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Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

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Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

Angkor Wat!

It’s twelve at night and it’s cold. Not on the street, here on the street it never does. It is cold on the train that takes us from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, as in all transport in this part of the world. Seasoned Traveler’s Tip: Never get on a bus, train or plane without some warm clothing available. Supposedly we are on a sleeper train, but this train has little and less sleeper. Those in front do not stop talking, the one on our left snores like a sick person and there is more light in the car than in a photographic studio. A long night is expected … so I will take the opportunity to update you very much. We go with our entry to Cambodia: Siem Reap and Angkor.

How to get from Thailand to Cambodia by bus

05-09-14 ) The last time we spoke we had just left Thailand after a few days in Bangkok and Pattaya . Now we had to go from Talandia to Cambodia in a seemingly comfortable bus. The only problem, the usual, the duration of the trip. Without really knowing why our bus took 3 hours longer than expected to make the 250 kms that separate Pattaya from the border with Cambodia. A short route to accumulate such a delay.

The climax of the trip came when, suddenly, the bus stopped somewhere and someone in perfect Thai asked us between voices and gestures to get off. We did so and what we found were our four backpacks on the sidewalk. And without further explanation, the bus left without us.

We had no doubt where we were, but apparently it must be our destination. In view of the fact that it was already 1 in the morning we decided to stop thinking for the next day and look for accommodation. First attempt, a hostel next to where we had been abandoned. There, a lady attended us and when we asked her if there was a room for four she told us: “Yes, but there is no television. We were amused, we haven’t come to Thailand to watch TV. What he forgot to tell us is that the room he took us to didn’t have space for four people but rather for two and a half. Keep looking. She herself took us to what would finally be our destination. A hostel opposite, similar in appearance but with a television and a bed for four. In fact, the room was like a small palace. Laughed well, it was time to sleep.

06-09-14 ) Another day started with a question in his head: where the hell were we? Computer here, mobile there, receptionist on the other side, we ended up locating ourselves, and we ended up realizing that we had slept next to a bus station where they sold tickets to Cambodia. Come on, without really knowing how we were where we wanted to be. Although for the departure of our bus there were still a couple of hours of waiting.

Aranyaprathet

Each one managed that free time in their own way. In my case, I decided to go out with my camera to see what was hiding in that corner that we accidentally reached. Aranyaprathet , as the place is called, is a Thai city on the border with Cambodia, a corner between two worlds. In fact, the city itself represents that difference very well. The part of our hostel, the bus station and surroundings, and the street that surrounds the main road showed an apparently normal city, another Asian city.

But the moment you were wandering around a bit, Aranyaprathet would undress.

It was the first time on the entire trip that I came across Asian poverty. Far from what is expected, Malaysia and Thailand have shown us a humble but not poor face, refugees in the comfortable tourist bubble. However, it has been to get away from the known and wander a bit to see that the misery in Asia can be serious.

It was not a very long walk, among other things because my height, my camera and my skin color attract too much attention in a place like this. But it was more than enough to make me a composition of place.

Poipet, the Thailand – Cambodia border

Aranyaprathet was only a first warning that Cambodia was probably not going to be as buoyant. But first, you had to get there. At 12 o’clock we left by bus for Siem Reap, with an expected arrival at 3 in the afternoon. More of the same, we would end up arriving around 7. Apart from the slow traffic at some points, the greatest burden we faced was crossing the Thailand – Cambodia border, located in Poipet. Just as the passage from Malaysia to Thailand was quite simple, the one from Thailand to Cambodia was grotesque. In addition to the typical bureaucracy of these places, stamping the passport and capturing fingerprints, in Cambodia you need a Visa to enter and that entails extra paperwork and a payment of 20 dollars (they don’t charge you much more or someone will be cheating). But the main problem was not the procedures themselves, but the slowness with which everything moved. In addition, when sharing a bus with 25 other passengers, you no longer only depended on your delay but on the sum of everyone’s. But we get it.

Siem Reap

3 hours later than planned, we arrived in Siem Reap , where we searched for the hostel. The process was very fast, as we were advised by a tuk-tuk driver and we soon found a hotel at a cheap hostel price. In fact, it was defined as “The hotel that seems expensive but cheap.” And so much. The first impression was of entering a quite luxurious place. The second was that it was all papier-mâché. The third was that they sold it to us with a pool and in the end the pool turned out to be the place where they kept the construction debris. I had a bed, more than enough, although after all day on the bus the only thing we wanted was to go out for a walk.

But as the plan was to get up very early to go the next day to Angkor, our walk gave little more than something to eat and go to the Night Market, a night market.

It was so nocturnal that I didn’t see the muddy ditch where I put my foot all the way down. Nothing to shower shoes does not fix.

Siem Reap to Angkor Wat by bike

07-09-14 ) The alarm sounded soon, but this time for real. At 3:50 in the morning we were already in dance. The reason? Getting to see the sunrise in Angkor, although along the way we saw that we were not going to be alone. Of course, we would be one of the few who went there by bicycle. More than recommended. Renting a bike cost us $ 3 a day. The road from Siem Reap to Angkor is not long (8 kilometers from the city center), it is flat and well paved. Half an hour long walk to the first temple, Angkor Wat. Previously, I go to the ticket office to get a ticket: 20 dollars (about 15 euros) costs a ticket for the whole day.

