The magnificent Angkor

7 02 2010

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.

Island hopping

19 01 2010

Ko Tao is a cozy little island (3×7 km or so), the first of the three islands in the Gulf of Thailand that will be our home for the next couple of weeks or so. We stayed for two nights at Freedom Beach on the south end of Ko Tao in a basic hut with Charlie the Cockroach, a few lizards and mosquitoes that were quite happy to have some fresh Nordic blood while I wrote the last post ;) Even though the hut could have been better everything else at Freedom beach was top-notch and the resort was obviously undergoing a major refurbishment like a lot of places around here. The most impressive at Freedom Beach were the beaches and the coral reefs. We rented us some snorkeling gear and snorkeled for a few hours in the crystal clear turquoise colored sea above beautiful corals and colorful fishes that we have only seen in home fish tanks before. It was absolutely fantastic and started just a few meters from the shore. We had never thought snorkeling could be so much fun!

Though life

Life is tough over here :)

After two days we wanted to rent a scooter and explore the island but made an impulse decision to jump on the boat and go to the next island instead and go on a scooter there. So we took the 1 hour boat to Ko Phangan.

Ko Phangan is a lot bigger island and is mostly famous for the huge Full Moon parties held here …every full moon. Up to 30.000 people come here on the full moon during the high season to drink, smoke, snort and dance the night away. They have stretched the full moon concept a bit so now there are full moon, black moon, blue moon and a few other parties going on so basically you can party no matter where the moon and the sun are positioned at that moment. This all happens on the south side of the island so all the oldies and the nerds head basically anywhere else and we went up the west coast to Hat Yao where we have just been enjoying life, exploring the North-West coast on a scooter, trying out a few hammocks and bathing in the sun.

Two things have bother us quite a bit since we came to the islands. Firstly we have hardly gotten hungry lately. It’s not that we are eating so much, it’s more that our appetite has diminished, which is a great shame because we both love to eat. Maybe it is the Beach God telling us that we need to shed a few pounds to walk his sandy beaches half-naked …who knows. I wouldn’t mind if that would be the case and he is helping us getting there.

Chocholate pancake with chocholate

Chocholate pancake with extra chocholate on top

The other thing that has bothered us greatly is that we haven’t been able to bling our selves up. Any descent backpacker that has been in Thailand more than a week has multiple layers of bracelets and necklaces made of leather, shells, coconuts, fish bones and what not around their necks, wrists and ankles. Somehow we have not been able to follow this trend but are anxious to make up for it and will keep you updated. The next steps in the backpacking transformation are dreadlocks and huge tattoos …we’ll start with the bracelets and necklaces and take it from there.

The ladies with the bling

The ladies with the bling

The action on the ABT has been slow, only 2 games in the last 3 days. Örn won another Scrabble game after Elínborg made an incredible comeback and tried to steal the victory but couldn’t quite get there and Elínborg won a Ludo game, tieing the Ludo mini series, in an exciting Ludo mach on the beach of Hat Yao where nerves were extended and adrenaline ran high.

Exploding with tension over the Ludo game

Exploding with tension over the Ludo game

I’m having problems uploading the pictures so I’ll update this post later and insert them so keep looking :)

Until next time….
– Ö r n and E l í n b o r g –