Our Cambodia journey started out with a pretty adventurous overland trip from Thailand through the Poipet border and onto Siem Reap. We met our friends Sam and Claire, who we first met in Bali, in Siem Reap with plans to see Angkor Wat together before hopping a bus and a boat to a lush remote island.
The temples of Angkor did not disappoint. Mike and I chose to do the three day pass, which cost about $40 each. We saved the main temples, including Angkor Wat, for the third day when we met up with Sam and Claire. And if you only do one day at the temples, this is the one to do, sunrise to sunset, starting at Angkor Wat and finishing at the Kings Pool at sunset. The entire day was magical. From the moment you enter the archway on your tuk tuk you imagine yourself taken back to the 12th century when over a million people lived in these grounds during the Khmer Empire. From afar, the magnificence takes your breath away, but up close its the detail that astonishes you. Wall after wall of bas reliefs and carvings telling stories of wars and gods, of kings and lords.
We started our day with about a few hundred other people who came to see the sun rise over the grand silhouette of Angkor. Funnily, at the bridge everyone turned left, so we turned right, put our blanket down on the grass and enjoyed the view crowd-less. It was 5:30am and no less than a minute after one of us said, “all we need is a coffee”, a Cambodian man calling himself James Bond shows up with a menu, we ordered coffees and a few minutes later he returned with a tray of hot Cambodian coffee and a can of condensed milk. Only in Asia.
After sunrise we explored Angkor Wat for about three hours, only to come out to find our tuk tuk driver, Mr. Tom, had thought we had ditched him. Apparently we take our time because Mr Tom kept reminding us at every temple to hurry up, ha.
Another favourite was Bayon, a temple built by a Khmer king in the 12th century. 200 slightly smiling stone faces on 37 remaining towers look down upon you. Some accounts say this is a face of a buddha and some say it was the face of the king. No matter where you are on the temple grounds, there is a face watching you.
Mr. Tom drove us around all day, napping or chatting with all the other drivers while we explored. We saw at least five magnificent temples that day then decided to avoid the crowds again and head to The Kings Pool, a small lake, for sunset. We stopped and grabbed a beer each, spread out the blanket and finished the day like we started, chatting and marvelling at the sun.