We received a call from Bernard late the night before to say he wasn’t going to get a mechanic to look at the bike and instead was going to send up a new one to swap over. For what ever reason this wouldn’t arrive until the morning of day 3. As such we had a full day we couldn’t ride the bikes. If you’re only interested in the ride skip on to Cambodia Motorbike Ride Report Day 3. Otherwise read on.
Thankfully if you’re going to get stuck for a day anywhere in Cambodia, Siem Reap is probably the place to do it. We had organised a tour of the temples the night before through the hotel. For US$12 combined we hired a tuk-tuk and driver to pick us up at 4:30am and take us out there and spend the morning shuttling us from temple to temple before dropping us back to the hotel around 2pm.
We were told to put up with the extra early start so as to get a good spot and they didn’t disappoint there. We were first at the ticket booths when they opened the counters and one of the first out to the temple grounds. Prime viewing is from across the lake with the sun rising from behind the temple. It was still pitch black so we made our way by torch light and I took up prime position on the waters edge with my tripod and we settled in for the wait.
By the time the sun started to rise there would have been 600-800 people there all trying to get a photo. At most points along the waters edge it would have been 10 people deep. While something I’m pleased I got to see the experience is really diminished by how touristy the event has got. It was clear by the time the sun had risen over the horizon (not yet over the temple itself) that the days sunrise wasn’t going to be a spectacular one so we packed up early and made our way to the temple before the crowds. As you can see from the photo below the majority of people are still trying to get their happy snaps from across the pond.
We certainly picked the right time to leave. It was already getting hot but with so many people still waiting for the sunrise photo we got to experience the temple with only a handful of other people in there.
By the time we made it to the middle the tourists were starting to pour in and we headed for the exit at the rear. The arrival of the tourists also heralded the arrival of the monkeys. They were streaming across the rear lawns into the temples keen to see what they could acquire from unsuspecting tourists. Anything you didn’t have a solid grip on was fair game.
We finished our walk around Angkor Wat and made our way back to our prearranged meeting point with our driver. Next stop was breakfast.
After a very western breakfast of sausage, eggs and bread rolls we were back into our Tuk Tuk and bound for Angkor Thom. Personally I thought it was even more impressive than Angkor Wat. While still undergoing a lot of restoration works the intricacy of the carvings and hallways, especially at Bayon were a significant step up from the more famous Angkor Wat.
Unfortunately it was well over 30 degrees by now and the crowds were out in full force. Trying to get a photo of anything without the shot being full of Asian tour groups was a difficult task. There’s nothing more annoying that finding a beautiful shot only to have to wait half an hour while a busload of other tourists take in turns one at a time to get 6 different poses each captured on their iPhone or iPad. The “temple pose” where you stand there with your arms over your head in the shape of a temple became a pet peeve of mine.
As you can see I was forced to take one very touristy shot for Jarrod.
After fighting our way out of the crowds at Bayon we walked across to Phimeanakas.
By the time we got back to our tuk tuk having wandered through most of Angkor Thom we had just about had enough. We were all dripping with sweat and over the crowds. Jarrod had really wanted to see the “tombraider temple” (possibly because he was expecting to run into Angelina Jolie) so we instructed our driver to skip the rest of the tour and head to Ta Prohm.
Anyone who’s seen the Thomb Raider movies will appreciate the shots below. Unfortunately we couldn’t find Lara Croft anywhere.
The restoration works at Ta Prohm were truly impressive. At most of the entrances there were large billboards showing before and after shots of most of the structures. Wars, thieves and the destructive forces of nature taking over had left much of the place as little more than big piles of stones. Each stone had been painstakingly gathered, catalogued and piece by piece rebuilt into what you see today. The work is ongoing with a few sections still closed due to construction works but the work they’re doing will ensure this incredible piece of history lasts for generations to come.
Having made at least half of Jarrod’s dream come true we grabbed a few cold Angkor Draught cans for the ride back into Siem Reap. Tired from the very early start I spent the afternoon napping and hanging by the pool while the boys went for a wander around town. I also got a call from Bernard to ask if I could help out one of his customers who had lost his wallet in Siem Reap by lending him some money to get home. This was the major floor with leaving your Passport as security for the bikes. If you did lose your wallet and your cards you had no way of withdrawing money from a bank.
For dinner we wandered down to the famous Pub Street area. Siem Reap has quite a nightlife with a huge selection of restaurants, bars and clubs all packed into a couple of blocks near the markets. While the food and drinks can be a little pricey later on, getting down there in time for Happy Hour made things far more reasonable. Although a place you could settle in for a very big night we only checked out a couple of different bars before calling it a night as it had been a long day and we had to be back on the bikes in the morning.
The plan for the next day was to head up to the Prasat Preah Vihear Temple on the border of Thailand. There’s ongoing conflict over who owns the land its on and we had been warned by the hotel staff that it had been closed the week before due to an escalation in tensions. No one was sure whether or not it had been opened back up. Thankfully Justin, the guy I’d lent some money to earlier, had gone that way on his way back to Phnom Penh and called late in the evening to confirm it was back open to the public. All we needed now was for Shaun’s bike to turn up early in the morning as planned and we’d be on our way.