Angkor Wat has been on my 'must see' list since before I was 10. Growing up, I remember the colorful photos on the cover of G'ma's National Geographic alternating from 'boring' archeological digs to covers like this one-
Monks in saffron robes, the roots of jungle trees pulling down the walls of ancient cities. Who could resist dreaming about those leafy ruins?
Not me! I bought a ticket to Siem Reap on Bangkok Air and off I went! Since Bryan lives so close to the SkyTrain, I spent $3 getting to the airport instead of $27 to take a cab!
Siem Reap is small and very touristy. Everyone gets constantly harassed by Tuk Tuk drivers and 'massage therapists' – even if you wear this t-shirt.
I spent a day gathering information, maps & opinions and walking the neighborhood near my hostel The Welcommen. I had only stayed in Tokyo, Kyoto and Bangkok; all cosmopolitan cities compared to Siem Reap. This was the first time I saw street barbers and gas stations selling petrol out of Johnny Walker bottles. I crossed the river and followed the shade lined paths until I spotted this Wat, whose entrance is guarded by the 7 headed servant, Naga.
Apparently it was the monk's laundry day.
If you linger long enough at a temple, a monk will come to practice their English with you. “Where are you from? Is this your first time in Cambodia? How long will you stay?” This monk showed me this retention pond & asked if I wanted to go swimming…. No thanks. The second monk was listening to a teaching of the Dalai Lama on his MP3 player.
That afternoon, I rented a bike for $2 and rode the 5 miles to the entrance of Angkor Wat to buy my ticket. (Tip: If you buy your 3 day pass at 3:45pm the day before you can go into Angkor Wat for free that day from 4-5:30pm.) I rode up to the main temple just as the dark clouds rolled in over the entrance.
The dark skies added a bit of mystery to my first glimpse of these ancient ruins. The souveniers hawkers were selling $2 ponchos: it was a sound investment… Even though it didn't stop the deluge from filling my shoes with rain. Upon returning to the hostel, my 'drowned rat' appearance drew the sympathy of a pair of Guys from Toronto who invited me to tour Angkor Wat with them the next day. Early start tomorrow = early bedtime for me. Goodnight, Cambodia!