We arrived early in Siem Reap and the trend continues... hot and very sticky! We were very much looking forward to seeing the temples that we have read and heard so much about! After checking into our hotel, the Bopha Angkor which we really recommend, and settling in by the pool, we discussed our route for the next few days of exploration. Harry, our driver, offered to take us to the temples early the next morning and we took him up on his offer of an air conditioned car!
We explored the tiny town of Siem Reap which is small and lovely and completely overrun with tourists and aid workers.... this means lots of nice hotels and Western restaurants. We opted for a nice Italian place and after chatting with some of the street kids who were hanging about, we shared our Tiramisu with them, as they sure needed it more than we did!! Cambodia is also the first place where there have been many beggars around - adults and children alike. We were told that this is partly because Siem Reap is a booming tourist town and many poor people come in from the country-side. The other is that per capita, Cambodia has more amputees than any other country in the world. There are still plenty of landmines about and all of the guides tell you not to stray from the normal paths. There are still more active landmines in Cambodia than people (that's over 12 million!)
The next morning we were up early and raring to go! Harry met us and took us to the very efficient ticketing area where we had to have a photo taken for our three-day pass - we felt as if we (and about 300 other tour groups) were about to enter Jurassic Park! It was a very slick operation however and soon we were on our way to Angkor Thom - which is a large complex with many temples. Inside was Bayon, with it's fantastic faces ended up being our top two favourite temples. When we could push our way and climb over the Japanese and Korean tourists, we really enjoyed this place with the few quiet moments we were able to steal in the alcoves. We visited the Terrace of the Leper King & Elephants all with fantastic carvings as well. By about 11am we were COMPLETELY drenched in sweat (perspiration for the ladies) and exhausted from the oppressive heat - we opted for an afternoon at the pool and a late afternoon pick-up to see some of the other temples.
Feeling refreshed after spending 2 hours in the pool, we were off to see Ta Prohm, which was the other of our top two favourites. This is the temple that you often see that is overgrown by the jungle - very Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones, depending on which generation you come from! It was fantastic and at any moment I felt as though I was going to be hit by poison arrows fired by the natives whilst I ran away with the secret treasure! The whole scene worked very well with my childhood-carrying into adulthood - dreams of being Indiana Jones' assistant! It is falling down and quite frankly we were a bit hesitant to walk under some of the thousand year old columns but figured what the hell. Trees growing on top of the temple and wrapping their roots through the many secret passageways.... spectacular! However, the heat prevailed again and we retired for the afternoon and a lovely dinner to celebrate our day!
On our last temple day - we visited Angkor Wat in the afternoon. It is HUGE and makes it's presence known - it is surrounded by a very large moat that makes the moats surrounding English castles look like baby pools! It is very well preserved thanks to the Monks who took up residence after the fall of the Khmer empire, and has many beautiful Apsara's all around (which are like fairy women). It deserves all the mention it gets because of its scale, but we still think that Bayon and Ta Prohm were more special...
Templed-out on our final day we spent relaxing and sorting out our upcoming travels... and resting up for a 2 week visit with my mom in Australia! We met some lovely people, Katharine and Simon, with whom we ventured to the Siem Reap branch of the FCC for farewell to Cambodia drinks, and then on to the Dead Fish Tower for some more Cambodian food which had it's own collection (over 100!) of pet crocodiles!!
We really enjoyed Cambodia in spite of the short time that we spent. It is the first place we have been where we really feel like we are leaving too soon. The people have been very friendly, the Cambodian food excellent and the temples and the countries history both spectacular and sad.