This morning we decided to get up way early to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. During our flight last night, we met up two US girls (one from Nepal and one from Colombia) who were med students at Stanford on a vacation before they move to do their residencies. They had already booked a driver and tour guide for the next day to do this, so we decided to tag along and split the price.
It was a little hard to get up that early in the morning to make sure we were on time, but we did it, and had a great breakfast from our beautiful hotel, the Golden Butterfly. The people here were amazing, and were a beautiful welcome to Cambodia. We got picked up by the driver, and headed out to Angkor to join the crowds who were all awaiting the same sunrise.
Coming into the grounds of Angkor, you can see through the tree lined street the walls that create the outer wall of Angkor, and I knew we were close to getting a glimpse of the marvel of the 7th wonder of the world. My tire subsided with the excitement of seeing this 7th world wonder.
We got out of the car and headed to the front and you could see the formation of the stunning Angkor Wat sitting there peacefully. As we walked towards the water area where most of the people tend to take their pictures, I started to wonder if we would see a great sunrise or not with the amount of clouds that were creating a drowned light. Unfortunately, those famous pink skies and blues were hidden and I didn’t really get any great pictures (that I think) of the sight.
We then went in and got started with our description from our tourguide about the history of Angkor Wat. I quickly realized that the tour guide, while very knowledgeable about the topic, was extremely slow in his delivery of everything. It made it a bit trying to listen to, and I quickly faded in and out of interest, picture taking, hunger, tiredness, back to trying to listen to see if I’d missed something. I remembered about my trip to the D-Day beaches and felt if only I had had a similar tour guide, that it would have really changed my understanding of the site.
We then continued through the gates of Angkor to behold the interior walls, walkways, stairs, and statues, and it was interesting, because we seemed to have the place to ourselves often. Most of my pictures will not have anyone in them, which is great. The rain that quickly poured and caused everyone to scatter may have been to blame, however, I was glad this was the case. We walked around for a while until we went to lunch.
We then continued on making our rounds to various temples around the area. They all started to look alike after a bit, and after the early, early morning, we were starting to fade fast. After a brief rest, we met up with the girls again for dinner and headed to the night markets to check it out.
The next day, we decided to do a different driver, and we went to do a hike up to a waterfall that we had read about. It was on the way to another temple that we wanted to see, so it worked out perfectly.
After a hefty hike up a mountain, we were a bit disappointed as to what was ahead at Kbal Spean. We had grandious expectations of a huge waterfall, with some craved Buddha hiding behind, but instead, we found about a 12 foot tall waterfall pushing out some water with some carvings of turtles in the creek bed, along with lying Buddhas. We left with a bit of a chuckle, and headed onward to the next temple.
Banteay Srei, is a beautiful temple that was my favorite. The intricate details that are still so visible made this such a beautiful temple, albeit small, it was a great display of what artistic ability the people had a thousand years ago. Walking atop the same dirt land that so many generations before walked atop is a really incredible thought. The ruins help you realize what life could have been like.
After a few more temples, the heat had taken its toll, and we just needed to go back and get some rest and a massage :) That night we headed back to Angkor to watch the sunset. Seeing the same temple in a different light was really cool. The grounds were literally desolate as everyone was outside watching from different vantage points. We then met Daniel, an Aussie traveling for 7 months now on just $1000. After our fun evening at the ruins watching the sunset, we headed back to grab some dinner. We met up with Daniel again, and had a fun dinner which ended with great entertainment.
All of a sudden, a little 12 year old girl came up trying to sell us bracelets. What caught us off guard was her fluency in Valley Girl English. We were captivated by her and her personality, and of course everyone bought a bracelet, but the more we spoke to her, the more we all fell in love with her. She was a bright light full of hopes and dreams, and an amazing intellect that we are all hoping is used properly and will provide her opportunities. Linda was one of our favorite experiences in this beautiful town.
We then went back to the hotel and all watched the movie, the Killing Fields, which gave us an education of what we were about to see in Phnom Penh in the next couple of days.
The following day, we went to check out Beng Malea, one of the coolest temples that were overgrown with trees and roots. The cool thing about here was you could climb all over the ruins. We were taken through by a guide that took some great pics of us as well swung on roots, posed in doorways and on rubble. It was definitely worth a small trip outside the city.