Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Angkor temples

R's family being over here, we needed to organise some trips abroad; Singapore can not provide touristic entertainement for a month!
First leg, Cambodia and the temples of Angkor. We were told to wait as much as we could before going to Angkor because after that temples will never be the same! So it is nearly a year after having arrived in Singapore that we make this trip.
After a very early flight, we are in Siem Reap around 10am. The first step is to get a cambodian visa. And i'm very disappointed that i couldn't get you a photo of the airport set up because it was highly entertaining (but i didn't fancy going to jail just to prove to the world how inefficient/ridiculously funny was the system!)
So first, give 20us$, a photo and your passport. Then imagine 10 men dressed in very formal navy blue suit sitting around a 20m long desk and actually throwing passport at each other by making them slide on the side. Most of them do nothing else than pushing the passport further along, until the last one furiously stamp the passport many times. And then you still have to see the immigration officer who stamps your passport another few times and then we are finally good to go!
We are staying in a very nice hotel where the manager can speak very good French. 1h later, we are climbing in our 2 tuk-tuk with our dedicated driver for the next 3 days! ( ok I admit I loved having a driver!!!!)
First day is about seeing the royal enclosure, including the very impressive Byron temple. From anywhere in this temple, you can see a minimum of 12 enormous faces built in stone.
We also learn how to say no to the 1$ postcards, the 1$ water and the 1$ books. Everything seems to cost 1$, the local currency, ril, is only used to give the change on half a dollar.
There are kids everywhere and babies tend to be naked...
Early afternoon, we walk in the step of Lara Croft in the temple used for the filming of Tomb raider. Trees are growing all over the stones, roots going everywhere, literally lifting the temple! It's hugely impressive, unfortunately, there are tourists everywhere!
Later on, we go to a higher temple to admire the sunset lights (the sun set itself was hidden by a huge cloud)
To finish off the day, we get bitten by giant nasty mosquitoes, we discover the pleasure of kmer massage (very similar to Thai) and have a great dinner of kmer food.
2nd morning is an early rise, today we abandon the tuk-tuk :-( for a car. These temples are much further away and by consequences a bit less touristy especially the ones which requires 45 minutes hiking or 380 steps climb!
In no particular order (because I can't remember), we saw some carvings done in a river bed, a beautifully carved temple in pinkish stone, a gigantic temple falling apart where local people took us by the hand and dragged us to places we would have never thought of going in (thinking we might be buried alive the next minute) and finally to a lost temple at the top of a hill.
Now try to attach the following photos to these temples!!! (bonus photos for the ones who answer correctly in the comments!)

I have to give credit to our driver for the day, who was wonderful: he came with us to do the 45 minutes hike. First we thought he was making sure we were staying on the track and weren't going to be blown off by the land mines but in fact he was the tour guide! There are no signs anywhere and without him we would have missed half of the stuff! Secondly, after each temple, at our return to the car, 4 glasses of fresh water were waiting for us as well as some fresh humid towels! So much luxury...
On this 2nd evening, I experiment a foot massage when the guys give a go to the fish spa. For the ones who don't know what it is (I was one of them a year ago), it's like putting you bare feet in an aquarium and then letting the fish having a go at your dead skin! Not for ticklish people...
On our final day in Siem reap, we finally make it to Angkor wat, the biggest, the most beautiful, the most impressive, the most restored temple. It is indeed gigantic and in very good order.
It is also packed of tourists but around a corridor it's always possible to find a quiet spot. For a broader view we climb to the top making sure our shoulders are covered and pulling on my pair of shorts (not too much) to make it look longer! (after all it is a religious place and lucky me, they are not as picky as in the Vatican)
After a morning on angkor wat, we are off to the floating village. We have quite a big boat just for ourselves and a guide who just can not shut up! The village is interesting, some of the house/boat are very colourful, there is also a floating church, a temple on piloti and a floating school. We stop at a place where there is a small crocodile farm, a kid scares me off really badly with the enormous snake he has around is neck and we get reaped off for lunch... Anyway, the view from the top platform was worth it. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at another "temple on a hill" where we meet a monk who seems to ask us to help him cleaning his monastry... (another lost in translation moment) Once again, beautiful view from the top:

After that, it is unfortunately time for me to abandon the rest of the group and to go back to Sg, they are now heading to Phnon Penh by boat.
(I'm working on convincing R to write an article about it, as a guest star)

1 comment:

  1. Des bébés crocos, je peux jouer avec? Dis dis, s'il te plait, je peux jouer avec? Et où est la maman, je veux faire un bbq....
    And I wait the picture in witch you wear Lara's clothes. :)
    See ya Mag