Angkor Wat (Day 1)

Starting the day at 4:40am was really not such a great thing. But I wanted to see the sunrise so I had to do it. On the recommendation of Tim, the owner of the Apple Rose Guesthouse I forewent Angkor Wat and the hordes of tourists and would start my day in Ta Prohm.

Of course without coffee it was difficult but I got a breakfast box for later and with no delay Mara and I were on our way.


As you can see it was still dark when we left. The ticket office and the park (Angkor Wat is just one temple of many and all of them are in a park called Angkor Wat) opened at 5am and I didn’t want to wait out the sunrise in a queue.

There was no one really waiting, just a couple of other early get uppers. I got my three-day pass with my picture on it (picture was done on the spot) in no time and off we went to the first temple. Ta Prohm was a great choice because during sunrise there was exactly one other tourist with me. And I was glad that I wasn’t alone since there were all kinds of noises (I later noticed small monkeys)IMG_5555 IMG_5557 IMG_5561 IMG_5563 IMG_5569 IMG_5574 IMG_5573 IMG_5572 IMG_5570  

When I left the temple the sun was out and I found Mara sleeping on the back seat. Understandable, he must have made the tour a hundred times. Our next stop was Sras Srang which looked less like a temple but one big pool. No swimming though in these holy waters (not that I know but I didn’t see anyone). Here I also made a short stop and had an ice coffee at one of the stalls plus I bought postcards. I noticed that my bargaining skills wouldn’t work here because everything was one dollar. Couldn’t cut one in half and local money I hadn’t seen so far.

  

Right across from Sras Srang was Banteay Kdei were Tomb Raider was filmed. A very beautiful temple with interesting details.

     

After the third temple I was hungry and fished around in my breakfast box. I found a croissant, some bananas and a yoghurt that got mostly spilled over my pants due to my not enough road checking while eating. Nonetheless it helped sustaining me for the next temples.

Number four was the Ta Keo temple which had the steepest steps I had seen so far. Reminded me a lot of Chichen Itza in Yucatan. Maybe they did sacrifices here too?

  
  
  

Temple number five was Thommanon.

     

Right across from it was the next temple, called Chau Say Tevoda.


  

  

By that time I felt exhausted from all the temples but the small round was far from over. We drove off to the Bayon, temple number eight. The Bayon is a part of the Angkor Tom complex and to get there we had to enter by the South Gate.

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From the Bayon I had to make my way along the North South route to the Tep Pranam, passing Baphoun Temple, Phimeanakas & the Royal Palace, the Elephants Terrace and the Leper King Terrace. What I didn’t take into account at 4:30 in the morning when I was getting dressed was that my attire was not right for the temples. So far I hadn’t had any problems but the guard at the Baphoun Temple wouldn’t relent and sent me away (as many others). And while I was annoyed at first, it was my own fault and now I just don’t care anymore.

  

So this is the place I couldn’t get into and believe me I tried. I walked around it and was prepared to sneak up the back way. Not a chance!

So I passed the temple without going up and moved on to everything else on this road.IMG_5823 IMG_5825 IMG_5827 IMG_5830IMG_5832 IMG_5834 IMG_5835 IMG_5836 IMG_5838 IMG_5840 IMG_5842 IMG_5843 IMG_5844IMG_5845IMG_5846IMG_5847

You can’t imagine how exhausted I was after the last temple for the day. I took a break right then and there and had another ice coffee and some fried rice. It was lunch time after all and my breakfast had been hours ago. Thus refreshed I was ready to go back to the hotel. We left the Angkor Tom complex through the North Gate which was in better condition than its counterpart.

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When I was back at my hotel I was so glad that I took the advice of one of my fellow travelers to book a hotel with a pool. I spent the afternoon napping and around 4pm or so I made my way to the pool. No point in being outside during the hottest hours of the day.IMG_5862Dinner then was a quiet and early affair. I walked the 10 minutes to the main street and the first thing I notice is a pub street. Definitely not the right thing for tonight. I was still tired from the day and the early get up.IMG_5864

Instead I walked up the main street, looked for a decent street food place and tried Cambodian cuisine. Yeah, what can I say….I was not really convinced.IMG_5865 IMG_5868 IMG_5870

On my way home I passed a small massage parlor and saw two people coming out. I asked them if they could recommend the place and since both said readily yes, I decided spontaneously to enter and get my feet in shape. I had another long day coming up. Yours, Pollybert

 

 

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Hoi An

I got dropped off by the Easy Riders at the Quynh Nhan Homestay, my home for the next couple of days. I liked it instantly, maybe because the room was already cool?

