Like a lot of places in Asia, Siem Reap is all about its temples. And it has some amazing ones. But it quite clearly knows it. The mark up on prices in this town, this Cambodian town, was crazy. From the food, to the transportation, to the entrance tickets, Siem Reap had it down. They were going to demand top dollar for every little thing, because they knew they could. With the temples difficult if not impossible to reach on your own in the 40 degree plus heat (shout out to the distraught and exhausted looking cyclists who attempted to do so), tuk tuks charged 17 dollars a day to take you around. And the ticket system was such that they charged you double for a three day pass (forty dollars) as opposed to a one day, knowing one day wasn't enough to complete the temple circuit. And they wiped out the two day option. To complete this system, the tuk tuk driver would take you to a far out diner which did average food for double the price of that found in Phnom Penh. The hustle was real.
But let's not get it twisted, Siem Reap had the product. The label 'temples' does not do justice to the array of religious sites we visited during our three day stay. They were ancient ruins that looked like they belonged to another world. Crumbling red, grey and green walls maintained a trace of former majesty as they shone in the overhanging sun, their intricate Hindu and Buddhist carvings coming to life for the trail of enchanted tourists. They really were awesome, in the purest sense of the word. Walking around them was like entering a different time. The feeling I got from these ruins can only be compared to when I first saw the Coloseum in Rome. It had a presence, an air, that you were being given a direct glimpse into history.
The only issue we had was that it was so hot we found it difficult to get through the day. Getting up for sunrise didn't help much either. Supposedly an unmissable experience, we got up at four in the morning so we could watch the sun rise over the most famous temple in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat. I was really disappointed. The temple had none of the character shared by the other smaller, less visited temples in the area. And the sunrise was a bit naff. It might have been to do with the few clouds that hung in the air but I can't imagine it ever really being worth it. Not for me anyway. Maybe that's because I had to miss breakfast in order to be there.
As soon as the sun was up it was boiling hot again and we were back to sweating buckets. This 'we' included a girl we had met in the hostel, Flynn, who was an American zookeeper travelling solo until, after a brief return home, she joined a scheme in Peru to study bears. Standard. Unable to bare being in the sun all day (geddit) the three of us often retired to some bar or restaurant to discuss whatever first came to mind. It was cool learning about life in America and its small differences with England, and we were sad to see Flynn leave.
Our own time in Siem Reap ended with me filming Alice rap a song we co-wrote, as a present to her boyfriend. Watching Alice was like watching Nas or Jay back in their hey day. Phenomenal. Nearly, but not quite, as phenomenal as the temples we will not soon forget.