We took a mini bus to Siem Reap this morning. We had thought the drive would take us about 7 hours, but our driver was flying down the road and we got there in about 5. Driving has been really interesting. usually, we are able to drive about 35-40mph so getting anywhere takes a lot of time, even short distances. Luckily, there wasn’t much traffic and the road was good, so we were able to drive about 60-65mph.
We spent the first afternoon and evening in Siem Reap, checking out the local markets and exploring the town. There isn’t much to it, but it’s nice, the people are friendly and everything is pretty cheap. We found the night market and walked around a bit before discovering a fish massage booth. Having heard about this on NPR, I handed over $3 and stuck my feet in the water. The fish nip at your feet and eat off all of the dead skin. It is quite ticklish and was a lot of fun. Walking by the booth was a woman selling cooked spiders to eat. Dared by some Englishmen into trying it we each had a leg. Never thought I’d be eating spiders, but it wasn’t too bad and I mostly just tasted the sauce it was cooked in.
The next morning we headed out to Angkor Wat. I didn’t know this, but it’s actually dozens and dozens of temples surrounding the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Wat is just the largest and best know of the temples. The city of Angkor Thom had a million people living in it when London had just 50,000.
The next morning we got up really early, 4:30am, and drove to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Despite the hundreds of tourists there, it was absolutely amazing.
Afterward, we walked around the temple complex. Our guide told us that it’s the largest religious building in the world. The craftsmanship and artistry is simply amazing and it’s easy to see why it took 37 years to complete.
Afterward we got some breakfast at a nearby road stand and then headed to Preah Kahn. This temple has been swallowed by the jungle even more than Ta Prohm. There were moments inside when looking up I couldn’t figure out how the stones didn’t come crashing down on us. We headed out of the complex and stopped by the Terrace of Elephants and passed through the Smiling gates.
The temple complex was really something to see and I had been looking forward to it for a long time. There is just so much to see and with the heat, it’s exhausting. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see these temples 900 years ago. They must have been overwhelming for people when they came to the kingdom. After the temples we drove south of town and took a boat out on Tonle Sap Lake to visit the floating villages. Apparently the lake doubles in size during the wet season and the floating village is constantly adjusting with the lake. It was interesting to see people basically living in floating shacks and making their lives and livelihoods on the water.
After the lake, we had went to a local family’s house for dinner. We were a little skeptical when we stepped off the bus in the dark and Simon didn’t really know where to go. Luckily, after a few minutes Pilar found us and took us to her home. I was grateful as it turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. All traditional Khmer food and absolutely delicious.
Well, tomorrow we head to Bangkok and finish up the tour. Part one of my trip is ending and part 2 is starting on Wednesday. I catch up again on the beaches…