Monday, February 17, 2014

Siem Reap (Cambodia): Day 3

When I was a teenager, I read a book called Atlantis by Greg Donegan (which turned out to be a pseudonym for a Bob Mayer). It was a military sci-fi/action/adventure novel that tied the myths of Atlantis to inter-dimensional aliens, as well as to different areas around the world, like the Bermuda Triangle. The climax of the book (at least I believe it was the climax) takes place in Angkor Wat. Ever since reading this book, I'd gained a kind of fascination with Angkor Wat because the novel made it all mysterious and mystical. Now, over a decade later, I finally got to go there in person.

I woke up at 4:30 AM because today would start with a sunrise view of Angkor Wat. I meet my driver (who I finally got to meet after months of back-and-forth emails... but that's another story for another post) and tour guide (the same as yesterday). It was obviously still dark out and a bit chilly, especially in a Tuk Tuk. (I also want to recant my previous statement that there are no traffic lights in Siem Reap. I saw at least a couple today, finally.) So we get to the ticket area, I get my ticket, and we continue on to the temple.

Despite the fact there is no sun and it's relatively cool, I'm already sweating a little. The humidity is crazy. We find a spot amongst the hundreds and hundreds of other tourists (there's constantly a bajillion people around all these places, but I fortunately was able to get many pictures with very few people in the way). Also at this time, my stomach starts to get a bit upset. But I don't want to leave my spot and miss the sunrise.

Slowly but surely, light starts to appear behind the temple. It's a rather overcast day, so sadly no direct sun or colors, but it almost gave it a more mystical presence because of that.

My tour guide met back up with me at 6:20 AM, to which I asked him the direction of the bathroom. I follow a long path back where a little boy is sitting in front of a box asking for 1000 riel (basically 25 cents). But since I'm not keeping my riel with me, I just had dollars. Fortunately he could give change. What I had in front of me was basically a row or wooden closets, only one of which had a somewhat westernized toilet. The others were all squatters. And it was easily the most uncomfortable and disgusting "bathroom" I've ever been in. And the floor was wet because after you went, you had this tub next to you with a ladle, and you had to scoop out water and pour it down the toilet to "flush." Yeah. Glad I won't have to do that again (hopefully). OK. The TMI story is over now.

So I find my tour guide again and head into the temple itself. And it was really cool. The first floor was mostly walls with stone carvings that told Hindu stories that my guide told me about. They were pretty interesting. (The temples were built as Hindu temples but I believe later converted into Buddhist temples.) The second floor didn't open until 7:45, so we walked around a bit, and then he let me up. The stairs were insanely steep, insanely high, and insanely terrifying. It's kind of a 'one step at a time and don't look down' kind of thing. Unfortunately you had to coming back, which was twice as terrifying as going up. I passed on the majority of optional stair climbing the rest of the day after this. I couldn't do that again. But anyway, the second floor was a holy temple area, so they were very strict on dress code (no shorts, covered knees, covered shoulders, no hats, etc.). I took a bajillion pictures throughout the day (and much more of Angkor Wat than I'm gonna show here), but here are just a few:

After Angkor Wat, we stopped for some breakfast. It was rather tasty--a pancake (with honey sauce), yogurt, eggs, and bacon. Then we headed towards Angkor Thom Complex, an ancient royal city/compound. The most famous area here is called the Bayon. This involved quite a bit of walking, but it was all really fascinating and cool. And there were monkeys! Here's a handful of pictures from this area:

Monkey catching a ride

At the Bayon

A fun optical illusion
From there it was time for the final temple of the day, and one I was also really quite looking forward to. This one is called Ta Prohm, now also known as the Tomb Raider temple, since they filmed some outside shots of the Tomb Raider movie at this temple during a major sequence of the film. They even had a lot of these areas roped off for special picture spots. And here are some pictures for this temple:

For example...

After that, the tour was done. It was only around 11:30, but I was exhausted. The heat of the day was starting to get to me (even though it wasn't that hot), but the humidity was really getting to me. Mix that with a lot of walking and stair climbing, and I was about down for the count. I was seriously sweating and felt really gross, and that says a lot coming from me. We went back to my Villa, but the staff were cleaning my room. So I stopped by the restaurant and had some lunch. I forget what it was called, but it was delicious. Basically chicken with vegetables and Cambodian spices, then a side of rice, some tea, and a banana shake. Because my sister would kill me if I didn't include it, here are pictures:

By the time that was done, my room was ready, so I went back and took a quite necessary shower. But the day wasn't over yet. I had signed up for one more thing--a dinner and traditional Apsara show in the evening. So I relaxed until it was 6:10 PM and time to meet my driver again.

Sam (my driver) took me to where the buffet and show would be. We said our goodbyes since he may or may not be the one who will take me to the airport tomorrow. He walked me inside, and then I followed one of the server guys to my table... way at the very, very front right smack next to the stage. Now, one would think this is a good thing. And it was, mostly, once the show started. However, the actual show didn't start until 7:30, so 6:30 to 7:30 was the dinner hour. And I finished mine within about 10 minutes (it was alright). So I had quite a lot of time to kill and not much to do. And it quickly became clear to me that I was pretty much the only person there alone, in a room of close to a thousand people. And being right up in front of everyone at a table for one next to the stage was a wee bit embarrassing. And then once the actual show started, a bunch of older people wandered up to the front to take pictures of the show, but they also kept giving me these mildly nasty looks like how dare I have this seat to myself and make them stand over here. Well... I guess that's what happens when I have an awesome driver and plan booker guy.

Anyway, the show itself was pretty neat. It was basically a series of traditional Cambodian dances--some telling stories and some not (my personal favorite was the middle one called the "fishermen's dance." It was a cute love story). And the final one was the actual traditional Apsara dance. And every performance was orchestrated by the same live musicians who also did the pre-show entertainment. So I'll stop rambling now and show a few pictures.

After the show, I knew Sam wasn't going to be there to take me back, so I got a Tuk Tuk that was there already. After I told him where to go (and I knew he had no idea, much like all the others), we went through the pre-requisite "you want a massage?" "No." "You want a nice Cambodian girl?" "No." we headed off towards the sister hotel like all the other Tuk Tuks do. But I have to commend all these drivers. They all manage to get it right on the second try (though this one had slightly more trouble than the rest).

And that was my day! Probably one of my longer days for this vacation, but it was a fun one. It was also a good way to wrap up my full final day in Cambodia.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! it seems like it is out of a movie. The temples, the ruins, the monkey's and your bathroom experience just added to it didn't it...hahaha Just loving the pictures. keep them coming. anxious to see what Thailand has to offer now.