We made it to Siem Reap after another lengthy bus ride. They are sort of become a theme here in Asia haha. Day one we skipped the most famous temple Angkor way and instead went to Ankgor Thom, and Bayon and a bunch of smaller temples. Even after we visited Angkor Wat the next day, I think that Bayon is my favorite and the most impressive. The amount of intricate carvings, the stone faces in almost every pillar, and the endless passageways and doors made it really fun to explore. We ended up spending almost 2 hours just in this temple.
Eventually we moved on and saw the other temples in the area. They are all really impressive, and I think they even rival Machu Picchu in terms of impressiveness. Both had to have had enormous numbers of workers, time and patience to build them, and hundreds of years later it’s amazing we can still marvel their beauty.
We woke up around 4:15 to go see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We grabbed a tuk tuk and arrived in complete darkness. We decided to forgo the rest of the folks, and we snuck inside (usually doesn’t open until 8). We managed to get to the top and inside before we were stopped by a guard. We each ended up giving him $5 “fee” so we could avoid the masses of people and watch from above. Definitely a good choice. Although Angkor Wat was impressive from afar, up close it was really boring and I really preferred the others. We rented bicycles and ride around the test of the day, drinking smoothies and seeing some of the lesser known temples.
On our last full day we slept in a bit, and then rented a tuk tuk to head out and see a temple called Banteay Srei. It’s about 45 miles outside of town and took well over an hour in the tuk tuk. It was really cool passing through the countryside and little villages. Almost every little kid we passed would be starting at us yelling “hello” as we passed by. This like that are what I’m going to miss most. We pulled into Banteay Srei and although it’s an pretty small complex of temple ruins, it was amazing in terms of rock carvings. They had carved flowers, monkeys, and all sorts of designs into the rock. A lot more than any if the other complexes we saw. We stopped by the Cambodian land mine museum before heading back to the hotel. This one guy tells a story of how he was recruited as a child to fight with the Khmer Rouge and was deployed to lay land mines. During the course of the war and after fighting against Vietnam he had set thousands and thousands of land mines. Once Cambodia finally stopped fighting, he decided that it was his responsibility to clear his village, the villages around him, and eventually Cambodia of land mines. To date, he has removed over 55,000 and although retired, has a team that continues to do so, while he runs a refuge for kids who has been injured by land mines. Nobody knows how many are still out in the country side, so much so that you are warned from going out to far in the bush when hiking, riding, or what not.
Sunday we went to church before we packed up and caught a bus to Battambang, which will be our last stop before heading to Thailand.