Angkor-WHAT ???? (Aug 7th – 10th)

A six hour rice paddy passing bus ride took us from the beaches of Sihnoukville (finally) to Phenom Penh. Immediately on arrival the most aggressive of all peoples encountered so far, surrounded and hassled us to use their services. I thought it was funny, but Ruthless started feeling claustrophobic. She lost her temper, Oh Ruthless we love you! We decided to leave the capital of Cambodia ASAP. We ended up choosing a taxi to take us north to Kompong Chhang. The public transportation system shuts down early since they don’t like driving on their dangerous roads by dark. At about 8 o’clock we made it to a hotel costing 8 bucks, then set out in search for some food!

Finally, we were out in real Cambodia. The people here, especially the children, acted like they had never seen a white person before, and some maybe hadn’t. We try to learn the words ‘Hello’ and ‘Friend’ for every country we visit, and here we were greeted with the same chant of “Su’sidae Pu’ma” like we were strolling down the street in a parade!

We found a small night bizarre and Shane and I had some basic noodles with a sweet and spicy broth. I saw something (worm I think) moving in a piece of the chicken, so I didn’t eat the chunks of meat. Shane hardly ate any. Afterwards, he and Ruthless returned to the hotel while Michelle and I strolled around the dark town. For the longest time we were followed by the cutest little kitten (we named Trip) that we were really close to adopting for the evening. At the last moment, the little cat ditched us, fortunately. What a rambunctious little devil it was! We returned home and went to sleep!

The following day we bused from Kompong Chhang to Siphonia (a 4 hour trip) then hopped in the back of a loaded pickup truck (local style) in the direction of Siem Reap. This was actually an awesome journey. Nuzzling into a comfortable position amongst the cargo, we were able to catch a beautiful sunset while flying through the Cambodian Countryside. The temperature was perfect, probably in the low 70’s F. It was the 4 of us, with 3 Cambodian guys, but everything turned from relaxed beauty to paranoid excitement when we realized the cargo we were hauling was cocaine!

Nothing really amounted of this, for as soon as we discovered its contents, we were being dropped off at a guest house in Siem Reap. It now made sense why we traveled near the speed of light, and why the two Cambodians sitting in the back with us were constantly surveying the landscape. It could have been a sticky situation, but fortunately they thought we were some pretty cool dudes.

At the D&D guesthouse (6$ per room) we cleaned up before grabbing some dinner at the strip. There was a very touristy road not far from our stay where numerous restaurants and clubs were situated. Addictively, at a restaurant we found I had to order more Amok (Cambodia’s style of coconut curry), and it satiated the craving just as desired.

The next day we rented bicycles to peddle to the ancient Angkors (Temples). Near Siem Reap there are more than a dozen awe inspiring temples built back before London was even a city. The bike ride was gorgeous! It took us probably an hour to get to Angkor Wat while passing Lotus Flower swamps and a huge flock of roosting giant fruit bats. Angkor Wat was everything I expected and more. The restrictions on exploring the grounds were lax to say the least. Personally, I liked that, but I’m sure as more and more people visit, they will need to get stricter with regulations. Anyway, we climbed the ruins and took some beautiful pictures. The intricacy of each massive stone, along with their arrangement and pattern was remarkable. The sheer size of the temple was breathtaking, towering over the jungle that once consumed it in mystery. Angkor Wat is actually the largest religiously based structure in the world.

Upon entrance, some photogenic monkeys wee more than happy to threaten us with some big canines. While taking pictures, one even climbed upon my bike and bit a chunk out of my seat. One monkey attempted to steel a bottle of water from Ruthless. Those foolish monkeys!

For the rest of the day we traveled to and from by bicycle between temples. Personally, my favorite Angkor was Ta Prom, which was left in the process of being engulfed by the jungle! Huge trees sent roots snaking all amongst the stone of the ruins. These towering trees were the highlight for me. They were indescribable in size and root structure. Vines and moss also smothered the climbing roots with beautiful shades of green. Angkor was indeed a spiritual place which left me in a meditative mode only comparable to the feeling I received from Macchu Picchu!

We rode our bikes back to the guest house and relaxed for a bit taking in the day’s activities. Eventually we went out for dinner, than planned to depart the city in the morning. Even though Angkor is Cambodia’s main draw, the grandeur is definitely worth visiting. The temple ruins left me feeling not only in awe of human capabilities, but in amazement of the power of nature in reclaiming its property. What an unbelievable treasure we were all fortunate to encounter. Now it’s time to visit a country many Americans were not as enthusiastic to visit, Vietnam!!

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