Saturday, May 21, 2011

Travel to Cambodia and Angkor

I have to warn you this post is going to be pretty long.  A lot has happened in the life of the Two Giants since we last posted.

On the 19th while Paul was recovering, I went off Scuba Diving, which I had always wanted to try but did not know how much I was going to really love it. It was an amazing experience, I had a great instructor who ended giving me a personal lesson for about 45 minutes.  I didn't have to learn much to be able to do it, just how to clear my ears, how to clear my mask, how to find my regulator if for some reason it comes out of my mouth and some simple hand signals.  The hand signals were the hardest part, because when I'd do some thing wright and the instructor would ask if I felt comfortable I'd give her the thumbs up (that's the signal to surface, not the OK signal).  Once we got that all out of the way, we went diving, and I just had the coolest experience, especially when we were literally sitting on the bottom of the ocean, looking at thousands of multicolored and diverse fish swimming around us in the coral. Needless to say, I think I've found a passion that I want to continue.

After diving I went back and met up with Paul, we packed up, and then decided for one more night out on the town.  We went to this awesome bar that was real chill, it actually required taking a water taxi around the corner of the island to a place that had no roads.  We were with two Ausie dudes, a Brit, and another American all who we met at the Power Beach Resort we were staying at.  It was a working on being a chill night until we went back to the Haad Rin beach (Where full moon is) and decided to stay out partying...  Not smart when we had to get up at 6am.

Travel on the 20th was long, and allowed for many naps, but it was still not the type of sleep I was looking for after the single hour the night before. We left Ko Pha-gnan at 7am on the boat, and didn't reach Siem Reap until 9pm. That is a long day of airports when you have a total of 2.25hrs of travel...  The one cool thing was that the airport in Ko Samui had an outdoor concourse. All the shops and everything were literally lined up like a small outdoor shopping mall.  It was definitely a change.

Arriving in Siem Reap we found our Tuk Tuk, these are a little different than the ones in Bangkok and Chiang Mai because they are basically wagons attached to a moped. The ones in Thailand are solid and don't feel like you're in a trailer. Siem Reap is really a small tourist town that is in place to service the Angkor Temples. There are more hotels and guest houses in this city for its size than I've probably ever seen. The traffic is crazy with almost no rules and everyone just kind of doing what they want, but it all seems to work in some crazy way since I have seen no accidents here.  I just know I would be really uncomfortable on a Moped here.

On the afternoon of the 21st (aka, the day the world didn't end) we went to Angkor Wat and explored the temple at sundown. It was an amazing space that really can't be described in words.  With its size and complexity it is amazing to think that it was completed in only 37 years, but even more amazing to realize that the completion date was 1150AD. I guess if you have enough peasants, slaves, and elephants anything can be accomplished. It is too bad that the Khmer Rouge destroyed so much of it when they took power because it would have been all that much more impressive if 8 of the 12 surrounding towers hadn't been knocked down as a way to try to eliminate religion from the country. After catching the sunset there we tried to go to another temple but it was closed so we came home for the night.  We explored the city a bit and then called it an early night.  Our wake up for the sunrise was at 4:45am. 

Leaving the hostel at 5:10am the city is deserted but so its quick to proceed to the entrance road to the temple complex. Here things are a little more congested but not bad, the bad was when we got to Angkor Wat. While beautiful in the morning dew and mist with the amazing colors rising behind it (the temple faces due west, the direction of the afterlife and the gods) the number of people who were there made it a little less cool. What was really cool though, was exploring the other temples immediately afterward while everyone else either explored Angkor Wat, or napped.  We saw some very impressive places, and started to get a feel for the immense size of the complex. The most interesting one we saw was Ta Prohm (sometimes known as the Tomb Raider temple). It was amazing to see that the construction of this temple was good enough to allow almost a thousand years of jungle to grow up around it and still have it standing. There are trees growing off the top of some of the arches that have to be 200 feet tall.  They are starting to crush it, but it just goes to show, that if you aren't actively protecting civilization from nature, nature will eventually return it to the earth.

We are now back at the hostel, and it is time to take a nap.

More to come soon, we've got an interesting trip ahead of us when it comes to getting to Laos. Its not the easiest thing to do evidently from here.

Till then,
Two Giants

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