Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Temple Hopping and Crystal Carringtons!

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Our breakfast at 4:30 am!

We wanted to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat because all the guidebooks said it was amazing - but this required us to meet our driver at 5 am!  We had ordered an early breakfast (Bor Bor - a Khmer rice porridge - actually quite good), but it was just way too early to eat. 

We opted to get only a one-day pass for $20 - it's good for all the temples in the area for the entire day.  If you are a temple buff, you can opt for the 2 or 3 day passes. 

We had been warned that the temples get super super crowded, so we were pleasantly surprised when we reached Angkor Wat to find only a handful of other tourists.  We were in awe of the immense structure before us with four spires reaching towards the skies - how did these ancient people build this impressive and huge temple structure by hand???  It's absolutely amazing!  The carvings were so intricate, the place so carefully designed .

.. It left us speechless.  Then when the sun rose and colored the sky with gorgeous orange and pink hues ....  beautiful!  Sometimes one does have to bow down to the beauty of nature; and when matched with the wonderment of human achievement - it's simply awe-inspiring.   After appreciating the sunrise, we crossed the moat and entered into the temple and marveled at the wonderful bas reliefs, sculptures and general architecture.  I wonder what happened to these people ... how do an entire people disappear and just leave something so immense to be retaken by the jungle?  I just don't understand...

Victory Gate - (east of the Bayon) lined with gargoyle like statues; we stopped here briefly for a quick photo op.

Angkor Thom / Bayon - Angkor Thom is a huge area filled with many temples, etc.

My favorite sunrise pic of Angkor Wat!
  While there, we visited the Terrace of the Elephants.  Then, onto the central temple - Bayon - which was one of my favorites, filled with benevolent smiling faces.  There were several levels with steep little stairs and we climbed all the way to the top.  Again we were lucky that there were very few tourists around.  In fact, I often got a little scared all by myself in certain rooms.

Ta Prohm - Enigmatic and still touched by the jungle wild.  Amanda read that they left some of the trees to show the temple in its "jungle" state (i.e., when the jungles had overrun these temples).  The roots on these trees were amazing - sinewy and huge! We lucked out in that we entered the back way, so was free from other tourists until we got to the main entrance.

wow!
  This allowed us to have an intimate experience with the place.  Amazing... Then walking out of the area, we were accosted by our first beggars.  We had heard about them, but was still not really prepared ... we were advised to ignore them because if you respond and give to one, you would be bombarded.  It wasn't as bad as I had feared though...

Banteay Kdei  on the Sra Serang Reservoir - nice place, overlooking a smooth body of glistening waters.

Around 9 am, A started getting hungry since we'd already been up for about 5 hours!  We decided to check out Le Grand Cafe - and were we glad we did.  For our 2nd breakfast, A had the petite dejeuner - croissant with fresh passionfruit and dragonfruit jam (quite good) - and A fell in love with their croissants.

Amazing colors!
  I had the American breakfast - for only about $4 or $5 - I got toast, perfectly scrambled eggs (at least 5 eggs), bacon, freshly made yogurt (very nice and tart), fresh jam, coffee, juice  - all delicious!  After the morning's trek and the heat, we retreated back to the FCC and arranged to continue our temple tour in the afternoon.  I again lounged by the pool while A napped - I hope she gets a chance to enjoy the pool before we leave.

After the much needed break and nap - we had lunch at Soup Dragon - very well reviewed, but neither of us liked it much.  The food was just so-so and A thought it upset her stomach afterwards.  We both had coconut water (huge coconuts) and she had a calamari stir fry and I had fried rice and sauteed morning glory.

  We asked the waiter to take our photos, and he could barely get us into the frame together - it took about 6 tries to get an OK photo.  This was a common problem here ... I guess they aren't used to digital cameras yet.  Our driver had the same problem during the temple tour.

After lunch we visited Les Artisans d"Angkor - a company that trains locals in various arts and crafts to give them marketable skills - moreover, they train a certain percentage of disabled people to make the artworks.  Some of the proceeds go to assisting their cause so it's quite worthwhile.  A and I both purchased some artworks.  They do give free guided tours to show you how their artisans make the different bowls, paintings, embroidery, sculptures, etc.

Doesn't this look straight out of a scifi film?
  It's quite interesting and definitely worth a visit. 

A wanted to return to Angkor Wat to see the bas relief - the Churning of the Milk Sea - because we had somehow missed it in the morning.  There were a lot more people there in the afternoon, but not the horrible crowds we had been warned about.  Some people were actually wearing heels - crazy!  The particular bas relief was very intriguing and told the legend of how the world was created by deities churning the sea.

Afterwards, our driver kept wanting us to complete the "Grand Tour" and finish visiting 3 minor temples; but we told him we wanted to see the sunset at Bakeng Hill but our driver said it was too crowded and difficult to climb.

  He suggested a different place for the sunset, but we still wanted to at least visit it.  We had thought that the temple was like a step pyramid and we could climb up halfway - but actually, you had to hike up the hill for about 10 - 15 minutes before you even got to the temple.  Some people take an elephant ride up ($15).  When we got up, we realized what our driver was saying.  Everyone and their mother was up there for the sunset - we even ran into 2 guys from our halong bay cruise! - the actual temple was super steep to climb - it probably wouldn't be bad during daylight, but climbing down after sunset could be tricky.  We took a few pics and then headed to the other temple (forgot the name) for the sunset.  Unfortunately, it was a slightly hazy day so the sunset photos weren't as amazing.

