After a pleasant one hour flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and a delightful 5 hr layover (we got into the Bangkok Airways Lounge!) we flew into Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is the hub for the famous Angkor Wat (which we deemed THE MOTHER OF ALL RUINS). You might recognize it from a little blockbuster film called Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But Angkor Wat is just one of the many magnificent crumbling temples from the Ankor Empire back in the 1200s. While these temples are all over Cambodia, many are clustered in the Siem Reap area. (so warning: many temples ahead. bear with me!) Day 12-15....
Lara - saving the world!
It's not easy to save the world at 5 am!
Quick - before the sun fully rises!
Ahh... the faces, the hallmark of this temple, look upon the rise of a new day.
Faces present and past smiling together.
so peaceful. so magical. mission accomplished.
We visited a lot of smaller temples too (Ta Prom shown). Since the area is naturally a jungle terrain, many of the temples had massive trees engulfing the ruins.Exploring amongst the ruins (hmm, does that sign say do not climb?). Such in depth exploration will probably not be allowed in 10 years because of ppl like us running all over them. oops. quick, visit now!
well, by 11 am the first day we had already seen 4 temples and saved the world - we were pretty exhausted.
we weren't the only tired ones! while we climbed, our tuk-tuk driver napped.
but we were resting up for our first afternoon grand visit to .... (drum roll.....)
ANGKOR WAT!!! here she is in all her glory. We searched hard for this postcard perfect picture. The reflection pond is actually this rinky-dink pool of water off to the left maintained by an over-eating horse.
It was like Disnelyand inside! People everywhere. We even had to wait in line to get down. Um, I don't think you have to worry about landmines here anymore (Mom!).
so we did a little more clmbing, always being appropriately safe of course. (look - no rails!)
We actually ended up coming back the next day at off-peak hours and lo and behold .... we had the whole temple to ourselves practically. Score again!
Day #2 of templing:
we arose with the sun at 5:30am and ventured into the countryside where we passed by some traditional Cambodian looking homes on stilts (hmm, is this Angelina Jolie's hut? We don't think so.)
Banteay Samre temple, 30 km out of town, is known for it's intricate carvings
and also for the Jane-in-a-window painting.
Our favorite small temple. Each temple had something unique about it. This one had doors that got smaller and smaller and smaller. How far does the rabbit hole go?
Gazing intently upon the ruins for some clue.
By day 3 we were pretty templed out but we pressed on due to advice from our friend, Steph. We took an easy day, sleeping in until 7am. Although we went to the wrong temples (oops), we amused ourselves just fine.
Whoever told you that it was easy to climb a stone elephant?
Jane and I love trying to get a glimpse of real life in whatever country we are travelling in so we asked our driver to take us to the small local town of Ruluos.
the market is the center of town and no foreigners came by. we were definitley stared at, and probably laughed at, but we still wanted to check it out so our driver graciously showed us around. vegetables, fruits and fish abound.
And our driver even took us to his home to meet his family. We had an extensive conversation about Cambodia with his old one-large-toothed father-in-law who had surprisingly excellent English (very rare).
The neighbor's kids were shy at first, but once the camera was out they were all smiles. Deep down, kids are all alike in all countries.
OK, 3 days and 15+ temples .... it's time to TAKE OFF!
to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital
WAIT! hold on. Prompted by Jane's reminder, i must say that before heading off to Phnom Penh, Jane and I did some pretty crazy shopping buying table cloths, scarves, purses, more scarves and skirts :) and then a few more scarves. hey, we are only coming to Cambodia once!
We took the risky bus ride. But luckily they finish paving the roads so the ride was brilliant not only to Rulous, but all the way to the capital!
PHNOM PENH: a crazy past and present
Day 16-18: This city was crowded, dirty, and overall pretty crazy. We were basically the only tourists in our ghetto part of town and were pretty exhuasted so we just wanted to hibernate, but we came to try and fathom a bit of history.
The killing fields. The main reason why we came to Phnom Penh is the visit the killing fields. From a short, but destructtive period of 1975-1979, Pol Pot led the cultural revolution with his group called the Khmer Rouge. Attracting a lot of youth to follow his twisted ways of an ideal peasant society, he led massive genocide on anyone who did not follow his regime.
At the Killing Fields, 12 km outside of the city. There were mass graves, big holes in the ground where hundreds of bodies were tossed in. The fields became a memorial in 1989. Bodies were dug up and skulls are displayed by age and gender.
Tuol sleng (aka S-21) was a public secondary school in the city that was converted into a prison/investigation area during the Khmer Rouge Regime. Of the 14,200 ppl who were imprisoned including men, women and children of all trades, only 7 survived.
On a lighter note...
The Royal Palace. Yes, every country out here has one. This one was OK. The famed silver pagoda with silver tiled floors wasn't that impressive. Maybe it was because we were tired, or maybe it was because the silver tiles were duck taped together. There just isn't the funds to really maintain these beautiful grounds.
People were very helpful in directing the way for us though.
They really like their king. He is on billboards everywhere, helping the people of course.
After seeing what we came for, Jane and I were ready to leave this city , but not ready to part our separate ways. We spent the last day chilling, enjoying our last moments together before I sadly headed off back to normal life in New York City and Jane continued on her adventure to Laos. It was a grand vacation full of many laughs, adventures and good company. If only it could've lasted longer...
Until next time ...