After one million hours of travel, we were more than ready for our first real adventure. We scheduled a tuk-tuk to pick us up on Sunday morning at 4:45 a.m. so we could see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, which is the world’s largest religious monument and the eighth (yeah, we know) Wonder of the World. Just a heads up, if you choose to visit Angkor Wat, know they take a picture of you and print it on your pass… so maybe brush your hair in the morning. But all vanity was forgotten when we pulled up to the temple. The first view looked like a post card — and it was wild to think that we were actually seeing it in person. Mike was giddy. The day was slightly overcast, so we didn’t get to see the sunrise, but we did get a head start on most of the tourists.
After navigating the maze of Angkor Wat and climbing its super steep stairways for a few hours, we decided it was time to move on.
Our tuk-tuk driver took us to Angkor Thom, which is impressive in its own right, but unfortunately has been deemed by tourists as the “Tomb Raider Temple.” Yes, Angelina Jolie was there to film the movie, but this old monastery (built in the 12th century) is home to many famous faces. Stone faces, to be exact. Below is a picture we stole off the interwebz (thanks, Google), because Kathleen can’t get her busted iPhone to connect to any Wi-Fi networks.
And then we saw more ruins. And more ruins. And more ruins. (Check out the map here.) Each one was fantastic of course, but after the first few they all started to look the same. The tuk-tuk ride back to Siem Reap was glorious, not only because the day had gotten very hot and the breeze felt AMAZING, but it was also a great opportunity to take in the landscape. We even saw some baby monkeys (!) hanging out by the water. It had been a full six hours of adventuring, but it was only 12:30 p.m. when we arrived back at the hostel. We took a quick nap and then headed out for lunch.
This was our first real foray into Siem Reap, a crowded, dusty, and tourist-driven town. It seemed like we couldn’t go three steps without someone coming up to us and asking if we wanted a tuk-tuk, a massage, or a silk scarf. It seemed that they never addressed Mike, just called out to Kathleen, “hey ley-deeeee!” We eventually landed at a restaurant for lunch, but the real draw was the $0.50 beers. You guys, everything is cheap. Like, really cheap. Lunch for two with a few beers? Just $6. We walked around for a bit before finally caving into a call out for a massage place. It was a fairly classy joint, and a full-body massage for 15 minutes cost $3. We walked around a bit more and decided to get foot massages — just because we could. We made it back to our hostel just before the afternoon storm.
Siem Reap in the evening is actually way more fun than in the day. The city lights up and its real charm comes through. Everyone just wants to have a good time, eat and drink, and haggle for cheap prices in the market. We celebrated our bargaining successes with some ice cream and headed to bed with plans to fly back to Bangkok and then overnight train to Chiang Mai the next day.