Sorry for the delay in posting, my 32-hour travel day and my health got in the way, but I will get to that later!
After our arrival in Siem Reap, we met our tour guide, Sophak (which we remembered since it rhymes with Tupac the rapper, but he did not find this amusing nor did he have any idea what we were talking about). On our way to the hotel, we pulled over to see the beautiful sunset. Cambodia probably had the clearest sky of all the countries we have been to so far!
Our hotel, the Victoria Angkor Resort, had gorgeous grounds and an amazing patio and swimming pool. Sophak told us this was a 5-star hotel but once we saw our room, we realized that this was probably not the case. Not to say the hotel wasn’t very nice but the rooms were definitely not 5-star but the hotel pool and surroundings were amazing.
The next morning on January 2nd, we spent the majority of our day looking at the amazing temples around Siem Reap. There is of course a ton of history I could go into but the remarkable part of the temples of Angkor are their beauty and intricate detail so I will leave most of the further research for you to Google on your own time!
We began our day exploring the ancient city of Angkor Thom, which translates to Great City. The city was established by King Jayavarman VII during the late 12th Century of the Khmer empire. Before we entered the city, we once again saw some more elephants! These elephants looked darker and a bit different than the ones we saw in Thailand. We asked Sophak why that was and he told us that they were actually painted darker for the tourists. So strange! We also got to see our first monkey in Cambodia. Although many people were petting the small monkey, that is a quick way to get some strange diseases so I held back my urges.
The walk up to the city Angkor Thom was spectacular. The pathway to the ancient city was lined with statues. Some of which had been restored but others which were still decapitated.
The center of Angkor Thom featured a very famous temple, Bayon. Bayon is known for its massive stone faces on each of the towers of the Buddhist temple. This is one of the sites I was looking forward to when going to SE Asia. The detail and the size of the faces were truly amazing especially since they were made in the late 12th century.
As we were walking around the grounds, I kept noticing such beautiful children trying to sell us souvenirs or just playing around the temples while their mothers sold the goods. The children of Cambodia were beautiful but we learned that they were only in school for half of a day and the other half some children tried to come sell goods to tourists to earn money. Sophak told us that we should ignore the children trying to sell us to us because by giving them money, we were teaching them that they could make a living without school and by just coming to the tourist areas everyday. That made sense to us but it was still so difficult to ignore these beautiful children. It reminded me of my time working at a school in Guatemala and made me want to do something to help children in other countries that can barely afford to go to school. Here is one image that really struck me while we were walking around. Throughout the rest of this post I will continue to post a few image of children that I found particularly touching.
Here are some more images from Angkor Thom from the temple of Baphuon, which was built in the 11th century and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, as well as the Terrace of Elephants, which was used by King Jayavarman VII as a platform address the public and his army.
We left Angkor Thom and went to have lunch to escape the heat of the Cambodian sun. I ordered the traditional Cambodian dish, Fish Amok, which was served in a coconut and tasted similar to curry. It was delicious! I also ordered fresh coconut juice to go along with it. This was definitely one of my favorite lunches on the trip!
That afternoon, we went to the largest religious temple in the entire world, Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century first as a Hindu temple and then transferred into a Buddhist complex. The temple was extraordinary and a highlight of the entire trip. Every detail and bas-relief on the temple walls must have taken hundreds of people years to build. With that said, our tour guide loved to talk about each tiny detail of the temple walls. We got over that fairly quickly since we are the fast-paced, not detail-oriented type of travelers. We had to teach him to hurry along so we could just enjoy the beauty of the temple.
What an incredible site to see! We also got to see more wild monkey but these monkeys were adults. These two idiot boys were chasing this one monkey around and we saw the animal get very angry and clench its teeth and then actually chase after them. It was pretty freaky. Eventually as we were walking down the path leaving Angkor Wat, there was a woman drinking a can of Coca Cola. A monkey actually leaped up to jump and grab the can out of her hand. I would have screamed at the top of my lungs and freaked out but this woman was very smart and just threw the can onto the ground. That smart little monkey was very happy with himself.
We were done around 3pm and got to lay by our hotel pool until we sat down for dinner at our hotel. Our strict rule-following tour guide told us we had to eat the buffet dinner at the restaurant, Koulen, where we were seeing a show that evening but we made the executive decision that the $12 was cheap enough for us to just see the show and not also eat the crappy buffet, and that getting our tan on sounded a lot more appealing! Well, we should have realized earlier that in general, we just do not appreciate things like cultural dance (especially from our tribal experience in Kuranda, Australia a few years back). The show was a cultural Cambodian dance of the female spirit, Aspara. Some people may have enjoyed it but we would have preferred more time shopping or lying by the pool.
After our disappointing show, we went to another night market in another city. I got these amazing charcoal rubs from the walls of Angkor Wat that I absolutely love. I can’t wait to hang them up in my room. We decided that we should actually live a little and stay up past our bedtime since it was our last night in Southeast Asia so we went to a bar to hear some fun live music. It was a blast! After about two beers, we of course ended up stopping for hour-long $5 foot massages before heading to the hotel to go to bed. We had to end our trip with another foot massage, right?!
Our last day in Siem Reap finally came, I could not believe the trip was finally coming to an end! We began our trip with a drive to the temple Banteay Srei which was built in the10th century and dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. The intricacy in the carvings was unlike any other temple we have seen.
After this temple, we went on to the “Tomb Raider” temple or as Auntie Missy thought Sophak was saying the “Terminator” temple. I told her he meant the movie with Angelina Jolie not the Arnold movie! This temple called Ta Prohm was unbelievable cool because the trees from the jungle surrounding the temple are actually growing out of the ruins, creating a very Indiana Jones feel to the temple.
After our visit to Ta Prohm, we headed back to the hotel to lay out at the pool again for a few hours before heading to the airport. The next flight was another short flight on Cambodian Angkor Air to Bangkok to begin my 32-hour journey home. I started sneezing and feeling sick before we even got to the airport
Once we arrived in Bangkok, I felt even worse than before. I am very lucky that my cold did not come on until the final day of the trip but I knew the long trip home would be even longer now that I was feeling under the weather. The second we got to the Bangkok airport hotel, I went straight to sleep. By the way, the Novotel hotel near the airport was so nice. We were both joking about how this hotel had a nicer bathroom, bed and more outlets than some of the hotels we stayed in, and this was just an airport hotel! Pretty ironic!
The next morning, we got up early and go on our flight to Hong Kong and then to Los Angeles. After lots of broken sleep, I made it home to my bed. Peter picked me up from the airport in LA with beautiful flowers, what an amazing boyfriend I have! Since then, I have been pretty much sleeping the entire time. I have to go back to work tomorrow but will post a final trip summary when I am feeling a bit better.