We flew Laos Air and were very happy with the service and snacks, certainly better than a short haul flight in the States. Both airports were tiny but the visa and immigration for both leaving Laos and entering Cambodia was very efficient.
The town of Siem Reap reminded me of Khoa San Road in Bangkok, Thailand, packed with drunken tourists, touts, and people trying to sell you drugs or prostitutes in the street (a first since Thailand years ago,though still not as open and prevalent as in Thailand where it is defacto legal. There is certainly prostitution in Vietnam and Laos but it is very hush-hush as I didn’t hear a word of it). I suppose in a country rife with corruption and a flood of tourists all over the world to the town to visit the temples this kind of crap is inevitable. Needless to say, we had nothing to do with it. We were here to see temples dammit!
The next day we arranged for an all day tuktuk ride around the short loop($15) which includes the most famous temples. We bought only a one day pass($20) although they sell three day and seven day passes also(there are dozens and dozens of temples in the surrounding area). I like beautiful temples as much as the next guy but a full day of them is more than enough for me, plus Victoria’s knee was still sore so one day was all she could take. I should also mention that the USD is the defacto currency in Cambodia, everything is paid in it even the atms spit it out. The only thing the riel is used for is for change less than a dollar because there are no US coins. It’s a strange system but stems from a fear of money caused by the horrible rule of Pol Pot (more about that nut bag in the next post).
What follows is just a listing of the few temples we were able to see and a short description of each (followed of course by our photos), there is so much written about these temples that there is no way a short summary can do them justice. The first temple we visited was Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building and a place that regularly competes with the likes of Machu Pinch and Petra as the eight wonder of the world. From there we passed into the city of Angkor Thom which is surrounded by a 8 meter high wall that is 12 km square, which is then surrounded by a 100m wide moat. It is estimated at it’s height the city held 1 million inhabitants, the most populous city of the 13th century! Within Angkor Thom is Bayon, which is famous for it’s 54 towers decorated with 216 enormous smiling heads. From there we headed to Ta Prohm, where all those stunning pictures of a dilapidated temple overgrown by the ever encroaching jungle are taken(They actually now maintain the trees and temple to halt any further deterioration). In addition to these we also saw Ta Keo, Ta Nei, Preah Khan, and some other small temples. That was plenty for my temple fix but there are dozens and dozens more in the surrounding area, enough that some see very few visitors each day.
After seeing the highest of highs the Khmers reached with Angkor Wat it was time to move on to Phenom Phen and see and hear about the lowest of lows under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.