Long story short, the bus into Cambodia was over 3 hours late; the A/C broke 3 times (necessitating a sweltering stop on the side of the road each time to ‘fix’ it); I witnessed a one-armed man intentionally kick a puppy at a rest stop; we were moved onto a second, crap bus after being told it would be one VIP bus the whole way; the restaurant at the final rest stop was crawling with more bugs than anywhere I’ve ever seen; and I caught a local guy rummaging through people’s bags on the bus while everyone else was inside said rest stop.
My first day in Siem Reap was better. I spent it hanging about in town with friends, checking out the markets and a bluegrass band. The next day we got up at 4:30am to make it to Angkor Wat for sunrise. It was chilly, but not too cold. Busy, but not too crowded.
I’ve now been to Petra, the Pyramids, and Angkor Wat on this trip. All were incredible, and all were totally different. Petra was amazing because it felt like it was built by a nomadic people who somehow managed to find the time and resources to construct it. (This is clearly not true, but that’s the impression it gave me.) The Pyramids are amazing because of their scale. Until you’ve been there you truly will never understand just how insanely massive they are.
Angkor Wat is impressive because of the scale. Not only of the buildings, but the areas that were cleared and built around them. The complexes are enormous and the stacking and carving of the stones in such intricate ways is really striking.
I spent two days at the temples, both times arriving at sunrise. My first day I spent most of the time looking for good pictures. Today I was able to explore more – finding a lot that I missed – without the pressure of trying to get “That” shot. Walking alone through Angkor Wat at sunrise (everyone else was outside taking pictures) was a spooky and special experience.
At the temples I saw fake monks hired by Chinese tourists to pose for photos; was harassed by children to “buy bracelet mister”; got (playfully) bitten by a wild monkey; surprised Japanese tourists by speaking Japanese to them; built a tower of rocks; listened to a band of landmine victims; and photobombed as many pictures as I could.