Exploring Angkor by Duc Nguyen
21st of May, 2016. It was the first time of my life that I finally made a trip outside of Vietnam. I’m writing this post now on the 9th of January. It takes me such a long time to write about Cambodia. Why? Because I wanted to spend the last couple months to travel to the Northeast of Vietnam before the Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) comes. Siem Reap was the most successful plan I have done. I had so much fun but also had the same amount of trouble. I can’t tell how much I miss the nature, the country and the people. Especially my Cambodian friend – Ratana. Now I’m happy to share you the story during my 3 days in Siem Reap. However, I’m not gonna write about the architecture and the time it was built or something like that because Wikipedia did it too well.
“Cambodia”… It such a big thing that I never thought I could to do it even now. The paper thing was easy for me. I got the passport within 3 weeks. Dung, Emily and me – we started the trip at 9 pm on the 20th of May. We flight to Ho Chi Minh city then stayed up all night until 6 am to catch the bus to Cambodia. We got the tickets from Giant Ibis online for $18/person from Ho Chi Minh city to Phnom Penh (but in fact, the bus took us to Siem Reap) so we didn’t have to do much but to follow the descriptions on the ticket and be on time.
Everything started to change quickly from the moment we pass the border. My first impression of Cambodia was the endless death field with skinny cow lays on the ground. I really felt bad for the people here as they have plenty of lands but it can’t be used for any purpose (maybe thing would change as soon as the rain season come). Not enough grass to feed the animal, no water to grow vegetable. Just dried field.
We stayed on the bus for 6 hours until they drop us off at a travel agency opposite of the bus stop in Phnom Penh. The heat was out of my imagination. I bet the heat was around 43-44 C at midday. It was about 10 C hotter than Hanoi at that time. I looked around and everything looked like Vietnam. The people look the same, motorbike everywhere, the street vendor with their small business… and especially the ladies, covered themselves like “Ninjas” to avoid from getting burned. All of those gave me a very comfortable feeling. It was like I had not left Vietnam at all. The three of us continued the trip to Siem Reap on a local bus (free ticket from the travel agency) which was in a very bad condition. I smelt my skin and well… I got burned after 5 minutes under the sun.
It was another 5 hours on the bus till we arrived in Siem Reap. We got surrounded quickly by the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. I got my backpacks and walked inside the travel agency with the other travellers. The staff who were waiting for us walked by with a friendly smile. He gave us a “to do list” and it was kinda helpful. Even though I didn’t remember what did he talk about. My mind was thinking about the bed and a long sleep. Everybody separated and started their own destination. The three of us got a tuk-tuk and headed to the 5 stars rated hostel which we found on Tripadvisor – The Mad Monkey.
The first day in Siem Reap – We hired a tuk-tuk for $20/day (It should be $15/day. You should bargain) and started at 5 am as the driver were waiting for us outside of the hostel. There were around 20 tuk-tuks started the same time as we did. The street was woken up by the engine sound. We stopped at the official Angkor Wat ticket booth located about 2 km from the Angkor itself to buy entrance ticket which cost $40 for a 3 days pass.
As we continued the trip, we went through a forest which covered around the whole Angkor system. It took around 17 mins (7.1 km) to drive. The temp dropped down clearly. The mist covered around us with the smell of the leaves, the crack woods and fireflies burning in the night. The monkey screamed sometimes in the sound of the cicadas. Together, they sang the song of the ancient forest. Far away, behind the mist, the giant temple showed up slowly just exactly like in a Hollywood movie. I was speechless. No… There’s no word could describe my feeling in that moment.
We arrived when there were only 10 minutes till the sun comes up so we decided to run for life. Angkor Wat was built on a man-made cubic shaped island so we had to walk through a huge bridge where the guardians (there were 6 of them) stood in line, blocked the way to check ticket. Passed the bridge and the checking, I walked along the main gopura as the sky got brighter.
I ran to the crowd at the small lakes on the two side of the main road but I was late so I had to stand behind two lines of people. Then 5 minutes later, they slowly walked out – one by one so I had the opportunity to stand close to the lake.
The temple reflected on it in the most spectacular way. I kept waiting for the sun but I got dumped by the cloud as they wanted to be the celebrities of the year. Disappointed? Of course, I did. I went a long way to get here (1598 km). But I made up my mind, tried my best to take some good shots with the bad cloudy fill light then continued to explore the temple. I didn’t let the bad feeling to ruin everything. I was in Angkor Wat and the journey was just started. It rained lightly at 8 am then stopped after 10 minutes. We left Angkor Wat at around 9 am to move to the next temple – Bayon.
Exploring Angkor – More picture of the Angkor Wat
Exploring Angkor – BAYON
Bayon located in the centre of Angkor Thom. The first thing I noticed when we arrive was the big stone face decoration on every building in the temple. It was said to be the face of buddha smiling but to me, it’s more like the temple belong to the thousand faced God in the famous TV series Game of Thrones. Everybody got off and walked to the temple. Of course, there were also guardians standing at the entrance checked for the ticket.
One stupid thing happened to me. I lost my ticket somewhere. I looked for it everywhere from my pockets to my wallet then my bag but I didn’t found it. In a moment, the public toilet at Angkor Wat appeared in my head as I went there before we head to Bayon. Thus I asked the driver to take me back there to find it and I was right. Someone saw my ticket and gave it to the toilet keeper. I got my ticket back as I showed the keeper my passport. After that, we back to Bayon and continued our journey.
I caught up with Emily when she was walking near the entrance so we took a walk outside of the temple. There was some naughty monkey playing with the tourist and stole their food. Emily set her mango smoothie on the ground to take some photos of the smoothie with the monkey (duh… such a wise thing to do lol) but her action actually caught the monkey’s attention and they ran in quickly as they scared Emily away with their teeth. Of course, it was a great moment for me to take some photo of them and so does Emily. She wrote about it here – on her own article. We left Bayon right after that as Dung and her Spanish friend – Nuria, were waiting for us on the tuk-tuk.
Exploring Angkor (Part2)
To be continued…