Greetings from Siem Reap in Cambodia! Much like Halong Bay in Vietnam, this city exists because of its proximity to the Temples of Angkor, with its famous Angkor Wat, which we’ll see tomorrow morning. But first, here’s how we got here…
Our flight to Siem Reap left Bangkok at 2:45pm yesterday and we’d kind of decided the previous night that we wanted to go to check out the Oriental Hotel, the fanciest and most famous hotel in the city, in the morning. My parents had been back to the tailor the previous day and wanted to return this day for a second fitting. We still wanted to go to the Oriental though, so we decided to take the Chao Phraya river express boat down to the Oriental, and then thought we could easily take the Sky Train to the tailor before returning to the hotel for the bags and going to the airport.
I suggested it’d be nice if walked to the pier near the Grand Palace so we could walk through the Amulet Market. It was certainly different, but most people had the same stuff. Amulets tended to be images of famous monks or Kings (especially Rama V) that people would wear or carry with them on them or in a vehicle or something. Browsing took far longer than expected, as did the boat, so by the time we made it to the Oriental, it was past 10:30am.
I realized we were going to run out of time and it was ridiculous for us all to go across town to the tailor, all go back to the other side of town to the hotel, and then all go back in the direction of the tailor to the airport, so my parents went to the tailor and my Grandmother and I took the boat back to the hotel to check out and get the bags and we all met up at the airport.
Meeting worked fine. We were flying Bangkok Airways this time around. Our flight was an hour late departing because the plane was late arriving. It was a bit more understandable when we saw the plane…it was a Druk Air plane that had just come in from Bhutan! Part of me wished the plane would take us there, but ah well…some day. Our flight, despite being only 30 minutes long, had excellent service and we got an enormous amount of food! Amazing how US airlines don’t give us anything for hours on end and in 30 minutes, we got all this food!
Arriving in Siem Reap we had to get visas on arrival. The line was long but fast moving. My mom and dad forgot their passport photos in Bangkok and each got “fined” US$2 for not having one. The man returning passports was having so much fun triyng to pronounce our names! It’s all so exciting…I now have 8 pages with stuff on it in my passport, which is over half! Amazingly, in 2006, I’ve now been to 7 countries!!
Our guide met us at the airport, with a fairly humorous sign for grandmother that said “Mr. Lillian/W and Party”. We made our way to our very fancy hotel and got our rooms. All meals are included in this package my grandmother booked and they’re really something! Multi-course delicious meals. This is my luxury vacaiton right here!
Today we started at 8am to start off visiting the many temples in the Angkor complex. We first had to get our multi-day passes…a 3 day pass was US$40! I’ve heard that the complex is maintained by a private corporation, so barely any of that money goes towards conservation. I should also note that while the official currency is the riyal, nearly everything around here works in US dollars!
In the morning we explored various temples of the Rolous group, which I do believe were the earliest temples on site. They dated back as far as the 8th century CE. I should note that while Angkor Wat is its claim to fame, the Temples of Angkor consist of dozens, perhaps even hundreds of temples. I’d seen Khmer-style temples in Thailand, but these were truly incredible.
Our guide in particular has been great. He just has this wealth of information about all the little details and carvings and what they all signify! It was good to have him, as we’d just be walking through sites without him. The details that were surviving were great! One of the places we went to in the afternoon had these stunning carvings depicting images of various Hindu gods (one depicted a story about Vishnu), while another at a different temple depicted stories about the Buddha. The Khmer were originally Hindu, but later converted to Buddhism.
I can’t remeber the names of everywhere we went, but one of the complexes was huge and very impressive! It was right across from this lake that was used for ritual bathing. We finished up the night by climbing this pyramid type-thing to watch the incredible sunset. It was gorgeous the way the light was hitting it.
But we ain’t seen nothing yet! We’ve got a jam-packed day tomorrow, starting with the entire morning at the world-famous Angkor Wat! It should be exciting!!