Nov 23, 2006 – Siem Reap \ Angkor Wat

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Off we go to Explore the Temples of Angkor Wat!

We took a bus up to Angkor Wat – a 6 hour ride. We’re so used to riding in buses that a 6 hour ride was nothing. This one was a bit different though. It was our first bus ride in Cambodia – a place where they actually use the TVs on the buses. It wasn’t a good thing. They played Cambodian kareoke for 6 hours!! If you’ve never heard Cambodian kareoke, consider yourself lucky! To say it’s the sapiest music I’ve ever heard is an understatement – it’s 100 times worse than listening to Celine Dion for 6 hours. On the bright side though, we did get some entertainment value towards the end when the “Western Corner” came on. It culminated with this Cambodian guy crooning to his girl that he “loves her like a mouse loves rice”. At that point the 3 of us couldn’t contain ourselves and we all burst out laughing, although we were the only 3 on the bus to do so. Try as we might, we just couldn’t find the romantic value in such a statement. We were still laughing when we pulled into Siem Reap to throngs of cheering tuktuk drivers. Okay, they weren’t really cheering, they were actually hollering for our attention but it did add to the overall effect of the moment.

We spent 3 days in Angkor Wat. It is truly an impressive site. Temples dating back to the 10th, 11th and 12th century. Angkor Wat itself is a monstrous structure (the largest temple in the world) commissioned by Jayavarman VII – the most industrious king. He had temples dedicated to his mother, father and grandparents. We figured that Jayavarman VII must have had 3 things in abundance – money, power and ego. The most intriguing aspect of Angkor Wat was climbing to the 5 towers that represented the mountains. The blocks for most of the temples were brought from the mountains about 80 kms away by elephants. While Angkor Wat was impressive because of its sheer size, our favourite was Ta Proem – which was the one dedicated to his mother. The temple has been left partially in its overgrown state in which the jungle has taken over and taken down several of the walls. The effect is overwhelming and the pictures don’t come close to doing justice. The temples are slowly being restored with assistance from a number of countries including China, Japan, France and Italy.

There were a lot of kids selling postcards, books and bracelets. Their gimmick was to ask where the tourist was from and then name the capital of the country. Mary got suckered in by one cute little girl and ended up buying a few bracelets to add to her collection.

Overall it was a great experience – a lot because we were there with Jenny and Tom and despite the fact that the temps were in the low to mid 40s each day! By the time we left Torin was suffering from heat stroke and Mary was well beyond her heat tolerance level. By the 27th we were all ready to leave and the 5 of us headed for the beaches of Sihanoukville (via Phenom Penh).