...because it was terrific!
Again, I got up early (3am) to catch my flight to Siem Reap. I knew it was going to be a good trip, because we disembarked from the plane straight onto the tarmac, and you already know how I feel about that! :)
The first thing I smelled was the thick, damp, air and the heavy scent of boiled sweet corn (I have no idea where that came from). It wasn't nearly as hot as I expected it to be, as they're moving into "winter"now - the temperatures are only in the 80's.
I thought it might be a hassle to get my visa at the airport, but they were so efficient (literally, all the officials were lined up and they passed the passport down the row and you picked it up at the end) that it took no less than 10 minutes. I was glad I'd stopped in Indonesia though to get passport photos, because there wasn't a booth available - and the visa app had to have it. Phew! At least I planned something right! It was also smart to carry dollars in small denominations (thank you, experience, for teaching me that one) as the visa app was $20 US as well as the pass to get into Ankor Wat.
My hotel picked me up - and I absolutely love the place. It's outside the main drag of town, where it's not so dusty or noisy. Richard, the colleague who recommended this place to me, hit the nail on the head with this one. For $30 US/night, I get my own villa with a porch, private non-squat bath, airconditioning, cable and free internet in the lobby. Plus, the a lá carte menu at the hotel runs about $1.20 US for each item, so I'm not breaking the bank by eating here either (although I do have plans to go out and check out other places...) The only downside I can find so far is the light FM muzak they've got playing non-stop in the lobby. Um, enough with the Westlife please.
I was beat by the time I checked in at 8am, but the staff gave me breakfast and then I slept until noon. I felt a little guilty about that but hey, it's my vacation so why not? After that, I got up, had lunch by the pool and then had a facial and massage in the open air veranda behind the pool. The kicker? $9. For an hour and a half. I couldn't believe it! It was a fruit and vegetable facial, where at one point, I had tomato, some sort of ginger paste and cucumber running into my ears. Then, they wrapped a reed braided screen around me like a pig pen, put a towel over the "compound"and placed a boiling pot of water in the middle. Portable sauna! I could've done with just a hot towel o clean my face, but - when in Rome...
You have to buy a one, three or seven day pass to get into Ankor Wat and the surrounding temples, but luckily, tourists are able to purchase them after 5pm on the day before you want to go. Because it's the rainy season (read: rain all afternoon) I know that the morning will be my only chance to get some non-cloudy pictures of some of the temples, I wanted to do this today so I can get an early start tomorrow (5am - what is this, the vacation of early rising? I'm going to have to schedule some sleep time...)
So after my massage, I took a tuk-tuk over to the tourist area around 4:30, got my pass and headed to Ankor Wat before it closed at 6pm. (Special bonus about purchasing it the day before!)
Ankor Wat is amazing. Like a half sleeping giant, slowly being worn down by the elements, the once gray stones are now pitch black and green mold spotted. The artistry in the carvings is breathtaking- and is the sheer enormity of the compound.
Unfortunately, it was cloudy so there was no sunset to speak, but still. As darkness fell, I literally felt the ancient stone walls being swallowed up by the jungle. It was creepy and comforting all at the same time. I mean, this temple has been here for hundreds of years, gets swallowed up every night, and manages to come back. That's some staying power.
What I didn't know is that Ankor Wat is just one of many famous temples to visit around Siem Reap. Tomorrow, I am going to try to visit Ankor Thom, something called the King of Lepers (??) and the Elephant cascade. When it starts raining tomorrow, I might just go get another massage.
M is for More Please,