There is nothing that defines Cambodia more than Angkor Wat. Although Angkor Wat is one of the best preserved Khmer temples near the town of Siam Reap, there are more than fifty temple complexes in the immediate area. Being my ever-ambitious self I decided that I needed to see as many temples as possible–no temple was too obscure. Cambodia can be very inexpensive to travel in but the visitor fees to the temple area is comparable to Western attractions. Passes cost $20 (1 day), $40 (3 days) or $60 (7 days).
I woke up my first morning in Siam Reap, rented a bicycle and made my way to Angkor Wat with my 7-day pass. I was determined to conquer any temple I could find. I got off to a slow start, spending my first day at only two temples–Angkor Wat and The Bayon. As I first approached Angkor Wat I saw a number of elaborately dressed Cambodians. It turned out to be a large wedding party taking photos. The bride, groom and bridesmaids had atleast four costume changes. Some were western wedding costumes but the majority were brightly colored traditional clothes made of silk. The temple itself is well preserved and is covered in amazingly detailed relief carvings. I decided to climb to the top story of the structure, up steps that were narrow and steep even for Westerners. Reaching the level of the gods is not supposed to be an easy task. Getting down was another challenge.
After my my first two days of bicycle riding around temples and their grounds I was completely worn out. I woke up on the morning of day 3 nearly unable to move. Forfeiting a day of my pass I spent the day sleeping, getting massaged and hanging out at a wonderfully Western cafe providing free wireless internet access.
After my day of relaxation I was ready to tackle a few of the more out of the way temples. I hired a moto driver to take me to a river two hours outside of town. The journey took us down a mud road full of potholes and broken bridges. My white shirt was covered in red dirt but was not the only casualty of the day. As we were riding I noticed my driver checking the tire every once in a while. After a while we drove by two young men on bicycles and stopped for repairs–apparently we had a flat. The bicycle repairmen pumped air into the tire and we arrived at the riverbed in one piece. I was careful on the path to the river because this attraction was one of the few Angkor-area attractions that hadn?t been cleared of land mines. Because I hadn?t seen one other tourist on the two hour journey I was convinced that I would be the only tourist at the river. There turned out to be More than one German tour group and a good sampling of Koreans. Although the riverbed was covered in carved stone I?m not sure that the arduous journey was worth the effort. On the way back to town we stopped at another far-flung temple known for it?s exemplary relief carvings. At this point I was starting to get a bit weary of the temples but my moto driver and I drove on, stopping at every temple on the way back to town. My driver turned out to be an amateur–he was only trying to supplement his regular teacher?s income on the weekend by taking me around. We ran into each other the rest of the week, he felt bad oversleeping on the morning we were supposed to see the sunrise so he gave me a number of free rides into town. I spent two more days seeing temples, mostly by motorbike. Most foreigners only spend 1-2 days at the temples but I was glad to spend my week in Siam Reap, these kind of ruins can?t be seen anywhere else.
You can see the photos from Siam Reap here.