No messing around on day one for us in Siem Reap as once we had forked out $40 for our 3-day pass we set off to see the big one. Having become accustomed to the carnival fanfare of tourist traps we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really overflowing but thats maybe mainly due to its huge size. That was to come at the ‘Tomb Raider‘ based Ta Prohm the following day which was far more compact but as for Angkor Wat it was of course hugely impressive but to really appreciate all the fine archeological and architectural detail you really have to have a strong interest in the subject.
What was great was that we could really explore the temples which is not possible at some other world heritage sites but I guess that will also be its downfall inevitably one day as tourism takes its toll on the place. Having split up to explore it I ended up ascending possibly the steepest ever steps that I have experienced. As always going up is the easy bit but I was absolutely bricking it when I saw how steep the descend was.
After looking around for a while this was one such case when a seller offering me a drink got me at the right moment and then I told some little kid that I wanted magnets and overhead postcard shots and before I knew it he was back by my side offering me exactly what I wanted for a dollar. I certainly couldn’t refuse him after that!
Next, we walked to the huge area that makes up Angkor Thom and wandered around the impressive Bayon within that at a leisurely pace as we were already feeling templed out and that was after only day one of three!
Not sure what it was that I ate on day one (or even before that) in Angkor but my stomach was in real pain on our second day as we started out at Ta Prohm which as aforementioned was where Angelina Jolie was filmed for some of ‘Tomb Raider‘. I was just feeling so exhausted on that day and to make things worse it was also New Years Eve which is never the best of times to be feeling under the weather.
Cambodia is a country stricken by poverty but theres so many beggars and people selling you tacky souvenirs that it can become tiresome when you hear the whining sounds of “Hello sir, you wanna buy? One dollar?” constantly and very persistently. I had enjoyed the banter with them the day before but wasn’t in such a great mood here but I managed to keep face and in some ways I was a little disappointed that I never did see a tourist screaming at one of the local kids.
We walked for hours ending back at Angkor Wat late afternoon where I slept and woke up in time to see a reasonable sunset and for our New Years eve night out we went to a Cambodian club just away from the backpacker area which was the darkest club I’ve ever seen. No expense spared on lighting in this place and not too much celebration at midnight too! The dancefloor cleared at about 11.58pm and we assumed there was gonna be some kind of countdown and celebration but not so as we saw in the new year watching two people blow up balloons on stage in some competition or other. Not quite on a scale with Sydney Harbour, Times Square or Big Ben!!
Our third and final day saw us hire bicycles to go around some of the temples which was nice and enabled us to see a lot more. This time we went back to Ta Prohm just before sunset which was amazing. Not because of the sunset but because it was completely deserted in contrast to the previous days hordes of tourists.
You can see the photos from the temples of Angkor here