This morning we woke incredibly early in order to do one of those quintessential tourist things – Sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was great because we wandered through the grounds in the dark along with our smart phones and torches and of course we couldn’t see any of the detail of the temple, so when the sun finally did rise, it looked even more impressive.
For such an amazing and well promoted event, I was a little bit underwhelmed with the actual sun rise itself. I was expecting quite a few different colours, a bit of red maybe and some softer colours and some golden glows. Instead, we went from a deep purple kind of colour to a pale watery blue and eventually to the blue sky that Angkor Wat is famous for. And the whole thing was pretty much over within 10-15 minutes. Having taken numerous pictures, we went on the hunt for coffee, since we didn’t get a chance first thing in the morning. This was the first time I’d bought/ordered a coffee since arriving in SE Asia, surprisingly, and I’d forgotten about the abundance of condensed milk they have in this part of the world! Last time I was in SE Asia, I was in Malaysia, and I kind of liked the canned sweet milk as I then didn’t need to top up with sugar. Since then though, I’ve given up sugar in my coffee, so this was the most disgusting cup of black joe I’d ever had the misfortune of consuming. It was like treacle before we put the milk in, so it got much worse afterwards!
Having navigated through the sellers trying to palm us off with scarves, selfie sticks and souvenir tea towels, we hopped back on the bus that took us across to Ta Prohm Temple, which is also known as the Tomb Raider Temple because of the scenes filmed there in the Lara Croft movie with Angelina Jolie/Daniel Craig. We’d arrived before 7.00am and there were hardly any tourists there at this point in the morning, which really was pretty awesome. The amazing thing about this temple is the tree that is intrinsically linked to the building that it sits on. Naturally when visiting ancient temples there are the stories about when so and so religion came in and destroyed this, and such and such king came to power and decreed all churches much remove all effigies of god X. The stories in Cambodia centred around Hindus coming in and destroying the Buddhist statues and trying to replace them with either a shivling or a Ganesh. Apparently though, when it came to it, the Hindus were unable to destroy the statues or any of the temple at Ta Prohm due to the tree roots. We took some really great pictures at Ta Prohm, both of the minion, of the whole crowd & one of our group who had a GoPro (there were 4 within our group!) caught some footage of himself doing “the Tomb Raider Tumble” as he called it. Hilarious, especially since I didn’t see this in real time and saw it on the first GoPro upload which didn’t happen for quite some time.
We were done at Ta Prohm by 8.00am, so headed back to the Angkor Wat Complex for breakfast. Word of warning – if you order fresh OJ anywhere in Indochina, it is not fresh orange juice. It is some horrendous concoction of a powered cordial drink with some dubious looking orange flesh chucked in. Breakfast was an interesting affair. We had 2 boiled eggs, an omelette, some bread and jam. We kind of needed a bit of seasoning, so we asked for salt and pepper. The salt arrived. It took a few people quite a while to work out that it was actually sugar. Oops. Some people like sweet eggs, apparently!
After breakfast, we headed on to Bayon Temple, which is the third one on the list of temples to see in Siem Reap. This temple had so many four-headed Buddhas around it. They are to mean different things:
The photo to take at Bayon Temple is framed with your nose to Buddha’s nose. This is for good luck apparently. So naturally, I got the minion face to face with Buddha!
I’m not going to lie, but by this point in the day, I was a little bit templed-out. What with our enigmatic local guide insisting on group photos every second location and his overly annoying persona and attempt to make things interesting by yelling “G’s got Talent” all the time, people were starting to get a little irritated by him! We went back to Angkor Wat a little later on in the day and entered it from one of the side entrances where it was much quieter. Before heading inside, our local guide (unfortunately his name escapes me…) attempted to explain the foundations of the Angkor Wat complex. The only things that I took away from this were:
- Angkor Wat was not a temple to live in like any normal monastery, only to worship in.
- It was also due to be a tomb for the king (whether it was in the end or not, I’m not sure)
- There are three levels
- The moat was man made
Over the course of the day, I had developed a wonderful cold. This made dealing with our lovely local guide even more of a pain in the neck, but once we were done with the temples, a few of us decided to go get a massage. In the tourist areas of these towns, massage parlours are everywhere. There is no way of knowing whether they are any good, even after you walk in. This place wasn’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination. It was a little strange though, as the first thing they made us do was put these weird shirts on. We could keep our own trousers on, shorts, skirts, whatever, but they kind of wanted our skin to be covered. The massage was more of a pressure thing, and it wasn’t unpleasant. Just unexpected. I had gotten to the point in my head cold that I was having to blow my nose every 2 minutes, and the poor girl giving me my massage had to go away and get me some more tissues!
All relaxed, we had another hour to chill out before meeting for dinner which was lovely, at one of the more western-looking restaurants in the area. Happy hour had us drinking cocktails at $2 a pop, and the pool table was pretty good here. No tears in the felt, straight cues… we were spoilt! I ordered Nasi Goreng, which is fried rice in Malaysian, but unfortunately the portion was so massive, I could hardly eat any of it, especially after the tom yum soup I had also consumed in an effort to spice the cold out of me!
After dinner, we headed to YOLO bar. I’m not sure whether this was supposed to be a G Adventures-affiliated bar, or just somewhere that our CEO was aware of, but it seemed to have exactly what we wanted – cheap drinks, a Jenga set, UV paint and a DJ system where we could go and change the music whenever we wanted. I managed to get a good few photos with the minion raving it up, and I won a shirt! By doing nothing more than picking the word “yes” out of a box of papers that almost all said “no”.