Because my time was limited, I wanted to get through all the best places as quickly as possible. My flight left in the evening that day, so I needed to get back to get my stuff at the hotel and then get to the airport. While I would have liked to spend more time, maybe bike around on my own, now I just have a reason to visit again in the next few years!
You have to pay for a day pass before entering. It is all clearly marked and easy to do. They take your picture and put it on the pass. At various places, an attendant will ask to see the pass. I think I took it out three or four times.
We started off at the south gate of Angkor Thom. The first thing I noticed was the incredible variation of transportation people were using to get around. What is most striking, however, are the large faces that greet you along the road. Everyone was taking tons of pictures, but I still had time to get a few of my own.
The south gate itself was rather impressive. I had never seen anything like it. And this was only the beginning! There are much larger and more impressive sights!
Prasat BayonLegends of the Hidden Temple. I always thought I would be great at that game.
|Psh, sign! Careful is my middle name! No... Danger is. I apologize, sign.|
Baphuon TempleJust a short walk away was Baphuon. The view from the top was nice. It was not as crowded either. Because of the lack of people milling about, I found myself able to take in the details easier. You can see how much care and artistry went into creating these structures.
Then I left through Victory Gate to...
Chau Say Tevoda and Ta Keo Temple
Here I found people selling things all around the structures. There are not as large as the other places I had been to, but they were still nice for a quick look. Also, be careful of old women asking to help you pray and giving you a red string for your wrist. They will want a "donation," and it is difficult to turn them down. They are pushy, but since they look frail, you might have a hard time allowing yourself to fend them off. Just keep walking and ignore everyone. It seems mean, but that is really the only way to do it.
Okay. Now it was on to the famous Ta Prohm. People on the internet, people in Cambodia, people all over kept telling me about Angelina Jolie having been here to film Tomb Raider. Everyone seemed very proud of that! I guess it is cool. I mean, it's no Breaking Bad being filmed in New Mexico, but it's still pretty nice. (I'm joking of course)
Ta Prohm is a great example of how nature, which humans seem to feel has been defeated, will come back and claim everything in the end. Trees grow up into, through, and around all these structures. Their roots twist and turn, creating whole new, unintended pieces of art.
It was here that I also met a small old man who would not leave me alone. It ended up being awkward. He was nice, but I really did not take my own "just ignore everyone" advice. He showed me around and even showed me a few pretty cool little things. However, at the end of the "tour" he wanted money. Of course. Whatever. It didn't kill me to give him a hand out for his unsolicited help.
|Don't miss the little dinosaur! Wait, they knew about dinosaurs?|
|Tree roots don't care about architecture, man.|
When I left I actually could not find my tuk tuk driver. I walked around for a bit and started to worry that perhaps I had misunderstood or forget where I was supposed to meet up with him. Oh great... However, after about 20 minutes of exploring and making sure I was correct, he came up apologizing. He was in the same place I was in, but he had fallen asleep in the back of the tuk tuk in the parking lot. I had passed it a few times, but didn't recognize it amongst all the other dozens!
And Finally... Angkor Wat
The time had come for the most famous site: Angkor Wat. We pulled up to the temple and I had done pretty well on time so far. I wanted to leave plenty of room to explore Angkor Wat, having heard lots of great things about it. My driver gave me a basic rundown of the layout and set me loose.
The shear size of the complex stood out immediately. You have to walk rather far just to get to the main gate. And inside, you still have to keep walking just to get to the main structures. Along the way, there are a few other buildings. I stopped to take a few photos and met a monkey. I was told to not approach them, so I left it alone.
|Try not to lose your... head there... [maniacal laughing]|