Angkor WHAT?! Now that’s over with, we headed out to Angkor for a full day of temple sight seeing. Including the great, the massive, the world renowned Angkor Wat. For those of you who don’t know, Angkor means city and Wat means temple- it is the largest religious temple in the world.. AND WE GOT TO SEE IT!
We took two vans and went to get our three day passes for basically the “temple grounds” we’ll call it. We had a hilarious guide names Johnny who was a wealth of knowledge and spoke great English. Due to us being at temples all day, we had to wear temple clothes all day which means shoulders and knees must be covered. It was 44 degrees Celsius with the humidex today, just FYI.
The first temple we went to was the Bayon temple, I can’t even describe to you how absolutely surreal it is seeing this massive temple surrounded by jungle. Hearing about the techniques they used to carve the rock, make it smooth, build the temple up like Lego pieces.. A lot of the temples are in the process of being restored, however, so what they do is number all of the pieces and essentially build them like Lego pieces on the computer, then come back and put them all together.
There are nearly 300 temples in Angkor which is maybe ten minutes outside of Siem Reap and they’re all within 1,000 square kilometres. So we took our mini bus to the next temple, Ta Prohm, which is also known as the Tomb Raider temple due to Angelina Jolie’s Hollywood hit. This one is also really special because it has massive trees and nature growing through it, inside of it, all around it and there’s nothing they can do because if they try and remove it the temple will come crumbling down. I would say this one is a lot smaller than the Bayon, but maybe that’s just because a lot of places are blocked off due to construction.
After this temple was lunch! Yay! Since we were all melting from the heat, we got to go to an air conditioned restaurant (praise Buddha). But to get there, you have to walk through a bunch of vendors who wait for you outside of the temple to attack you with their goods. “Lady you want water? Lady you need pants? Lady lady lady!!” You really practice your tunnel vision here.
I got chicken fried rice and sat right in front of the A/C for as long as I could before we headed to the immaculate Angkor Wat.
We came from the back side so there were hardly any tourists and you could just soak it all in. A few facts:
- It took 37 years to build starting in 1113 as a Hindu capital
- It took 400,000 workers
- It took 40,000 elephants to bring the rock they used from a waterfall several kilometres away
- It took 700 bamboo rafts to carry the rock when it was rainy season and the elephants couldn’t be used because it was too slippery
- It was rediscovered in 1860 by Henri Mahout
- It gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple
The first level was for the commoners, the second level was for the royal family and the third and highest level was for the monks and high priests. So we climbed a lot of stairs, but you definitely felt like something special being up there and looking out on vast forest. It was incredible, I could’ve stayed there for hours. Also, all of the Buddha heads have been scraped off or sliced off the bodies to be sold because the head is lighter than the full body.
Angkor Wat was, however, used as a base during the Khmer Rouge and has sustained quite a few bullet holes. Again, there is restoration in progress and it’s still a massively stunning monument. It looks like an old abandoned castle, which essentially it was. Just covered in jungle until someone came to find it… Incredible. We’re going to see it again at sunrise the day we leave!
So after dragging our jaws around all day and drinking three litres of water, Katie and I napped pretty hard when we got home… At least I did!
Eric and Shayla organized a surprise for us at 8:30 so we met in the lobby where we’d be told we were going to a…… LADY BOY SHOW! I mean we are in Southeast Asia after all, how can you not.
It was an amateur, “free lady boy show” that goes on daily in the night market. Even better though, we got massages while we watched the show. It was absolutely wild and a hilarious experience. Although my legs are bruised from the massage so.. Not cool.
Then we headed to pub street to dance our butts off, but first we headed to a roof top restaurant for a few drinks- FYI their local beer is 50cents. The streets of Cambodia, however, are lined with vendors and tuktuk drivers and children being pimped out to beg for money so it can be very overwhelming. It is strongly discouraged to give money to the children because it’s obviously not going to them and just keeping them on the streets and out of school or away from their family. There is one, tiny exception though and that’s Linda.
Free & Easy works closely with a group called ChildSafe that helps to give money, education, donation directly to the children. One of the FNEZ leaders stumbled upon Linda, though, who is not a member of ChildSafe (but has been approved by them and is not part of some elaborate scheme) but sells bracelets on Pub Street to earn money to put herself through international schooling. Our leaders have been mentioning her this whole trip and tonight we got to meet her!
Okay. We were fully not prepared for this sassy, THIRTEEN YEAR OLD who hustles like nobody’s business and is wiser and more mature than probably 90% of the people I know. An Australian woman taught her English, so she has this adorable accent and she is FULL of life. She dances on the street too to help sell her bracelets and she just gets the party started. She came to the rooftop to meet our group and hustled Pat into a game of rock, paper, scissors- if she won he’d buy the girls a round of bracelets. Well, she won, and now I have a beautiful bracelet from Linda.
We danced with her all night and sweat out our lives in the street before I was ready to pass out. Julia and I headed back, but stopped at a mini mart before because- I don’t know if it’s a sensation at home yet- but Magnum came out with a white chocolate, almond ice cream bar so we got those. Died. Went to heaven. Then went to bed.
Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!! Xo
Ps sorry about the lack of pics, I took my camera, not my phone! I’ll creep my group to see if anyone has any and update when I can!