The Ride to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Another day, another early bus ride. This mornnig we left Phnom Penh at 7:30am to head to Siem Reap, the basecamp for our visits to the temple complex of Angkor Wat. The ride was uneventful. We stopped a bit more often than I would have liked, at times taking on and letting off passengers.

We arrived at Siem Reap around 2pm and made our way via tuk-tuk (imagine a motorcycle with a covered riksha back, or something) to the Golden Banana. We had reservations for three nights there, but apparently that doesn’t mean anything and the hotel/guesthouse was sold out. We went up the street to the Golden Village or Palace or something (not sure where all the ‘golden’ references come from). We’re camping out there for a night and then moving for the Banana.

Soon after we’d put our stuff down we went out of the hotel looking for a tuk-tuk to take us to Angkor Wat. We found a guy who spent the rest of the afternoon with us for $7 USD. When we got to the ticket booth, around 3:30pm, we had the option of paying for a 3 day pass that started today or waiting until 4:45pm for a 3 day pass that started the next day and get in free this evening. So, of course, we waited and our tuk-tuk driver took us to a litle shrine/temple complex with bones of people who were killed during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. A bit depressed but quite real.

After getting in, we made our way to Angkor Wat and walked thru and around the temple. It’s a sight to behold, nothing like what I’ve ever seen before. Physically imposing, beautifully carved and masked with its battle against time it’s a humbling experience. All throughout the complex are beautiful carvings in the stone bricks, steep sets of stairs that lead higher and higher until you reach the center of the complex. In the middle (and all throughout) are active parishioners (if that’s what you call them), praying to the various statues and shrines that exist. Once at the top of that central complex, you have an amazing view of the rest of the complex including the walls, the moats and the pools. It’s simply stunning. The Hindu heritage of the sight is omnipresent as well, with carvings of Vishu visible and bas-reliefs of scenes from the Mahabharath.

We had dinner at a place near Bar Street in Siem Reap called “Khemer Kitchen”, which served up an incredible curry dish, possibly the best curry evar. And now I’m blogging in an outdoor internet cafe on Bar Street (appropriatly so named after all the bars here and closed off to traffic) where there are hundreds of bugs wanting to make dinner of me.

Before I forget, I want to mention how pretty much the only currency here is the US Dollar. I’ve paid for everything in USD and gotten change back in USD. The only exception is the sub whole dollar portion of the change, which comes back in Cambodian riel. Everybody, including street vendors take and return USD. It’s a de facto currency. Tomorrow, more temples and hotel change. I think we’re going to rent bikes for the day and power ourselves.