As I said in the last post we have been staying in Siem Reap and going off to explore the Angkor temples for the last three days. The temples that the Khmers have build are amazing. The temples around Siem Reap are well over 100 in number and were build circa from the year 800 to late twelfth century – at the same time as Iceland was getting fully settled.
At the height of the Khmer empire there were about one million people living in the city. To provide some context – London had some 50 thousand inhabitants at the time. According the the Khmer people, only the gods were worthy of stone buildings so both the public and the royal court lived in wooden houses that are all long gone and only the temples remain.
The majority of the temples were build as Hindu temples but some of them were build as Buddhist temples and others were converted into Buddhist temples later on. It seems like the kings back in the day weren’t really sure what to believe and to the people it didn’t seem to matter too much either, maybe there isn’t so much difference between Hinduism and Buddhism – after all Buddha was born, lived and died a Hindu – if I have my religions correct.
We started our three day tour by hiring a tuktuk to take us to some of the minor temples, we wanted to start small and build momentum. A lot of the smaller temples were just wonderful. Their condition varied greatly in terms of condition but that was a part of the charm. We had great access to the temples and there were not a lot of people around, which is always a plus. The weather was very hot and the tuktuk drive between the temples was refreshing and provided a cooling breeze.
The next day we decided to rent bikes and bike to some of the temples closer to Siem Reap. Having the bikes gave us great freedom and we could do everything at our speed. We spent a long time exploring the big big temple with all the big faces (See previous picture) and others around it.
On our way back we ran into a group of monkeys that live in the surrounding forest. They seemed quite used to people coming with food and weren’t afraid of us at all. One was even cheeky enough to jump up to the basket on my bike and steal my water bottle – he wasn’t satisfied with just bananas that one.
For the third day we had saved the main thing – Angkor Wat and since this was our last destination we decided to take a tuktuk before dawn and watch the sun rise above Angkor Wat – a heavenly sight according to the brochures. On the way we had a minor mishap when the tuktuk was out of fuel in the middle of the jungle and we had to walk the last 15 minutes in the dark. We made it before dawn, got a good seat and waited. The dawn and sunrise was a bit of a disappointment and definitely overhyped. Angkor Wat turned out to be quite impressive, not quite the crown jewel but nice. Maybe we had had too many temples in the last days – at least we feel quite satisfied in that regard but the Angkor area is a fantastic spectacle and definitely one of the more interesting wonders of the world.
During the evenings here, we have been going to the night market. At the night market people are selling all kinds of silk products: scarves, veils, pasminas, table cloths, bed covers and clothes. They are also selling paintings of the temples, statues, jewelry and a handful of other stuff. Fish massage seems to be quite hot here as well. We had seen that before in Bangkok but here it is everywhere. For a fish massage you sit by a pool and put your feet into the pool and the fish come and nibble at your feet. They seem to be eating the dead skin cells and this is supposed to be very relaxing and your foot comes out smooth and shiny.
We heard from a group of people from Húsavík that are in Siem Reap just now. We have been trying to get a hold of them without much luck but hopefully we’ll bump into each other tomorrow – it’s a small world, haah!
Next is one day of chilling in Siem Reap and then we will go by bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital before crossing over to Vietnam. If there is anything you would like to know, see some pictures off or want me to write about, just go to the blog and post a comment.