Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Back on the tourist trail

After a 6am start, I arrived in Siem Reap at 10pm, and waited half an hour or so for the pickup from my guesthouse to arrive. While I waited, a very kind tuk-tuk driver waited with me and talked to me - ok, so he was probably hoping to get a fare out of it if my lift didn't show, but I was still grateful for the company as I was otherwise by myself, in the dark, several kilometres out of town. My lift showed up, but when we got to the guesthouse it turned out that the previous occupant of my room had decided to stay an extra night, and had refused to check out until the next day. I tried not to get too irate over it – it was similar to my required imposition on the Hanoi hostel, after all – but from what the guesthouse was saying, he'd just refused to go rather than actually needing to be there. It was late, I was very tired... it got to me a bit, I must admit.
There were no other available rooms, so I was shuttled to a very nearby guesthouse that was unfortunately not very nice, but it had a flat surface to sleep on and only one visible cockroach. Positives!
I woke early, and headed back to the other guesthouse for breakfast.

The room would not be ready until after 12, so I would have to abandon my things in reception if I disappeared off for a day at the temples.
I had 4 days in Siem Reap, so I decided to just spend the first day sorting myself out and exploring the town a little. I wandered up to the ticket office, and bought a 3-day pass: it's $40 (a 1-day pass is $20), so there's nothing lost if you only manage to use it twice; then wandered back into town, after pondering a visit to the circus (I love the circus). Unfortunately, given the temple tickets, it was enough outside my budget to be unfeasible.

In the end, I had two town days and two temple days. Getting to the further away temples is a little expensive when hiring transport by yourself, and I didn't manage to meet any lone travellers who wanted to do them. So I hired bicycles, and cycled around the temples near Siem Reap. Which is a lot of them.
Most of the people I've met through Cambodia have said they didn't really like Siem Reap as a town – that it was too concentrated on the temples, and wasn't very pleasant or atmospheric. I actually liked it, as a place. I found a few nice places to relax, drink coffee, eat cake and do some writing – there's a nice vibe to the town when you sit still and listen to it.

On day two, I cycled to Angkor Wat for dawn. It was actually very quiet at that time – most traffic to the temples seems to be mid-morning or just after lunch.

Angkor Wat took my breath away. It truly is awe-inspiring.

Siem Reap and Angkor Temples in pictures:

 Afternoon tea. Almost too pretty to eat.


 Random water wheel. It does not appear to have a function...

 Another lovely place for tea and cake. Clearly people's opinions of Siem Reap correlate with the importance they attribute to tea and cake. Yup. Must be it.

 Globalisation!

 Not saying someone is wrong, to keep the peace.
Does not compute...

 Does what it says on the tin

 Siem Reap - town of massage

This is my favourite Siem Reap eatery. 5 meat skewers, marinated in some mysterious ambrosia, with bread heated on the meat grill, and green papaya salad. About $1.80. Om nom nom!




 There are happy dancing people everywhere!

 Happy face!


 See?


 Of course it is




 Little cairns were dotted everywhere, made out of pieces of fallen masonry.
This one has a bowler hat...

 This one is rockin' a flat cap


 Temple number 2 of the day - absolutely stunning wall carvings of Lakshmi and Shiva



 Temple 3 - Chthulu tree!


 Once it reached 11am, I had frequent crossings with the tourist tuk-tuk train

I love the happy-angry lions. It's such a great expression.
 A sign that very specifically does not say No Climbing.

 The Bayon at sunset


 Angkor Wat at sunset

 And at 10am two days later. Slightly busier...




 Perspective is weird


 World's largest moving blocks puzzle, Angkor Thom

 A place of many doorways


 Cambodians definitely know doorways

 I have no idea how there are people in this tree


 Portals. All the portals. You're not allowed to walk on the pawns, though. Mean.






 This sign is less fun




Look at all directions, wonder why you haven't before.


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