Most folks were surprised to hear that I went to Angkor Wat for 3 days. I suppose people generally visit for one or two days, but not 3. As much as I’d like to confess that I’m a hard-core nerd, I’m just an average Jane who majored in Archaeology and enjoys being in nature. And that’s it, that’s enough for me to sit back in the tuk-tuk and deeply feel the cool wind blowing all around me. That is to say, it doesn’t take much to make this girl happy.
Growing up in Hawaii, I spent a lot of time out-of-doors. When I got older, I heard of the term “tomboy” (which means lesbian in Thailand), but the term didn’t quite fit me because I played with Barbies and Star Wars figures, too. I ran with the boys and had my dolls. I wore a dress, but I didn’t groom myself. I fell out of trees and crossed my legs.
I entered college without a clue as to what I wanted to study, but I had a lot of interests so I chose things that seemed fun like Astronomy and, by the suggestion of my step-father, Anthropology. Astrology involved too many films which led to sitting in a dark classroom which made me sleepy. Anthro, on the other hand, seemed really really exciting with all its morally loose research on other cultures and hair-raising ideas on hierarches and human evolution.
Although, I don’t think my background in archaeology made me appreciate Angkor Park any more than the everyday person. Maybe it did, I don’t know. I know people who insist on reading every plaque at a museum or read the credits at the end of a movie. I must be between those who go because “everyone’s doing it” and those who strip down naked to show how “native” they are. And as much as I wanted to hire a guide, my b/f didn’t, so we wandered the ruins with nothing, but our cameras and our point of view.
Often I tried to imagine what a particular temple looked like when it was at the height of its glory. I’d make jokes about how this particular odd-shaped stone was where they sacrificed the babies (because, you know, indigenous cultures are so heathen) and wondered out loud why all the stones had holes in them. Until a guide found me, I thought furiously over my question. Yes, a guide found me (more on that later).
Each day was its own unique adventure. And in the beginning I wasn’t even sure if I’d go for all 3 days of the 3 day pass, but by the second I was eager to return.
Day one involved meeting the tuk-tuk driver at the glorious hour of 5am in a sad effort to photograph the “must see” sunrise over Angkor Wat. I say sad effort because I wasn’t willing to get up any earlier on my day off and because I wasn’t that desperate to be there at the exact moment the sun rose. It’s a good thing, too, because I ended up spotting a former student staffing the ticket lines and chatting it up.
There are a couple of ways to see Angkor Archaeological Park, one is the little circuit and the other is the big circuit. We did the little circuit which involved the heavies like Angkor and Bayon. And we pretty much called it a day after lunch. We were exhausted from the heat and exploring, but I was impressed by the size of the ruins, the detail, all the animals we saw like horses, pigs and monkeys – and the nature, so much nature!
Day two was a slow going day. We said good bye to our friend Bob who joined us just for day one and changed tuk-tuk drivers, as well. Our previous one forgot our 6am wakeup call, he might have been hung over, and so we ended up finding someone off the street. Ironically, his name roughly translates to Mr. Fast and I say ironically because his tuk-tuk kept breaking down during the torrential downpours.
But the rain kept most of the tourists away so it was a sleepy day of sightseeing Ta Phrom (aka the Tomb Raider temple), Bantay Samre (known for its amazing preservation) and lesser temples. Despite all these so-called problems, it was a great day where I felt like I was getting into the groove of the park. But because Mr. Fast’s tuk-tuk kept breaking down with greater frequency, we decided to end it at another half-day. This wasn’t a bad thing though because many folks complain about temple burn-out trying to see everything in 10-12 hours. I didn’t want this to happen to us so I was happy to keep our visits reasonable and not rushed.
Also, you are given a week to use your 3 day pass, we decided to take the following day off and then return to Angkor for our final day. This gave us a chance to recuperate and research some of the temples that are not on the common circuits.
Day three involved Banteay Kdei, Bantay Samre, Phnom Bok, Neak Pean and Prah Khan and it was another rainy day. Exploring ruins on a rainy day made us feel like nobody visits Angkor Park. It was really nice to wander around in cooler weather and soak up the sights and appreciate the details. Mr. Fast got his bike fixed which was important because we wanted to do go further and the hike up to Phnom Bok.
At Preah Khan, I was approached by a guide. He was escorting an Italian couple and when they were off taking photos of each other, he asked me if I had done some YouTube videos on learning Thai. I was taken back, as you might imagine, but he had been teaching himself Thai and remembered me! We talked a bit and now I have his number for future reference. And I got to ask my burning question, why do all the stones have holes in them? He explained, the holes in the rocks were the way they transported them using oxen or elephants from 70 km away.
What a way to end my tour of Angkor! Thank you, Cambodia. I have an even deeper appreciation for your history. Looking forward to getting to know you better. xxoo