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Baking in Siem Reap

Siem Reap, Cambodia
Friday, April 5, 2013


2/4/2013 The Panthers have retained the Challenge Cup for the 4th consecutive year. We just need to win the Play Off's now for the triple! Come on you Panthers!

Day 1 - The Inner loop

Another day without power... it went off at 7am this morning so without any air con and the temperature already creeping up by breakfast time it was time to get out and explore!

Today we visited the amazing Angkor Wat complex. Firstly to be clear Angkor Wat is the piéce de résistance of a massive complex of temples and structures which as a whole is often referred to as Angkor Wat, don't let this confuse you! Although Angkor Wat itself is rightly the centre piece there is lots to see in the wider complex.

As the temple complex is situated just north of the city the day started with finding some transport. Initially we decided to take a moto (similar to a tuk tuk but you sit in a trailer which is attached to the motorbike, unlike a tuk tuk which is one vehicle) to Angkor Wat and then explore the complex on foot and if needed grab another moto between sites as we went along. However after some negotiation we settled on just US$10 to charter a moto for the complete day! Our new chauffeur proposed the inner loop route firstly taking in Angkor Wat before moving onto Angkor Thom, Chau Say Thevoda, Thommanom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and finally Banteay Kidd. He waited for us at every location and never hurried us once. As we soon found out the distance between some of the different areas is quite substantial, several KM's in some places, although this wouldn't normally be an issue and we would have usually walked or cycled in the searing heat we're glad we opted for the moto!

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious building and is truly stunning; unfortunately our wordsmithing just can't do it or the wider complex justice. So hopefully we have captured the enormity and sheer beauty in our many photos, and as for the silky words we have taken some from Lonely Planet!

The hundreds of temples surviving today are but the skeleton of the vast political, regions and social centre of the ancient Khmer empire. Angkor was a city that at its zenith, boasted a population of one million when London was an insignificant town of 50,000. The houses and public buildings and palaces of Angkor were constructed of wood, have now long decayed, because the right to dwell in such structures of brick and stone was reserved for the gods. Angkor is one of the most impressive ancient sites on earth, the eighth wonder of the world, with epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal, and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids, all rolled into one.

We have visited a few things already on our big adventure that claim to be the eighth wonder of the world but we couldn't agree more with Lonely Planet on this one, in our opinion this is certainly a title contender. The whole complex is simply awe inspiring and stunning.

What amazed us the most was you were allowed to walk on and over the relics giving you an amazing up close view of everything. Only a handful of places were out of bounds to tourists. In a few places especially within Angkor Wat itself the well-trodden tracks for instance up and down stairs have had wooden staircases built over the top of the stone ones to preserve the original artefacts. However in lot of areas you are able to still use the original stone stairs and walkways which added to the whole experience.

One of our favourite sights was Ta Prohm, which anywhere in the Western world would be largely closed for health and safety reasons. Large parts of the temple had already collapsed and lots of areas that were still standing were being held up by temporary supports, which was slightly worrying when walking underneath some of the more precarious structures! It was like something out of a Si-Fi movie with large trees dominating some of the structures and it really felt like nature was trying to regain control of the area. A major reconstruction effort is currently ongoing and there is no doubt it is badly needed, but when finished it might take away much of the magic. Admittedly it did look like they were trying to preserve many of the trees too as they have become an intricate part of the temple. Although it will take years to refurbish the whole of Ta Prohm we are glad we saw it when we did as it is amazing.

Day 2 - Day 80

It's day 80 already and although we have failed to get round the world in 80 days we have now travelled over 11,500 miles but there is still a long, long way to go!

Ross's first proper horse ride of the big adventure. He opted for a 3 hour trek which took in local villages and rice paddy fields before ending up at a distant temple well off the beaten track from the main tourist ones. A thoroughly enjoyable morning if a little hot as it was pushing 40c! For once the horse wasn't a complete 'plodder' and actually had a bit of go in him not quite enough for Ross's liking but as he ticked the experienced rider box on the disclaimer form (200+ hours previous experience) he was half expecting a complete nut case! However as part of the ride included a short distance on the main road with all the other nut cases it was probably a good thing he was a fairly placid animal.

