Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Temple Hopping and Crystal Carringtons!
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 22 of 24 › view all entries
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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).
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.