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Fishy Feet and Tiring Temples

After our never ending boat journey from Battambang, we arrived at Siem Reap docks. This is about 10km out of town so we had to get a tuk-tuk to the centre. There were about a dozen tuk-tuk drivers all offering to take us for $1, which isn’t bad value, but the trade-off is that they then want you to hire them to spend the next day touring the temples at Angkor Wat – the main (possibly only) reason for visiting the town in the first place. We had no intention of agreeing to this, but somehow got guilt-tripped into to it by our driver – he seemed friendly and spoke good English, so we didn’t mind too much and agreed a price for the day and a pickup time.

In the middle of Siem Reap are a couple of nice little streets with plenty of good Khmer and Western restaurants, so we had a quick dinner there and then both had a fish massage. I think it’s almost compulsory for anyone who’s been to Thailand, and it seems to have made it to Siem Reap. You basically put you feet in a fish tank, and dozens of tiny little fish nibble off the dead skin and other attached mank! It tickles a bit at first but feels quite nice after a while. We weren’t convinced by the result, but we did get a free beer so not too many complaints!

We planned to spend the next 3 days exploring the temples of Angkor, built between the 11th and 13th centuries and the national symbol of Cambodia – found on the flag and also the name of the national brew! The first day was to be spent exploring some of the more remote temples with our driver from the previous day. However, at the agreed time he was nowhere to be seen, and we were greeting instead by ‘his friend’, who couldn’t speak a word of English, except “he can’t make it, you go with me instead”, so we felt a bit conned! We had a good day though, exploring some of the earliest temples, some of which were little more than ruins, but still with some impressive detail and on a huge scale.

That evening we hit the busy streets of Siem Reap.  Gem was thrilled to discover that wine wasn’t too expensive and managed to get through 4 small glasses of chilled white.  Makes a nice change from beer!  There are lots of little shops and a market in town so we had a look round but, feeling a bit knackered after such a long day, had a relatively early night.

The next day we hired bikes to make our own way around the Angkor site.  The previous day we’d done “The Grand Tour” of the temples, which starts out of town and works back to some of the older temples around Angkor.  As we were on bikes we thought it’d probably be sensible to undertake “The Little Tour” which is a similar number of temples but far less spread out.  We hired our bikes without any problems, the only issue was the size.  Dan couldn’t really get one big enough so ended up on a too-small bike, spending much of the day hunched over!

To get to the temples from Siem Reap you have to ride about 8km along a semi-decent road.  We arrived at the first temple, Prasat Kravan, which is probably about 10km out of town and discovered that the key for the padlock we’d been given to lock the bikes together had fallen out of the padlock at some point along the route.  Dan had been given the padlock at the bike rental shop and for some unknown reason left the key hanging out of his broken basket.  The road was bumpy so it could have fallen out at any point in the journey!  Cue small row at a sacred temple.  Gem started walking back in despair but, very fortunately, spotted the key about 200m back down the road.  Much relief!  Our spirits lifted, we spent the rest of the day cycling from temple to temple.  A particular highlight was Srah Srang, which overlooks a beautiful lake and was a peaceful spot to cool down after cycling in the heat.

That evening was spent doing not much at all, and the following day we were up at 4.30am to get to Angkor Wat for sunrise.  We arrived when it was still dark, and had foolishly forgotten to bring our torches.  Luckily, lots of other people had had the same idea so we followed them and found ourselves beside one of the ponds waiting for a spectacular sunrise.  Unfortunately, it was a bit hazey so spectacular isn’t really the word, but Ankgor Wat itself is pretty breath-taking so we weren’t too disappointed!  We also visited Angkor Thom and the Elephant Terrace before calling it a day at around 12!

We hit the town that night, visiting a few bars in Siem Reap and even dancing on some tables!  The next day we explored Siem Reap town and packed up ready to begin our long journey toward Laos.

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