Beth and I had agreed to meet for dinner, so I settled in and later asked the girl at the reception for directions and recommendations. Thus armed with information I met Bet at the corner from the home stay and we walked into town.

We stopped at Bebe Tailor and stayed there forever because I wanted to get some things made. And although I didn’t order anything on the first evening, we agreed on most of the details. I just never realized how much you need to clarify when you order clothes tailor-made.

Eventually we walked out of the shop, me with my work cut out for the night to think about how I wanted things done, and walked to the Thu Bon river. We were on the lookout for a street food place which Beth had found two years ago. She raved about it, telling me that she went back to this woman because her grilled chicken was the best. The chicken was on little skewers and served with rice paper, salad, herbs, rice patties and a rich sauce to dip it in. They were positively lovely and I was enchanted right away.

After dinner we walked back to the main part of the old town, to the Lantern Bridge. We needed to cross it to get to the night market. Not that there was anything new to buy, but it was wonderfully illuminated and just great to watch.

  
  

Lots of vendors everywhere who sold fresh fruit (also ones I didn’t know) and banana fritters. I was just too full to try them, but kept them in mind to taste another day.

  

The next morning we met already at 7:30. Beth had told me that the old part was wonderful in the mornings and I wanted to see it for myself. We were actually quite late already, lots of people around but way less than last night. We met again at the corner of the Lantern Bridge, then walked around for 5 minutes before sitting down for coffee. But the five minutes were enough to take these pictures.

  
  

We sat down underneath a large tree, just beside the Japanese covered Bridge which beckoned for a later visit.


In search of breakfast we passed a vendor selling sweet tofu which we had to try. It was good though that we took it as take-away since it was not to our taste.

  Just two blocks further we tried sticky rice with sugar and peanuts. We later saw that the rice was also available in savory version.

  

Shortly after 9am we were still waiting for our sunglasses shop to open. Last night we had learned that optical sunglasses were cheap and quickly available, so both of us wanted to get a pair. Until this shop opened we needed to kill more time. When we passed a Banh Mi vendor, I bought one filled with everything (what’s the point of moderation on vacation).

  

Finally the shop opened and we could order the glasses (have used them already and the came in very handy). It’s something I didn’t really need but always wanted. While we were in the shop a chicken walked in! How is that for city life?

After the successful conclusion of the sunglasses deal, I made my way to the Bebe tailor shop (one of three or four in the town). The shop came recommended by the receptionist and by Tripadvisor. I had made up my mind on how I wanted things done, it took me a while but I finally did it. More important for me was the material though. I wanted something which would hold up well during travels, not wrinkle and didn’t need ironing. I found all this (or so I was told) and placed my order. By then it was almost noon and very hot again. I was ready for a power nap back at my air-conditioned room.

The power nap turned into an afternoon in my room, relaxing from the heat. At 4pm I decided to leave the room though, no point in traveling and then staying in the whole time. Beth and I were supposed to meet around 6pm and I had my first fitting at 5pm.

Before that I wanted to explore the town, it was a world cultural heritage site after all. I just walked around, wanting to get a feel for this place. Even though it was very touristic, it still had a comfortable vibe. Everything was near and within walking distance, people were friendly and there were historic sites all over. Since I had to go to the tailor, I decided not to buy the tourist pass for the sites but rather wait for a day when I had more time. Instead I went to a street vendor and bought a prawn pancake (note the shells).

Then I was off to the tailor for the fitting which turned into a disappointment. I couldn’t believe I had ordered so much and already made a deposit for it. I was sure none of these clothes would ever fit me properly.

At least meeting Beth gave my thoughts another direction and after venting my disappointment for a couple of minutes, we walked again through the old town and tried new food. After some a boy let me try from his juice (I actually thought it tasted like piña colada) we bought one bag of it. Turned out it was made of beans (at least that’s what Beth said), so I cannot rely on my taste buds at all.

  
  

After more walking and some deliberations we decided on dinner in a restaurant. No street food on our last night together. We sat on the balcony with a great view on the street below and shared an appetizer variety and a Hoi An specialty (I am sorry but I forgot the name).
  
  
  

The meal was delicious but I am sure you didn’t expect anything less. From the restaurant we already had to rush to the sunglasses store. Our glasses were ready for pickup from 8pm on, with the shop closing at 9pm. Beth was leaving early the next morning for Dalat so we had to get to the store. We made it in time and our sales girl was so happy that we bought something that she took some pictures with us (clearly we paid too much which didn’t matter because the glasses were perfect).

Just a few minutes later Beth and I said our goodbyes at the corner of our hotels. Four wonderful days with her had come to an end. Yours, Pollybert