It's such an amazing place - Angkor Wat.
It was already dark when we finally arrived in Siem Reap. This touristic town is a magnet for tourists from all around the world due to one fact mainly. It’s located near one of the most impressive historical sights built by human hand: Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is also a symbol for the centuries lasting bad relationship with the strong western neighbour Thailand. The name Siem Reap literally means the “Defeat of Siam”, today’s Thailand. Nice.
There was a map of Siem Reap in my Lonely Planet guidebook, but honestly, it wasn’t a big help because we had no idea where we were.
Right after we left the bus we got immediately surrounded by tuk-tuk drivers. These guys were really competing who would be the one to bring us to our hostel. Some of them didn’t even want money from us if they could bring us to “their” hostel. They would probably get a provision which would be then automatically added to our room price. Anyway, while I still tried to orientate where we were, Sergej and Pavel agreed with one of the tuk-tuk drivers on a ride. The place he brought us was relatively expensive, so we just checked the hostel which was next to the first one. Little bit later we had a room for an acceptable price.
A relieving shower and the world looked nice again. It was time to get some dinner. We walked around a bit until we found a place which looked more or less fine.
We sit down and a young girl, maybe 10-11 years old, came to take our order. This wasn’t the only place we noticed the waitresses seemed very young, it was obviously a common thing in Siem Reap. I saw once that a tourist tried to communicate in English with an adult employee of a restaurant but that guy couldn’t understand a word. Was that the reason that children had to work as waiters in restaurants where foreigners were use to eat? Because they learn English at school? This theory of mine keeps unconfirmed and needs further investigation.
A buddhist session.
The following day was all reserved for Angkor Wat, the UNESCO World heritage place. Angkor Wat is actually just the name of the main temple, there are several more sights all around that area. And we wanted to see most of them. There were several possibilities to visit the different sights, we opted for the cheaper and most flexible one…we rent bicycles.
Early morning after some good breakfast we started our tour, the way from our hostel in Siem Reap to Angkor Wat took us about 30 minutes.
Some people seemed to have problems with the height, hehe.
It was just 8:30am, but it was starting to be really hot already, gosh. The tickets to enter the sight area were relatively expensive compared to the usual prices in Laos or Cambodia, but 20 USD per day were definitely worth spending them to see one of the most magnificient architectonic treasures in the world.
The first temple we visited was of course the most significant one: Angkor Wat itself. It was built for King Suryavarman in the early 12th century and the Cambodians are so proud of it that it even appears on its national flag.
It’s honestly an impressive place, can’t really imagine how the Khmers were able to build it with the technology they had in the 12th century. The complex was quite huge and the temple stood on a terrace raised higher then the ancient city that stood here. Steep stairs leaded up, not really a problem for me or my friends. But for sure for a group of Asian older ladies who invested much effort to climb them like if they climbed Mt Everest. But they managed so they have my respect. While we’ve been inside we were lucky enough to see some Buddhist ceremony. First a long lane of people (the big majority were either old women or kids) dressed mainly in yellow or white appeared from nowhere and entered the temple. Then everybody sit down and listened quietly to the prayers of some Buddhist priest. We watched it for a couple of minutes and left then, we didn’t want to disturb anybody.
The impressive Angkor Wat!
There were lots of different temple complexes all around, my favourite after Angkor Wat was definitely the Bayon Temple inside of the so called Angkor Thom.
Its main characteristic is a multitude of stone faces on the many towers.
This was also the place where my “little boy wants to have fun” soul re-emerged and decided to make a little joke on two young German women. It’s not always “girls just wanna have fun”, there should be equality between sexes, hahaha.
I speak fluent German due to the time I spent in Germany as a teenager, but of course these girls couldn’t know it as me, Pavel and Sergej were chatting in Slovak. The first time they passed next to us I heard one asking the other “Does my headscarf smell? I’m not sure, but I think it smells”. It’s one of the phrases you hear but forget quickly because it doesn’t concern you and you don’t know the people anyway. But 15 minutes later our ways crossed again.
A light went on in a nasty back part of my head. They were just coming straight to our direction and right when they were the closest I sniffed. Not too loud, but loud enough so the girl with the scarf could hear it. That was all, I could have had a cold or something. Hehe. It would be too suspicious if I turned round myself, so I asked Sergej to tell me what she was doing. He said that the young woman took the scarf immediatly from her head and took a deep breath from it, hahahaha. And then she hided it in her handbag. If she’s on travelbuddy, reads this and recognizes herself…sorry, I just couldn’t resist.
The temple with the stone faces.
We cycled around and visited most of the temples even if the heat was sometimes killing us.
Almost every hour we had to stop and buy some cool refreshment (like milk directly from a cooled coconut, yummy) the locals around offered. It was already late afternoon when we were heading slowly back and decided to make a last stop by one of the touristic spots. On the top of a hill were the remainings of a stone temple which used be an observatory. The tourists had 2 options to get there, either walking or on the back of an elephant. Pavel and Sergej decided to walk, but I wanted to sit on an elephant at least once in my life. And the 10 USD they asked for one way were worth it. Actually it was 15 USD for the way up, but there were so many people waiting that I decided suddenly to take just a ride down…for 10 USD. When we reached the top of the hill it was pretty crowded by people, but we got anyway a good view above the whole area. There was mainly jungle everywhere, just from time to time some stone building emerged. The ride down with the elephant by the way was fun, but it lasted just for some 15 minutes.
We finished the evening back in Siem Reap with a good dinner and a visit in the internet café.
Our French friend Veronique we met in Laos had arrived here as well, so we decided to meet and to go to the restaurant together. Afterwards we walked around a bit and discovered even a nice little market for tourists with lots of local stuff. Little bit pricey though, but nice to have a look at.
Felt a bit sad during that walk. The following day we would leave Siem Reap and Cambodia heading back to Thailand. The end of our trip was approaching and I didn’t like this idea at all.