We woke up not-too-bright and early (See? There are benefits of not being part of a tour group) and had a nice Western/Cambodian breakfast downstairs. The service was terrific! Our coffee cups were filled even before we said a word, and every effort was made to ensure our comfort.
Ah, boy, I miss the spectacular service in Southeast Asia. Especially in Taiwan, great service is a luxury than a norm. But in Cambodia and the Philippines, every effort is made to ensure your comfort regardless on whether you’re in a 2-star or 5-star restaurant.
Rasy was already waiting for us at the lobby and he’s on time. Unfortunately, we weren’t, but hey, we’re on vacation here!
We then headed out to the temples where we paid a US$40 entrance fee for a 3-day temple access.
First stop after passing the stone guards at the South Gate: Baksei Cham Krong temple.
It looks quite small, but in reality, it’s quite impressive. Walking up those steep steps is not an easy feat and I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top.
After spending more minutes than we should, we then headed to one of the most popular temples — Bayon — comprised of over 50 stone heads that our guide book said is meant to guard over each of the king’s territory.
The temple composes of three stories, each accessible by climbing over steep steps (Haha, this is where my indoor wallclimbing skills come in handy!).
Which reminds me, visiting Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples, requires a minimum health level. It’s not for the tired or the sick, as visiting its temples requires a lot of death-defying stair-climbing feats. Sometimes, they installed some iron rails to help guests up and down. Most of the time however, you have to rely on your hands and feet to climb the steps.
Once you reach the third level, you can see dozens of 4-sided stone faces, each different from one another.
Lauren and I were very impressed… imagine sculpting thes faces centuries ago, not an easy feat. Our book said that because over 180 faces had to be sculptured, different people sculpted the right and left side of the faces. Hence, the right and left side are made by different artists. Now, that’s an interesting bit of trivia for you!
We then headed to nearby Baphoun, which is said to be one of the world’s largest jigsaw puzzles.
This is because archeologists started to reconstruct Baphoun years ago. Unfortunately, as they were taking it apart, the civil war struck and they were forced to flee the country. When they got back, all the records were destroyed and they now have no idea on how to put the whole thing back. To this day, they’re still figuring it out, and because of that, we weren’t able to climb its steps.
They say that back in the Ancient Angkor period, if there was a trial, both of the accused would be asked to stay in these structures for days, and those who was first inflicted with some kind of disease will be found guilty.
Lauren ordered some sour tomato soup (something which she consistently ate almost all throughout the trip… very filling though!) while I tried their sweet and sour pork. Unsurprisingly, it tasted different from sweet and sour pork in Taiwan, as the pork is a bit tougher, yet the sauce is sweet with pineapples to the side. We also ordered some spring rolls which is commonstance.
After a sumptous meal, we continued our discovery by going back to the Terrace of the Elephants area to check out the Terrace of the Leper King.
At first glance, it wasn’t very impressive, but once you entered a hidden walkway, I almost was in awe… On the walls were filled with very intricate engravings of buddhist figures, garudas and more. The details are just breath-taking and you can’t help but clap your hands by the skill and talent of the Angkor people.
Afterwards, we headed to visit Pre Rup — one of my favorite temples — known for its simplicity. It is magnificent. As big as Bayon, Baphoun and other major temples, Pre Rup is not too popular among visitors mainly because of the starkness of its walls. Unlike other major temples filled with engravings, Pre Rup is empty and looked like large blocks of stone. This is unintentional as the king died before all the decorations were put in place.
But because of its simplicity, I found it magnificent, and it remains one of my favorites in the whole trip.
We then moved on to visit several more temples (after a while, they were all starting to blur and look alike… we visited at least 9 temples just on the first day!) before heading near the Baksei Chamkrong temple to ride on some elephants to take us up the hill to watch the sunset.
It was really nice. Our elephant-driver played some cool tunes with just the leaf and it was at least a nice 15-minute ride before we got to the top. At a distance, we can see the cone walls of Angkor Wat, surrounded by lushious trees.
Unfortunately, it was too cloudy and it wasn’t a good day for the sunset, but I did bump into my friend there. It seemed that they started real early and had been zipping back and fro the same temples we went to. Haha, well, that’s one benefit of traveling without a group — the ability to go wherever you want to and set a comfortable pace to enjoy all the sights.
Anyway, it was nice bumping into her, and some other cute foreigners from around the world — even though we didn’t see the sunset. It was really interesting to see people from around the world coming together to see Angkor Wat. Just that afternoon alone, I met people who came from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mainland China, Vietnam, Thailand, America, Australia and Great Britain. Totally a mixing pot of cultures!
After the disappointing sunset (well, not really, as it was beautiful to just sit there and relax), we then headed back to town where Rasy allowed us to try our hand in shopping once again. Lauren and I once again revitalized the Cambodian industry by buying several more items of clothing, books and scarves. We both vowed never to come back, a promise that we knew we won’t keep.
Since we had more time, we walked around town and I came across this really interesting pancake dessert stall on the street!
For only 1000 real (or US$0.25), I ordered a sweet egg pancake that was topped with sweet condensed milk, a real Cambodian dessert. After one bite, I was in heaven!
It was delicious and melted in my mouth!
Lauren said desserts like these are very common in Southeast Asian countries. In Thailand, they’d even serve it with fruits!
Now, I’d like to try that.
After that delicious dessert, we boarded the car once again and headed towards Bayon 2, where we splurged US$12 to have a mouth-watering Cambodian eat-all-you-can dinner and watch a traditional dance show.
Though the meal took a huge cut in our budget, I could say that it was really worth it as I managed to sample some nice Cambodian fare such as amok with curry, Cambodian noodles, Cambodian pancakes (yum!), shellfish, and more!
God, I was in heaven!
And trying to suppress my guilt by telling myself that I’d start dieting when I get back! 😀
The show itself was good, as Lauren and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Some of it reminded us of a Balinese/Thai dance, but others were authentically Cambodian complete with monkey, peacock and fish costumes. It was truly a delight.
Sated and full, we finally went back to the hotel for a night’s rest. 🙂
One day down, two and a half more days to go!!!
To be continued…
It’s so freaking cold here in Taipei!!! Argh, I so hate the cold.
However, it’s not worse as when my colleague said, “It’s just the 2nd day of winter…”
I’m like… WTF?! You mean, we still have 2 months and 29 days left?!
Anyway, that’s one of the cons of living here in freezing Taipei (okay, so it’s relative and it’s worse in the north), but still!
Regardless, I still managed to have fun, despite the weather. Last night, I went to my regular Toastmasters meeting and listened to some not-so-interesting speeches about banks, family and animal testing. Afterwards, I still managed the time to head to the climbing gym and did some climbing!
Got my gri-gri certificate so I’m happy! 😀
Also glad to see Bill there, whom I haven’t seen for a while. He was my “white mouse” for my gri-gri test and it was absolutely hilarious seeing him so nervous when I was belaying him down!
“At least, you’re still alive,” I told him with a wink.
It’s amazing how friends can put so much trust in you…