We arrived in Siem Reap on the 22nd, and got off the coach and onto the bus station only to be pulled tugged and shouted at by tuc tuc drivers. This is one of the biggest annoyances in Cambodia, there are hardly any taxi's and public transport consists mainly of tuc tuc drivers, which means everywhere you walk you have men shouting tuc tuc at you and trying to herd you into their carriage, even if you have just got out of another one
We got off the bus and before we even had a chance to collect our backpacks we had a swarm of drivers around us, shouting in our faces waving paper and tugging at our clothes, we managed to fight our way through to get our bagage and even then there wasnt even enough space around us to put them on, and no matter how many times you say no, they dont listen, and you can't lose your patience with them and shout because then they can get quite annoyed. We walked away to try and get some room to collect our stuff and our thoughts and still they grabbed at us, until in the end I turned around and I shouted, 'do you have a sister? do you have a daughter? how would you like it if men were shouting and grabbing them?' and it actually seemed to work, they all took a few steps back, and we were able to put our backpacks on. We decided to go for the tuc tuc driver that didnt come and shout at us once, he had just stood back holding a sign, and it turned out to be a good choice, because he was so helpful in helping us find a guesthouse. He was so nice infact, that we booked him to take us around the Angkor ruins the next few days.
I read alot about the Angkor ruins on the bus journey to Siem Reap, and came up with a route that would allow us to see the ruins at their quietest. A day ticket to the ruins costs $20, and if you purchase it at 5pm the evening before, you get that previous evening free. The route I came up with was to go to the Angkor Wat in the evening to see susnset, and then get up for sunrise the next day, and bypass Angkor Wat, and head straight to the next ruin Angkor Thom, and go round from there. There is sort of a set lap around the ruins, so by going straight to the second one at sunrise, you leave all the tourists behind at angkor what and are able to stay one step ahead of them for a while.
Angkor Wat in the evening was a bit crowded as tourists waited for sunset, but it became overcast quite quickly which meant there wasn't a sunset as such, and alot of the tourists left, so we were virtually on our own in the ruins, in this eerie twilight, and thats when the ruins seemed so much more real and awesome.
The next morning our tuc tuc driver picked us up at 5am and took us straight to the second ruin, Ankgor Thom (a large city inside of which there are many different ruins) heading towards Angkor Wat is started to look a bit like a circus with loads of tuc tucs trying to find spaces as people were trying to view sunrsise from Angkor Wat, but as soon as we passed the roads were dead. It looked like my plan was going to work out!
We arrived at the first ruin inside Angkor Thom, Bayon, and it was deserted. It makes such a difference having no one around because you can actually take in how incredible the ruins are, and its so silent, with only the sounds of the jungle and the bugs that it's such an amazing experiance. From here we went to Bauphon (the one in the picture) which was supposed to be off limits. Because no one was around we climbed in anyway and took a look around and I think this may have been my favourite of all the ruins. I cant even begin to describe how amazing and beautiful they are, every stone has buddhist carvings into it, and there are huge buddhist stone faces staring down at you atop massive towers. We climbed to the top of Bauphon and looked out across to see the stone causeway leading to the temple, and ther two pools that sit either side of it, and the sun just risen and it's no wonder this is considered the 8th wonder of the world.
We went to the rest of the ruins inside Angkor Thom, and then headed to Ta Prohm, a ruin that is popular among tourists because it has alot of jungle still growing through it - huge trees growing through the ruins that can't be moved because their roots support the stones. Some of Tomb Raider was also filmed here which makes it even more popular. By the time we visited Ta Prohm it was packed with tourists, and although still amazing, we had been spoilt by the emptiness of the other ruins, and wern't able to fully appreciate it. If I ever go back I think I will start at Ta Prohm at sunrise, so that I can really appreciate it, because without the tourists it may have been the most beautiful of all the ruins.
After Ta Prohm we had been 'tomb raiding' for about 7 or 8 hours, and we were absolutely shattered, along with the fact the midday sun was creeping up on us. We decided to treat ourselves and had a big juicy burger for lunch at the nearby 'Angkor Cafe'.
Siem Reap was a lovely town, if a little spoilt by tourism, and I definately want to go back and see more of both the town and the ruins.