Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Temple Tripping at Sweet Siem Reap!

Day 2 : Moc Bai, Vietnam / Bavet, Cambodia / Phnom Penh, Cambodia /Siem Reap, Cambodia

Crossing the border from Vietnam to Cambodia was a breeze. We took a Mai Linh bus from Ho Chi Minh which would take us to the Moc Bai/Bavet border crossing. Passports are processed and stamped on both sides without much fanfare, and roughly 6 hours upon departing from Ho Chi Minh, we arrived in Phnom Penh. Since our bus line did not have a connecting trip to Siem Reap, we had to ask the konduktor where we could take such a bus. A tuktuk driver by the name of Richie hastily approached us and offered to take us to the bus station for $2. This seemed a little steep (we were thinking in Philippine Peso), but since we really did not know our way around, we took him up on the offer. Richie was a quite the cheery fellow, with a kind face and a sincere smile. He spoke very good English.

Bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was long. And I mean loooooooooong. It was one whole straight stretch of concrete from end to end, with perhaps the only turn made at the terminal.

Upon reaching the terminal, a bunch of tuktuk drivers greeted the passengers at the door, ready to pounce on prospect clients. I had arranged for a pick up with the hostel we were staying in so a guy was there with a sign with my name on it. Soon we found ourselves ushered into a sedan, taken to the Angkor Backpacker hotel, and welcomed by the friendly staff. A waiter/tuktuk driver/bellhop who goes by the name of Rambo escorts us to our room on the second floor, where a spacious double room awaits us. Freshened up a bit. Dinner. Capped the night with sharing of insights and thoughts over bottles of Beer Lao and Angkor Beer and a can of Pringles JalapeƱo. Went to bed, clean, full and happy. Sweet dreams, Siem Reap.J

Day 3: Siem Reap, Cambodia

We had planned on taking bikes to explore Angkor Wat and the other temples but a flood prevented us from doing so. So we tuktuk-ed our way through the flood and into the temple grounds. Not surprisingly, we were met with a deluge of eager tourists in all shapes, colors and sizes. After paying for our passes, we tumble back into the tuktuk and are brought to Angkor Wat.

The first thing that hit me upon stepping onto the long and wide walkway the temple is the vast expanse and the grandeur of this structure. It sits on a moat, and the sun gives a shimmery glint on its dark rock surface. So pretty.

But it gets prettier.

Inside the Angkor Wat, are a series of hallways lined with carved pillars with amazing detail. The stones of the temple provide a cool respite from the humidity. Passageways lead to other passageways or out into a vast courtyard.

Angkor Thom was our next stop. The temples here were Bayon, Phimeneakas, and Baphuon.

Bayon is my hands-down favorite. I marveled at the rock faces and the intricate carvings. I couldn’t help but wonder, “How did they do that!?”

As G-third and I took a break in one its nooks, I told him,

“It feels so peaceful here.”

“Siyempre, temple siya eh.”

The temples are best explored in reverent and respectful silence, with all senses engaged including that of wonder.

Popular tourist destinations tend to be over-hyped and overrated – this one was definitely not.

As a traveller, I am drawn more to wonders of nature (magnificent coastlines, rice terraces, breath-taking waterfalls and mountain summits) but this particular temple-tripping destination took my breath away just the same.

Images from the Cambodia leg here.

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