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Battered Suitcase “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” Jack Kerouac

Angkor WHAT

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 2 June 2009 | Views [745] | Comments [2]

Two days ago, Christopher and I took one of Cambodia's two paved highways-- this one leading from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.  When your bus arrives at a tourist town like Siem Reap, you are instantly accosted by tuk tuk drivers who want to take you to 'good guesthouse' (where they'll earn a finder's fee).  We had a little scrap with the first driver but liked the second much better, so we arranged for him to take us to the Angkor temples (yessss) the next morning.  Full with delicious Indian food and with Khmer temples dancing in our heads, we went to sleep early, because we planned to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

We were downstairs and ready in front of our hotel at the chipper hour of 4:45 the next morning.  Our arranged driver didn't show up, of course, but "luckily" his "brother" was there to take us instead.  Christopher called it the tuk tuk two step, but the new guy seemed nice enough and I can't imagine that the driver makes all the difference in the world anyway.  The temples are located a little ways out of town, and then are spread around an enormous complex, so a driver is basically a must, but they all follow the same circuits through. 

We bought our entrance tickets with no wait at all, then hustled in because at 5 it was actually starting to get a bit light out.  To enter Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples, you cross a narrow stone bridge over a moat that puts Euro castles to shame-- the thing must have been about 250 yards across.  The temple itself, enclosed within a couple giant walls, is enormous and architecturally stunning.  Although there were a fair number of people, this is the low season, so it wasn't insanely crowded.  The sun rose behind the temple, silhouetting its outline against the orange and rose clouds.  A great beginning!

We spent the rest of the day doing the "little circuit" at Angkor, which is a shorter distance through the park but includes most of the major temples.  Besides our spectacular first temple, our favorites included: Bayon, which looks like a pile of rocks from far away, but has amazing and haunting faces carved all over it; a temple with tiny, steep stairs that could be climbed all the way to the top for a great view (although getting down was a bit hairy); and, of course, Ta Phrom, the temple with the jungle growing all through it.  The heat was intense but we made a good day of it, staying a full seven hours to thoroughly explore the temples' expanses (and avoid Japanese tour buses like the plague).

This morning we headed back at a more reasonable 8 AM, this time to do the Big Circuit.  It's a bigger distance to travel, but actually includes fewer temples, and they are the more minor type.  The heat had abated somewhat due to passing clouds, and at some temples Christopher and I literally had the place to ourselves.  It was a really cool explorer feeling to clamber over ruins with only the sounds of critters in the jungle and far-off traditional music.  And the drive between temples was actually really nice, since it is beautiful jungle and rice paddies all around.  Best of all, we made it back in time for lunch!

My dream of visiting Angkor was basically what prompted this entire trip, and it definitely did not disappoint.  It was amazing to see the enormity of the temples, and the intricacy of the carvings and engravings that cover the ruins.  The weather was a little rough but it was definitely worth it to avoid the crowds.  We didn't make a point of seeing everything, because I think it's better to leave before reaching 'temple fatigue' and just going through the motions of seeing everything.  What I did see, I loved, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to come here.  Tomorrow, we head back into Thailand and down to the island paradise of Ko Chang, for some quality beach time before heading home to the states.

Tags: cambodia, siem reap



You're lucky you didn't sprain your angkor coming down those tiny, steep stairs.

Don't know how much U.S. news you're getting over there but a bunch of us got together since you've been gone and now we own General Motors. I think the plan is to stop making SUVs and start making the kind of cars that Americans don't even know they want yet - small, light, eco-friendly deathtraps. That's right, get ready for the inconvenient truth of the 2010 Chevy Tuk-Tuk! It'll be like you never left Southeast Asia! We'll all be puttering around in these things thinking, "WTTT, Al Gore?!" and dreaming of putting our carbon footprint on his ass.

  Jumpy American Jun 3, 2009 10:05 PM


Hey caitmcl,

We really liked your blog and decided to feature it this week so that others could enjoy it too!

Happy travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Jun 15, 2009 12:47 PM

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