Siem Reap - Day 1
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
July 7th, 2006 – by: Isabetlog
All tourists are required to get a visa upon entry for $20, with the exemption of citizens of ASEAN countries. But alas, this was not the case as one Singaporean got off while I didn't.
I got out of the airport in good time and headed out to the hostel in a hired car ($20/day). Along the main road are endless strings of hotels on both sides, both in operation and under construction. Made me wonder what they needed so many for when the street was practically empty. Save for the few slow-moving cars, tuk tuks and motorbikes, the place seemed like a ghost town.
Moving along, I dumped my stuff at Molly Mallone's, took my lunch, and at my driver's suggestion, visited the fishing village of Tonle Sap. It was a bit of a ways off, rather uneventful and completey missable. Not much going on there unless cruising through and witnessing people bathe and do their laundry in brown, smelly waters is your thing. It's heart-breaking, but I encounter enough poverty in my country day in and day out, and seeing it mirrored here is not exactly how I wanted to spend my short holiday.
So off to Angkor I go, with enough time to catch the sunset.
There's an entrance fee to enter the city of Angkor ($20 for a day pass, $40 for 3 and $70 for 6). Built by Suryavarman II in the 12th century as his capital, Angkor Wat is a city centered on his State Temple and fortified by a wall & moat 1300m x 1500m. Although the city buildings have long since disappeared, it remains the most captivating of all the Khmer temples and is the largest religious monument in the world. I'd seen countless photos of Angkor Wat and no matter how gorgeous, well composed and professionally taken the shots are, none of them perfectly capture the magnificence of this place.
Ah, but I'm not headed there yet. I wanted to save the best for last and made my way up to the Phnom Bakheng, the first major temple to be built in the Angkor area in the late 9th century AD. Its hilltop location is most popular for catching the sunset and a breathtaking view of Angkor Wat in the distance.
On my way up, (and all over the place) were a number of beggars, all of them with one prosthetic limb or another. Decades of war have resulted in over 40,000 people suffering from amputations due to land mines since 1979 and there is an estimated 4-6 million unexploded mines left. At the current rate, it may take a century to clear Cambodia of all its mines.
There were two options getting there - by elephant for $10 or on foot up a rocky, rugged hill. I wanted to get there quick so I decided against being a passenger. At the top were more steps leading to the temple. These were very steep and ridiculously narrow, the only way to go is sideways and ever so carefully. I wonder how many monks lost their lives traversing such challenging stairs on a daily basis. At the top were more tourists, all waiting for the sunset and making it difficult to take people-free photos. So I just went around to take in the lovely view and waited for the sun to go down before ending the day.
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