was a wonderful day. It cost me a little more than I was expecting but it was well worth it.

We got up a little later as we were going to hire bikes, but bailed on that as Katelyn wasn’t feeling so hot. We hired a Tuk Tuk to take us to Angkor Wat to climb to the top and then on the “Grand Circuit” as it is called here. Interestingly, this one was cheaper than the one yesterday but it was for longer distance. The things that make you go hmm.

Katelyn still wasn’t feeling 100% and I didn’t want her to feel worse so I climbed the Angkor Wat summit myself. All in all, it was so cool to be that close to the spires but I don’t think that the view was anything to write home about.

We were back in the Tuk Tuk and off to Preah Khan in no time. This one was very similar to Ta Prom. But, I liked it better as there was much more visitor information. It was also the only spot I’ve seen cylindrical support columns in the entire Angkor Archaeological Park.

We ate lunch, and I had Amok with Chicken. Basically Thai green curry but the Cambodian version. It was still wonderful, and much needed after the morning we had!

After lunch we headed to Neak Peah, or the Royal Baths. Well, we were told they were baths. It was just a spire in a green field, still pretty cool though. We then went to East Mabon, which we climbed. This one was similar in style to Angkor, although on a much smaller scale. After that we hit up Pre Rap, another temple similar to East Mabon and Angkor but this one was better preserved than East Mabon. It also featured a little more visiual interest in terms of ruins at the base (lots of little buildings that we couldn’t guess what they were).

We decided we wanted to hike up Phnom Bakeng (with all the chinese tour groups). The hike through the jungle was great, but the restoration efforts at the top kind of hampered the view. It was still pretty cool to see how big Angkor is from a distance!

After no time at all we were back in town for dinner (Lok Lak for me!) and cheap beer ($1 for 1L, yes please). We wanted ice cream after so found a neat spot called the Blue Pumpkin and I had 3 scoops – Cinnamon/Speculoos, Jackfruit and Khmer Fruits. All were quite great.

I was feeling a little tired but we stumbled upon a really nice spa near our hotel and I decided I needed a massage. While a bit of a splurge it was cheap compared to home and definitely worth it! My shoulders have been acting up because of my backpack so it was definitely needed!

After meeting the little Cambodian lady who would be my masseuse, she took me upstairs through the massive spa! She pointed to a couch and told me to sit down.. I was a little confused but complied. Out of nowhere a bowl filled with lemongrass, limes, water and mangoes appeared. She put my feet in then proceeded to massage and scrub them with salt (side note: any future mate/suitor will be required to do this once a week).

She then led me to the massage room, I got changed and we were off to the races. It got a little awkward as I didn’t take off my shorts (#protectingmycash) so she, without warning, proceeded to move my shorts halfway down my butt and start massaging. A little warning would have been nice but I’m over it.

90 minutes later I was done and feeling tired. Which is good as we’re getting up at 4am to watch the sunrise at Angkor tomorrow. Pray for us.

Angkor Wet

Well, it was a went one today. It alternated between absolutely pissing rain and being so humid that I was dripping with sweat (which is an achievement for me).

We got up this morning and went for breakfast along pub street. I had an espresso (a tad out of character, but so good) and some banana pancakes and soon we were off for the day! Our Tuk Tuk driver met us at our hostel and took us right to Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is probably the coolest place I’ve ever been. While the history is astounding the thing that I find most incredulous is how the Khmer people were able to create such an structure with the tools we know they had. The carvings were also incredibly detailed and amazing to see. We were unable to head to the top of Angkor as it was “Buddha Day’ and thus were resigned to save it for tomorrow.

We were back on the Tuk Tuk and headed off to Angkor Thom. We went through the South Gate of Angkor thom, and I think I found my long lost brothers among the statues along the bridge. Our driver dropped us off at Bayon, and we set off to explore the compound! I found Bayon a little cooler than Angkor Wat as we were able to wander off and explore areas free of tourists. But, as soon as we got to the top we found them all.

I spotted a really cool picture spot and stopped to take a few pictures of Katelyn. I accidentally walked into another family’s photo and in the process of apologizing told them about the spot. Katelyn and I offered to take a family photo, and we found out that they were from London, ON! What’s even cooler is that one of them taught at Western. It really is a small world (especially when you’re a mustang).

