12/31/09: Siem Reap, Cambodia
We left our guest house this morning at the ungodly hour of 5am in order to get up to Angkor Wat to watch the sun rise. Ever since we nearly froze to death waiting for the sun to rise over Poon Hill in Nepal, I’ve been a bit wary of the whole idea of sunrises. I mean, the sun starts coming up at something like 4am but it doesn’t peek out over the horizon until 7! I’m a slow starter in the morning too, but come on, that’s ridiculous! Sunsets – now that’s something I can get on board with. No waking up early, no foggy contacts and no cursing silently at yourself for not getting to bed early the night before like you said you would. No, none of that.
Right, where were we?
We got up at 5am to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.
Actually, we never did get to see the sun, but that’s ok. We then walked over to Bayon, a temple located in Angkor Thom. (By the way, I never realized until we got to Siem Reap that Angkor Wat is just one of twenty bazillion temples in the Angkor complex. The place is huge!) We ate breakfast with our new Swiss friends that we met at our hostel. While we were waiting for our breakfasts to be cooked, a few kids came up to us peddling their wares. One of the kids, who looked like he was six years old, and one of the Swiss guys bantered back and forth for a bit, bargaining over the kid’s little gold figures of Hindu gods and elephants until the kid tried to strike a rather unorthodox deal.
Kid: You say a country – if I know the capital, then $2. If I don’t know, then $1.
Swiss: Too easy! (The two Swiss take a minute to discuss and decide on another country to ask.) Liechtenstein.
Kid: Vaduz. You buy for $2!
Swiss: No, no, no, I didn’t agree to that.
Kid: Ok, I ask you a country – if you know the capital, then $1. If you don’t know, then $2.
Swiss: What country?
At one point, the kid told one of the Swiss guys to buy a figurine for his girlfriend. When the Swiss guy replied that he didn’t have a girlfriend, the kid replied, “You know why you don’t have a girlfriend? Because you don’t buy my things!” The earnest look on his small face was so hilarious – I was in stitches. I’m not sure how it ended, I think with the Swiss guys buying three small figurines for $3. While all this was going on, Kevin and I quizzed the other kid on other countries and a few U.S. States. (Malawi? Lilongwe. California? Sacramento. And the governor is Arnold Schwarzenegger!) I was SO impressed.
After breakfast we visited Bayon, Ta Prohm and lastly Angkor Wat. We splurged on our first day of temple-seeing on a guide and tuk-tuk driver, and I am very, very glad that we did. The temples are much further apart than I thought, and our guide helped us appreciate our visit so much more than if we had gone ourselves and had no clue what we were looking at.
By the time we were done exploring Angkor Wat, it was 4pm and we had already been up for 11 hours. Since Kevin was determined to stay up until midnight, we went back to our hostel for a quick nap. Three hours later, we finally woke up when our “backup” alarm (“we’ll definitely wake up before 7:30, but just in case…”) went off. We walked into town and ate dinner at a food stall on the street before going off for an experience I’ve been wanting to have since Kuala Lumpur. Are you ready?
For $2.50, you get a coke (or a beer) and twenty minutes of soaking your feet in a pool filled with fish with tiny biting teeth. In terms of efficacy I’m not sure that my feet are any smoother than they were before, but in terms of sheer hilariousness? Best five dollars we ever spent.
By the time we were done getting eaten alive by fish, it was about ten to midnight, so we went down to Pub Street, which was holding a big New Year’s Eve street party. We’re not quite sure when midnight actually was since there was no countdown – just a general rowdiness that started a few minutes before midnight and lasted well after. There was music playing deafeningly loudly from huge speakers and sparklers everywhere and lots of people were holding these long tubes that shot sparks of colored fire into the air. One guy’s tube was malfunctioning – the sparks weren’t shooting into the air, more like drooping out sadly from the top of the tube and very dangerously close to head level. He was the only person on the whole street that had more than an inch of space between him and the people around him. Kevin and I pushed our way through the crowd of sweaty Cambodians and tourists, hugging and shaking hands with people we’ve never seen before. I don’t think it’s how we’ll choose to spend New Year’s 2011, but it’s one we won’t ever forget.
Ohio Picture: No trip to Angkor Wat can be complete without an O H I O!
Picture of the Day: The people who restored these seem to have screwed up on two of the statues.