Saturday, 28 September 2013

Angkor Wat and Pub Street

Angkor Wat and Pub Street aren't two things that particularly go together - culture clashing with..rowdiness. 

Angkor Wat is a Buddhist temple site and famous for being the largest religious site in the world. It was built back in the 12th century, with its name translating to 'Temple City'or 'City of Temples' - this being said, Angkor Wat is often thought to just be the main temple you will see on postcards and in books but there are also several other clusters of temples, including Angkor Thom which we also visited.

Angkor Wat has been the thing I've been most excited about since we started planning the trip - it looked breathtaking in pictures and even better in real life.

We left our hostel at 4.30am ish and surprisingly, after around three and a half hours sleep, felt strangely awake - definitely the excitement keeping me alert! It was weird getting a tuk tuk in the darkness, knowing it was the morning. Weirdly, it was very, very busy on the roads and the streets were already bustling with people. Possibly the saddest thing I've seen so far was that morning, what looked like hundreds of parents with their children queuing outside the children's hospital for dengue fever. It's one of those things, you know these illnesses are affecting a substantial number of people but until you see it with your own eyes, you don't truly appreciate just how hard some peoples lives are and also, the differences in peoples lives from country to country.

We carried on with our tuk tuk ride, which took quite a while, before arriving at the entrance/ticket office. Note: when you arrive here, make sure your tuk tuk driver waits for you - you cannot walk to Angkor Wat; IT IS MILES AWAY. A one day ticket to Angkor Wat costs $20, which may sound like a lot. It it truly is worth it. You also get a little pass with your photograph on, which is quite a nice keepsake (I think so anyway!) It took us a little longer than is anticipatied so started to get a little worried the sun would start coming up too quickly - in SE Asia, the sun rises in the blink of an eye!

We pulled up, hopped out the tuk tuk and already were met with the 'wow' factor - even though we couldn't see the full view of the main temple yet. We took a few photographs by the water but we're advised to move through quickly - the best photo opportunities are by the lake - here you can get a good angle for the sunset and see the reflection of the temple in the lake. We made our way there with a huge crowd of other tourists, although seemingly few compared to high season, and positioned ourselves by the water. I was already a little snap happy at this point but am thrilled with the pictures I managed to get as you can see several stages of the sun rising behind the temple.

We waited and around half past 6, the sun rose. It was and is a truly beautiful view and I feel so lucky to have seen it with my own eyes (I had an Angkor Wat desktop background on my PC whilst at work - my motivation for having to wait to go away). Everybody 'ooo''d and 'ahhh''d before realising, hey, it's nearly 7am and we've been awake for three hours - why have we not had breakfast yet!? We had made a friend, who took pictures of us all, who we named Angelina Jolie (because of her table at the food stand) who was luring us to eat breakfast at her table. So we did, chicken salad baguettes which were incredible. There's something weirdly satisfying about a baguette after eating rice and noodles for a couple of weeks. We enjoyed our breakfast, I kept sneaking off to capture some more 'arty' shots of the Temple - a man came over to wash his horse in the water, local children we're playing in the water; I was in my 'photographer' headspace. It was still so early and already swelteringly  hot and humid. We headed up the main path and had a wander (and took more pictures) around the main temple. I'll admit, in the heat, even that was hard work. We decided to also see Angkor Thom, which was equally as beautiful but with a different style of architecture.

We trapsed around, struggling in the heat, and by around 1pm, we decided to call it quits, tuk tuk it back to the hostel and get straight in that swimming pool for a well deserved cool down!

A big night out was on the cards that evening, so we decided we needed to relax, slowly get ready and predrink at the hostel. Our New Zealand bar man, who was super friendly and keen to advice us on things to see in Cambodia, made us two pitchers of cocktails - which should definitely we called the dark horse. Ridiculously tasted but gets you from sober to very drunk in the space of about an hour. We headed out two bars - Angkor What? And Temple Bar. I'll be honest, the events of the evening are a little hazy but the next day, I woke up feeling a little worse for wear. I did bump into my friend from home which was GREAT! And unexpected! Only in Asia! A huuuuge lie in occurred in order to recuperate for our cooking class that afternoon! 

But I lived to tell the tale and can now make a three course Cambodian meal! I'll fill you in properly once I settle in Koh Rong  - we left Phnom Phen yesterday (and I still need to tell you about that - I'm having too much fun!) - very excited for some time in the sunshine! 

We head to Vietnam in around four days - any suggestions?


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