And our story begins...
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 13 of 17 › view all entries
with 7 American students arriving in one a small plane. To a small airport. In Cambodia.
For some background. Cambodia is a mid-size Asian country bordered by Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Siem Reap and Angkor Wat are located in the center of the country very close to the large lake of Tonle Sap. Cambodia was in a state of Civil War until 1998 when the UN intervened. They are currently in the stages of rebuilding their country while balancing a thriving tourism industry. In 2002 they had about 200,000 tourists visit Siem Reap. In 2005 it was over 1.2 million tourists.
I don't think any of us really had any idea of what to expect in Cambodia.
After exiting the airport, our guide, Milky, was waiting for us. We (Katie, more specifically) had arranged the hotel, guide and transportation beforehand because we really didn't know what to expect and didn't want to have to try to figure it out there.
The majority of the first day was spent at two different temples - Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. Both built by the Khmer people between 910-1429 AD. Both were made of huge sandstone blocks and had intricate carving over pretty much every surface.
It is hard to describe either of these places. They were just so surreal. Even looking at my pictures now, I can't believe that I have been there. Or that they are even real. It truly is a once in a lifetime thing.
Some other things that were distinctive - the monks in the orange robes at Angkor Wat that climbed up vertical staircases with more agility than I have in my entire body, the holes left in the sides of the temples by gems and pearls that had been looted over the years, and the insane amount of tourists at both locations.
The heat was also pretty oppressive. Before this, I think I had claimed that the hottest I had ever been was at the Auburn game this year. Definitely not the case anymore. With heat index, I am pretty sure it was close to 100 degrees both days. After showering, the sweat would immediately soak through your shirt. When we got back to the hotel on that first day I got in the shower without changing the tap from cold to hot.
We also did a lot of climbing (although not as much as Saturday). Climbing up to the top of Angkor Wat was very scary. The steps were very small and you could hardly fit the front of your foot on them. It made it easier if you just concentrated on what was in front of you and didn't look down. However, the view from the top definitely made it worthwhile.
It is hard to describe much else about the temples, but I posted numerous pictures on Shutterfly - over 200 - so looking at those would probably clear that up.
We spent Friday afternoon shopping in the markets and eating at Molly Malone's, an Irish pub. We tend to somehow find the Irish pubs in every city we visit.
Saturday was a little different than Friday. We had breakfast at the hotel in the morning - pineapple pancakes, I am definitely going to miss all the fresh fruit when I go back to the states before driving to Tonle Sap and the Vietnamese floating village.
We travelled to the floating village by boat after bumping down a dirt road through a marshy looking area for about an hour. The floating village was created when some Vietnamese refugees came over (during the Vietnam War, I assume?) and needed somewhere to say. The Cambodian government allows them to live on this lake tax free and thus they remain there to this day.
The village was bigger than I expected. Tonle Sap is a huge lake during the rainy season, which I could only imagine, especially since we visited in the dry season.
Afterwards, we went to another touristy type cafe to eat and then to more temples. One made of a porous red stone that was imported from even farther distances, two that had these huge trees growing out of the top that looked like they had taken thousands of years to grow (one was the temple in Tombraider) and one that was on the top of the mountain. Milky saved that one for last. And when we all thought we couldn't walk another step, we climbed about 3/4 of a mile vertically to the mountain top temple.
The last night was spent with more marketing for cheap shirts and a Cambodian dance and dinner show. The dancing was interesting, the dancers used pots, sticks and baskets to hit together with their fellow dancers. There was also one dance that told a story, a Cambodian boy was flirting with a girl. The food at the buffet was interesting, I accidentally ate some stuff that I probably wouldn't have if I had known what it was but on the whole was very touristy, lots of Japanese and Vietnamese. The guys had been asking the waiter about some casinos Milky had pointed out on one of our long drives in the minibus and after dinner we went to scope it out.
Sorry if this entry was depressing. It really wasn't a depressing visit. It was actually quite amazing, I see why they call Angkor Wat the 8th Wonder of the World!
My next entry will be happier, after the Quality Control final on Tuesday, we are going on a UPS and a Tiger brewery tour and Wednesday we are touring the port and having lunch in a revolving restaurant.
Hope everyone at home is doing well!