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Cambodia

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Angkor Thom Again

After visiting Angkor Wat this morning for sunrise, knowing this would be our final day in the park, we wanted to do all the things we haven’t done yet and take the iconic pictures we hadn’t taken yet (basically, the pictures you see on the postcards). The first thing we hadn’t done yet is climb the small hill next to Angkor Wat to Phnom Bakheng (phnom means mountain or hill in Cambodian). The path up to the top is wide and gradual because it’s used as an elephant path. You can easily jog up it in 5 minutes, unless you run into Chinese tour groups taking up the entire width of the path, they slow you down. The ruins were under construction – they’re putting it all back together. But you still have access to the viewpoint off to the north of it that gives you sweet views of Angkor.…

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Today was our last day in the park, so we wanted to do all the things that we haven’t had a chance to do yet. First things first, sunrise. Sunrise is early. Like, crazy early. Even earlier considering we rode our bikes up there. Sunrise was at 6:15am, so we left our hotel room at 5:30. We knew it only takes 20 minutes to get to Angkor Wat, so that would give us plenty of time to get there. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the coolest part of sunrise happens 20 minutes before the actual sunrise. So we were just getting to the entryway across the moat when we saw this: By the time we got inside a few minutes later, the sky was a little tamer but still pretty. It’s funny, because you see pictures like that and it seems so serene and calm and almost spiritual. But if…

Angkor Thom

We spent the entire day today in Angkor Thom. This is a walled city just north of Angkor Wat. (“Angkor” is the name of the ancient Capitol city. “Wat” means temple, so Angkor Wat was the main temple for the city of Angkor. “Thom” is Cambodian for big. Angkor Thom was the actual city where people lived.) There are several gates into the city, mainly in the cardinal directions. Inside the walls are numerous temples and ancient structures, the most famous of which is Bayon. But before you even get there, you pass by these guys, and they’re super fun to watch. Isa was in love with the little baby monkeys. And honestly, can you blame her? We were on our bikes again today, so we stopped several times when we saw animals on the side of the road. Eventually, we made it up to the first temple: Bayon. Bayon…

Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm, and Ta Keo

Banteay Srei I’m so torn about Banteay Srei. It takes over an hour to get to by tuk tuk, it costs a lot (admission is included with the Angkor Pass, but the tuk tuk costs $25 for the day because it’s far away), and it’s relatively small. And especially now that you can’t walk in and through everything, it’s harder to justify. In the end, I think you have to suck it up and just go, and be a little upset and a little glad you did. Of all the things that have changed in the last decade, this has changed the most. It used to be a small temple in the middle of nothing that hardly anyone visited because it was so far away. Now, it’s a major complex and a must-see temple for all the big tourist buses. There’s a huge parking lot and welcome center, an interpretation…

Church in Siem Reap

We looked on Mormon.org for the times and location of the church here in Siem Reap, and it had an address, but no meeting times. We didn’t want to miss it, so we guessed 10am, but to be sure, we rode our bikes over at 9am. Fortunately, the building (which is actually just a rented house with a “chapel” sign by the front door) is only a 10 minute bike ride from our hotel. It didn’t start at 9. So we rode back to our hotel and rested for a bit. Then we rode out again for 10am. It didn’t start at 10. Back to the hotel, then back to church again. Nope, not at 11. When we got back to the hotel this time, Surf’s Up was on, so we watched that and skipped noon because no church starts at noon, right? We rode back over for our final…

Siem Reap at Night

Other than the new safety precautions, the temples seem to have stayed pretty much the same over the last decade. Siem Reap, however, is completely new. And it’s great. Eleven years ago, Siem Reap had one major hotel, the Intercontinental, and a lot of guest houses. Now there are literally hundreds of really nice hotels, with beautiful landscaped grounds, pools, and luxurious rooms for relatively cheap. There was also no nightlife to speak of then. Now, Siem Reap has Pub Street and several night markets. Tonight, we went out for a fun date night. We rode our bikes down and meandered through Pub Street first. We decided to eat at Temple, since they have a traditional Khmer dance show every night. They did four or five different routines, including the coconut dance which is one of my favorites. Temple also has some of the best deep fried chicken spring rolls…

Angkor Grand Tour

We hired a tuk tuk this morning to take us on the grand tour of the temples of Angkor. Basically, there are hundreds of ruins in the area, a few dozen of which are major complexes. These are organized into two paths, the Small Tour and the Grand Tour. It really just depends on how much time you have and what you’d like to see. We started at Preah Khan, one of my favorites. It’s a single level (not a mountain temple like Angkor Wat) and very spread out, with lots of halls, doorways, and ruins to explore. I panicked a little when I thought that parts of it could be off limits, since safety seems to be a concern now. Fortunately, signs near the ruins just say, “Be Careful,” not “Do Not Enter.” This alone made my day, and I was happy as a clam climbing and exploring all…

Angkor Wat on Bikes

We had a lazy morning because we’ve been traveling for over two months now and sometimes you need lazy mornings. It can’t all just be go go go. We got out around noon and rented bikes: $1/day. Not bad. We rode down to the old market to check out the deals and what have you. We noticed recently that my shorts are growing a hole in the nether region, so I was on the hunt for a new pair. We found a nice pair of Abercrombies that we agreed on $8. They fit great and I’m one happy camper. We later found a tag on them that said $58. Not a bad deal. We decided to ride up to Angkor Wat and check that out for a bit. We rode straight up from the old market, and it took us about 20 minutes to make the 6 kilometer trip up…

Bangkok to Siem Reap Overland Crossing

I’ve never really considered myself a backpacker. And part of not being a backpacker is that we value time a little more than money. For example, we’d rather pay a little more for a 2-hour flight than save $20 by taking a 7-hour bus. I’ve crossed a lot of borders, but none in Asia. We’ve always flown, which is very simple and regulated. I’ve heard lots of stories about the Cambodia-Thailand border, and I really wanted to experience it for myself. Big mistake. We should have flown. Especially today, but we’ll get into that in a minute. We took a $2 taxi to the Mo Chit bus station just before 6am (if you’re keeping track from last night, that gave us about 4 hours sleep). We hadn’t purchased a ticket yet, and when we got to the booth, today and tomorrow were all sold out (there were still plenty of…