Picture this – blue skies, sun shining brightly overhead, slight breeze, temperature 35C (feels like 40C, 55% humidity), skin glistening & two crazy Canucks are trodding through the lush green jungles & climbing multiple stairs in the ancient ruins & temples of Angkor! There are literally hundreds & two exhausting days were spent examining the most famous, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon& Ta Prohm (where several of the Lara Croft/Tomb Raider’s movies were filmed) & the other multiple temples that were built around 12th century & YES, they are absolutely fabulous.
Angkor means heaven on earth & abode of ancient gods. The temple complex is enormous, designated as the 8th Wonder of the World & has put Cambodia on the map as the temple capital of Asia. Once the political, religious & social center of the Khmer empire, at it’s zenith, boasted a population of 1 million. Unfortunately many have crumbled due to the shear forces of nature as the jungle tries to reclaim itself. Huge century old trees, grow up through the ruins & embrace the moss covered walls. Creeping plants & shrubs sprout from the roofs & many corridors are impassible. The Cambodian government, with assistance from other countries, has been working at restoration for years & by the number of temples that pepper the landscape, work will continue on for infinity. Interestingly, the temples are a fusion of Buddhism & Hinduism with many of the sandstone carving depicting god-kings, apsaras (celestial nymphs), snakes & soldiers in war battles to name a few. Some, in less obscure areas & protected from the elements, are remarkably well preserved.
The town of Siem Reap is about 12K from the temples & is totally sustained by the tourists who come to visit. Markets, stores, tuk-tuks, restaurants, street vendors, massage salons & tanks with fish that nibble away at the dead skin on your feet are going concerns in the evening as the town explodes with visitors. Everyone from age 4 to 94 is selling something (for a dollar) & it can be overwhelming at times. Our hotel was located slightly out of town, but the complimentary tuk-tuk service made our trips to the old quarter quite enjoyable. The other thing we quite appreciated was the lovely hotel pool & how refreshing it was after the unrelenting heat (not a complaint) each day.
Hate to admit it, but we are “templed out” & as I write this we are on the bus heading to Bangkok where we plan to take the overnight train to Chaing Mai in northern Thailand. This will be yet another mode of transportation we wanted to experience & by the accounts on the various forums we have read it is apparently quite acceptable, but we’ve heard that before & time will tell!
Fast forward, getting to Bangkok proved interesting as we had read lots of horror stories about the Cambodian/Thailand border land crossing & weren’t sure how things would work out. Trying to figured out what bus to take was the first challenge & we finally found out about a “direct bus” just the evening before from one of the night clerks at our hotel. The bus from Siem Reap to the Thai border took about 2-hours; we then had to get off the bus, get checked out through Cambodian customs & walk over the border to the Thai immigration.
The bus preceded us with our backpacks that we picked up once we crossed over. From there our packs were scanned (no drugs!) & then on to Thai immigration that took about an hour. Back in the bus, we arrived in Bangkok 5-hours later & took a cab to the train station. Unfortunately the cab driver had no idea where the main station was, didn’t speak English, so Bob had him stop a couple of times for directions (meter running) & despite driving right into a demonstration roadblock with soldiers, we finally made the train just in time. Now we know what it feels like to be in the Amazing Race! We are on the sleeper train now, lower berth heading to Chaing Mai, arrival time 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. WHEW what a day!!!!