|I took a long, hot bus ride from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap and was happy that I had booked a guest house ahead of time to meet me at the bus station and bring me into town. I got to my place and was very happy with the accommodations but disappointed to realize that it was a bit off the main drag making it harder for me to find a single traveling partner to share a tuk-tuk to the temples with. That afternoon I plotted out which of the temples I wanted to see at Angkor Wat telling myself it was okay to do nothing more than that. I decided that I wanted to see an Aspara performance, which is a Khmer style of dance, so I asked the hotel if they could recommend one. He responded with, ‘oh, you are lonely’ and I had to correct him with, ‘no, I will go alone.’ Slight difference.
I went to the performance which was touristy but interesting, especially because the costuming and gestures were very similar to Hindu dance; I could have been back in India. As I was walking back from the buffet table I passed one girl sitting by herself and recognized her from my hotel. I asked her is she wanted to join me and I ended up having a nice conversation with a girl from Singapore (I never really caught her name!). We ended up deciding to go to Angkor Wat together the next day.
We were up at 5am to watch the sun rise over these historic temples and it was beautiful. I honestly was worried that I was going to be templed-out by the time I got to Siem Reap, but after one glance at these enormous temples, I put my concerns to rest. These massive, ornately carved temples are incredible. I do not understand how people knew how to construct stone buildings that are works of art, and are still around today in the 900s. We temple hoped from 5am until 1pm and felt that we had seen enough for a day.
Angkor Wat is a UNESCO world heritage site and is for the most part, being well preserved. Part of the fun of seeing the temples is that you can walk around and climb on them, however, I am not sure how much longer that will last seeing that thousands of footsteps a day are going to start to show its effects soon.
My first evening I got a knock on my guest house door with the staff saying I had a visitor. I stepped out to the main hall and saw my California friends that I originally met in Vietnam and then traveled with in Laos. Yeah! We caught up and then made plans to hang out the next night. They had just arrived to Siem Reap so they were a day behind me and the temple sight-seeing.
The following day I paired up with two older Canadians and hit up more temples. They were beautiful and detailed and really worth the $40 entrance fee. However, I decided that I would not be spending my third seeing more temples even though my pass allowed me too. Too many temples and it is just too hot.
After a day of me exploring Siem Reap and no temples, I met up with the CA boys after they had done a day of temples and felt that their one day was enough, we all decided we were ready to go into Thailand. The following day we packed ourselves into a non-air-conditioned bus (i.e. we were covered in dust within ten minutes) and headed to the border of Cambodia. The road is terrible and we were told that the airport officials actually pay the road workers to slow their repair of the road so people will continue to fly out of the country (and pay the airport tax) versus sitting on a bus for 6 hours. I can now understand why people opt to fly.
Once crossing into Thailand, everything was a breeze. It is amazing at how much more advance Thailand is compared to the rest of Southeast Asian countries, infrastructure alone. We were dropped off in the backpacker area and the boys were happy that I sadly know my way around well enough to find our friends Sara and Lee's, also from our Laos travels, hotel. They were flying back to the states in a few days and it just worked out that we were all back in Bangkok for a little reunion.
My next 24 hours consisted of hanging out with what felt like long-time friends and shopping for some last minute things before I headed south to the islands.