Today was a travel day, but not a long one. We are all getting a little tired of moving so quickly lately, but there is not much time left on the trip, so we are trying to keep that in perspective. I think everyone wished we stayed in Siem Reap a little longer because we like the town and it's very easy living here.
The morning was standard. We got up, went to breakfast and then came back upstairs and got ready to go. The plan for the day was to head out to Ankor Wat for the entire morning from 7:30 to 12:00 and then head back to the hotel, grab a bite to eat and then head to the airport.
We hired a Tuk Tuk for the tour and were off. The temples at Ankor Wat are a wonder. The site is considered the largest religious monument in the world and after a short time there I can see why - its massive. It was built in the 12th century and was formerly Hindu and then Buddhist. The site served as temple of the capital of the Khmer Empire - Ankor - which literally means city or capital city. Ankor Wat is only one temple of over 2000 in the larger Ankor Temple Complex that is a World Heritage Site. Our tour was going to take us to some of the more famous temples starting with Banyon Temple.
We walked through Banyon Temple with about 500 to 1000 other people, which made the experience less than magical. You had to wade through huge tour groups and wait for people to sneak through small passages. However, the temple itself was incredible. The bas relief carvings everywhere and the detail on every stone just blew us away.
After the experience at Banyon we were hoping to find something a little quieter. We knew that Ankor Wat and Ta Phrom, two of our other planned stops, would be packed, so we decided to take a little walk at our next stop to see some less visited temples.
When we jumped out of the Tuk Tuk at the elephant wall we knew we had found our spot. Many of the tours were driving right past and the number of tourists was way down compared to Banyon. We started walking around and enjoying the relative solitude.
After walking around for a while we found a path that looked like it led back to another temple in the woods. I could not see anyone else heading back there so I thought it would be the perfect place to go and find some real peace and quiet. We walked back to the temple which is called Phimeanakas. It turned out to be the Royal Chapel where the king would come to pray every day. We climbed to the top of the temple and found it completely empty other than a security guard who showed us the way up to the actual spot where the king would worship. There was a small shrine set up at the spot. We sat in the shade and just quietly enjoyed a moment of solitude. Then as we were sitting there, a woman appeared and started preparing the shrine. She was very nice and asked us if we wanted to light some incense. We all did and when we were done she would pray for us to have a long life. She then tied a red piece of braided yarn around each of our wrists with tremendous care and ceremony and again wished us long life - it was very touching and a perfect experience to remember Ankor and Cambodia by.
After our wonderful experience at the temple we headed back to the tuk tuk and were off to Ta Phrom - the jungle temple - where the forrest has reclaimed the land by growing in and around the temple. This is where Lara Croft Tomb Raider was filmed - how exciting!
The temple was really interesting, but the stars are the trees growing in and around the stone. This temple was a little easier to navigate than Banyon without running into a million people, but was still very busy.
After Ta Phrom we only had time to head directly to Ankor Wat as our final stop
Ankot Wat was impressive, but a little anti-climatic. We were so hot and tired from walking around in the 96 degree 90% humidity weather that we could not quite deal with the throngs of people prowling around the temple. We managed to walk through most of it, but did not wait in line to get to the very top.
We were also running out of time and needed to get back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading to the airport. On the way back we stopped at Sister Sery for a quick lunch and one of these:
We showered and checked out right on time. We still had a little time before our shuttle was going to pick us up, so we went to grab a coffee. It was then as I was checking on the hotel reservation in Bangkok that I noticed I had booked it for the wrong day, the reservation was starting Saturday instead of Friday. This was the fist time I had done this (unless you count going to the airport on the wrong day) on this trip - which I think is pretty good. I jumped on Skype to call the hotel and after 20 minutes we had it sorted out.
The rest of the trip to Bangkok was uneventful. We arrived safely, picked up our bags and headed to the hotel. Stacie is always pushing for us to take public transportation instead of a taxi, which I love. On this occasion that meant taking a train into the city and then switching to a subway. It was all pretty easy with the exception of the fairly long walk between the train and the subway station, which of course was screaming hot as well. However, when we arrived at our subway stop and emerged into the city, we really had no idea which direction to walk. I did not get a SIM card for my phone so I had no data and no way to check Google Maps. We tried asking a few people, but they did not have any idea what we were talking about. So we just started walking. I tried hailing a Tuk Tuk driver to see if he could tell us the direction and he started telling us to get in. The Tuk Tuks in Bangkok only have two seats, but this guy wanted all four of us AND our bags to pile in and he was going to charge us 200 Bhat ($6) for the ride. When I finally convinced him we would not fit he reluctantly pointed in the direction of the hotel - which was about 100 yards away around the corner.
We made it to the air conditioned heaven of the hotel and nearly collapsed in our rooms. We took a short rest and then headed out for dinner. The place we made a reservation at was supposed to be great, but when we walked in the atmosphere reminded me of my grandmothers dining room, and not in a good way. Our waiter was the most serious person we have met in South East Asia. Peter was convinced he was actually in the army and this was his night off. However, despite the atmosphere and the grumpy waiter, the food was good AND it was air conditioned.
After dinner we bee-lined back to the hotel and crashed after a long yet successful travel day.