Everyone has a 'bucket list' and so do I, with one of the things on my extensive list being, a visit to Angkor Wat.
We made a decision that today was the long awaited day for our visit to Angkor Wat.
The previous afternoon we had our tuk tuk driver pick us up at 4.30pm, to drive us out to pick up our 1 day pass for the following day. If you collect your pass by 5pm, then you are able to enjoy the sunset from Phnom Bakheng, which is set up a very steep hill and really worth the journey, just beautiful, as part of the day pass. There were tons of visitors huffing, puffing, struggling and sweating their way to the top, the reward being a lovely, if not subdued sunset viewed whilst standing amongst stunning ruins.
We thought it would be great to phone our first born son, to say hello from Angkor Park, but as he wasn't home, we enjoyed our time there and found ourselves almost the last to leave. The park was shutting and we were still bounding down the hill, arriving back at our tuk tuk very hot and bothered. Home for a beer or two and an early night, ready for the sunrise at Angkor Wat the next morning. Brimming with excitement, how would I ever sleep??
We weren't taking any chances, 2 alarms were set and we struggled out of bed at 4.15am. We had bought some pastries the night before and these were to be our breakfast. Armed with day passes, hat, sunscreen, backpack with life's necessities, food and a 1.5 L bottle of water each, we walk out to our reliable tuk tuk driver who was waiting patiently for us. Off we went in the pitch darkness with a weak headlight on the motorbike and no tail lights at all on the tuk tuk. I pretend not to notice this as we join, what seemed to be hundreds of other tuk tuks and vans, all heading out of side streets and joining in the constant stream that was heading to dawn at Angkor Wat.
Our driver dropped us right at the barricade and gave us instructions on what to do. We couldn't see a thing, but just followed the endless stream of people pouring into the Park.
As we wandered along, we could just see the mystical outline of Angkor Wat and as we were determined to get great photos, we took up our positions, right at the front on the water's edge.
The sky slowly changed and lightened and the colours were amazing as we snapped and snapped as many photos as we could. The reflection of Angkor Wat in the pools of water was stunning and Mr Wombat took the 'photo of the day', with an amazing shot showing the whole complex in hues of blue.
After taking what seemed to be a thousand photos, time for a coffee and a pastry.
This is where it is big business, so many little food, drink, souvenir, artisan stalls and roaming touts, truly gobsmacking. The touts are only allowed there until sunrise, then must move away. We are approached by a boy named Spider Boy, who talks us into buying coffee from him, so we do. He was a great kid, really polite with a good sense of humour. The coffee and our pastries went down a treat and feeling refreshed, we get ready to attack a day of exploring temples in the heat and humidity.
Before we even make it into Angkor Wat, Mr Wombat has been singled out by a guy who is a leather artisan and he is busy perusing some shadow art products. Before Mr Wombat even knows what has happened, he is the proud owner of a piece of shadow art, a beautiful elephant scene, having paid $32 for it. Before long and once he has had time to process it, Mr Wombat realises that he has probably paid way too much, but too late! We have agreed that he will mount and frame it beautifully and it will have pride of place somewhere at home!
Well, there are no words - Angkor Wat and all the temples and ruins we visited, were nothing short of stunning, humbling and at times emotional. We were both moved by what we saw, and mystified at the history, the age, the construction and the very atmosphere surrounding us. An absolute highlight for us will always be, receiving a blessing each from a monk. We had instructed our driver to take us to our chosen temples - Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm, but to also include other temples that were recommended or significant.
Therefore we added - Baksei Chamrong, Prasat Suar Prat and Terrace of the Elephants.
By 1pm we couldn't muster the energy to climb, walk or even stagger up any more stairs or along any more paths. The heat and humidity had taken their toll, we were thrilled to have explored and enjoyed the areas we had visited, so off we went, with the wind blowing in our sweaty, hot faces, ( seriously, why would you want to hire a Lexus with iced water and cool towels when a tuk tuk and wind is so much cheaper?)and headed home.
Thoughts and Tips for Angkor Wat -
Do get up early for the sunrise, it's really worth it.
Wear good and sturdy shoes. Bring a hat with a brim.
Carry water, it's a long way back to the little stalls and it is so hot.
Bring money to use the toilets, they are not free.
Expect to pay twice the price for food.
Buy a coffee from the stalls after sunrise, they work hard for little reward.
Be careful of the touts, not all the goods are priced well.
A tuk tuk is an easy, fun and cheap way to do this trip, the drivers are so knowledgeable.
There are dozens of guides you can hire to give you a tour or research the temples yourself first and do your own trip.
Don't 'over temple' - choose the ones you definitely want to see, and add to them if you feel like it.
Bring spare camera battery.
Enjoy every second, this is the most amazing place!!!!!