30.11.2008 - 08.12.2008 28 °C
After visiting the bus station in Phnom Penh it became clear that tigers were off the menu in Cambodia for us. A trip to Bokor National Park would have been a real head sore so we decided to spread out our time in Phnom Penh as well as definitely use all 3 days on our planned ticket around Angkor.
Phnom Penh was hectic and the crossroads that our guesthouse was situated didn't help it seem any quieter. Everywhere you walked we were harassed by people, mostly tuk tuk drivers but often beggars or just street sellers. Sights such as the museum and the palace, although magnets to all of these people due to their tourist orientation, once inside were real welcome breaks. And both of the sights were well presented and really interesting to walk around.
The Killing Fields is one of the main attractions for visitors to the Cambodian capital however the term attraction seems wrongly applied as the killing fields display the genocidal activities of the Khmer Rouge. The small area is very peaceful and thought provoking but didnt hold any of the eeriness I felt when visiting Auschwtz.
A bus arranged from a different bus pick up point transported us to SiemReap where upon arrival we were mobbed by more people than I have experienced on this whole trip. Pushing our way through the masses we got to a free mini bus that would take us into the centre of the town and took us to a really nice guesthouse with free breakfast. In the actual town of SiemReap the streets are much more relaxed than Phnom Penh and our guesthouse was in an ideal position to make our own way to Angkor on bicycle. To ensure we had our bearings of the temple complex we first arranged a tuk tuk for one day and driving through the main area, went out to the further afield ruins. On our way out to the first temple stop, we visited the Landmine Museum which illustrates the extent of land mine usage around the world and its effects on innocent people. The museum was incredibly interested and founded by an amazing Cambodian man.
The temples we visited on that first day were highly detailed in carvings but did not hold the adventurous atmosphere of the one I was to visit on the second day. Having hired bikes we took on the big loop saving the smaller loop for the last day. It was a 2 hour ride before we made it to our first temple but its tumble down, over grown appearance was straight out of Indiana Jones. Going off on my own away from the other visitors I really got a feel for exploration and the discovery of somewhere hidden by the trees. The day continued to provide interesting and very different structures to explore but none impressed on me in the same way that this first one did.
For a large part of the mornings bike ride I had been talking to a local lad and hadn't really noticed the length of the journey however on the way back, even though I was riding through beautiful countryside with water buffalo and rice fields, the journey seemed to go forever and the cheap bikes that they have here had blocked all blood flow to my limbs. So the next day it was with relief that i remembered we had saved the small loop for the last day. We attacked the longest part of the ride first allowing ourselves the rest of the day to enjoy at a steady pace.
On the small circuit there are more temples and they all appear to be more popular than the ones we had previously been to. Some were harder to enjoy because of this, but they were all interesting in their own way. The terraces in Angkor Thom for example, Elephant terrace and Leper King terrace, both had corridors and carvings or reliefs to find that weren't obvious without exploration. The main attraction, the Angkor Wot itself, we had deliberately saved until last and walking around this very large, beautifully symmetrical, in tact temple, it didnt matter about the people. In fact as the sun set on Angkor it felt like being at a music festival and we were all sharing something.