We took a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap about 5 days ago. I've been writing all sorts of random things but I have this necessity to talk about my travels chronologically, so I'm going to try.
Our first experience in Cambodia was crossing the border with our bus mates, all from different counties. Crossing the border was mostly just waiting in long lines only to get through and wait in another line. We saw many other backpackers doing the same. John and I passed the time by listening to Alan Watts wisdom.
Back in the bus about 2 hours later we stopped for food at this amazing farm-restaurant where we saw the sun setting over the rice fields. Vines hung from the ceiling of the restaurant and cats, kittens, chicks and chickens ran around our feet as we ordered noms and drank Angkor beer.
We landed in Siem Reap not to long from then and were told the bus couldn't drop us off at our hostel so we boarded a Tuk Tuk with a driver named Chen. Chen was nice, spoke English well and was expressive and fun. He dropped us of at our hostel and told us he'd meet us tomorrow morning to begin our Angkor Adventures.
The hostel we stayed in was Garden Villa hostel, just around the corner from The Night Market and Pub Street. It had a pool and a hang out area with loud music and flashy lights. Super bro-y, but fun and the staff was very sweet and attentive.
The next day we woke up and had an amazing breakfast of Dragonfruit, my new favorite fruit (sorry strawberries!) and eggs, and of course, coffee.
Chen was waiting for us outside and he recommended us seeing the Floating Villages before Angkor. John thought that sounded exciting so we went there instead of Angkor. We spent the morning boating with Chen and a few other friends we made. We had beers on Lake Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia.
After boating on the lake and buying rice for an orphanage near by, we heard that there were crocodiles so we went to see them. After that we realized it was a crocodile farm where they were made into handbags so that was a little sad, but I sent them my love anyways.
On our way back to the land there was a mangrove jungle and we took a tinier boat through it. I love trees so much and Redeoods and Banyans are a few of my favorite, mangroves are as well but I've never seen them in person like I was able to in this jungle. Rowing through them is so incredibly peaceful and relaxing, being amongst the water and the trees is so serene. Then we got to climb some so that was pretty awesome as well. I made John go up first so if there were spiders he could take care of them before I saw them (the spiders here are scary as fuck)
Chen invited us over to his house afterwards and his wife prepared fresh fish with a peanut sauce and cilantro with rice. It was so delicious and we were so happy that we found such a nice Tuk Tuk driver (more on this so keep reading!) Chen took us home to our hostel and we jumped in the pool, excited we had had such an amazing day out on the water and among friends.
the next day Chen picked us up at 330 am and we made our way to Angkor Wat for sunrise, a must-do / must-see if you come here. We walked through the gateway in the dark so we weren't able to see too much of the gate, just shadowy outlines of epic carvings and huge stones. We sat on a temple facing Angkor Wat and watched the sunrise. It was overcast so we weren't able to see too much of an epic sunrise, but it was nice being there doing the same thing that so many people before us have done for over 9 centuries.
Exploring Angkor Wat was incredible. The size of the stones and the whole city is breathtaking. Through Angkor there are repeating symbols at mostly every Wat. My favorite was the nagas, or 7 headed snake that showed up along the walkways, under the Buddhas and over the archways.
The mythology of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk is painted on the walls of Angkor Wat and portrays the teams of good and evil working together for a common goal. Both sides pulling on Vasuki, the king of the nagas serpents, who is tied around Mount Mandara, a cosmic mountain put into the ocean. Both sides are pulling on Vasuki to churn the ocean in order to recieve ambrosia. This is a super short version of the myth, look into it yourself, because it's an epic tale. Anyways, the nagas serpents are my favorite.
After exploring Angkor and the East Gate John and I decided to 'off road' it a bit and began hiking through the jungles of Cambodia. Now I love hiking more than most things in life, but the spiders of Cambodia are 1. Way too healthy 2. Everywhere 3. Bright colored (so def poisonous) and 4. John came across two he swear had wings. So our hike did not last long and we had to get our Tuk Tuk back to save us from imminent death.
