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Clare’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 14 Jun 2008

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

MapOur stay in Cambodia hasn't been that long but we've both really enjoyed it. We completed our circuit of the Angkor ruins earlier today and tomorrow we ship out on the bus back to wonderful Bangkok where we intend to bask in its western trappings before heading south to the Islands and some beach time.

We broke our journey up here from Phnom Penh by stopping at Kompong Thom which is famous for its Pre-Angor ruin cluster of Sambor Prei Kuk. We had to get Motorbike taxi's out to the ruin site and the journey was a gorgeous chug along unpaved roads for about an hour through villages of stilt houses and paddy fields being hand ploughed with Buffalos. The ruins themselves were a little disappointing as they are pretty degraded and sparse, but we passed an hour or two wandering around the jungle stumbling upon huge, industrious ant colonies busy munching through millipedes and forming unbelievably long lines of supply. We investigated all the ruin sites and found some now incorporated into tree root systems and some with what would once have been intricate carvings and Bas-reliefs but the intervening 1,500yrs have worn them down to bumps and grooves in the rock. The best thing was that we had the place to ourselves and we made the most of it. In the evening, the wet season lived up to its name and we ended up wading down the road calf deep in water to a restaurant for dinner after hunger forced us out into the storm. Next day we continued onto Siem Reap for the main event - Angkor.

Sadly our journey there was marred by the idiot bus driver dropping us at the very edge of the city limits forcing us to get a tuktuk into town and thus costing us more money. Obviously the sum isn't big but I've lost my bank card and the bank in Kompong Thom would not accept my sterling traveller's cheques (only dollars) so without Amy there I would have had to walk the 5km into town due to my being out of cash. Anyway, Siem Reap is a great little town and we were soon ensconced at a guest house and sat on 'Bar St' for an Angkor Beer. Another apocalyptic downpour and great Khmer dinner later and we had forgotten the earlier trouble.

Next day our Angkor Odyssey began, we started at a respectable hour and covered the biggies - Angkor Thom and the temples made famous by their appearance in the Tomb Raider movie. Annoyingly the clouds had not moved off after the previous evening's rain and it was overcast all day. Afternoon saw another storm roll in and maroon us in Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple) for about 2 hours, but we slogged on for an hour or two before calling it a day after yet another torrent on the way to Angkor Wat.

The following morning we were up with the lark for an Angkor Wat sunrise. By this point I had accepted that my pictures aren't going to be great owing to the total cloud cover, but Angkor Wat was brilliant. Massive, imposing, artistically brilliant and big enough to lose the crowds in. After that we really started getting into the swing of it and 10 hours later pulled up back at the guest house in our tuktuk feeling tired but fired up after a great day picking through the ruins and feeling very Lara Croft. Angkor reached its height in the 11th Century (when Angkor Wat was built) but some of the ruins date back from the 8th Century onwards and are simply huge - contemporary structures in the UK would be Exeter Cathedral and Caenarfon Castle but Angkor was a city of over 2 million at that time with man made lakes which are a few miles across, built simply for decoration. The whole site is massive, probably 100km square and the ruins span 600 years of development. The quality, workmanship and scale of the carvings and Bas-reliefs is really amazing and the jungle setting is magical. In some places the restorers have left what nature and the jungle has done to add to the atmosphere of just having stumbled across the ruin and although it is a very well trodden track which sees thousands of visitors a day, its so big that at times we were the only ones in a particular ruin. I hope that the pictures I intend to upload can start to do it justice.

Today was our final day and we just did some of the earlier period, out-lying temples and were back in town for lunch, though there was time for Amy to dress in her best Lara Croft imitation outfit and pose on the top of an appropriate ruin - keep an eye out for the new profile pic on Facebook! The weather was gorgeous this morning but another massive storm rolled in at 1pm and trapped us in the restaurant for about 2 hours! It seems the monsoon is here in Cambodia, though apparently as we go south it maybe less heavy. As it is we are both happy to be heading back to Bangkok and planning the next stage of the journey down through Southern Thailand and Malaysia. Oh its a tough life trying to decide which beach to go to!