We were a bit templed out so asked our driver to take us home.  He thought we were crazy but we won out in the end.  During the drive back, we noticed a huge crowd of locals out on a field - we thought there might be a show or something, but our driver said it was just the locals picnicking ... i guess if it's too hot and stifling at home, this would be a nice pasttime.

We had been warned that there would be lots of beggars - particularly children around the temples.  We were lucky that we only encountered a few ... but it is tough to deal with.  We were advised to just ignore them and keep walking - if you show interest or give some money to one, you will be swarmed and they will try to con you.  Such a sad state of affairs.  It really is a shockingly poor country which is so dependent on tourism .

.. but there were barely any tourists around that we could see... Anyways, the best way to help them is probably to donate to a proper organization or to be a tourist and support the local industry/community - and not to give into scams.

We had read that Shinta Mani - a nearby hotel - had a really great restaurant - more expensive than other places in Cambodia (still cheap in comparison to the States, but food and drink is typically dirt cheap in Cambodia).  They had a funny drink called Crystal Carrington (gin, raspberry stolichnaya and fresh mango juice) - very good and only $5.  For dinner, A had a delicious spicy, sweet and sour soup with shrimp and crab linguine; and I had stir fried chicken with basil - quite delicious but spicy!  I also finished with a chocolate mousse (it was more of an ice cream thing - but I can't complain).

Reflections...
  The total for dinner and drinks was about $41.  We had to have the waitress convert to Riel since we needed to spend it - she was actually quite rude about it - this was the only negative of the whole Shinta Mani experience which is unfortunate.  I would still recommend this since the food was very good and it was a very pretty restaurant with a lovely patio.

During dinner we had heard some rumblings of thunder and noticed there was some light rain.  We thought we could just make a dash for our hotel - only a block and a half away.  Boy - were we wrong!  The moment we stepped out, the light rain transformed into a thunderous storm and we were absolutely drenched!  It was crazy!  When we ran into the FCC, the staff were so shocked they just collectively gasped.

  We later discovered this crazy rain was part of a typhoon that hit SE Asia (but more on that discovery later...)

arlene0725 says:
Cambodians are not really fans of their own money (riels). They would rather get dollars or Euros instead. I couldn't even unload my riels at the airport bec they wouldn't let me pay in dollars & riels for my departure tax - $25 bucks. I felt suckered by that.
Posted on: Apr 24, 2008
tvillingmarit says:
Thanks for reminding me how nice it was, visited Seam Reap in November 2007
Posted on: Apr 24, 2008
sybil says:
too early to eat? who are you and what have you done to my friend!!!

can't wait to see your pix!!!
Posted on: Apr 20, 2008
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Our breakfast at 4:30 am!
Our breakfast at 4:30 am!
My favorite sunrise pic of Angkor …
My favorite sunrise pic of Angkor…
wow!
wow!
Amazing colors!
Amazing colors!
Doesnt this look straight out of …
Doesn't this look straight out of…
Reflections...
Reflections...
Another wow!
Another wow!
See the hot air balloon?  I think …
See the hot air balloon? I think…
Another monkey!
Another monkey!
Fancy banisters.
Fancy banisters.
Reliefs of Aspara dancers.
Reliefs of Aspara dancers.
Look at the intricate carvings!
Look at the intricate carvings!
Shy little figure.
Shy little figure.
Horses grazing.
Horses grazing.
Victory Gate.
Victory Gate.
Victory Gate.
Victory Gate.
Victory Gate.
Victory Gate.
Terrance of Elephants - cool, huh?
Terrance of Elephants - cool, huh?
Little men holding up the terrace.
Little men holding up the terrace.
Other tourists in a tuk tuk - we w…
Other tourists in a tuk tuk - we …
Bayon.
Bayon.
Climbing up to the top of the Bayo…
Climbing up to the top of the Bay…
Profile of one of the smiling face…
Profile of one of the smiling fac…
Little shrine on the Bayon.
Little shrine on the Bayon.
Amanda - focused on her picture ta…
Amanda - focused on her picture t…
Trying to get the face behind me .…
Trying to get the face behind me …
Climbing up the Bayron.
Climbing up the Bayron.
Huge tree.
Huge tree.
Tree atop the ruins.
Tree atop the ruins.
Entering Ta Prohm from behind.
Entering Ta Prohm from behind.
The root is bigger than A!
The root is bigger than A!
Another immense tree!
Another immense tree!
See how teeny A is compared to the…
See how teeny A is compared to th…
Sra Srang reservoir.
Sra Srang reservoir.
Touristy shops near the reservoir.
Touristy shops near the reservoir.
Lunching at Soup Dragon - the wait…
Lunching at Soup Dragon - the wai…
My so-so fried rice and sauteed mo…
My so-so fried rice and sauteed m…
At the Artisans dAngkor - these a…
At the Artisans d'Angkor - these …
Working with gold leaf.
Working with gold leaf.
Carving wood.
Carving wood.
Back at Angkor Wat.
Back at Angkor Wat.
Some vacationing buddhist monks.
Some vacationing buddhist monks.
Churning of the Milk Sea.
Churning of the Milk Sea.
Churning of the Milk Sea - again.
Churning of the Milk Sea - again.
Aspara dancers.
Aspara dancers.
Steep steps!
Steep steps!
Cows being herded home.
Cows being herded home.
Sunset glow.
Sunset glow.
A enjoying her yummy soup!
A enjoying her yummy soup!
Drinking my Crystal Carrington.
Drinking my Crystal Carrington.
My stir-fried chicken with basil -…
My stir-fried chicken with basil …
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling