Almost templed out ... exploring outer Angkor regions
Angkor Travel Blog› entry 68 of 89 › view all entries
Waking up with a total of 10 hours of sleep over the last 3 nights and possibly a mean hangover (it's hard to differentiate between the effects of Angkor beer and sheer exhaustion) isn't the greatest backdrop to exploring the ancient wonders of Angkor. Nonetheless, I got a "late" start, setting out at 8:30am with my boy, Hung.
We first hit the Roluos Group located about 40 minutes by tuk tuk to the east of Siem Reap. These temples felt much less hectic than the main area near Angkor Wat. Lonely Planet also suggested checking out the tiny town of Roluos located nearby to get a feeling of "rural" Cambodia.
Ruluos is a one street town really and when I arrived, the Saturday market was going on with local produce, seafood, and random crap being sold from under makeshift tents. The coolest thing was that unlike most of Siem Reap and the Angkor main area, no one was trying to make me buy their water or coconuts. In fact, no one paid any attention to me, and there were no other tourists. There was a family swimming and splashing around in the shockingly dirty river. After 5 minutes of culture, I jumped back into the tuk tuk and Hung and I headed off.
On the way up north to Banteay Srei, something went wrong with the tuk tuk and we stopped off at a randomly placed mechanic shop. It was more like a shed with some tools but apparently could fix the esoteric clicking noise coming from one of the wheels. I pulled up to the table in the adjacent restaurant/shed and ordered a brightly colored and very syrupy Fanta. A mongrel dog lazed around near my legs while two women slurped up noodles on the same table. A rooster pecked around near my feet and I briefly wondered whether I would catch avian flu from it. I busted out a torn-out crossword--like the nerd that I am--and nearly fell asleep with the heat and mental exhaustion from trying to figure out 15 Down.
30 minutes later, all had apparently been solved and we were off again. On the way back up through the main temple area, we got caught in a ridiculous dirt devil / sand storm. I've never been in the middle of one before, but even though I covered up and was wearing a hat and facemask, I found sand in all non-clothed crevices of my body, including my ears and eyes. Yuck. Sometimes wearing zinc and thick sunscreen can be a real pain.
We made it to Banteay Srei after a butt-tenderizing, lung-clogging ride. I'm not sure whether the sand/dust or vehicle exhaust was worse for me. I marveled at the fact it was still so early in the day...I was dying for a nap. So, I decided what better thing to do than eat some food. Every time I saw fried noodles or soup noodles on the menu, I got really excited that it'd be regular Chinese egg noodles but all of Cambodia seems to use package saimin and not cook it all the way through.
I checked out Banteay Srei, which was a smaller but intricately carved set of temples with a reddish hue. About 15 minutes later, I was walking back to the tuk tuk, particularly satisfied that I had bargained down a bottle of water from $1.
On the way back south to Siem Reap, I checked out Ta Som, a very secluded and quiet temple, and Pre Rup, a towering temple overlooking the Mekong plains. I decided to mosey on over to the extremely popular and extremely crowded Phnom Bakheng for sunset. On the way, I ran into Mike on his bike and we made plans to meet for dinner. At Phnom Bakheng, everyone and their grandma (literally) were there, clamoring up a very steep temple to watch the sun set. I was worried that one of the many elderly tourists would fall down and thought that this set-up would never fly in the US.
After about 10 minutes, I was done with the hoards of people and headed back down the hill. I found Hung kicking around a popular hybrid of a hackey sack and badminton shuttlecock (hott!) with a buddy. He quickly jumped into the tuk tuk, very professional and ready to take me back home. I was ready to get the sand out of my ears.
De-sanded and de-sweated, I met up with Mike for dinner at Temple Bar, which has nightly apsara dance performances upstairs. Since I had missed the dance performance the night before, we decided to grab some dinner and some culture. The dance performances were beautiful and most importantly, felt authentic.