Well we got our exit visa's for Cambodia the following day and then got on a lovely bus to Siem Reap (we even got free water and cookies!!). The journey took six hours and on the way we saw a beautiful sunrise. When we arrived in Siem Reap we saw a tout holding a piece of paper up saying 'Mr Jam Abbie'. Obviously we found this very funny. We had been on the lookout for this because we were aware that guesthouses in Phnom Penh sell our names to guesthouses in Siem Reap. We got chatting to the tout and asked about his guesthouse and decided to go with him because the room was cheap, had everything we wanted (hot water and good location) and a free tuk tuk ride there. So we stayed at Hello Paradise Guesthouse and it was very nice. We dumped our bags, booked a bike (not motorbike!) for the next days visit to the temples and hit the town! Siem Reap town centre is a lot different from Phnom Penh, it's smaller, much cleaner and there are lots of nice restaurants and bars for the many tourists that come to visit Angkor Temples! We sampled the street food which was ok (had better!) and then went for a few drinks - well we'd had a crap week!!! We ended up in the main bar in town called Temple bar and met two cool girls called Tahim and Becca and bumped into a guy called Matt from Durham who we'd met on the bus - so a good night was had by all. We stumbled back to our guesthouse quite late and I was left in charge of setting the alarm clock for 4am because we'd planned to cycle to the temples for sunrise!!!!! Well you guessed it, this didn't happen and the alarm didn't go off!!! Or I accidently, on purpose, switched it off - who knows but we didn't end up visiting the temples that day! Instead we chilled, visited Phsar Chas, the old market, and had a look round town. That night we made sure that we had an early night, with no booze, our patient guesthouse owner got the bikes ready for us, again, and we managed to get up at 4am and off we went. It was very dark and there were no lights on the bikes but thankfully I was infront with a touch and Jem had a reflector and we cycled the 7km to the main entrance of Angkor Temples. The ticket office opened at 5am so we got our day pass ($20 each, you can get 3 day passes $60 or 5 day passes) and headed to Sras Srang for sunrise. Most people go to Angkor Wat for the sunrise but we wanted a quieter, less touristy option. Those Japenese tourists can't half talk!! Sras Srang is a multi-tiered landing platform on the west edge of the baray (ancient water reservoir) is adorned with naga (mythological multi-headed snake/serpent) balustrades and guardian lions. The very sparse remains of an island temples can be seen poking out of the middle of the lake during dry season when the water is low. The sky over the water was beautiful, there weren't many people there and the atmosphere was very relaxed - just how it's meant to be. We drank hot coffee and sat and watched sunrise - perfect! From there we cycled 2kms to Ta Prohm, used as a set for the film 'Tombraider'. The 12th century Mahayana buddhist temple has a maze of narrow corridors and crumbling stonework, massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors offering a 'jungle atmosphere'. We arrived there at 6.30am so, apart from 3 other people, we were alone. This gave us a chance to explore and also have a couple of 'photo shoots' by the famous tree growing out of the temple (don't worry we'll bore you with them when we get home!!). When we got back on our bikes a marathon had begun and the runners were going past us. Lots of people were on the side of the road cheering and it was great fun cycling past! We headed to Angkor Thom through Victory Gate (an impressive stone archway) and into Angkor thom (Big Angkor) which is a 3km squared walled and moated royal city and was the last capital of Angkorian empire. There are five entrances (gates) to the city, one for each cardinal point, and the victory gate leading to the Royal Palace area. Each gate is crowned with four giant faces. We cycled past the Terrace of the Leper King, a double terrace wall with deeply carved nagas, demons and other mythological beings. The terrace was named after the 'Leper King' statue that sits on top. Next we cycled past the Terrace of Elephants, an impressive 2.5m tall, 300m long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants and garudas that spans the heart of Angkor Thom. We then visited the temples of Baphuon and Bayon. We were really impressed with Bayon and it's giant stones faces. There are 37 standing towers, most but not all sporting four carved faces oriented towards the cardinal points. The best of Bayon are the bas-reliefs (carvings on the wall which tell a story) showing real life scenes from the historical sea battle between the Khmer and the Cham. There are also extensive carvings of unique and revealing scenes of everyday life that are interspersed among the battle scenes, including market scenes, cockfighting, chess games and childbirth. From Bayon we cycled to our final, and most famous temple, Angkor Wat. The key with visiting the temples is not to cram too many into one day otherwise you get properly templed out! Angkor Wat was very busy, by now it was 10am, but on first sight it was amazing! We checked out the temple, which is surrounded by a moat with lovely water lily plants in it, and tried to follow the stories of the carvings on the walls. After this, it was time to cycle back to Siem Reap for lunch and a bit of a snooze cause we were both getting sleepy!! On our last night in Cambodia we sampled some delicious Khmer delights including a curry and savoury crepe filled with shrimps, pork and vegetables - sounds horrible but is gorgeous!
The next day we got an early, very rickety and old, bus to Bangkok. The bus was single decker and had seen better days but it managed to cram 30 people and all their backpacks onto the bus - yes there was no luggage compartment so every spare space was taken up! There were bags under the seats and down the aisles, when anyone wanted to get off we had climb over the bags, health and safety goes out the window here! One poor girl didn't even get a seat and had to sit at the front on a rucksack!! It's amazing that they can get away with it but a very funny journey! The road from Siem Reap to Poipet, on the border, is the bumpiest and dustiest road ever. Apparently a certain airline, that flys from Siem Reap to Bangkok, is paying the government not to get the road fixed!! We got to Poipet, which stunk of rotten fish, showed our passports at the departure gate and walked to passport control into Thailand. Two hours later we walked into Aranyaprathet, Thailand on the other side of the border and got a more comfortable bus to Bangkok. This arrived on the Khao San Road at 9pm, we eventually found a hostal, it was so much busier than when we were last here two months ago, and went to our much needed beds after a very long day!
Wednesday 5th December 2007 - His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej's (the king of Thailand's) 80th Birthday and a celebration is most certainly was. Everyone wore yellow (the colour of the day the king was born - Monday), there were hundreds of thousands of people on the streets (luckily right where we were staying), waving flags and enjoying themselves. There was free food stalls and this delicious coconut ice-cream - such a great atmosphere. The king got driven past a few times throughout the day and everyone went mad and then as night time set in, the city was lit up with beautiful lights in the trees. Everyone carried candles and, at 8pm , these were lit and the national athem was sung. Then fireworks went off, definitely no health and safety here, people lit them in the street and then we saw a brilliant display which last for about 20 minutes. It was great to be apart of the celebration because Thai people love their king who has been on the throne for over sixty years!
The next morning we were up at 3am to catch a flight to Koh Samui. When we landed we got taken to the five star hotel called 'Poppies' and have been here ever since getting pampered and relaxing - I don't want to leave!!! It's a bit of a difference from the creepy crawly infested rooms we usually stay in!! The beach in front of the hotel is beautiful and last night we were invited to a lovely cocktail party were we met some of the other guests! At the moment it's monsoon season but the sun is shining and although the sea is a bit choppy we've been swimming in the pool and enjoying delicious food. We leave from here on Monday and get the ferry to Ko Pha Ngan for a few days and from there we go to Koh Tao.
We're just going to enjoy ourselves until it's time to leave - this is luxury!
Take care and enjoy all your Christmas parties!
Lots of Love & big hugs,
Abbie and Jem xxxxxx