Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cambodia (pt.1/2): An Excursion Through South East Asia

Cambodia was incredible. We hit a speed bump on day one having arrived with no accommodation or flights to our next destination booked yet but we quickly got things settled and it was a smooth trip after that.

[We had only booked flights up until Cambodia and hadn't booked our accommodation either because we weren't sure how long we'd be in each location. It's an issue we dealt with most of the trip. While traveling through several countries it can be beneficial to not always have these things pre-booked. You may feel rushed to fit everything in and it may result in missing out on certain activities you were unaware of before arriving but you can read more about the do's and dont's of around the world traveling here.]

When we arrived at the Siem Reap airport we hired a taxi and were matched up with an awesome driver and guide called Mr. Ti (pronounced Tee). Ti ended up being our guide for the duration of our time in Cambodia and we were lucky to have someone as knowledgeable about the area as Mr. Ti. After shopping around for accommodation we found a place to stay and booked a tour that afternoon through the local floating village. There was a floating restaurant for tourists on the river where we stopped and I had some fresh coconut milk. We took a canoe ride through the mangroves and watched the sun set over the lake that the river opened up into. It was an awesome way to end Day One in Siem Reap.


Day Two was full on from the moment we woke up. We had an early breakfast before heading out to tour three of the main temple sites in Siem Reap: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm(where Tomb Raider was shot) Angkor Thom/Bayon(The Temple of Faces). Angkor Wat was the first stop that morning. 

The Angkor Wat complex is a Hindu/Buddhist temple and happens to be the largest religious monument in the world. It also so happens to be one of the seven man-made wonders of the world and the energy there is palpable. The temple is remarkably in tact as far as structure goes and the detail in every inch of the temple is practically inconceivable. Considering the size of the complex its difficult to imagine how much work went into the smallest detail on the walls let alone the overall temple design. We had an amazing time exploring Angkor Wat. We received good luck wrist ties blessed by a monk and actually got to spend time hanging out and chatting with some younger monks that had just finished a swim on the back side of the temple. It was a surreal experience, one that none us will ever forget.

After exploring Angkor Wat for a few hours we moved on to Ta Prohm(Tomb Raider temple). 

Ta Prohm hasn't stood the test of time as well as Wat has but the look of crumbled ruins did add some appeal to it. There was also a lot of scaffolding and construction going on in order to restore the site as much as possible to its original state.

 There are massive trees and roots growing out of the rocks all over the area which are amazing in and of themselves. We snapped a bunch of photos and decided to head to the next temple.

Ta Prohm is significantly smaller than Angkor Wat so we were able to cover the whole site in a little over an hour. After that we met back up with Mr. Ti and took a drive towards Bayon(The Temple of Faces). At the entrance and exit of Bayon are enormous archways. As we entered the complex Ti pulled the car over and explained that what most people don't know is that you can climb up the archway by a hill on one of the sides and snap some photos so that's exactly what we did.

 We then went a bit further into the complex where there are a few smaller temple sites on the way to Bayon so we took our time exploring as many as we could en route to the Temple of Faces.

Finally we had arrived at Bayon, the Temple of Faces. 

The site is towering and is composed of hundreds of giant smiling Buddha faces carved into stone. We wandered around in awe of the structure. If you ever get an opportunity to visit Siem Reap Cambodia take it. These temples are unlike anything the three of us had ever seen. Truly spectacular.

When we finished exploring Bayon we walked out to the car park where Ti was waiting for us. His phone rang as we slid into the car and on the line was a friend of his who was having a house warming party that evening. Ti asked us if we would be interested and we realized we couldn't pass up the chance to party with some locals so we accepted the invitation.

We arrived to the house where the guys were just getting started. On the menu were several dishes including whole fish, salad, shrimp(raw and cooked), chicken feet, and lots a lots of beer or as the locals call it Cambodian tea.

My first time trying chicken feet

These guys knew how to throw down. As soon as anyone finished a mug of beer it was immediately filled back up to the brim and we would drink again after raising our glasses shouting CHOL MOY(Cheers)!! The drinks were flowing that night and after 15 chol moy's we began to lose count. Soon after that John also lost his lunch in the bushes. We left shortly after that but we had a blast hanging out with the locals. Talk about hospitality! Chol Moy fellas!

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