Siem Reap Cambodia - Angkor Wat

What do I say about Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. It is impressive. The ruins of the temples are huge and very well preserved and there is no where that you can take an uninteresting photograph. We booked a tour complete with an english speaking guide and a tuk tuk. Our guide and our driver stayed with us from sun up to sun down, despite having families at home that they would not see on the days they spent with us. There was nothing we could say to make them arrive late or go home early. The guide told us that by age 40, most of the guides have trouble walking because their knees and ankles are shot from climbing up and down all the stairs in the temples.
Lots of stairs in the ruins

Our hotel is lovely and quiet with a bamboo garden inside. They gave us delicious welcome cups of iced lemongrass tea to drink, and damp cloths to clean our hands. The beds in Cambodia are so much more comfortable than the hard thin mattresses used in Vietnam.

As well as seeing more archeological sites than we can imagine, we also squeezed in a bunch of other activities. The first night we were there, as part of the tour we booked, we were taken to a big tour bus buffet and traditional dance show with 300 other people. It was everything you would expect. The dancing was good, the food was plentiful with a large variety but bland and they overcharged outrageously for crappy drinks.

Dancing at the busload show
Our guide stopped to show us how palm sugar is made on the way back from some of the distant archeological sties. We realized that it is very similar to maple sugar, but of course costs almost nothing. I see a definite business opportunity for someone to import palm syrup and sell it because it tastes so much like maple syrup. It was delicious and I wish I had bought more, but of course we have to carry everything we buy. So if you do have the chance to enjoy one of our lovely little palm sugar candies, remember that they were lugged on my back through town after town and packed and unpacked and shuffled around in my bursting and breaking pack. 

Our much better lunch at a little cafe
The second day, we decided to forgo a few of the smaller ruins in exchange for a trip to a spa. We started with a $2 fish pedicure. We found one that had clean looking water and lots of heathy active fish and let them nibble our toes for half an hour. Then we went inside and had foot massages, and I had a facial that came with a head back and neck massage and Greg had a regular massage. I think our total bill for the afternoon was around $35… including the tip.

Dinner the second night was at a really nice restaurant. They served us a traditional barbecue. This is a large grill over a hot charcoal or gas burner with a ring of chicken or pork broth around it. On the top of the grill there is a lump of lard, which melts onto the grill. You place pieces sliced meat on the grill, and put vegetables in the broth and it is very good. We got chicken, pork and beef, and alligator meat. We were a little skeptical about the alligator, but it turned out to be quite similar to chicken, but maybe with a slightly fishy taste. It wasn’t bad, but I think I liked the beef better. They started with a lovely salad, and Greg dove right in and took a huge forkful. I said to him, “Hey Greg, be careful, I noticed that they put a big super hot chilli right in the bottom of the salad…” But it was too late. I noticed the steam coming out of Greg’s ears, the tears leaking from the corners of his crazed wild eyes and heard him making unintelligible sounds and waving his hands. I called the waiter and calmly asked if we could get some bread or a glass of milk. Greg tried to stick his whole head in his water glass. They took a very long time to get the perfect piece of bread and cut it in perfect slices and arrange it nicely in a napkin lined basket. Greg was rocking back and forth on his chair and speaking in tongues, his head able to turn 360 degrees in his hot pepper possession. Finally the bread came and, ignoring the lovely butter they had so artfully carved into little flowers, Greg stuffed most of the pieces into his mouth whimpering quietly. Luckily Greg is very good at internalizing pain, so no one else in the restaurant was disturbed or even noticed his gesticulations and anxiety. 

Greg trying red hot chilli peppers

On the final day, our tuk tuk driver came at 5am and took us out to Bakheng Mountain to watch the sunrise. We climbed up the hill and got lost in the ruins, but finally made it to the top to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.

Sunset from Baking Mountain
Sunset over Angkor Wat
We raced back across town and picked up our luggage and our tuk tuk dropped us at our bus stop to go to Steng Trung in the north east corner of Cambodia, near the border to Laos. We found out later that we could have gone straight to 4000 islands, but as it turned out, this would be unforgettable.

Large moat around Angkor Wat 
The very centre point of Angkor Wat
Ancient Sanskrit - very similar text to the current Cambodian language

Magestic Lion Statue

Stark white trees grow in the dark ruins

Doorways that go on and on 

Markets surround the wats and temples. 

Many of the ruins were overgrown with trees - they have removed the trees in some and left them in others

Across the wide moat - all hand dug

And the ruins are still in use as Buddhist temples and shrines just as they were many hundreds of years ago

The monkies are pretty tame but they will steal your food:)

The carvings are so clear and defined still