May 15th, 2015 - Siem Reap to Bangkok - Day 273

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.  

The temple touring begins

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.  

Guarding the entrance to the elephant wall

Underneath an elevated walkway leading to another temple

Another view of the elevated walkway

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.  

Stacie lighting her incense

Receiving her yarn

Our special temple

The road less traveled

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.  

Peter caught this great picture of a monk in the temple

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. 



May 14th, 2015 - Siem Reap - Day 272

After having such a busy time in Phnom Penh for the past 5 days we were all ready to sleep in a bit, and have a pretty mellow day.  The only problem was we were only going to be in Siem Reap for 2 nights and from what we were reading online we would need at least a couple of days to tour the temples at Ankor Wat.  However, after this much time on the road a break sounded better than two days touring temples.  So Stacie and I let the kids sleep in and went for an early morning walk to find some coffee.  Siem Reap is a much nicer town than Phnom Penh and you can tell the influence of tourist dollars is having an impact here.  Things are nicer, cleaner and a little more expensive.  

We had a nice walk and then went back to our hotel for breakfast.

Sister Srey Cafe - good food with a purpose

Later in the day we went to a cafe for lunch called Sister Srey.  It was started by two sisters from Australia who moved to Siem Reap last year and are trying to help out by training local street kids for a career in the hospitality industry.  Like I said in another post, these types of "for purpose" organizations seem to be everywhere in Cambodia which is refreshing and a trend I hope to see followed everywhere in the world.  

After our lunch we went back to the hotel and hung out for a while before heading out to dinner.  We had dinner at Olive, which is a French / Asian Fusion restaurant, and it was fantastic.  We remarked that the place could easily be on 8th street in Boise, or up in Sun Valley.  The food was great, the service was amazing and best of all it had AIR CONDITIONING!  It has been in the upper 90's since we have been in Cambodia with like 90% humidity - it's surface of the sun hot here.

After dinner we went to the night market.  The markets in Siem Reap are also benefiting from the tourist influx and are much nicer than the Phnom Penh markets.  We had a VERY productive evening there and capped it off with a Dr. Fish foot massage.  This is where you put your feet into a tank of Dr. Fish and they come by and eat the dead skin off your feet.  It's one of those things that you might have only one chance in your life to do, so we did it and had a big laugh.  Stacie and Lea went first and were laughing so hard that Peter and I had to join in.  It does feel really strange, but after a while you get used to the sensation and let the little guys go.  I have to say my feet have never felt better :-)

Feeding the fish!

After the foot massage it was 10:30 - which of you know us well is WAY past our bed time, so we jumped in a tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel and off to bed.      

May 13th, 2015 - Phnom Penh to Siem Reap - Day 271

Checking out of the White Linnen

Today was a travel day and for the first time on this trip we took a bus to get from city to city.  We had our last wonderful breakfast at the White Linen hotel and then packed up and headed over to the bus stop. 

The view out of the back door of our hotel

 It was a little over 7 hours on the bus, but was pretty easy and we arrived in Phnom Penh with no issues.  The only drawback to the bus was that the road was ripped up for most of the route, so it was a bumpy ride.  Other than that it was fine.  

Once we arrived in Siem Reap at the bus station a man that was helping us with our bags asked if we needed a taxi.  We said yes and started walking with him.  When we arrived we saw that his Taxi was actually a Tuk Tuk.  We don't have a lot of bags, but we have more than can fit in a tuk tuk, but this guy so no problem.  He started piling bags here in and indicated that we should just jump in as well.  We were tired and ready to get to the hotel so we just complied with his instructions and let it go.  9 months ago I doubt we we have rolled with it, but we are a little different now :-).

It was only about a 8 minute ride to the hotel and while it was uncomfortable we were there before we knew it.  We checked in quickly and were asleep before we knew it.