We have planned to spend Christmas in Cambodia, visiting the Angkor Wat temple complex around Siem Reap and generally relaxing in the sun. We flew to Siem Reap (the city named “We really kicked some Thai asses”) with Cambodia Angkor Air. At first, it was quite fun, they had a dancing and singing Plane Safety Awareness video but then we were treated to almost an hour of “reality TV” with no sound on. Luckily, the flight was a bit under an hour long, but when I went out of the plane, I had a distinct impression my IQ dropped by at least 10 points.
And then we rode to our hotel by a tuk-tuk, a scooter with an attached trailer for the transport of passengers. Not very safe and not very fast, but convenient – passengers have effective air-cooling and can look around freely. Taxis in Asia usually have overactive and not well maintained air-conditioning, so riding in an auto rickshaw is simply nicer. The hotel was nothing to write home about, but it had WiFi (and, occasionally, you could access the Internet through it, although that was by no means guaranteed – a typical problem of SE Asia, in my experience) and a pool.
On the first day, we went to visit the Angkor Wat temple complex, buying a three day ticket. The tourist industry is evidently a cash cow for Cambodia and is rather well organised. We were directed to a booth selling three-day tickets, where our photos were taken (tickets contain photos of their owners, to prevent second hand sales of tickets and other such shenanigans). The three day ticket can be used during any three days of a seven day period, which is nice, because after some time, walking among various temple ruins can get a bit tiring. I only uploaded a few of the countless photos of ruins, reliefs and such that we’ve taken, to give a general idea of how it felt like. The smaller temples were nice, because there wasn’t a lot of people, but visiting the main Angkor Wat temple I felt like I was caught in a tourist trap.
For the evening, we’ve went to Pub Street, which as the name implies is the street where most of Siem Reap pubs are located. Local fish massage was an interesting experience, definitively not for the ticklish. Local pub with a live band doing covers of various pop songs was also, khm, interesting. Generally, Siem Reap isn’t something to write home about unless you’re into cheap drinks and loud music.
On the second day, we’ve hired a bus and went to the Phnom Kulen mountain and it’s temple and waterfalls. This is a trip that takes an entire day, because it takes about an hour to reach the base of the mountain, and then more than an hour to reach the temple, on a narrow, unpaved and rather steep road. It also wasn’t covered by the Angkor Wat temple complex ticket and we had to buy special tickets the day before. However, the trip itself was interesting, since we had many good views of the Cambodian countryside on the way to the mountain, and riding up the mountain through dense jungle was a great experience. We’ve visited the temple and then went to the river, where we were shown the industrial sanctification devices – stone lingams carved into the river floor. Since Buddhists believed that water flowing around a lingam became sacred, the entire river was sanctified, efficiently ridding the entire area supplied by water flowing down from Phnom Kulen mountain from vampire infestation. 🙂 I also saw quicksand for the first time in my life, and then we went for a swim in the waterfalls.
And then I did something that was not very smart – I drowned my waterproof smartphone. My diving casing for the HD camera worked just fine, because it can be submerged up to 5 meters. However, the casing only allows starting and stopping filming, when the camera is protected against water I couldn’t use it to make still photos, so I’ve decided to take my waterproof Motorola Defy and make some photos from directly under the falling water. The Defy can only be submerged down to 1 meter, and I simply held it in my hand and swam to the waterfall, using crawl instead of breaststroke. Well, the hydrodynamic pressure acting on the phone definitively exceeded 1 atmosphere and water got inside, which I only noticed after swimming up to the falls. After I swum back, took out the battery and left the phone open to dry out I decided to leave it for a few days, to check whether it will start again.
It didn’t. 🙂
Still, at the time I didn’t know that. We still had 2 days of visiting temples, so we visited the Ta Prohm temple, known from the Tomb Rider film, and Banteay Srey, excellently preserved with amazing level of detail on the reliefs, as well as viewing the sunset from a temple, an event that drew crowds of tourists the closer it was to sundown. And in the evenings, instead of relaxing and taking advantage of cheap drinks, I took out my laptop and prayed to His Noodliness that the Internet connection at the hotel would work, because I had a translation I had to finish before the end of the year, and I knew that in Thailand we would be staying at a beach resort where there was no Internet and where even electricity was provided only when the generator was on, so only in the evenings.
It was time to leave Cambodia and fly to Bangkok, then to Phuket and from there go to Koh Phi Phi, Thailand.