Got a local bus from Battambang to Siem Reap (a mere 3 hours), packed to the rafters it was. Bucket as a seat in the aisle anyone? They left us off the bus about 7km from Siem Reap, after they had driven through the middle of town. Huh? They drive the bus into their own yard and shut the gates, giving waiting tuk-tuk drivers (who pay a few hundred dollars each year for the privilege of being inside this closed gate) a free-for-all on all the tourists (just us) getting off the bus. You obviously have to take a tuk-tuk the 7km back the road already travelled. These tuk-tuk drivers actually want your ‘temple-business’ though, not the silly little 7km trip. They’re on a selling mission all the way into town. “How long are you going to be here?”, “You have somewhere to stay? I bring you to a good hotel” (where I also work), “I can take you to the temples”, “Only $50 for three days”. Since the couple we had met in Battambang paid $70 for their temple-trekking we were like “sold!”. So Som (a nineteen year old charmer) was our tuk-tuk driver for 3 days around the gazillion or so temples dotted around the area. He said he’d take us out to Angkor Wat to see the sunset on our first evening (for free!) so obviously we did that. It was eerily quiet. You’re on your tuk-tuk on the way out there and there’s a huge moat all around the outside. You don’t see Angkor Wat until you’re right in front of it and then… it’s amazing.
Day 1: Temple-gazing. Must have seen around ten temples today. Little kiddies at all the temples trying to sell postcards and screaming “only $1” and then counting the postcards (ten in total) in about four different languages. Very funny but they’re way too young to be out working – and in their bare feet. So here’s a rough rundown of the temples we saw today: Angkor Wat (again. Come on though, it’s Angkor Wat), Angkor Thom, the Elephant Terrace, Preah Khan, Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei and about a million others. Only spent from 9am – 2.30pm temple-gazing but we were so wrecked after it we had a well-deserved two hour nap. Yes, we’re eighty now.
Day 2: Temple-gazing. On our trip out to the archaeological park a little gecko ran up Som’s back and he nearly fell off the bike. John was like “eh Som, there’s a gecko on your back” and he freaked out, bike veering off to the side of the road – “please get it off, I am very afraid”. More of a had to be there moment really but it was damn funny. Obviously it wouldn’t have been funny at all if it had happened to me! We visited Ta Prohm today – none other than the Tomb Raider/Lara Croft tomb…which I had never heard of before we got here. Obviously it was pretty cool to be somewhere Angelina had been so I took all the prerequisite photos. When in Rome… Toured the central market and the old market – bought a t-shirt, trousers and a dress for $11. Not bad for a day’s work. Plenty to do in the evenings here, the main ‘going-out’ street is called ‘Pub Street’ (what else). There’s one epic bar called ‘Angkor What?’. Loving their work.
Day 3: Som took us on the 37km trip to Banteay Srei, a temple well hidden in the jungle. Pretty small and pretty crowded but pretty all the same! It had the best set-up of all the temples; a museum-type building with explanations of the temple and conservation efforts; a café and plenty of rice paddies around the outside. Oh and MASSIVE spiders. Back to Angkor Wat then again, as I wasn’t appropriately dressed to climb to the top the other day. You have to have your shoulders and knees covered as the very top is considered a holy place. Good luck wearing trousers and a jumper there though. A pashmina in the bag just won’t do. Melting-pot hot. I’m talking the back of your knees sweating. Not lady-like at all.
We bought little copy-book sets the other night to give to some kids. You wouldn’t believe how happy they are to get anything. It’s so sweet. There was a little boy sleeping inside Angkor Wat so John left a little ‘Ben 10’ copy-book near his feet, hopefully he realised it was for him when he awoke!
We spent a few café days around Siem Reap. Found a lovely place called ‘Joe to Go’ – it’s a boutique and a café – 100% of proceeds go to a charity – ‘the Global Child’. Strolled out to the Royal Residence, positively miniscule compared to their stately shack in Phnom Penh. Random fact about Siem Reap: Tuk-tuk drivers shout at you ALL day ‘lady, lady’/’sir, sir’. Off to Bangkok tomorrow.