First day at Angkor Archeological Park
A big today, as it the first day of our temple visits in Angkor Wat. At 9:15 am we are ready to start. Mr. Kasal introduces us to Djam, our tuk-tuk driver for the next three days. First, we drive to the reception of the Angkor Archeological Park to get our three-day pass. A part of the fee is used to restore the site. In part, however, because the majority seems to go to an oil company that owns a concession of the land here. Another illustration that there is still a lot to improve in Cambodia.
Bombarded by souvenir vendors during our temple visits in Angkor Wat
The great temple of Angkor Wat is the first one we visit. When we arrive, young souvenir vendors immediately bombard us. They speak decent English and know their stuff well. One sells postcards and books, the other cloths and scarves, and another tries to sell film rolls. And then there are the liquor and food vendors as well. The vendors are a bit older, but the others are sometimes just still children. Many keep insisting, and if you do not want to buy instantly, they try to make you promise to buy from them once you changed your mind.
The temple visits in Angkor Wat were on my wishlist for a long time
It gives me a sense of relief, to finally be here at last. The temple visits in Angkor Wat are something that has been on my wishlist for a long time. The Angkor Wat temple itself is imposingly large. The condition of its buildings is that good anymore. Of the few images which are still present here, usually, the heads have already vanished. It seems that many valuable pieces have disappeared abroad in the past.
Taking our time to explore the Khmer architecture
Nevertheless, Khmer architecture continues to fascinate me enormously. We make plenty of time to explore everything here, going up to the highest (accessible) levels. On the ground floor, you will find some beautiful bas-reliefs with scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two main Hindu epics. Many temples were original Hindu buildings but were later converted into Buddhist places of honor.
Souvenir buying at Angkor Thom
After this first highlight of our temple visits in Angkor Wat, Djam takes us to the Angkor Thom site, where we first have lunch at one of the food stalls. Again, we are being overwhelmed by sellers of all kinds. My travel mate lets himself be persuaded and makes the first purchase; there will be a whole lot to follow over the next two days. After all, they are many beautiful souvenirs, which, with some bargaining, are not too pricey.
The Bayon temple with the laughing Buddhas
The next place we visit is the Bayon, which has more than 200 laughing Buddhas. Regarding the atmosphere, this temple is even more impressive than that of Angkor Wat. We walk through at our own pace. I buy some incense sticks from an old lady. With those sticks folded between your hands, you are supposed to greet the Buddha statue three times, and afterward put some money in a basket which is placed by the figure.
Offering incense at the Bayon temple
The lady shows me how to perform the incense offering and tells me that this will bring me good luck. Further on, other Cambodians, near other Buddha statues, try to make me do the same. I had no problem with the first offering, but I do not intend to repeat this over and over.
A would-be guide shyly accepting a tip
A few minutes later a boy approaches me; I think he is about ten years old. He tries to guide me, in poor English. I can explore this site by myself, so I decline his guiding service. Later on, I meet him again; I tell him that he is a sympathetic boy and give him a dollar. He is clearly surprised, looks around him shyly to check whether no one sees him, takes the money, and then walks away. I further enjoy watching the Buddha faces on the walls and choose some beautiful corners for a series of photos.
Experience the sunset in a crowd
After this encounter, Djam brings us to a temple where you can experience the sunset. It’s a long climb over uneven stairs and rocks, and once you have reached the top, you immediately see this is a gigantic tourist trap. Visitors are dropped by hundreds, pretty ridiculous, so we walk down before the actual moment suprème. Besides it is too cloudy today anyway.
Siem Reap is pretty calm at night
This concludes our first day of temple visits in Angkor Wat. After a refreshing shower at the guesthouse, we walk to the center of Siem Reap to have dinner. This time we opt for Indian food; it is tasty and not spicy like in India itself. At the checkout, a servant asks to come back again. All in all, Angkor Wat is a massive tourist attraction, but despite that, it is pretty calm here at night.
People start dancing
After dinner, we dive into our favorite bar in Siem Reap to join a Groove Party. It’s around eleven, and unlike yesterday there is already quite a lot of people; many French incidentally, apparently the owner himself is a Frenchman. The ratio of men and women is quite equal this evening; there are some Cambodian girls, but tourists as well. It takes a while, but tonight people actually start dancing. That is to say; the tourists are dancing, the Cambodian girls hardly move.
Waking up the night watchman
Around 2 o’clock the strong drinks we consumed take their toll. We decide to leave. It goes without saying that at this hour the gate of the guesthouse is closed again (just like last night). Luckily we can awake the night watchman rather easily. I can not catch sleep easy. Tomorrow evening I intend to drink less and go to sleep earlier.