Sun 9th - Sat 15th March (Week 25)
Sun 9th - Had a boring recovery day today - kept my ankle up and on ice all day in the hope that it will recover quicker. Took a tuk tuk at 4:30 to Angkor Wat to watch sunset. We climbed a hill up to a temple and then watched the sun set over the jungle landscape. When we came 9 years ago, we thought the same as we thought tonight - nice to watch sunset, but its over the jungle, not any of the temples, and Angkor Wat is the opposite direction ! So we weren't that impressed and came back at 7pm !
Mon 10th - Got our same tuk tuk at 8am for a day around the Angkor Wat site. Spent nearly 2hrs wandering around Ta Prohm - the famous one from Tomb Raider with the huge tree roots growing all over the temples. Then spent another hour admiring the many faces of Bayon, and another 90mins wandering around Baphuon, Royal Palace, Elephant Terrace and Leper King Terrace. While we were wandering around, we saw some film crew and watched a few of the contestants of "The Amazing Race" come running in from their tuk tuks and then cross the finish line for their respective places. We used to love watching that programme, so we really enjoyed watching that. Spent the final 2 hours walking around Angkor Wat and had forgotten how large it is and how much there is to see. Overall we had a really good day and it was great to see it all again, but found a lot had changed such as there were now wooden walkways so you couldn't just walk where you wanted, and it was also much busier so it was more of a mission to take photos without tour groups in shot.
Tues 11th - Had a lovely day trip with 2 ladies we met on the bus from Laos on Saturday. Took a tuk tuk out to Kbal Spean (50km away), then walked the 1.5km uphill over rocks and tree roots to a river bed and waterfall. As its dry season the water was pretty low, so we got to see the carving in the rocks really well. Nothing as spectacular as some of the main temples, but it was nice to see something very different. Next we went to Banteay Srei which was more impressive than we remembered - some beautiful and intricate carvings. Then onto the Land Mine museum which was fairly small but very interesting and informative, and luckily not too graphic. Final stop was at Pre Rup temple which we really enjoyed as it was very quiet, and still unprotected so you could still walk and climb everywhere. Headed into Siem Reap in the evening for dinner and a look around at how much it has changed in 9 years. A lot of it was dirt roads and not too much development, but now there are lots of big, beautiful hotels, restaurants and bars and way more tourists. But its nicely done, some classy places and we enjoyed looking around the markets.
Wed 12th - Got up at 4:45am and got the tuk tuk at 5am to go to Angkor Wat. Sat in the pitch black and slowly watched Angkor Wat light up from behind by sunrise. There were thousands of people filing in constantly for about an hour, but as its such a huge site, it still didn't feel too busy. It felt pretty special to watch, but still wasn't the stunning colours you sometimes get at sunrise. Came back at 7:30, had breakfast then back to bed 8:30-10:30. Went to Angkor Wat Putt at 11am which is a brilliant 14-hole crazy golf with miniature models of various temples on each hole. We had the place to ourselves and I somehow fluked a hole-in-one and got a free beer. Brandon was gutted as he tried really hard and didn't get one! Spent a few hours in the evening wandering around the various Night Markets and bought a few nice souvenirs - first we've really bought all trip, but everything is so cheap, and people are friendly so its easy to barter.
Thurs 13th - Took the Giant Ibis bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh today, leaving at 9am, and arrived at 4pm, with 2 short breaks in the middle. Very nice bus, a/c, leg room, comfy seats, and they showed 2 films to pass the time. The 7 hours passed quickly and I also got to read our Burma guide book which I've been lugging around for months ! My ankle has been amazingly ok for the last 3 days but really swelled up today, so it was a good day to just put it up on the bus all day. Got a free welcome beer at the Mad Monkey hostel so we sat in the sunset bar and planned our next 2 days. Spent an hour wandering the streets trying to find a cheap dinner, and ended up at an Indian for $12 for mains, naan and a beer each !
Fri 14th - Caught a tuk tuk to the Royal Palace and spent 2 hours wandering around there and the Silver Pagoda. Really impressive buildings - very ornate and beautiful detail on the gold buildings and stupas. Inside the Emerald Buddha building (which is actually made of jade, and not emerald), there is a standing buddha which is made of 90kg of solid gold, with over 2000 diamonds on, the biggest being 25 carats !! I'm surprised there weren't armed guards around it ! Spent 45 min in the National Museum which had lots of stone work and bronze sculptures from around Angkor Wat. Spent another hour or so around the Central Markets where Brandon bought some sunglasses and some electrical items he needed - and is getting pretty good at bartering now ! Final stop of the day was Wat Phnom on a small hill, and then hack for much needed cold showers and a/c. It is still baking hot here - even at 9am and you still sweat even at 8pm !
Sat 15th - Headed out at 10am to the Killing Fields, 15km away. I was worried it would be really gruesome and make me feel sick, but it was very sad and informative as we wandered around for nearly 2 hours with the audio guide. It was the site of thousands of killings, mass graves, and a large monument wih 9000 skulls inside. Then we went to S-21 museum where the detainees were kept before going to the Killing Fields. It was originally an old school, turned into a prison where the prisoners were tortured, killed or transported to the field to be killed there. There were some nasty photos of the final 14 prisoners who'd been killed and left there when the Khmer Rouge fled. All quite sobering and harrowing and worthwhile seeing, but not something I enjoy.
I'm glad we were able to come back to Cambodia as we really enjoyed Siem Reap 9 years ago and enjoyed it just as much this time despite all the changes. The Cambodian people are all really lovely and friendly, all the children wave and say hello, and even when bartering, it is all still smiles and friendly. I can't believe this leg of our SE Asia trip is already over - Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. But now we have 10 days back on the Thai Islands to rest, dive and research Burma !