Day 4: Siem Reap

I woke up at 4 knowing that I had so little sleep. But the thought of enjoying sun rise at Angkor Wat made me dance in my head. We left the hotel at 0510hrs when it was dark and cold at 23 degree. I could hear Islamic prayer from the nearby mosque.

I was very excited to see Angkor Wat. I couldn’t put it into words. This was the highlight of our trip and I had been waiting for this since I don’t know when. My hands were numb by the morning wind while riding the tuktuk but my excitement overweighted that.

I paid USD20 to enter Angkor Wat. I had my own personal ticket with my face on it. Many people were already there. I kept thinking that we probably were one of the earliest to arrive, but people were already sitting by the rocks near the lake in front of Angkor Wat. I could see the silhouette of the temple against the brightening sky. We took the picture of Angkor Wat as the sun rises and create a beautiful reflection of the temple on the lake.

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Beautiful. Spectacular. Full of wonder. I imagined people as early as in the 11th century walking at where I was, barefooted, pulling carts, carrying things on their heads, even carrying torch at night around the big Angkor Wat (Temple City) and Angkor Thom (Great City). I could see that this place was some kind of an ancient fortress with man-made lakes surrounding the front of the temple.

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We spent around two hours around Angkor Wat and had breakfast at Angkor Thom area at 0830hrs. The distance from south gate of Angkor Thom to the main temple was quite far, adding to my wonder on how many people were needed to build the structure, including the carvings on every single stone surface.

We continued our journey walking around Angkor Thom, visiting the 11th century temple Baphuon and the Royal Palace area. That was 0930hrs and we rested at the top of Baphuon 1040hrs. I actually rested on a structure built in the year 1000!

I also visited Ta Phrom, the famous location where Tomb Rider was filmed. The reconstruction was still in progress and so far, the process has been incredible. This was our last stop and we ended this marvelous trip at 1210hrs.

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Obviously I am not the kind of person who sees such temple as stacked old rocks. I may not know the detailed history of the Angkor, but I appreciate it so much. I appreciate the effort of the various organisations that reconstruct the ruins and improve the quality of it to preserve the stone against rainwater. The temple was even supported by metals to prevent the slanted walls of the temple from toppling over. The ancient structures from ancient civilisation is worth preserving for the world to see.

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We went to a tour agency for bus service to Phnom Penh which cost us USD15 per person. They said the trip would be around 5 to 6 hours. Hopefully it would be a comfortable ride tomorrow. After that we went to the hotel to take our laundry and dropped it at the laundry service for $1/1KG! Then we left for floating village.

We reached floating village at 1550hrs only to find out that the tour costs USD25 per person. My reaction was “25 DOLLARS?!” And walked away immediately. The tour includes floating village, floating school, fish farms, crocodile farms and some other floating stuff. Basically, the one hour tour is to witness the lives of the Cambodians who live on the largest lake in Southeast Asia. I just thought the price was not worth the trip because I’ve seen similar way of life in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia. We decided to head to the war museum.

The war museum was worth more than USD5. At first the location kind of made me uncomfortable. I almost thought this was just some lame stuff for tourist to spend their money on.

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We were led by an inspiring tour guide, Suon Rottana, who survived the war. He joined the war when he was fourteen till the end when he was 32. That was only fourteen years ago in the year 2000. His parents were killed by Khmer Rouge at the killing field. He killed his good friend because of blackmailing. He lost his right leg, knee down, when he stepped on landmine. When he told me about his life experience during the war, I could only feel sympathy. I couldn’t imagine what he went through. The entire tour was fruitful. I didn’t regret a bit of it.

Here is another inspiring story about him. He worked at the war museum started only as a cleaner. He watched the other tour guides telling people about the guns, bombs and other war weapons on display every day. That was in 2004, three years after successfully going through therapy for his post war traumatic stress. He only learned english when he started working and became an official guide in the museum in 2010! He told the story from the war from his own experience whole-heartedly. He wants people to hear his story and share it to the world. He thanked us, the tourists, for visiting Cambodia in peace and listening to him. We were done with the tour at 1645hrs.

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We asked Va, our tuktuk driver, to bring us to eat the local food. He made a good choice by bringing us to this traditional Cambodian BBQ Beef. It was unique. The bbq beef was served with traditional sauce mixed with nuts and other spices. There were green vegetables that could be eaten with the same sauce. Interestingly, ice was spread on top of the green vegetables and one of the “vegetables” was chopped unpeeled green bananas! It was weird to eat banana with the skin but it was a good experience.

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We decided to rest at the hotel at 1800hrs and asked Va to go home too. It was a long day for all of us. I planned to sleep for one hour so to explore Pub Street and the Old Market Area but could only wake up at 2100hrs!

Pub Street was just very touristy. Nothing special. You can expect what to expect at a place for tourist. There were spas, restaurants, bars, night clubs and etc.

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Such a long day today. I can’t wait to explore more of Siem Reap tomorrow morning before going to Phnom Penh in the afternoon.

Tomorrow’s itinerary: Silk farm and Phnom Penh!

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