I haven’t really contributed much to the last few blogs, mainly because I have been too tired and/or hung over so it is now my turn to contribute something useful!
We travelled via deluxe bus North East of the Cambodian Tonle Sap River to Siem Reap, stopping off on the way to sample the fried spider (a local specialty). For the record, it tasted like a salty stick, personally I was hoping for sour cream and chives or salt and vinegar. We spent the afternoon wandering the streets and markets of Siem Reap and discovered a gorgeous bakery called the Blue Pumpkin.
The highlight of Siem Reap province is the temple ruins of Angkor Wat, which were built between AD 802 and 1432. We set aside 3 days to explore the region and hired a tuk tuk and driver to guide us. First stop was the mother of all temples Angkor Wat itself. We clambered through the ruins feeling like Indiana Jones. We both even braved the steep steps to the top for magnificent views of the Angkor complex. Getting down was a bit more of a challenge but still worth it. We climbed up to the top of the Phnom Bakheng Mountain and it started to pour with rain. By the time we arrived back at the tuk tuk we were both saturated. We had lunch and waited for the rain to stop and in the afternoon we visited was the 10 sq km fortified city of Angkor Thom, the highlight of which was the Bayon which is decorated with a collection of 216 smiling enormous faces.
The next day we started a bit later and headed out to the see more of the smaller temples in the Grand Circuit and the much awaited Ta Prohm, as featured in the Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie. Suddenly and without a single word our tuk tuk came over a bridge and around a corner, slowly veering off the road, down the bank and into the ditch. At first we thought our driver was dodging a pothole, or pulling over to show us some wild life (there are wild monkeys that hang out in the area), but no, the steering had locked up and we were in the ditch! Our driver was extremely shaken and apologetic….we thought it was a hell of a joke and helped him push the trailer and the bike back up onto the road. Everybody, including the tuk tuk was in one piece. Coincidently, an English couple we met in Vietnam happened to be cycling past and stopped to see what the commotion was, so we arranged to meet them for dinner later on!
On the final day, we ventured further to Banteay Srei, about 45 minutes from Siem Reap. We both enjoyed seeing rural Cambodian life more than the actual temple itself. We also stopped off to see the Aki Ra Land Mine Museum. This guy was a child soldier during the war and has dedicated his life to finding and clearing the land mines he himself helped set during the war. The Cambodian government believes that promoting such a museum is bad for tourism so he pays the authorities $50USD a month to stay open! In the afternoon Julia stayed in Siem Reap while I ventured out to the Roluos Group of Temples for a look. So now – to use the official terminology we are both “all templed out” and ready to move on to Laos.