Thursday, November 11, 2010

Siem Reap - Oct 13-17

I loved this place and I'm sad to see it go, but its time to move on. When I arrived here the mini-bus dropped me off at a small travel outlet where the hotel sent a tuk-tuk to get me. My first impression of the city was not a good one. Even more poor than Phnom Phen, but not nearly as busy, the streets are less packed with stalls and more bare and spread out. I wasn't sure about it all until I arrived at my hotel which could be considered luxury at this point. Brand new, high ceilings in its beautiful lobby, swimming pool and clean spacious rooms. What does luxury cost you in this town? A whopping $15 a night. Nice.

My tuk-tuk driver also turned out to be my driver for the next few days touring the temples. Right away he took me out to buy my 3 day pass and into the temples to watch the sunset (this wasn't a romantic trip... He stayed with the tuk-tuk and I joined the 100 or so other tourist:). Once you buy your pass, its free to enter after 5pm. The sunset wasn't great because of the clouds, but the view of the rain storm heading our way was fantastic.

The next day Nit my driver took me around from temple to temple. He's not a "tour guide", but at least he knew what temples were what so I could read about them in my book. I was ready to head back to the hotel after 6 hours of exploring. The next day we did the outter loop, less temples, but further away and it took the same time. I wasn't yet "templed out" as they say, but they were all starting to look the same. For my third and final visit, I saved the best for last. I rented a bicycle (despite the morning rain and threats of a storm) and rode into Ankor Wat. This is by far the largest temple and holds the greatest religious significance. I've never really been interested in the whole mythology and religious history, but its sheer size and beauty was impressive enough. I sort of regretting not hiring a guide for a few hours which probably would have been really interesting, but instead, I just wandered around marveling at the beauty. On my way out, I stopped in one of the library buildings situated on either side of the long pathway to the temple. The view was great, it was quiet and provided relief from the sun. Not long after sitting down in an empty window sill, it started to rain. While I watched the others flea, I decided to open my book and wait it out. So there I sat, with a great book, in a quiet Ankorian library with an unobstructed view of Ankor Wat. Pretty cool.

Back in town, Siem Reap has so much to offer. The "Old Market" area is bustling with foreigners and caters to them with chic restaurants, lively pubs and spa services galore. I tried the fish massage by sticking my finger in, but there's no way I could bring myself to do the full foot massage/pedicure. They do seem to be popular though.

I could have stayed in Siem Reap longer. Right up until the last night I was discovering new cool parts of the market and loved killing time on many one of the many patios during the day. I stumbled upon the night market which after the first wonder around didn't seem any different than any other market until I just about tripped over someone getting a foot massage practically in the middle of the laneway. When I looked up, I saw the sign reading "Seeing Hands massage by the blind", then the best part - 30 min for $2! Without skipping a beat I was reclined in a chair enjoying the best foot massage ever. Seriously. This massage out classed any massage I've ever had. It was so good that I asked if she could another 30 min on my back and shoulders. Right there in the market! Such a cool experience.

Siem Reap created some pretty cool memories. I met great people and had a wonderful few days. Sunday morning I was off on the bus to Bangkok where I would catch my flight to Chiang Mai.

Lots of pictures of Ankor here:

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