Day 3 - The outer loop

Today we chartered our friendly moto driver again. There was little negotiation this morning as the price was based on what we paid the other day and as the outer loop is a much longer round trip we agreed on US$12 quite quickly.

The outer loop takes in the sights North and East of Angkor Thom. The relics are supposed to be less visited than the inner loop and although it was noticeably quieter than Angkor Wat, it was by no means quiet and getting a photo without a heard of people in the background was as difficult as in China. We visited Preh Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and finally Pre Rup. Apart from Neak Pean which was a fairly small relic which you weren't allowed to walk around and had to view it from behind a barrier all the others were equally as impressive as the more well-known sights within Angkor Thom. We didn't rush visiting any of the sites and completed the outer loop in a leisurely 4 hours with a short stop for a bite to eat.

To see both the inner and outer loop it took roughly 12 hours which we spilt over 2 days, an eight hour and a 4 hour day because of the location of the sights. A lot of guide books have 1, 3 and 7 day itineraries, we feel you would be hard pushed to fit everything into one day but equally we have no idea how you would fill 7 days unless you visited every nook and cranny, including all of the relics outside of the immediate Angkor Wat complex. In the searing heat we are glad we spilt the inner and outer loop over 2 days. We planned to see sunset and left the hotel at 9am with the intention of doing it after the outer loop, although we finished everything by lunchtime another 4 hours in the sun would have been too much.

We don't really have a summary and for once even Sonya is lost for words. The whole Angkor Wat complex was amazing and although the photos do it some justice you need to come and see it for yourself.

Cambodia our departing thoughts

Cambodia is well known for being a poor country and it's incredible that so many people live below the poverty line. The average wage is a mere US$2.5 per day, bearing this in mind you would expect it to be an extremely cheap country to visit, but it isn't. Well in relative terms anyway, we understand that people are just trying to get by and make a living but they need to understand that sometimes as we noted in Vietnam, less is more. Surprisingly everything is more expensive than Vietnam, notable the food is approximately double the price. Although still cheap by any Western standards, you do feel a bit cheated especially after coming from Vietnam and knowing full well you are paying vastly more than the locals. It's not just us, we have passed several other backpackers checking out menus and complaining about the prices. If we were in the 'locals' shoes we would probably do the same but we hope they are not cutting of their nose to spite their face. Although it is still a cheap destination to visit, apart from the temples there is not much else to see and do and it's quite probable people like ourselves do not spend as much time here as we would if it was cheaper, and just use it as a quick stop off on route to Thailand or Vietnam.

Thailand here we come

So tomorrow it's a 3 hour bus ride followed by another 2 border crossings and then a 6 hour train ride to Bangkok. Bangkok is a pivotal point of the trip for both of us as it is one of only a few places we have been before and obviously every other time we have flown. It seems quite strange in a way to be arriving by train. We only plan to be in Bangkok for a short time before moving on for the Thai New Year. Happy New Year 2556!

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Bou Savy Guesthouse after reading some great reviews on the web and we were not disappointed. Unfortunately on check in the main house was fully booked so we were shown to a room above the breakfast area and were told we would be moved in the morning. After spending the night with a gecko and an ant colony we were moved to one of the best rooms we have stayed in since Europe. A very well appointed room with cable TV, great air con and an amazing shower, two things you badly need after being out in the searing heat. The breakfast was nothing to write home about but was free and we were also given a free evening meal for booking for 4 nights. You can get cheaper accommodation in Siem Reap but with a free transfer from the bus station, free internet, free breakfast and help organising onward travel at no additional cost you would be hard pushed to beat Bou Savy for value for money at just US$17 per night.


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