6:30 am rise this time for the bus to Sien Reap.
Arrived at Sien Reap to the Cambodian papparazzi. Hoards of people with posters for their guest houses, shouting to get our attention to take their tuk tuk or taxi, stay at their guest houses, etc.
We opted for the easiest and most obvious decision. Swam through the crowd for The Happy Guest House sign. Yes, the sister of the one we just left that morning. Arrived a few minutes later to the smaller, quieter version, which was fine.
Organized for 2 motorbikes to take us on a sunrise tour of the wats the next morning. Yes, that meant a 5am rise. We were ready to go for 5:30, only the drivers weren't. L found them sleeping under a mosquito net in front of one of the rooms and had to wake them up. No problem. They threw on their shirts and we were off.
We had no clue what to expect from Angkor Wat - only hearsay from people we've met who had been there. It is an awesome spectcle indeed. We did get there for sunrise, along with thousands of other tourists who were also crazy -- but unfortunately it was nothing special. We then walked toward the massive stone temple, built hundreds of years ago in 3 layers -- all by hand. The structure itself is amazing - but what was more impressive was the detailed hand carvings that went into every nook and cranny of the place.
L decided to climb the steepest steps to the top of one of the towers (it was more like scaling a wall...) and I, of course follwed, with nothing to hold onto. Scary but we made it. The views from the top were stunning and the overview of Angkor Wat more breathtaking. We basically jusdt sat in awe womdering how in the world this place came to be. Most of it built from huge stones stacked with no cement! I guess you could compare it to the pyramids but we've never been to Egypt (yet...)
Spent a good hour there and then moved onto the other wats. The most impressive by far was Angkor Tom, where they had a temple called Bayon. Hundreds of pillars carved with huge faces - most assuming are of Buddha. Again impressive if not overwhelming -- and here you could also see where they are trying to restore the place to keep it standing. Imagine how long that will take. It took 3 years to restore only one of the pillars!
Grabbed some lunch and then went to another 8 temples, none better than the first 2 we saw.
We decided that 6 hours was plenty of time, we had seen enough. They all start to look the same after awhile. Though some people come here and spend weeks to see everything, we didn't see the need to stay. Box ticked, time to move on.
One of the evenings we went to a free concert given by a Swiss doctor/ cellist who moved to Cambodia to start up children's hopitals. (He performs twice a week to raise money for his hospitals and to raise awareness of the situation in Cambodia). He was ejected in the 70s thanks to Pol Pot but returned at the Kings request in the early 90s to start up operations again. Since then he has helped control the dengue fever epidemic here, tuberculosis, HIV and other diseases children so easily pick up. His cello performance was mixed with his descriptions of the desperate situation they are in to keep the hospitals up and running. He runs 3 centers in the country with anything up to 2,000 outpatients and 250 inpatients per day - all medical care at these centers is free to all patients, thus why they are so busy. Believe it or not the government wants to close the centers because they are "too modern" for Cambodian standards. He and his team are fighting to keep them open with donations. A very moving story. If you'd like to read more or make a donation, goto www.beat-richner.ch/