Angkor Wat is a place that I have dreamed of seeing for as long as I can remember. I feel so fortunate to have finally made it here. Although we exhausted the kids on temples (at least for a few days), everyone hung in for two days of exploration. The Angkor site is huge. We spent the entire first day on the small temple loop and saw a variety of temples including Bayon, the south and east gates of Angkor Thom, Ta Keo, and Ta Prohm. Finally, we were dropped at the rear entrance to Angkor Wat and were told to meet our driver out front in a couple hours. Angkor Wat itself is quite a large complex. There are three different levels within the temple and you can climb up to each and explore. Bas-relief images cover ever surface except the floors. Large holes dot the walls where gems used to glimmer in candle-lit passages. This was truly a magical place to explore.
Even with all the magic, it’s just not an adventure unless there is a little goofiness involved. As Ray was posing as a dancer in front of the Angkor Wat towers, a fellow tourist was moved to join him in his antics and asked me to take a picture with her phone. She had been sitting with a large group of tourists watching and both she and Ray were soon being cheered on by all the onlookers. It has been quite interesting watching Ray perform for crowds on this trip. I am really hoping that Ty caught some video as this little dance was taking place!
Bayon was probably one of my favorite temples. Something about the 216 faces looking down on you as you move through the temple… they all seem so peaceful and happy. We visited the Bayon Information Center later in trip and learned that it is not one, but three different images that are depicted in the faces. We also learned about the restoration efforts at Angkor Wat and Bayon temple in particular. We all decided it might have made the temple visit more meaningful had we visited the information center beforehand, but who knew.
On our second day of temples, we decided to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat and woke at 4 a.m. to make it there. It was a little much for all of us to be in crowd at 5:30 a.m., but it was worth it. The views were incredible and it’s a bit cooler that early, so we got our touring over with before the heat of the day. We did the grand tour on day two and saw the north gate of Angkor Thom, Kraol Romeas, Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup, and Prasat Kravan. And then we headed back to the hotel to nap!
Siem Reap was a huge change from the sleepy town of Battambang. The temples of Angkor see more than 5,000 tourists each day and the town has definitely grown to support the draw and cater to the tourists. We visited the night market where the kids got fish pedicures for $2 (unlimited time) and we picked up a couple needed articles of clothing. We strolled around Pub Street, which is an upper class cousin to Khoa San Street in Bangkok, where we found a Mexican restaurant. Although the Mexican food was not super, the margaritas were!
Since we knew we’d be out in the heat most days, we often ended up sipping a cold beer (or soda) by the pool in the afternoon. We met several other groups of travelers. Although we have met other travelers along the way, this time in particular we just happened to meet up with a group that we got along with really well. We had a great time getting to know everyone and sharing travel stories. It made the trip to Siem Reap even more meaningful and a lot more fun!
We happened to be heading in the same direction as two other couples, one of whom joined us for our 13+ hour trek from Siem Reap to Bangkok! Here’s how Ray describes it:
“You know you have been traveling a while when it’s normal to pay $4 for a 2+ hour bus to the Cambodian border, wait in a pack for an hour trying to leave, walk another 100 meters through no man’s land, spend another 4 hours trying to enter Thailand with a hoard of sweaty tourists, and THEN walk 400 meters to the 7-11 and turn right where there will be “casino buses” ready to take you the remaining 6 hours to Bangkok (directions you got, by the way, off the internet) and drop you off in an unknown part of Bangkok (because no one speaks English or seemingly knows how to read a map). What’s even crazier is that when we talked it at the bar the night before with fellow travelers, 2 of them thought it was such a great idea that they joined us!”
It was definitely an adventure to remember and I am amazed that all 6 of us were in such great spirits through the whole ordeal.
Cambodia was definitely a different experience than Vietnam and I feel like we got to experience a wide range of activities in 9 days. It was definitely a place that will stand out for me for a long time on many different levels. We have a ton of pictures from our short time in Siem Reap, but I’ve included just a few below.
Restoration efforts in the temples are trying to preserve the man-made structures as well as the natural elements that have grown into the walls.
Lotus flowers on a temple lake.
Ty in front of the bas-relief that depicts the churning of the milky sea.
Ray and I on the opposite side in front of the bas-relief depicting a great war.
Ray and RJ in front of Angkor Wat.
One of many trees growing over the temple walls.