After Ao Nang I head to Krabi Town for just a night. I check into my hostel and grab some dinner. I call it an early night because I have an early flight to Cambodia the next morning.
On the plane to Siem Reap, I strike up a conversation with a girl named Roosa, from Finland. It turns out we are heading to the same part of town so after getting our visas we split a tuk tuk towards our hostels. We get to her guesthouse and I walk the remaining mile or so to my hostel - The Mad Monkey. Later I meet back up with her around Pub Street to get some dinner. I have my first taste of Khmer food - Lok Lak. It’s good, real good. Later at my hostel I grab a drink at the rooftop bar and meet a guy from Germany named Yaron.
The next day I take it easy, I’m still sore as shit from my climb to the lagoon in Railay. I plan on starting my exploration of Angkor Wat the following day. That evening, Yaron and I want to hit up the night market. I invite Roosa and she brings along another girl from her guesthouse, Alexis. The four of us explore the night market briefly. We try a very overcooked snake. I’m quite disappointed. It's rock-hard and bland. Later we grab a few drinks on Pub Street. I’m in the process of texting back and forth with Saressa, a girl from my hostel, who is trying to get a group of people together for Angkor Wat tomorrow. The more people we have to split the tuk tuk cost, the better. Yaron and Roosa did the tour earlier that day, so they’re out. But Alexis just got into town, so she’s in.
The next morning, Saressa, Alexis and I get up insanely early and grab our ride to Angkor Wat for the sunrise. Man. So early and so many people. It’s crazy. Angkor Wat is beautiful though. We all buy three day passes knowing that the complex is huge and there is a ton of stuff to explore. We do the long circuit, which includes seven temples in all. It’s a long day.
Afterwards, I catch up with Yaron for a drink before he heads out of town. We make tentative plans to get up in Vietnam if I make it out there. Later that evening, I have dinner with the girls and we plan our temple visit for the next day.
The plan is to rent bicycles and head back to the complex. It’s Saressa, Alexis, Roosa and myself. Just before we leave though, Roosa has her wallet stolen and decides not to join us. Instead she heads to the tourist police station to file a report. Unfortunately they are of little help and won’t give her the report immediately, saying it will take a few days, if she gets it at all...
So it’s just the three of us. This time we visit Baphoun, the elephant terrace, and the terrace of the Leper King among some other smaller sites. We also hit the sunset temple on the way out, but it’s insanely crowded so we don’t climb up to the temple to get the better view. We resign ourselves to just enjoying the fading day from the mountain side.
The next day we all decide to take a day off. I check out of The Mad Monkey. Knowing now how much of a party hostel it is and deciding I’m too old for it, I move into the guesthouse that Alexis and Roosa are staying at. It is much more low key. I get some writing and photo editing done. I also start reading “First They killed My Father”, an account of a woman who was just 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975. I know quite a bit about this period in the country’s history, but want to educate myself more before visiting the killing fields in Phnom Penh.
Sunday, Saressa takes off for a horse riding tour, so Alexis and I rent bikes once again and head back to Angkor Wat. This time we hit some temples farther out and then explore some small ones near Baphoun - ones that no one seems to go to. We are the only ones there. There are ancient and magnificent and, best of all, not crowded.
Monday, we both buy a ticket for a fourth day and hire our original tuk tuk driver, Vorn, from the first day tour, to take us the 30km out to Banteay Srei, also known as the pink temple. This temple is amazing. The detail in the carvings is exquisite. Probably one of the cooler temples around.
Before the temple, however, we visit the land mine museum, which was set up by a Cambodian man who, as a child, served in the Khmer Rouge planting land mines. In 1989, he defected and committed the rest of his life to ridding the country of its millions of land mines. There are many stories there of children who were killed or maimed by these hidden and deadly traps while playing with friends. It’s a constant recurring reminder of the country’s horrible past. Just a taste of what I will see when I visit the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (also known as S21) in Phnom Penh.
Tuesday, I’m on a bus to Battambang.