We left Koh Samui feeling a little tired, a little worn down, but generally really excited for our last stop. After a slightly longer flight than our others, we arrived in Siem Reap, the small town located outside of the temple city of Angkor Wat.
We stayed at the newly opened Park Hyatt Hotel, which was really swanky, for free with points from our credit card. Woot woot.
For every hotel, R emailed in advance to ask some random question and casually mention that we were on our honeymoon. Every hotel gave us some upgrade, mostly in the form of flower petals on the bed (I don't get it), but the Park Hyatt won the award with a bottle of champagne, chocolates, and sweet potato chips. Hello free dinner! After our fabulous meal, we went to sleep early knowing that the next day would be a long one.
The next morning, we hopped in a tuk-tuk (took-took) around 4:30am to get to Angkor Wat for sunrise. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't often wake up in the pre-5 am hours, but this was totally worth it. In the darkness, we slowly shuffled in with the hundreds of other tourists from all over the world to watch together as the sun slowly rose, lighting up the massive temple ahead of us. It was amazing.
sunrise over Angkor Wat
Then, thankfully, all the other tourists went back to town for breakfast (and a nap, I bet), which left us to explore the massive temple by ourselves, until we were attacked my small monkeys and decided to move on.
Angkor Wat is the most famous temple in this area, but in fact there are dozens of them. We hopped back in our tuk-tuk, which provided a nice breeze for us on this already hot at 9am day. We drove into the temple city of Angkor Thom- which includes a few really interesting temples. My favorite was the freaky temple of Prasat Bayon, which is covered in images of the face of King Jayavarman VII, who built it.
Bayon in Angkor Thom
After Angkor Thom, we were melting. It was the hottest day yet for our trip- in the upper 90s with thick humidity. After lots of walking around, our feet were hurting. We trudged on in order to see some of the other small temples in the area. Unlike Angkor Wat and Thom, the other small temples weren't maintained, and were slowly reclaimed by the jungle. Now the trees are completely intertwined in the temples, and can't be removed without destroying them. Many of these are various stages of preservation.
The yellow dots mark some of the many other temples in the area.
Cruisin' in our tuk-tuk, enjoying the breeze
Some of these temples were used for the filming of "Tombraider", which we were reminded of many times (Cambodia reallllly likes Angelina). We rewatched the movie when we got home to find the scenes. While cool, they're pretty quick. There's a part where the bad guys are pulling down a door to the temple. They used a fake thing to pull down, but the door was real and part of the wall into Angkor Thom. Then there's a scene where she chases a little girl to some flowers, and falls through the ground. The flower part was real and filmed at Ta Prohm. The falling through the ground and sculptures coming to life and fighting her part, I think may have been fake.
Again, with the help of our fantastic tuk-tuk driver, we swung by Ta Som next, known for it picturesque tree.
The temple of Neak Pean was cool because it was once a complex fountain system, that projected holy water out into the various pools. Our travel book noted that it would for sure be the model for the swimming pool if there's ever an Angkor Wat themed hotel in Vegas. I was impressed by the idea that they had advanced irrigation like this in the 1100-1200s.
Then, we made our final stop at Preah Khan, one of the larger temples. This one was cool because it was built to be a Buddhist temple, but the official religion switched between Buddhism and Hinduism a few times over its lifetime. Instead of knocking it down, the monarchy simply edited the temple- scratching out all the Buddha images.
At this point we had been on foot for close to 12 hours and were seriously fading. Despite the fact that there were more temples to see, we decided to give in and head back to our air-conditioned hotel. After a short nap, we set out for dinner at the Sugar Palm. We tried the local Cambodian dish of "Amuk", which is a lot like a Thai red curry, but with the texture of a soufflé. I think it was good. I couldn't tell because I was so exhausted.
For our next day, we decided to take it easy. We had a relaxed breakfast, and then hopped in a tuk-tuk to visit the Artisans of Angkor, a local artisan school and market. It was a nice change from the piles and piles of mass-manufactured trinkets that we found everywhere else. We bought a few cool things and then hopped another tuk-tuk back to the hotel.
At this point, R realized he didn't have his cell phone. After the lantern disaster in Part 3, he had been relying exclusively on his phone to take pictures. I had our bigger SLR camera, but wasn't taking it everywhere because of its size. The phone had over 600 photos that would be lost forever. We panicked, and decided to go back to the market. Of course we didn't find it, and decided to try to find our tuk-tuk, which was extremely unlikely. We found the tuk-tuk, and miraculously, found the phone, wedged in between the seat and the side. The phone and all of its pictures were saved. Unbelievable luck, after a series of very unlikely camera experiences.
Feeling pretty awesome, we went back to the hotel, crammed our new souvenirs in our over-stuffed suitcases, and headed back to the hotel for our final planes of the trip. We flew back to Bangkok, and then to Doha. We stayed the night in Doha before catching a 14 hour flight back home. When we finally arrived home, after over 24 hours of travel, we were exhausted, but very happy. It was an amazing trip.