The Lolei temples.
I am behind on my entries so I need to split them up between my time in Cambodia and what I've done in Thailand which is where we're currently at right now. Pics are up for the last 2 entries as well as what I've got here to share from the Angkor temples.
So Mike wasn't feeling well again on the morning of the 30th so Stephanie and I improvised and went out to see some of the more remote Angkor temples called the Ruolos group. We'd postpone Angkor Wat for the day after. My first taste of these temples was Lolei and it was pretty breathtaking with a pronounced red color. Very few sections of these temples are cordoned off so visitors literally can climb through and feel these temples. That being said, you'd think these temples would get fairly degraded, but what we could see are still holding up with some of the carvings and statues showing very fine detail.
Looking up Bakong Temple.
Then the Bakong temple is a huge pyramid surrounded by 8 towers. It feels a bit like a pilgrimage as you make your way to the top. A small lake is also present and it is so still that any movement in the water causes ripples to spread across the water surface as if it was light rain. It was pretty cool. After this group of temples, our tuk tuk took us to another part outside of Siem Reap
to see the floating village of Tonle Sap. It definitely felt more like a village than the one in South Vietnam. There were several facilities that any community would have to sustain itself like a hospital, police station, a church, and even a floating school that handles about 250 students all the way through high school.
Kids getting around in buckets on the Tonle Sap Lake.
There was even a facility housing an indoor basketball court! On one of the large shops, we got to see another fish farm, a snake farm, and a crocodile farm. Sadly enough, the crocs didn't do much, even when they were being bopped on the head with a dead fish. I'm guessing the afternoon is not their active time. The rest of the day was relatively uneventful though we did check out the night market in Siem Reap a little and wander around to drink.
On the 31st, it was time to hit up the main Angkor temples. As of this writing, it's actually difficult to remember exactly which temples we saw because we kept bouncing from temple to temple in the Angkor Thom group (the main set of temples) and each was interesting in its own way. The two really worth mentioning would be Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat.
Part of the Angkor Thom temples.
Ta Prohm required us to walk through a long dirt path in one direction rather than being a temple by the road that's usually encircled. These ruins are some of the iconic images of the Angkor temples, where the jungle has begun to overgrow through the ruins like what you would see in Indiana Jones. And yes, various movies were filmed in this particular temple. It was really fun to navigate through the ruins because it was just a large maze of hallways and floors as well as cordoned off sections for restoration work. After that and lunch, we got to the famous Angkor Wat. Let me tell you, it is BIG! It's emblematic of an English kingdom with a huge moat around it, high walls and large open grounds once you got through the entrance. It was said Angkor Wat could house 1 million people and the amount of space in the grounds and outlying forest areas (still surrounded by a lake) definitely makes it seem possible.
A shot of what I believe is Bayon Temple.
Once inside the actual castle, we made our way along one of the outer walls which had a story carved into the walls called the "Churning of the Ocean of Milk." It depicted how the asura (demons) and devas (gods) churned up the sea to obtain the elixir of immortality. The whole thing stretches across the side wall and had to be several hundred meters long. Sadly, we couldn't really go into the center of the palace as it was under renovation so we walked around the entire grounds before exiting. It should be noted that at that time, Mike accidentally dropped our camera and the lens ceased to function so we were out of a camera and canceled our last stop which would have been to overlook Angkor Wat in the sunset. Thus, we have no more pictures of Cambodia after that (more on this later).
Ta Prohm and the vegetation overtaking it.
We decided that we would leave for Thailand on the 2nd, so February 1st was an off day to unwind before we hit the road again for half a day. What I decided to do was... give blood. The previous day on our way to Angkor Wat, we had passed by a hospital and a sign was out on the sidewalk stating an epidemic of dengue fever. Since it involves hemorrhaging, blood is needed in particular. So I decided to go do that. I was actually surprised to see a lot of people waiting outside the hospital when I arrived around 1 PM. Outside of course was hot and humid as always, but the hospital room I was sent to was air conditioned and clean so that was an obviously good sign. The doctor who took my blood spoke fair English so after the procedure (pretty much the same as it was in the US including single use disposable needles), we talked about things.
The view of the courtyard and Angkor Wat. We are past the moat entrance at this point.
One thing I was surprised to learn was that all the people outside of the hospital when I arrived were actually mothers with their infants here to get them Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations. 95% of Cambodia cannot afford health care so health care is actually free for all children and these vaccinations were free. And no, I couldn't get one although I was told Phnom Penh offers it for $15. I was stunned and told him that the same vaccination costs hundreds of US dollars back home and he was surprised to hear that. It's a world of difference in a way I wasn't expecting. Anyways, the hospital is really appreciative of their donors and I got a care package which included a t-shirt, crackers, and even a small packet of multivitamins and iron tablets to take every day to boost my body's blood count back up.
Angkor Wat in the late afternoon.
He said that since it's still winter in the area, mosquito borne diseases are not at their height, but there's always a need for blood, particularly B and AB donors. They get somewhere around 300 donors a month and a fair amount of them are tourists too. Needless to say, I found seeing the hospital as interesting as the other bits of sightseeing I've done in Cambodia. After that, I wandered back to the hostel slowly, peeking through parts of the city. In the evening, Stephanie and I went out again to hop through the evening happy hour specials and roadside food and a brief stop through Pub Street although we didn't sit down anywhere; we preferred the quieter restaurants off to the side.
All in all, that wraps up my time in Cambodia and I loved it a lot, probably more so than Vietnam and we didn't even go off to some of the more exotic locations like the beaches in the South, a bird conservatory near the city of Battambang
, or the rugged northeast heading to Laos. The next entry will cover the arrival and first few days in Bangkok.