Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples, Cambodia

8 - 10 April

On the 8th April we left Vietnam. So much had changed since we arrived a little over a month ago, but we were excited to be moving on. At the airport we spend the last of our Dong on 2 hamburgers; we didn't quite have enough but the nice lady let us off! Soon we were in the air and on our way to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I don't know much about Cambodia and need to brush up on my history, but everyone we'd met said the same thing - there's a lot of poverty. This had me a little worried as a have no way of trying to help anyone out of a bad situation at the moment. However, arriving in Siem Reap I thought maybe this town was some sort of exception. Due to the amount of tourism it gets. Everyone comes here (me included) to see the temples at Angkor.

The airport was small and perfectly formed and after visas and baggage claim we were warmly greeted at arrivals by a man holding a sign with my name on it. He was our tuk tuk driver sent by our accommodation to collect us. Mark and I are both getting excited as this is one of the best welcomes we've ever had and we've only just landed.

We had a short ride to our accommodation and get to see the decorations being put up for Khmer New Year in a few days. There were a lot of fancy hotels on the main road and I'm kind of glad to find that our guesthouse is tucked away near the river in a more local feeling part of town. We made our arrangements for our dawn start the next day and headed off for some early dinner. The riverside part of town is cute with its lights and music, giving the illusion of being in a small village! Vibrant, but peaceful.

The next day we were in the tuk tuk shortly after 5 and making our way to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. Its a popular activity so we are not alone. Perhaps 150 other people crowd round the lily pond that is to still it will perfectly mirror the sunrise behind the iconic temple. Around 6am the sun made an appearance and it was definitely worth getting up for.

Unable to sit still any longer we headed for the temples whilst they were still quiet. They are so detailed its almost unimaginable. Each gateway, wall or ceiling has the face for the Buddha in one form of another. Old ladies guard the large Buddha statues which dominate the alcoves and offer incense and plaited bracelets to those looking to say a prayer.

The site is massive, made up of numerous temples. As we only had a day we opted to do the short route, which would cover the larger temples. Most remind me of temples I've visited in Egypt with grand entrances, columns and paths leading deeper and deeper inside, and Chichen Itza in Mexico with its symmetry and symbolism.

Each temple doesn't fail to impress me in some way. At Baphuon it's the long and narrow entrance flanked by ponds, and at Ta Prohm it's the overgrowth by the trees what are somehow absorbing the temple and creating it at the same time. It really was a scene from a movie that you never thought could possibly be real!

After just over 9 hours of temples and somewhere around 5 litres of water we call it a day and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the courtyard of our accommodation, tired but still marvelling in the days discoveries.

We left Cambodia the following day. At the airport I noticed a tiny propeller plane next to a big jumbo and it suddenly downed on me that that could be ours! Sure enough it was, and I nervously held my breath on the hours flight to Bangkok, Thailand.