Sunday, February 22, 2015

Southeast Asia 2013: Day 4 - Siem Reap, Cambodia






The next day (Sept. 9, 2013) was a big day of the main temples of Angkor.

Angkor Wat
The day started out very early, but it was worth it - sunrise at Angkor Wat!  Our driver and guide Mao picked us up at 4:45 a.m.  It was dark navigating our way to where we wanted to go and Mao got us a great spot.  There were tons of other people there but when the sun rose at about 6 a.m. we were glad we got there early. 

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
The crowd waiting for the sunrise at Angkor Wat
After the sunrise we walked over to Angkor Wat with Mao to do a bit of sightseeing before it got crowded.

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

After walking around a bit we went back to the hotel to actually get ready for the day and have breakfast. After breakfast we went to our first temple of the day - Banteay Srei. This temple is known for the pink/red sandstone it's constructed with (not the red lavastone, and different from the normal sandstone used in most of the other temples) and the particularly ornate and deep decorative carvings on the walls, not just of figures of but patterns and designs.

Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
Banteay Srei
posing at Banteay Srei
After that we took a detour to the hotel for a quick nap and to charge the camera.  So glad we did because the next temple was Ta Prohm - my favorite temple of all of them.  It was like a movie set!

Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
The temple overtaken by trees and was featured in the Tomb Raider film, early in the afternoon. Ta Prohm is unlike any of the other temples we saw - much of it is in ruins but it's constantly being reconstructed, and it feels more like it is in the middle of the jungle than the other temples.

Ta Prohm Tomb Raider tree
Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm
tree roots taking over Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Many of the buildings have literally been taken over by trees. Mao called some of the trees "stranglers": large trees had grown through some of the buildings hundreds of years ago, and then new trees of a particular type had grown over them and consumed them from the outside.

Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
trees taking over at Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm

For scale - the size of some of the overgrown trees at Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
We then went back to Angkor Wat to finish of the day there.

Monks touring Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Boats selling goods outside of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

That night we went to a delicious Cambodian restaurant, walked around the night markets and met so many more wonderful locals.  I would say in all of the places we traveled the people of Cambodia were the most kind people we have ever met.  They told us to tell our friend to come to Cambodia so that is exactly what I hope these pictures do - go visit Cambodia!

The next day - off to Bangkok!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Southeast Asia 2013: Day 3 - Siem Reap, Cambodia

Our first full day of our trip, (Sept. 8, 2013) and we were on another flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia!


Nick and me at Angkor Thom - Siem Reap, Cambodia

 








When we first planned this trip, Thailand was the main place we wanted to go, and then when we realized we could get over to the see ancient temples in Cambodia fairly easily, we decided 'why not?!'  So glad we did!

I read that getting into Cambodia was best done by flights and the bus/train from Bangkok to Siem Reap is long and the road is pretty sketchy. So we decided it best to pay the premium and fly into Siem Reap rather than risk it.


After an amazing sleep we woke up pretty rested, had breakfast at our hotel and then at about 8 a.m. we were heading back to the airport for yet more planes!  Our plane was a small one - I'm not a nervous flyer, but flying in on a two-prop plane into Cambodia did make me just a tiny bit nervous.



We safely laded, went through customs (after digging through our checked luggage on the runway to find our viasa - I accidentally packed them, oops!)

After clearing immigration and customs, we headed out the door to find my name on a sign. Our airport pickup was a tuk-tuk!




We had read that the time of year we were travelling we would probably experience periods of monsoon rains, and during our tuk-tuk ride - we did!  The skies opened up and it poured like no rain I have ever seen in my life.  Their rain is heavy, but only lasts about a small amount of time - about 10 minutes or so.  Luckily we stayed dry in our tuk-tuk!

We checked into our hotel - everyone was SO friendly, went upstairs and dropped off our bags, changed and got a call that our guide was here!

When doing research on Siem Reap and the temples - I decided to book a private guide with an air-conditioned car, rather than try to manage the temples on our own.  I am so glad we did it this way.  Our guide was Mr. Sroeb Mao (goes by Mao) and he was fantastic.  His knowlege of the temples was amazing, and he was a great picture taker too - I highly recommend him!

Mr. Sroeb Mao - our wonderful Angkor temples tour guide

Mr. Sroeb Mao - our wonderful Angkor temples tour guide


Mr. Sroeb Mao - our wonderful Angkor temples tour guide



Here are some maps to show just how large the temples are.  We were pretty blown away. 





We hopped in the car (the downpour had stopped) and were off to buy our tickets!  We got a three-day pass because it was thh same price as buying two single days.  Getting into the park is very strict and Mao said they have controllers and checkpoints around the parks to make sure that no one sneaks in.


Our first stop was Angkor Thom and headed straight for the main temple in the center, the Bayon. This one is full of smiling Buddha faces carved into the walls. Mao showed us the area where you can "kiss" Buddha. 

Bayon Temple

Bayon Teple

Much of the rest of the day was a whirlwind tour through the rest of Angkor Thom. It's 3km on each side, so there's a lot to see inside. We went through the Baphuon, then the Phimeanakas - the royal palace, most of which has actually burned down, though the walls and some major architectural structures like pools remain. Heading north to Preah Palilay (the "kneeling elephant" temple, then east to Tep Pranam, then south past the Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants (with an explanation of the "stadium" it faced out onto, we arrived back at the car.

Some pictures of our time walking around Angkor Thom

carvings at Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom
Where stairs were available we climbed up to get a better view

 

Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom
writings carved at Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom


Buddha temple at Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

 



From there, we drove to Phnom Bakheng to see the sunset. There was a great view here of Angkor Wat in the distance. Lots of people race up here to see the sunset, as they close at 5:30 to avoid letting too many people in but the sun doesn't set for another 30 minutes or so after that. It's a bit of a hike up the hill with some steep stairs at the end - the photo op is at the top of a temple - but it's well worth it.


Tourists waiting in the shade for the sunset at Phnom Bakheng


sunset at Phnom Bakheng


Angkor Wat in the distance - seen from Phnom Bakheng

We were dropped off at the hotel at about 7 p.m. and even after a busy day were doing okay with jetlag, so ventured out to find food.  Our hotel told us that Siem Reap is very safe and we can walk outside alone.

We walked to the night market area, about 15 minutes from the hotel. We ate dinner at a little restaurant just outside the market and it was yummy - Cambodia food is good! It was just a little street restaurant, but yummy.  And only bottled water of course!





We got back to the hotel and went to sleep just after 9 p.m. and passed out!  We had an early morning the next day - more Angkor temple touring in and a sunrise wakeup call!

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