I arrived to Siem Reap on Thursday and saved Friday just for visiting Angkor Wat. By the way, Angkor Wat is a temple, yet a part of a bigger Angkor complex.
The hotel arranged for a tuk-tuk and a guide (any hotel can do that) for the day. The trick was to wake up by 4:30 am. You see, we wanted to see the sunrise – the famous sunrise over Angkor.
So you go early, get a pass (I got a daily pass for $20, there was also an option to get a 3 day pass for $40 but I wasn’t greedy), by the way here it is:
You see, there’s no way to cheat around with such ticket. So yes, back to the sunset. You get to the spot where the driver drops you off and says “when you come back I see you”. There were hundreds of tuk-tuks, but the guys know their job, he spotted us immediately on the way out!
The sunset was quite uneventful, where it just got brighter – too many clouds. And a friend of mine who visited earlier said the same – no good sunrise during the low season. Oh well, Snapseed filter helped a bit:
Then we walked around Angkor Wat freely for 2 hours, it was getting quite warm (5-7 am!). But see how peaceful it looks!
Then we headed back to the hotel to grab some breakfast and at 8:30 the guide was ready to take us to the so-called Small circle of Angkor. It’s a trip around 4 temples (except for Angkor Wat which we already explored in the early morning) and it’s great because you go from the less preserved ones to the most exciting one. Here’s a map I found to show the route.
You start with Banteay Kdei, the citadel of chambers. You are still very amazed with the ruins, trees and the beauty.
I am so so grateful for the guide who was showing us around (to my shame, I don’t remember his name nor have his contact information). He was born and raised in Angkor back when it was a village and many people lived there, then stayed with monks and learned English by hanging out with tourists. Then a sad event happened to a family member and he quit the monk life – he just couldn’t be emotionless about life anymore. Now he’s a volunteer, teaching students how to grow their own food and when he has time, he gives tours. But his knee is not in it’s best shape so he can’t walk too much. One day. he says, he’ll save enough money to buy a car and a house and will marry a beautiful girl and have many kids and have his own little garden.
The saddest this is that the average teacher or a doctor earns about $80 a month, a tuk-tuk driver or a guide can earn $20 per day which gives them an opportunity to support their families. They are very beautiful sincere people living in a very poor and corrupted country. So when you go to Cambodia, don’t try to save each dollar, please – it can feed a whole family (but spend wisely since not all the money goes to the community, they have their own layers of
mafia complexity when it comes to earning money).
Okay, we’re in Ta Prohm already. Do you recognize this tree? It’s the famous Lara Croft tree from the movie! It’s real!
Here’s a riddle for you. Imagine you’re in the 12th century, living your TV and Internet-free life somewhere in the middle of Cambodia. You are working as a stone carver just like the hundreds of thousands of your colleagues for a respectable king that wants a temple larger than his predecessor. You are sitting there getting inspired for a new carving and you do this:
A Stegosaurus. Seriously, how on Earth did they know what a Stegosaurus looked like????
(That’s in the Ta Prohm by the way, ask your guide, he’ll show you)
At about 2 pm it was too hot outside. We were tired and overwhelmed with emotions, all the stories and the beauty around. We had enough of Angkor for the day. The last important thing was to get a blessing. Only nuns can touch a woman (a true monk won’t give you a blessing if you are a woman) so we wend to meet this lady. The experience is very spiritual and I’ll keep the memory of it in my heart.
That’s the story of my visit to Angkor, guys. Not regretting we didn’t go the second day, because we did something else and very cool. Stay tuned, I’ll write about it very soon!