Anthony and Erica on the road to Mandalay 2006 travel blog

Reflection of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat from Phnom Bakheng

Central area of Angkor Wat from inside the first courtyard

More reflections of Angkor Wat

The first layer of Angkor Wat

The second layer of Angkor Wat

Monks at Angkor Wat

South Gate of Angkor Thom

Part of the Bayon, Angkor Thom

Some of the 200 huge smiling faces of the Bayon

Bayon faces

Bayon

More Bayon faces

Bayon happy face

Serene Bayon face


Well here I am in Siam Reap in Cambodia, the base camp for the Angkor area of temples, which as far as I am concerned is one of the most amazing human-built places in the world. Erica had warned me that as a middle-aged fat bloke who used to be in bands, I could expect to get thoroughly interrogated at immigration about how I felt about Gary Glitter and other 70s pop music, and what kind of relationship I had with my fans - not much of an issue as I don't remember having any, underage or otherwise - but thankfully I wasn't. But Siam Reap is a bit of a culture shock, it has changed...a lot! Near where I am typing now there is a bar I knew, which I think was one of only two bars as such, and the first point of reference I have found. Now this little town with unreliable electricity and a shed for an airport has turned into a big glittery city packed with bars, traffic, hotels, dust, and an airport bigger than Bristol's. I am sure I will adjust fine though, once I have had some scoff and a few beers.

A bit of a pub crawl later: (Imagine this slightly slurred): Actually, I think I prefer the new Siam Reap; commercial, Western and decadent though it may be. The only downside was that it turns out my hotel is in the red light district, so I have arranged a new one for tomorrow. I can cope with being offered "boom-boom" - presumably something to do with 'banging' someone - when drunk, but not on my way to find some breakfast. Maybe I was being a bit thick, but I managed to get through Burma, Vietnam and Bangkok avoiding offers of "boom-boom", so it was a bit depressing. As much as anything else, I resent the implicit assumptions about me involved in such offers. However, I like the lively night life here, and can see me settling into a rhythym of culture hard during the day and drink a lot at night. All I need now is some drinking buddies. And the best place to find them is bars.

Note that I visited some temples several times, and probably took the same pictures several times, but that to avoid repetition I have put all the pics of a place on the page when I first went there, so as such all my best Angkor Wat, Bayon pics are on this page. So we start with some of the best!

7:12:06 Moved to my new hotel, seems OK, and if anything even nearer the bar and restaurant area. After two rejects I managed to hire a bike with two gears (better than none) and set off for the temples! And then had to ride back about 7 kms when I missed the ticket office. I wondered why there were no tour buses on the road I was on. It was good to be on a bike again (funny how I won't do it at home) despite the traffic risks. It is very hot and muggy here - similar to Myanmar - and riding a bike does cool you down a bit, as well as having the freedom to stop when and where you want, including in the middle of the road to take photos.

Angkor Wat is strictly speaking just one temple called Angkor Wat in a huge area of ruined temples, though the area is often called Angkor Wat too, as indeed is the town of Siam Reap sometimes. I was planning to ride past Angkor Wat itself and explore other stuff first, but was so overcome by it as I rode around the outer moat (a kilometre on each side) that I decided to at least have a look and take pics of the side the sun was on. It is such an awesome place, even when there are crowds there, as there was. It is apparently both the biggest religious building in the world, and the biggest stone building.

So some hours later I rode on to begin to explore the nearby area of Angkor Thom, but in the end, other than a few scattered little temples, I only explored the magic and weird Bayon. No problem, as I have a seven day ticket anyway. The Bayon is this temple mountain - of which there are many around here - but is unique and very strange for over 200 large smiley faces emerging from the warren of peaks making up this mountain. Very unusual and surreal. And then I went back to Angkor Wat to take pictures of the front of the temple with the afternoon sun on it, which went well, though it was quite crowded by then, so I will go back again another time to explore the higher bits at my leisure (it is over 200 feet high).

Back home in the hair-raising rush hour traffic for some great scoff - five different Cambodian curries on one plate - up a trendy little alleyway that even had an art gallery with expensive pictures and a gay bar. It is like being in Barcelona or something! A few drinks later I ended up in the well-known Angkor What! bar, more my sort of place, and they were looking for western bar staff! I was tempted, but know that bar work is not good for me, especially in a place that for $4 will do you a 'whisky bucket', which literally is a small bucket with lots of ice and half a full bottle of (local) whisky, a red bull and lots of coke. Mmm... Later I also found that moving out of the Red Light district didn't mean I was safe from being importuned on my way home, when I was not only offered 'boom-boom' again, but "suckee-suckee" as well. My tactic of ignoring people trying to sell me stuff did mean I couldn't say something witty though, as I wanted to in response to her claim that she was very cheap. Indeed.



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