|This morning I went with Keiko, a girl who is staying in my dorm room, to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We woke up at 4:30 and were ready to leave the hostel by 5:00 am. I guess the hostel forgot to tell the tuk tuk driver that we wanted to go to the temple for sunrise because he was fast asleep on the pool table in front of our hostel. The security guard woke him up for us and he quickly got ready to take us.
It was still really dark when we left and there was a full moon in the sky. We bought our Angkor Wat tickets before heading to the temple, she bought a 1 day ticket and I bought a 3 day ticket. We were dropped off near Angkor Wat and walked to the spot where we were to watch the sun rise. Thank goodness Keiko had brought a flashlight because it was still dark and the bricks along the street were all broken, with big holes in the ground. We were surprised to find that at 5:15 there were already a lot of people waiting for the sunrise (mostly Chinese tourists it turned out). We sat by one of the ponds in front of the main temple and waited for the sun to come up. It was really beautiful to watch the shape of the temple become more and more illuminated as the sky got lighter. We were expecting to see the sky turn a purple or pinkish orange color and the sun to slowly rise over the temples, but the sky just grew lighter and lighter until it seemed like the sun was up but just hidden behind thick clouds. It was still nice to sit in front of the temple and watch night turn into day, but we were both kind of expecting something more.
It was funny, as soon as it was light outside, suddenly all the people that had been watching the sunrise dispersed. We decided to have breakfast at one of the stalls near where we were sitting. Right after ordering our food I decided to get up and check how the sky looked above the temples and I was glad I did because it was absolutely gorgeous. The sky was a pinkish hue and you could see the sun peeking out above the temples. We found it amusing that the sky looked so magnificent only after all the tourists had left the area.
We first walked through Angkor Wat which we were amazed it. It is such a huge temple and the ruins are incredible. Earlier in the morning I bought a book called “Ancient Angkor” for $5 from one of the guys selling them in front of the temple. I was glad I did because Keiko and I could walk around the temple and we were able to read the stories and figure out what the murals were depicting. It turned into a sort of “I Spy” game. I'd say “Okay, so next we should see Krishna sitting on top of Garuda” or “Next we should see the fire god sitting on his rhinoceros.” We'd then carefully look at the carving and try to find it. It was more interesting to look at all the carved murals along the corridors knowing what they were all depicting. You can appreciate them for their beautify without knowing the stories, but we ended up spending longer looking at them because we could see what stories they were representing. We both couldn't get up to the highest part of Angkor Wat because neither of us had sleeves on our shirts and no one had told us before hand that for some of the temples we needed to cover our shoulders. Oh well.
We spend two hours walking through Angkor Wat and then walked back to our tuk tuk. We were then driven to the next temple along the route, the area of Angkor Thom, which is comprised of three smaller temples. The first one, The Bayon, has many towers with faces carved into each side, which makes it a very distinctive temple. The next temple we went to we couldn't enter because our shoulders were not covered. The third temple in the area was Phimeanakas. It was set upon three layers of platforms with very narrow and steep stairs to get up to the top, so we we felt our legs burning by the time we got up there.
By then we were starving at had lunch at a lunch place nearby. We ordered food and I ordered a Lemon Ice Tea (Keiko had got it for breakfast and it came in a can). When the woman brought be a glass full of ice and lemon tea I knew I wasn't going to take a chance and drink the local water so I tried to tell her I thought it came in a can. When I pointed to Keiko's can of soda to try and show I thought the tea was from a can, she brought me a Pepsi. So I pointed to the ice in the cup and said “I don't want this because I can't have the ice in it.” So she walked away and a few minutes later brought be a cup of hot lemon tea. Given that it was so hot outside and we were sweaty from walking around all morning, I wasn't going to drink hot tea, but I realized there was no way to communicate what I actually wanted. So I smiled and thanked her and just left it alone.
We then went to Ta Keo, which wasn't that memorable and then to Ta Phrom, which was one of my favorite temples. It was not in very good condition but the best part about it are the massive trees growing into the temple. It really looks like the trees are reclaiming the temple by engulfing the area with their massive roots.
Even though we were exhausted and by that point had been out and sightseeing for about 10 hours we decided to go to one last temple to watch the sunset. We walked up the hill to Phnom Bakheng and were one of the first people there because we got there at 4:30 (sun wouldn't set until about 6:15). We sat down to claim a front row seat in front of where the sun was setting and just waited. Slowly, more and more tourists showed up and soon we felt like we were in the front of a large Chinese tourist mosh-pit. But soon the sun was setting and we turned around to watch it. Unfortunately, there was a large thick cloud that the sun descended into so it was impossible to see it set all the way. Almost immediately, all the tourists who had been there were gone. They had taken their pictures, thought the sun was gone for the day, and headed back down. Keiko and I stood there and waited because we thought there might be more. One of the guys who had stayed behind told us he thought that the sun would come back out from behind the cloud. The staff at the temple told us that the temple was closing and we would have to leave. I turned around and politely said that the sun wasn't set yet so we weren't going to leave. We had been there for almost 2 hours and were not going to leave until we were certain the sun was set. The workers insisted that the sun was gone but since there was still so much light in the sky, I knew it was still there. I said to one of the workers jokingly “Sun above horizon- I stay, Sun below horizon- I go.” - as I acted it out using my arm as the horizon and my other hand as the sun. They started laughing and let us stay for a couple minutes. Good thing we waited because sure enough the sun reappeared below the thick cloud as a big glowing pink orb. It was absolutely gorgeous. We laughed really hard because there were only about 7 people left at the temple to see it- out of the over 100 people that had been there earlier. Our patience was definitely rewarded.
After spending 13 hours at the temples we took the tuk tuk back to our hostel. We decided to go out for a quick dinner before bed and chose a local restaurant near our hostel, where there were no other tourists there. We sat down and started laughing as we saw one of the dishes in the menu was “cow gender with fried red ants”. Yum! I settled on having stir fried chicken with vegetables because I figured it was safe. But I was very surprised when the stir fried chicken had all the bones still in the little pieces of chicken- making it very difficult to enjoy. Our other funny moment at dinner was when the waitress came over to give us glasses. She set them down on the table and on one of the cup rims we noticed a big green booger looking thing. The waitress quickly wiped it off but we couldn't hold in our laughter- we were hysterical and the waitress soon began laughing with us.
It was a very long exhausting day, but absolutely incredible. I loved visiting the temples and seeing how temples from the 12th century were still in pretty decent condition and how amazingly intricate the details are within each temple. Every little part of the temple of Angkor Wat had beautiful carvings or reliefs with stories covering the walls. Everything was hand made and the attention to detail is mind-blowing.
One of the annoying parts of the day was all the women and children trying to come up to us and beg or sell us something. At one point a little girl (around 9 years old) came up to me and asked “You have candy?” I said “No sorry I don't”. So she asks “You have chewing gum?” Again, “No I don't.” She then follows up with a third question, “You have cocaine?” to which I started laughing and told her I left it in my other backpack. Funny thing is, I'm not really sure if she was joking.
Another funny / irritating moment was when Keiko and I sat down to eat a snack this little boy, about 6 years old, approached us with bracelets and kept asked us to buy some. His sales pitch was “$1 for three.” We kept saying no, and shaking out heads but he was a persistent little thing. He kept saying “$1 for three” over and over and over... every few seconds for at least 20 minutes. At one point I was about to give him $1 to just make him go away but I realized it would probably positively reinforce his behavior and that was not going to happen!