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Trip Information

Cambodja
Night tour
Night tour (0)
Trip Date:2009-01-25 - 2009-01-27
# Photos:27 [View]
Countries visited:Cambodja
Visto: 3260
It was hard to believe that it was 10 months after starting work in Cambodia that I was finally making the journey to Siem Reap and the Angkor temples. Chinese New Year is not a public holiday, but my company was closing its offices for 3 days and I decided to make the most of it.

On the 25th of January I was up at my usual time, but instead of getting ready for work I was checking my list, then checking it twice ... even if it wasn't to see who was naughty or nice. I was packing for my Chinese New Year trip to Siem Reap. What I did find was that I had to make a brief stop at the office as I had left my passport there and thought I might need it to check into the hotel. (I'm glad I did remember it as they asked to see it.) Finally, a little after 6 AM I was on my way. The first stop was Phnom Oudong as I was dropping off a month's supply of rice and vitamins for the families I've been assisting there.

After about 15 minutes of talking I was heading back towards Phnom Penh. It seemed like the wrong direction, but that was the way to the ferry that would take me across the Tonlť Sap River. I was lucky, no crowds and only a short wait before I was driving onto the ferry. In a year or so I won't have to do that as the bridge they're building there should be completed. That will be bad for the small village that has developed in the area as people won't be stopping to buy food and drinks while waiting to cross.

About 4 hours later I was searching for Angkor Star Hotel in Siem Reap. I knew about where it was, but it didn't have a large sign out front saying "Mark pull in here". So I made a couple of interlocking squares on my GPS map as I searched for it. Eventually I found it, having driven past it 3 times. Boy was I surprised when I was shown into my room. I'd requested the cheapest room rate when I made my reservation, but the room I got was a large suite.

After that I was on my way to Angkor Wat. Visiting the temples is not cheap! Foreigners pay $20 for a one day pass, $40 for a 3 day pass and, I think, $80 if they want to visit them for a week. In some ways Cambodia is ahead of many other places in its embrace of digital technology. When you enter the country they attach a digital picture of you to their record of your entry. At Angkor they put a picture of you on your visitor's pass ... so you can't give it to someone else if you decide not to visit one of the days.

The first temple I went to was Angkor Wat. I got there about 1 PM and stayed until nearly 8 PM. I didn't hire a guide and just wandered on my own. I'm certain I didn't see everything, but I also went places I don't think most tourists go. The reason for that was my desire to take some unique pictures of the temple. With the number of people visiting every day I knew that would be hard. Even getting a shot without anyone in it in parts of the temple was nearly impossible and I would spend 5 to 15 minutes waiting for a gap in the crowds. What I did do was wander over to the south gate and take some pictures there.

Eventually I went back to my car to get my tripod. I wanted to get some pictures of the temple as it was painted by the sunset. That was pretty much of a bust. I tried to stay inside the complex as I knew they would be turning on the lights at night, but the guards were not very polite about saying we had to leave. So I set up my camera on the far side of the moat and, eventually, they turned on the lights illuminating the structure. It's impressive! However, I kept muttering to myself about their lighting the inside of the complex and not allowing us to see/photograph it. On my way back to my car I found out why ... they sell an additional, night tour, ticket that allows you inside.

Monday morning I was back before dawn as you can enter the compound at 5 AM. Flashlight in hand I wandered back to the location I had used for the sunset shots. There I met a couple avid photographers and learned a thing or two about my camera. One of these days I'm going to need to read and learn the manual!

After that I walked around the back of the temple and out to the east gate. This one might be a little more visited as there is an entrance nearby for VIP visitors to the after-dark dinner and light show.

After Angkor Wat I started my tour of the other temples. My first stop was Bayon. It is the one with the multiple large faces on all of the towers and is, perhaps, the second most recognized image of the Angkor area. Once again I did a lot of climbing ... the builders didn't make the stairs easy!

Then I was going to head for Ta Phrom temple. However, I stopped at 2 others plus the Victory Gate and an ancient bridge before getting there. I'm going to need to do a little research to find out which of the temples those were. Ta Phrom is impressive as many of the trees that have been eating the structures have been left in place. Some of the roots are bigger in diameter than a man's body

I was exhausted by the time I finished wandering through that temple, so I headed back to the hotel for a short rest as I wanted to be fresh for the evening. I had planned two "adventures". The first was a balloon ride. About 1 mile from Angkor Wat there is a tethered helium balloon. For $15 you get a 10 minute ride. Definitely not long enough, but it does give you a different view of Angkor Wat and, luckily, I got some good pictures from up there. I'd waited until nearly sunset and the low light plus the movement of the balloon had me worried about blurred pictures.

Then it was back to Angkor Wat. I hung around, outside, for the sunset and took some more pictures as the temple and its walls were lit. Shelling out $15 for a night entry ticket to the complex I meandered across the bridge and inside, only to stop almost immediately and take a series of "natural light" photos of the statue in the first gallery. I think I got some good pictures during my visit and it was nice not having to wait more than a minute or two for any of the small number of people visiting to move out of my shot.

Tuesday morning I got up late. I didn't see any need for more sunrise shots. Besides it was check-out day and I wanted to have my free breakfast. I didn't have any real plans, just knew that I wanted to stay within the Angkor Thom complex. So I wandered around trying to avoid the crowds. I think I got some more good shots, but, by 11:30 my legs and back told me I'd climbed too many stairs and carried my backpack and cameras for too long. It was time to head home, but I was going to follow a different route. I headed west out of Siem Reap and soon regretted my decision as the road deteriorated into a 4 lane dirt road that vibrated the car and me severely. Instead of using a smooth roller to compact the dirt they'd used one of those with the "spikes" on the roller. I couldn't keep my speed up and it was nearly 3 hours before I got to the junction with National Road 5. It would take me southeast to Phnom Oudong and Phnom Penh.

Around 7 PM I arrived at Phnom Oudong and, using my laptop, proceeded to show my friends the photos from the Phnom Chnork/Phnom Trach cave trip and the ones that I took at Angkor on Sunday and Monday (I hadn't downloaded Tuesday's from my camera). The pictures of the caves didn't scare them, so we planned to head there the next weekend.

After leaving their place at 8 PM I finally got home at 9 PM and collapsed. Any future trips I'll use the way I drove to Siem Reap for my return journey as well.
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