You can also get tickets for three days. If you go with time it is worth it because there is certainly content to see. With the entry in our power we returned to the bikes and when the darkness dissipated …

Angkor appeared.

Angkor

But let’s go in parts. What is Angkor? Angkor is a region of Cambodia where the capital of the Khmer Empire was located  between the 9th and 15th centuries AD … well well … but who are the Khmer? A dominant empire in the Cambodia region in particular and in Southeast Asia in general during that same era. Come on, now Angkor are the remains of what not long ago was a powerful kingdom.

History aside, a spectacular visit, in my opinion at the height of Machu Picchu. As I explained to you in our visit to Machu Picchu , the latter is considered one of the 7 wonders of the world but Angkor does not have the same “luck”. One more proof that contests are just contests and that prizes are just prizes. Beauty is not a question of labels.

If something caught my attention in Angkor, it is the enormous walkable area. In fact, it is easy for us to do more than 30 kilometers by bicycle that day. And we saw a lot, but the feeling it leaves is that you always miss something.

Without a doubt, one of the main attractions of the place is the landscape that surrounds it. Located in the middle of a real jungle, Angkor is a perfect mix between nature and architecture …

… To the point that in some temples nature has ended up winning the battle against man’s work.

I don’t know since when Angkor was a tourist-exploited region but I imagine that sooner or later there will be greater control of the area since right now anyone who enters can walk too freely.

What I do know is that in 1992 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and since then a rehabilitation process has begun with international participation. Introduced the place, join us on our visit.

Angkor wat

First steps through Angkor Wat, the temple that stands up for everyone else. Emblem of the country, to the point of appearing on the shield of Cambodia. Although it is not particularly the one that impressed us the most, it does have a more than deserved fame if we consider that it is considered the largest religious structure ever built.

The religious history of Angkor is the evolution between a polytheistic beginnings, passing through a strong Hindu influence in the middle of his life, ending with an implantation of Buddhism with the extension of this throughout Asia. History that in one way another is reflected on the walls of the temple.

At that size, it is not surprising that Angkor Wat became the political and religious center of the region for much of its life. A rectangular enclosure, built of stone, surrounded by gardens and walls that end up leading to a large pit with water.

This was our first stop on our route through Angkor and this was where we tried to watch the sunrise. Unsuccessfully. Too many clouds …

… and more…

… A lot of tourists.

That day the sun hardly came out. A shame because the sunrise there must be impressive. A joy because spending the whole day in the sun could have ended our already battered forces.

Angkor Thom

From Angkor Wat we returned to the bike and with it to Angkor Thom , another construction that served as the capital but this one during the 12th century. Here we took the photo with which we opened this publication… and many others.

In the heart of Angkor Thom is Bayon, an apparently funerary complex noted for its more than 50 towers and, above all, for having about 200 smiling faces carved in the stone.

The route continued and although there was another point marked on our map, we decided to go a bit out of the ordinary and “walk” aimlessly. And what do we find? Well, another small but impressive temple. Like everything there.

Ta Phrom

From there we went to the Ta Phrom temple , whose fame is that it has not been “rescued from the jungle.”

The entire Angkor enclosure (except Angkor Wat) had been abandoned to its fate for more than 400 years and until the recovery work began, back in the 20th century, the jungle had covered most of the buildings. Of all of them, this one has not yet been cleaned and reveals a striking combination of nature and ruins.

Preah Khan

Between pedaling and photos the hours passed, hunger pressed and lack of sleep was wreaking havoc. But having reached where we had come we had to take advantage of the trip. So we got the strength of weakness to pay one last visit to the Preah Khan temple .

A temple from the same period as the previous two (12th century), and with a level of wear similar to the last one. A barely restored site where nature and tourists give it shape.

Despite the fatigue, one of the most beautiful that we could see on our route through Angkor. Something tells me that in a few years they will end up protecting it, since with such a level of activity it will end up disappearing altogether. Just in case, I kept a small souvenir of the temple in the Live the life capsule that my friend Teresa gave me to accompany me on the trip.

There our passage through Angkor ended, and there was only one long drive to Siem Reap. Tired, but in high spirits after such an experience. Without doubt one of the most impressive historical sites I have been to in my short life as a traveler. For scheduling reasons, we could only spend one day there, but there is much more to come. Angkor is reason enough for those taking a trip to Southeast Asia to consider a getaway to Cambodia.

Back in Siem Reap: eat, nap a lot (we had earned it), have a snack, dinner … and a night walk. Now without the pressure of the alarm clock the next day we could enjoy the Night Market more calmly …

Satisfied and at “their point” we went to sleep. The next day it was time to travel again, this time to Phnom Penh. Ahead another seemingly short bus journey that would end up lasting all day. But I’ll talk about that more calmly in the next post, although if I put our trip to Phnom Penh I would give to write a movie. Our debut in Cambodia has met all of our expectations, although the level of poverty we have encountered has exceeded any forecast. But there will be time to talk about that, for now I want you to stay with in the world there are places like Angkor, where nature and man played at being friends … and both won. Comments are opened, and we really love to read you. Thanks for being on the other side! 🙂

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