After that whole deal we continued on to Pre Rup, which was beautiful and where I took my lion picture on facebook. we went by East Mebon, but I didn't feel very well and it looked like Pre Rup so we just more or less waved at it. Then we went to Ta Som, I was explaining to John the metaphysical history of the earth and he was extremely curious about all the truths weaved into myths and legends. He wanted to know more so we did a past life regression, which was very telling.
After Ta Som we continued our journey to Neak Pean, a temple that you have to get to via a long boardwalk through a huge moat. John felt very at home here.
After Neak Pean we were exhausted and came back to the hostel, where we got screwed over big time by our nice Tuk Tuk driver. He lied about the price for the day and the day prior and we lost some money. We were pretty upset but at the same time, it's part of the journey. If you ever land in Cambodia and a driver named Chen wants to help you, don't let him. But I'm sure most Tuk Tuk drivers are the same (dishonest).
We went to the Night Market and wandered around Pub Street. This is where all the foreigners go for gifts, trinkets, and beer.
The Night Market does have some great products, I got really amazing ninja pants and the fresh fruit smoothies are delicious. We got beer at Angkor What? A bar down Pub street. Pub Street is basically Khoa San Road (Bangkok).
the next day we opted for a more chill day, we switched hostels to save some money and landed at Cambodia Backpacking Guesthouse, down the street and over the bridge from our last hostel. We ended up stumbling upon Bambu Stage, an amazing little creative space and restaurant that was hosting Temples Decoded: Angkor Wat, showing how it was made featuring Nick, an ex-museum designer and Mala, the restaurant manager.
Nick showed us, in a multi faceted way, how the temples were built, how Cambodians honor trees they cut down and how the spirits of the forest protect them. Later that night we (re)watched Graham Hancock's Lost Civilization episode on Angkor Wat and relearned how Angkor was designed to look like Draco the constellation and built as, of course, a giant astrological calendar to honor the Golden Age, 10,500BC.
We headed back to Angkor the following day, this one on a motorbike, not trusting anyone anymore(!) and began with Prasat Kravan, a little temple dedicated to the Hindu diety, Vishnu.
We hung out at Srah Srang, a huge aqueduct and gazed over the calm waters (see John's facebook post).
We followed that up with Banteay Kdei, which I dubbed 'bantay kittehhhhh' for those not familiar with my vernacular or tendency to call things different then their namesake). Banteay kdei was really beautiful and disheveled, as most temples are here, and we read some interesting history that after the death of the Buddhist King, the next king believed in Brahmanism and had all the Buddhas destroyed, beheaded or hidden underground.
From Banteay Kdei we headed through the jungle on a motorbike ducking to miss vines and narrowly escaping being hit by trees and stones to Ta Prohm, or as everyone calls it (and by that I do mean everyone, even the tour guides) Tomb Raider!
I was so excited to see this one and my dad, brother and I used to play Tomb Raider on the computer many moons ago, but it was so freaking full of tourists. There is a fence around 'The Tree' and I didn't have the patience to wait in line and get a picture, so I found a different epic tree and did my best Lara Croft impression.
We were able to sneak away from the tourists and go against the grain, stealthily running back into the temple where an Exit Only sign lie. There we found some peace and quiet amongst the ruins before the legions of Chinese Tourists took over.
After Ta Prohm we headed over to Ta Keo, which is being restored, and found some stillness at the top as most people were not brace enough to climb the extremelyyyyy steep stairs to the top.
As the motorbike adventure continued we did get lost in the backcountry, did ride through a huge patch of prickers which clawed at my legs and John's hand, did stumble upon a beautiful serene patch of open farmland, did ride up to some backcountry Cambodian houses on accident and did in fact, fall off when John got over confident about a wet sandy corner, but #wedidntdie, and that's pretty much all that matters.
also our motorbike did die last night just before sunset but we were saved by a super sweet Cambodian couple who called a big Tuk Tuk so we were able to 'fit.' And by 'fit' I mean John rode on the motorbike, on the trailer, on the Tuk Tuk as we ventured back into the city of Siem Reap from deep in the jungles of Angkor.
So far it's been crazy amazing and the adventure continues!