After Bayon we went to Baphuon, and in the process it started to pour. My packable rain jacket was such a solid investment, especially for today. We got to Baphuon and explored it for a bit. We were able to climb to the second level and in the process had to take refuge from the rain, again.

After exploring the temple, we were forced to exit a different way than we came in and had to walk through the jungle. It was really neat to stumble upon some other temples in the jungle. These were hardly visited by tourists and were so neat to see contrasted with the rich green of the jungle.

We found our Tuk Tuk driver and headed off to eat lunch near Ta Phrom. Our tuk tuk driver took us to a restaurant he knew, and I had incredible Lok Lak (marinated beef with a fried egg and rice). It managed to POUR rain again, while we were eating and we were forced to change tables due to the fact that it was coming down sideways.

After lunch we headed back to the famous Ta Phrom. It was featured in a Lara Croft movie… but, don’t ask me which one because I don’t know. We explored, took the obligatory tourist photos at the Lara Croft door and then again were forced to take shelter from the rain. Just before it started to rain, I offered to take a picture for a small group of tourists. Turns out they were from Sweden and we had a lovely chat while waiting out the worst of the rain!

Katelyn and I were exhausted so we decided to head back into town to rest and grab some snacks. We found an awesome café and our waitress was an Expat aussie – a welcome change! They also had a rhubarb tart that was on par with my mom’s.  We got some postcards and then headed back to the hotel to rest and write our postcards.

We booked some flights for Lao and Vietnam tonight, as we are pressed for time for the rest of the trip! I would love to take the bus more often but we don’t have the time for multiple 24hr bus rides (also no gracias).

Ok, I’m off to contemplate buying wasabi Face wash. Yes, thats a thing. Yes, I will bring some back if you want.

NOTE: If you’re reading this and would like me to bring you back something. Send me a message and I will attempt to fit it into my bag (among the entire market I bought yesterday).

Markets and I don’t mix.

Well, that is if you wan’t me to buy everything. I kind of got a little excited tonight and bought 6 pairs of pants, 4 scarves and 2 tanks. I think I spent maybe $30. You go Cambodia.

We had a longish day, but man was it worth it. We got up at about 8:30 and met our new friends Sophie and Phillipe to head to the Cambodian border. We stopped to get some new passport photos as Sophie had forgotten hers and mine were too large. We were then off to the border.

I found it really cool as we were able to cross the border on foot! We went through an arch in the shape of Angkor Wat and got our visas on the Cambodian side. In no time, we were off through passport control and on our way to Siem Reap.

We got into Siem Reap about 1pm and checked into our hostel. We went out for lunch after and walked around town. I ended up finding a wicked deal on a North Face backpack as they sell last season’s stuff here (makes sense as its made here)! We wandered through the markets in town and then Katelyn found somewhere to get a SIM Card. I’m horrible with losing things (RIP $10 bill) and don’t want to risk losing my SIM card to do that. As soon as she was done we popped into a store and before we knew it we were caught in a monsoon.

We waited it out in the store until it let up (or so we though) and grabbed a Tuk Tuk to get our Angkor Passes. We underestimated the amount of water in the streets and soon found ourselves ankle deep in rainwater (#RipBirks). We slowly made our way through the rain to the Angkor Ticket office.   If you buy it after 5pm it doesn’t count for that day and you can use it on the next day!

We had sent our Tuk Tuk that took us to Angkor back as we had to wait for our passes. So, we grabbed another one and arranged a tour for tomorrow. We’re going to bike the 2 days after that but wanted to know the history of the place. We were soon exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat with very tourists around. It was surreal to be in a place that I’ve only dreamt of being. I can’t wait to explore the rest of it!

We headed back to the hotel to get arranged for dinner. We were soon off to Pub Street and then the night market for dinner and some shopping! I ended up having some local crocodile for dinner (as it was cheapest out of the proteins) and it wasn’t bad! The cheap beer helped wash it down well.

Before we knew it we found ourselves haggling with the ladies of the night market. No, they are not prostitutes. They are ladies that work in the night market. Get your mind out of the gutter. We learned their ways and were soon beating them at their own game (as evidenced by my spoils of war). My favourite item I bought has to be a Tank Top that says “No Money No Honey” on it. I wanted to get a few other ones but alas they did not fit giants like me.

Alrighty, I’m off to watch some TV. I’m going through Friends withdrawl.