Since our time clocks were completely upside down, it seemed like a good idea to head to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. Bhutan picked us up at the hotel at 4:45 am in order to secure the perfect vantage point to watch the sun come up over the iconic lotus towers of Angkor Wat. This complex was completed in AD 1113, over the course of 30 years. By some measures it is the largest religious complex in the world. The tourism in Siem Reap is mostly driven by people who need to experience Angkor Wat, and rightly so.
We drove into the complex in complete darkness, but we were not alone. We followed the lights of our iPhones and found ourself in what Bhutan explained was the perfect spot. Now all we had to do was wait. We were early to arrive, and over the next hour, hundreds more descended to get that ideal vantage. I do think our spot was best, but we had to protect our territory!
As the sun slow began to rise (I believe sunrise that morning was 6 am) an incredible vision began to present itself.
This was our view at about 5:40 am
Once the sun really started to rise, the progress was quick!
The crowds were silent
Though once the sun was up, we were able to look around and get a sense of who else was enjoying this spectacle.
We reluctantly pulled ourselves away from our spot and took a walk around the very extensive complex. What we have learned is that the details are endless, and so impressive. It is hard to wrap your head around the magnitude of this creation.
The early morning sunshine made for a glorious backdrop.
This complex is massive, and the scale enormous.
This elephant seems to be the one that brings you good luck when you rub it.
Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple, but in the 16th century it was converted to a Buddhist monument, which it remains today.
At about 8:30, once more crowds started arriving, we loaded back in to the van to enjoy a late breakfast back at the hotel. We sat down for large mugs of much needed coffee (Cambodian coffee is quite fabulous) and had some sustenance. The Shinta Mani Angkor‘s breakfast was quite nice.
Sticking with the Christmas theme…
Smoked salmon, but no bagels.
lots of yummy local fruits- the mango especially is super sweet.
We decided to relax by the pool for a while and recharge our batteries. We were getting picked up again at 2pm for a foray into the countryside.
After some swimming (the heat and humidity was very intense), we got dressed and explored a bit around our hotel. We had learned of a very cool area nearby, specifically an amazing coffee shop owned by an Australian, so we ventured out to give it a try. The large amounts of tourists has had one negative side effect. The streets and roadsides in Cambodia are littered with trash. It is heartbreaking. The Countryside in particular is so buried under trash and plastic bottles that you miss out on the beauty.
The streets are strewn with rubbish. This is the street adjacent to our hotel, and is much cleaner than most.
We found the coffee shop with little trouble. The Little Red Fox Espresso lived up to the hype.
Hit the spot. The shop was in an area called Kandal Village which was filled with small unique shops. It was fun to wander around.
Since several hours had passed since breakfast, everyone determined it was time for lunch. We decided on Charney Tree which was situated outside, and known for their Khmer cuisine. We were sure to be near the fans.
It was Hot. I mean really Hot. We all got a refreshing coconut to rehydrate, and then started on the ice cold beers.
The service was very friendly, but the food was not on par with Malis, where we dined the previous day. One interesting fact about Cambodia is that all establishments take (prefer) to be paid in US dollars. It makes things quite easy.
Crispy Prawns and Calamari
Fish Amok- a traditional Curry dish
We finished up, paid, and raced back to the hotel to meet Bhutan and head into the countryside. Our first stop was at a local Monastery, where we each received a blessing from one of the monks, and left with a small yellow string tied to each of our wrists. The countryside is dotted with monasteries, some simple and some more ornate.
The monk blessed each of us, and tied a marigold colored string around our wrists. It is forbidden for them to touch a woman, so he did mine very carefully.
The Monastery is also home to many water buffalo.
Our next stop was a trip via Ox-Cart, and then boat to reach the Villa Chandara owned by ABOUTAsia. It is in a glorious spot surrounded by rice paddies.
The Oxen themselves were very beautiful, and gentle.
We loaded in, 2 people to a cart, and were taken to the waters edge. We had to cross the Western Baray, a very large man made reservoir. The timing was perfect to coincide with Sunset.
When we docked on the other side, we were met by a gentleman offering us Champagne. This was indeed a nice touch!
We didn’t have to walk much farther before we were approaching The Villa.
I love these Oxen- they are like big dogs
Finally, we had arrived! We were able to be schooled in many aspects of Cambodian life, including a lesson on fishing, Mojito making, and massage. We were served an amazing dinner as nightfall came. There were two other tables of guests enjoying the evening, who were just as happy and relaxed as we were.
The grand finale included what else, but Banana’s Foster!
At this point we were full and tired. We went straight back to the hotel to get some rest before our final day in Siem Reap.