Dudes. I don’t even know where to begin to write a post about Angkor Wat. My intention is to be brief and to share a couple of photos. I’d also like to give a shout out to the folks whose services we used while we were there, because people in Cambodia are on the grind and they need all the help and support they can get.
(For example, I just read that book of Cambodian short stories, and the two young women authors featured there were aspiring to be part-time writers in the future. None of this “give up everything to pursue your passion” bullshit. They are trying to work and make money and have time to write because there is nothing romantic about starving.)
We stayed at the Okay 1 Villa in Siem Reap. It was a short ride from the Pub Street/Night Market area. The drivers out front will take you there for $2 in a tuktuk/remorque, but you could walk. (But why not share your $2 with somebody who is trying to work for it?)
The first day we went to visit Angkor Wat, we went with a guide, Mr. Sokkung of Cambodia Trail. He was our driver when we arranged for a taxi from the airport to the hotel, so we sorted things out with him just the day before. For five of us in a van, we paid US$60. I thought that was fair: it was $12 a person and Mr. Sokkung knew EVERYTHING about the temples.
That first day, we only went to Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Then it started raining buckets for like ninety minutes. Mr. Sokkung took us to a restaurant just near Angkor Wat. Soaked through, we had a very nice lunch, but then we all just wanted to go home and get into some dry clothes.
The next day, we just arranged to have the hotel drivers take us to the temples in tuktuks. I really would have preferred to continue with Mr. Sokkung because the man is a living encyclopedia of knowledge about the temples, but the rest of the group preferred a budget arrangement and running around taking pictures like they had a deadline with National Geographic.
I’m not bitter, but the tuktuk drivers weren’t guides.
Driver: This temple is very old. Old than Ta Prohm.
Me: Is it the oldest temple?
Driver: Yes, oldest than Ta Prohm.
I missed you that day, Mr. Sokkung.
Anyway, the drivers were very lovely and we had a nice day. And one tuktuk only cost US$18 a day, but for J and I that still turned out to be US$9 a day, so for $3 extra, we could have had an expert to answer questions…
Just think about it, that’s all.
(Also we tipped the drivers and gave them cold Fantas. I am pointing that because we didn’t all agree about the importance of tipping. I think that if you got it, give it away. Also karma is a bitch with a long memory who won’t forget when you were stingy with people in service and hospitality.)
We went the last week of June, which is the off-season. As I mentioned, we ran into a rain shower that first day, but it was after lunch and we’d already been up for a few hours and explored Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat pretty thoroughly before it started to rain. The other days, it didn’t rain.
Also, the second day, we opted for a tour of some the less-famous temples, and we had these magical moments, individually or as a group, where there were no other people in sight and it was actually silent. I imagine that with a place as special and famous as Angkor Wat, it must be very difficult to have that kind of experience where you can be totally focused on the awesome scale and beauty of these ancient places without having to watch other people take selfies.
The third day, J went to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat without me because I got a nasty, nasty sickness. I guess it was probably bad food or something dirty I ate: I was over it in about 24 hours. But I haven’t been so violently ill in a good long time. Bummer to lose time over the holidays. Silver lining: tonic water made me stop feeling nauseous like immediately, so I’ll know that for next time.
Here are some photos, but nothing that does it justice, I’m afraid. I really liked the apsaras. (Mr. Sokkung said they were like angels.)
There were not loads of monkeys like you might imagine, but on the way to Ta Prohm the first day, we did see a woman selling sugar cane to give to the monkey family that was hanging out around her.