Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cambodia - Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

While in Bangkok, we took a side trip to Cambodia. Even though it can make for a busy trip, sometimes these excursions are the best part. After researching Cambodia and learning more about what it had to offer, we decided to spend less time in Thailand and more time in Cambodia. I was very happy with that decision. We ended up going to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, which was a much larger complex than I was expecting, and we also went to a town called Battambang. I found Cambodia to be a very interesting place. It's very different from the western world, and while I did not go to their largest city, Phnom Phen, it's not a very developed place. That can be very charming and gives it a strange mystique, given the history of the country.

Getting to Cambodia was a bit of an adventure. No one seemed to know where the bus station in Bangkok was when we were looking for it. That was a tremendously frustrating experience. I even asked a bunch of different cab drivers if they knew where it was. We could see most of the neighborhood we were in on a map but the station was just off the edge. Anyway we found it eventually. There were plenty of buses to Siem Reap, signs in English and it was easy to just get on. The ride wasn't very comfortable but not so bad - just a big van, basically, but not crowded. Most of the road was paved, but not completely. It took a few hours to get there.

A view from the bus near the Thai/Cambodian border, but we're still in Thailand here.

The view leaving Thailand

Once we got to the border, the bus driver totally facilitated a bit of a scam on everyone. I'd heard about this, so we got e-visas to Cambodia in advance. But most other people on the bus were herded into the back of a store where they basically bought e-visas from some guy. Then we all took our documents to the actual border crossing (where US citizens at least can just buy your visa on the spot). That was a wild place with tons happening. Every sort of vehicle and person was bustling back and forth, with small stands selling all types of refreshment on all sides.

The tourists are all inside getting their visas, just in the back of some random building. 

This is the view entering Cambodia. At this point, we're on foot.

You can buy just about anything you might need.

The sheer chaos of the border crossing can be overwhelming, but it's very intriguing and exciting.
We waited here for awhile as everyone on our bus made their way through the official part of the border on foot and our driver made his way around with the bus on his own.

This was close to where the bus dropped us off in Siem Reap, basically near the center of town.

That evening, we had a look around the town, which seemed perfectly safe and full of people just going about their nightly business. This is one of my favorite ways to explore a new place: by just walking around and taking it all in

One of the many night markets.

Waitresses just hanging out

There is plenty of delicious, cheap street food. Yum!

The next day, we rented some bikes from a place up the street from our guesthouse. The ride to Angkor Wat was really nice, and once we were there is was fabulous to have the bikes to get around the complex at our own pace. Some people seem to think it's too hot and humid to ride to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap, but we didn't have any issue. The streets are flat, and I'm used to riding; we really enjoyed it and would do it again.

There are monkeys all over, and this one was just hanging out on the road in.

Angkor Wat is an incredible place, and did not disappoint.
I only wish the day hadn't been so hazy. It is an awesome place to take photos.

There is so much there, and some of it can be a bit challenging to see. These wooden steps make it a bit easier, as many of the staircases are wearing down and are incredibly narrow.

Here is an example of how steep the stairs can be.

The level of detail on the temples is stunning.

There are many, many other parts of the tempe complex besides the iconic Angkor Wat shot everyone is familiar with. The roads lead to temples built over many centuries, with somewhat differing styles.

Tourists give up some water to a friend.

The Bayon Temple was one of my favorite parts.

While I'm not a fan of elephants rides, I do like elephants.

I was not able to go up in this temple because my skirt was too short, an unfortunate oversight on my part and one I'm usually careful not to make.

We decided to treat ourselves to some refreshment after a long day, just fries and a sandwich. I really like this cafe. While we were sitting there a woman rolled up on her bike to hand over some ice for the icebox. The child on the bike is holding the crate full of ice. Below is the kitchen where our food was prepared. We communicated with the staff easily with an English menu. It was a nice time.

Back on the road on our bicycles, we went for more stuff to see.

In yet another part of the complex, tourists at Ta Prohm crowd around the banyan tree made famous by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.

Our day was done and it was time to head back into town. That evening, we strolled around the residential part of the neighborhood and shot some more photos.

One of my all time favorite photos

A Cambodian gas station is pictured here. The glass bottles in the center contain petrol.

Back in the center of town, there's always food, be it at a stand or haggling over durian.

Tourists enjoy a massage by hungry fish. No thanks.

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