Monday, December 7, 2009

3 Siem Reap, Cambodia

There are few things not involving sports for which Patrick is willing to get out of bed at 4AM, but sunrise at Angkor Wat turns out to be one of them. It was with bleary eyes that we met our tuk tuk driver for the day to drive us to the famed ancient temple. We zipped through the chilly streets of Siem Reap and were dropped off to follow a parade of stumbling pilgrims with flashlights through the front gates. It was a fabulous first glimpse of the temple complex. Angkor Wat's silhouette slowly emerged, the sky filled with pinks, and we got to walk the halls still cast in silence and shadows. We continued to explore as both sun and tourists filled the grounds.
Our tuk tuk driver took us on to Angkor Thom next, a huge walled complex containing more ruins and temples. Hundreds of huge faces chiseled into the stone marked Bayon, and the nearby Terrace of Elephants was animated with animal carvings large and small. At Ta Keo we climbed insanely steep, narrow steps to the top of the temple and at Ta Phrom we saw crumbling structures being glued together by the overgrown roots of trees and vines. Over our two days in Siem Reap we explored dozens of other temples scattered throughout town--we enjoyed the peace and quiet of these smaller ones, where we could sit alone and take it all in.

Siem Reap was surprisingly pleasant for a town with such a huge attraction driving the economy. There were cute restaurants, local food stands, and of course a large market to pick up whatever souvenirs a tourist could desire. One of our favorite indulgences in town was smoothies made from fresh fruit, a delicious treat we never expected to be a Cambodian specialty. Our sampling of local delicacies also involved snacking on crickets but stopped short when it came to formidably sized tarantulas and cow tongues perched fully elongated for sale. There was something a little unapetizing about eating something that could lick you back.

View more pictures from Siem Reap here.


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