Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The end is near :(

Yesterday was another early one for us. Our first stop was the Banyon Temple in Angkor Thom. Like yesterday, our bus couldn't go in through the gates and it would have been another 1500m walk in the awful heat. So, to address that and add a little spice to the trip, we rode elephants to the temple.

These elephants were different than the one I rode at Lion Country Safari oh so many years ago. They were more narrow and black, not grey. My friend says they were similar to Indian elephants, as opposed to the grey African elephants. Because they are more narrow, we sat on a bench on top. I rode w/ 2 other women and boy was I happy I got on last. I think I would have lost my shit if I got on first and the bench just slid like a see saw toward the ground. My friend who got on first freaked out like I probably would have. Nice thing is w/ the 3 of us, we evened out well.

Bayon temple is beautiful, then again, all of the Angkor architecture is beautiful. Angkor Thom is distinguishable in that all the towers have faces on them facing east, south, north and west. There were endless opportunities for cool pictures, including one where if you get the right angle, it looks like your nose is touching one of the faces. We had to climb up and down some ladders, but I did ok considering my fear of heights. I will say, however, that it was unbearably hot! I had to wring out my bandanna and sweat band several times. I am still amazed that I didn't dehydrate.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel for our siesta and I chilled out by the pool (in the shade, of course). The hotel has a salt water pool, which I had never been in before. Kind of neat.

Our next stop was Angkor Wat, which is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, my pictures aren't as great as I had hoped b/c they were doing some work and there was scaffolding up front. What a bummer, but I tried to make it work. It was very hot and we all moved very slowly. We had the chance to climb these really steep stairs to get to the third level of the temple. There were beautiful views, but I hadn't thought about getting down when I went up. I walked out toward the insanely steep steps and got a little woozy. I death gripped the railing, stared at the steps and only the steps, and repeated to myself the whole way down, "look at the steps and only the steps."

Really, Angkor Wat is beautiful and there's no way to grasp the grandeur of it and the other temples without seeing it in person. Siem Reap is a lovely town. People are very friendly. I'm kind of bummed we had so many covered meals b/c I would have liked more time to wander around the pub street area and check out places to eat. Oh well, there's always more you can do at each place.

Another thing that folks should do when here is to climb this mountain (15-20 min) and watch the sunset from the temple on top. We were supposed to do it our first full day, but b/c of the plowing festival there would have been too many people there if we could even get there in the first place w/ all the traffic. So, we switched the days and did the sunset last night. It's too bad b/c the sky was clear the night before and clouded up later in the day yesterday from all the humidity. If anything, it was a nice hike up the mountain. Once up there, you could climb up the steps from the Temple and watch the sunset over Angkor Wat and the rest of the valley. Only problem is that the steps were old stone steps, insanely steep and very narrow. After my issues w/ the steps at Angkor Wat (and those were normal, but steep steps) there was no way I was trying it and I wasn't alone!

Once we got back to the hotel and showered, we had our farewell party. Barry put together a great slide show of pictures he took during our trip, including a few videos of the traffic mayhem in Vietnam. Hard to believe we did so much in such a short period of time. It seems like we were in Hanoi months ago when it was really only 2 weeks ago.

This morning, four of us got up at 4:30am to take tuk tuks back to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. Like the sunset on top of the mountain, the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a must when you come to visit. For $1 you get a plastic chair and a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Of course, it's hot and humid, but it helps wake you up. Like last night, there were still clouds hovering around the horizon, so the sunrise was as much of a bust as the sunset last night. Still, I would not have forgiven myself if I hadn't at least tried to see it! We were back at the hotel by 6:45 and I was back in bed by 7:30 for another 2 hours.

As I type this, I am somewhere over Thailand on my way to the Bangkok airport. It's the first leg of 4 in a 24 hour period on my way back to Philly. We have a 4 hour layover in Bangkok. Not sure what I'll do since it is not only too short a period of time to go into town, but its also not the safest thing to do right now. :-)

I'm sad my trip is over, but I have to come back to reality so I can save up for my next trip. Hawaii over christmas? Costa Rica in the spring? Milan in the fall?

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Goodbye Vietnam. Hello Cambodia!

This morning we packed up and left Saigon and flew an hour to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor Wat. It may be only 2 degrees cooler here (34 versus 36) but it feels much more humid. It's too hot for the bugs to be out right now, but we have been warned that we need to cover ourselves and use bug spray come evening. I'm not looking forward to the whole "cover" issue since I get so hot!

We don't start touring until tomorrow and I have no desire to walk around town and shop right now. We are staying at a beautiful spa resort, so I plan to eat some lunch and chill out by the pool. I'm sure the stores will not run out of stuff while I relax.

They do have a night market, so after our group dinner, I plan to head in to town to check out the market when it's a little cooler out.


So I did sit by the pool for a couple hours before the clouds started to roll in. I sensed it was going to rain, so I went to the spa and got a 90 minute massage. :) That was nice!

After dinner a few of us took a tuk tuk to the night market to check it out. There were tons of "fish" massage places where you dip your feet in the water and these little fish nibble off your dead skin. Seems gross to me.

Jaffa and I ended up buying wooden buddha statues from a family w/ 2 stands. She bought first and then I saw one I liked, but they didn't have it. We got maybe 4 booths away when the husband found me to tell me they had one. It was across the aisle at the father's stall. Apparently, his son is the one that carves them.

We were told to wear long sleeves and pants to deal w/ the mosquitoes but I'm dying in this heat when I do that. I had to shed clothes at the market and buy a headband. Tomorrow should be interesting. I'm tempted to risk it w/ just the bug spray, otherwise I might melt. In the evening it was the humidity that was killing me.

We are up at the crack of dawn tomorrow (so I need to go to sleep) b/c it is a special holiday in town and the king will be in town for the festivities. Malori changed the itinerary so we wouldn't miss this unique opportunity. We are already staying next to the palace and it seems the king is rarely in Siem Reap anyway.

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