BootsnAll Travel Network

Siem Reap

Morrie’s alarm clock rings at 430AM and I pop up out of bed like a bottle rocket.  I had my ear plugs in, and the alarm was still incredibly loud.  Today we were going off to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  I have recently googled about Angkor Wat, and it is not one of the 7 Wonders of the World, but were listed as one of the 7 Forgotten Wonders of the World.  That is a shame considering the beauty this temple and the others possess here in Siem Reap.  I quickly did my bathroom thing, gathered some clothing up, and since my bag was already packed I was ready with my camera and 8 fully charged batteries and my laptop so I could transfer pictures over throughout the day if needed.  I was planning on taking a ton of photos in Siem Reap and of these extraordinary temples I was about to see.  Our bus was waiting for us as we all met in the foyer of the Angkor Way Hotel located about 6 kilometers from Ankgor Wat.  We were lucky this was the low season as our guide Ly had told us that during the high season thousands of people go to see the sunrise every day.  When we got there, there were not that many people there.  A few hundred tops, very surprising considering all of the hoopla Andy had given us about how many people will be there.  I often wondered if she hyped up certain things, so when they weren’t true it would make her look better to us.  This would be a perfect example of that, for days she would tell us how many people we would see at Angkor Wat and the temples, and overall during the three days, there weren’t that many.

Ly took us to a spot directly in front of the main temple.  I could tell this would be an excellent sunrise, even though there were clouds right over where the sun would initially creep up from over the horizon, I wasn’t worried.  It was around 5am and there was not enough light to take photos yet.  Since I don’t have a great lens or zoom on the camera, I would need more light.  I also did not have a tripod, so using the night scene mode on my camera was also out.  In order to use that feature you need a tripod or a ridiculously steady hand, neither of which I had.

After a few more minutes, there was more and more light.  We were approaching the summer solstice so the days were getting longer and longer, which meant the sun would rise earlier and earlier.  When there was just enough light I ran down to the moat in front of the temples to try and get some good shots.  I rested my camera on a rock right in front of my shot, lined up my frame and just started shooting away.  I took many, many, many photos of similar shots, hoping that I would get one great one to blow up and put on my wall.  I would rotate between panoramic and regular shots, again just trying to get the perfect shot.  We were going to start the tour of the temple at Angkor Wat at 6am, so we would be able to go off and do our own thing till then.  I basically held my perfect spot in front of the temples till we had to leave.  I got a few people standing around me to take photos of me, and most of them came out great.  There became more and more light, which meant the shots would become easier and easier to take, and with all the different lighting and how it reflected off of the buildings, I was getting some great shots.

To pass the time in between shots and lighting possibilities, I began to chat with two guys standing next to me.  They were both working in Hong Kong in virology, basically working with Bird Flu and other Asian viruses.  I initially thought they were French Canadians, but luckily they were not.  Even the French get insulted when you think they are French Canadian, that I found hilarious.

So 6am rolled around and Ly took us off to start our tour.  He was 26, had gone to university which is unique for young Cambodians.  Most can’t afford to go to university even though it only costs 120 US Dollars for the whole year for a basic course at university!  That is so little, and the fact that kids cannot afford it is shocking and a stark reality.

Ly would give us an excellent tour that would last till around 8am.  He knew all of the spots where he could take us with not that many other tourists around.  We saw some incredible carvings, stone statutes, and it was all made from lovely sandstone.  Others think it is clay or concrete but it is really sandstone that has withstood the test of time dating back to the early 9th century.  After the tour the bus took us to get some breakfast at a local stop.  There were maybe 10 shops or more selling exactly the same thing.  Ly and Andy knew which restaurant to go to, which was located in the far corner.  To get to the restaurant we would have to run the gauntlet.  A little background first.  In the main cities of Cambodia there are many children that are used by their parents to beg for money and to sell small items.  I am not completely sure if they even go to school, my inclination is that they don’t, but some go to school either in the morning or afternoon and sell on their off time.  There is a debate as to whether it is good or not to buy stuff from local kids selling.  The argument is that if you buy they won’t go to school because their parents will force them to continue to sell, but the other side is well if you buy at least the family is getting money to survive.  My philosophy on this is if I buy something that I like, I don’t matter where it is coming from and I know that in a way I am helping out the family, even though the parents may be exploiting the kids.

So the gauntlet was basically having to get through all the kids selling you stuff in this open field and as soon as you step foot off of the bus they all rush you putting post cards, bracelets, books and other junk in your face asking you to buy.  They always ask you where you are from and when you say a country they spout off the capital, population and anything else they have learned, then they go “ok you buy from me now?”  I usually just say no and keep walking, or “no thank you,” stuff like that.  This running of the gauntlet was like nothing I have ever experienced before.  There must have been 50 kids trying to sell stuff, and each of us would attract like 10, trying to get to the restaurant.  After about 15 minutes of walking through, we finally got to the restaurant which was only about 100 meters away from the bus!

I was hungry considering we had gotten up really early and done a lot all before 830am.  I ordered an American breakfast which was lovely, some soda and water, and after breakfast it was back through the gauntlet.  It was crazier than the first time, a little later in the day, more kids woke up I guess and got their stuff.  This time I was surrounded by 20 kids and could not even move.  I could not see over their hands in my face, and was starting to get annoyed.  Eventually I just went “hey, look over there,” they all looked of course since they were all young kids and I started to run for the bus.  Once they turned around realizing it was a big joke, they saw me running and started running after me laughing and screaming “hey you buy from me now, from me now,” and so on.  It was hilarious and I actually have a video of me running!  It was classic.

The rest of the day was basically looking at more temples.  We saw quite a few that first full day in Siem Reap.  Nothing major of note, I took like 1500 pictures during that day, filled up all the memory cards and had to upload them back on to the computer and on to the backup external hard drive.  When we got back from the temples we had some down time to relax after the long day.  We all headed to the pool, swam for a bit and others went off to see some concert at this hospital that I was not interested in.  I walked and met the group at 815PM and then we caught a ride with another Intrepid tour in to town for a late dinner.  At this point I was a little hungry, but mainly just really tired and out of it.  We had been up for many hours, and coupled with the heat and walking around ALL day long, I was just ready to go to bed.

After dinner, I headed straight home, and Morrie and I were asleep before 11am.


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