The following day, we woke up just after 4am, ready to be picked up by the TukTuk driver at 5am to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.
We sped through the streets, strange smells hitting us in the face and catching in our throats as we drove passed. H had been feeling queasy from the get go and the pungent scent of Siem Reap’s streets was not helping the situation in the slightest.
I took off my scarf and gave it to her to hold over her nose; on one particular street the smell was so strong, even I gagged and grabbed the other end of the scarf to do the same!
Once we stepped off the TukTuk, we were about to join the ticket queue when she promptly disappeared, vomited, came back looking white as a sheet and said she needed to go back.
We returned to a slightly annoyed and confused TukTuk driver, attempting to explain that we needed to go back immediately, he wasn’t really understanding what we were saying so it turned into a game of charades with me exclaiming “she’s been sick!” with sound affects and hand gestures. He got the gist and we climbed back in and headed back to the guesthouse.
I gave him half the amount we would have paid to hire him for the day, H felt so guilty that she made it up to the full amount and he didn’t offer to come back again.
We both went back to sleep for a bit, then after I went for various wanders, sat and read in the sun, and ended up having a bland, overpriced meal at the hotel restaurant.
The next day she was feeling under the weather still, but we packed our bags and checked out, and walked the short distance to the next hostel that H had spotted the other day called TinTin’s.
We checked in to TinTin’s and T introduced himself. He was a laid back, long haired guitarist from Aus who was working at the hostel for a month before continuing on to travel around Vietnam.
We went and sat in the main seating area outside, chatting to the staff and other guests. V arrived and said hello. She also worked at the hostel. Originally from the Philippines she was also a social media PR, couch surfing host and travelling mama. She had an adorable little child who always greeted us with excitement and a plastic dinosaur.
The owner Av (from Nepal) was also sitting at the table with dark sunglasses on, playing the guitar that usually lives next to the shrine in reception.
He seemed quite happy and chilled. He told us that the guitar had been stolen and then recovered very recently, earning the thief quite a lengthy sentence for what would be considered a petty crime.
There was an elderly guy named R with an eclectic dress sense who spent half his year in Cambodia and only returned to the UK in the summer.
A girl named Glen with bubblegum pink hair popped in and out in-between her graffiti session at the front gate.
I just love a good opportunity for a photo backdrop!
We met a couple (D&F) that we went to dinner with who had been living in China for the last five years. They also wanted to go to the temples, so we arranged to share a TukTuk with them and go the day after next.
We went for dinner at a hotel further down the road for Khmer food and passion fruit mojitos where the waiter kicked a frog across the restaurant and a man paced back and forth in the glass fronted lobby in just his T-Shirt and budgie smuggler pants.
H rested up the next day and I went for a wander around the markets, passing dried fish and squid hanging from the ceiling, assorted fruits and vegetables, and ladies sitting on the sides of the stalls cross legged, baskets in hand, some weaving, some peeling, some skinning.
A little girl tried to sell me something wrapped up and steamed in a banana leaf. When I asked what it was, she did not know, so I gave that purchase a miss.
Later however, Av came back to the hostel with the same parcels wrapped up in banana leaves, and I discovered it was steamed sticky rice with chicken.
We sat around and chatted over pints of beer, sharing stories and having a laugh. I nipped round the corner for some dinner at a small local restaurant. It’s more or less ran by several families out of what seems to be their garage, but the food was pretty good and they were always friendly.
After dinner, I went back to the hostel and resumed beer drinking with the others. I eventually slipped off to bed just before 1am, and I could still hear their music and laughter as I drifted off to sleep.
We woke in the morning, got changed quickly and quietly made our way out front to meet D&F. The gates had been padlocked shut, so D shook them forcefully making the security guard fall out of his hammock in a panic.
He let us out and we walked down the drive way to meet our TukTuk. Unfortunately, the driver I had booked had engine issues that morning so instead he had bought his friend along to take his place. We hopped in and off we went. D pulled something out of his pocked and it turns out he had bought his portable speakers along. We drove along in the darkness as he blared dance music from the speakers.
We paid for a day pass and the TukTuk dropped us off at the entrance to Angkor Wat. We walked across a bridge, chants and drum beats filling the air around us. Most people congregated at a pond in front of the temple.
Being short, I couldn’t see much other than peoples shoulders and decided to walk further up the grass. I found a little patch where I sat in front of the temple, with no one else in front of me, and waited.
Slowly, the colours of the sky began to change as the morning light approached. The clouds behind the temple turned a brilliant red and faded from purple to pink as birds flicked through the air. A monkey cried and howled and swung from a rafter. After a while the golden sphere of the sun appeared and rose over the top of the temple and we were cast into morning.
After some time time of staring, we stopped for a very anti-climatic, overly priced breakfast and coffee.
When I ordered the coffee, I was asked if I wanted milk, to which I replied yes. What I was given was a black coffee and a can of condensed milk.
I sat, confused for a while and a little disgusted…
D poured it straight into his coffee without a second though, saying they do the same in Vietnam. Apprehensively, I poured in the thick, creamy mixture and stirred it rigorously with my spoon until it finally blended with the coffee.
Surprisingly, it was actually incredibly good!
We went for a stroll around Angkor Wat, walking the length of the bas-relief that ran along the walls, depicting battles between Gods and demons and then on to the grounds.
After strolling around Angkor Wat, we hopped back in the TukTuk and made our way to The Bayon. We drove through a large stone arch and were greeted by what looked like the palace from the jungle book…
Moss covered stone faces beamed down. Ivy crept between the cracks, yellow butterflies flicked passed, landing on my bag and dancing through the air. Monks sat at shrines surrounded by clouds of incense and tombstones laden with offerings jutted from the ground. Elephants walked by, adorned in red and gold, carrying people on their backs. Families of monkeys darted in and out of the temple ruins.
The Bayon temple filled me with a sense of awe. We clambered through archways and some corridors we walked through were deserted, lending the feeling of a true exploration.
Upstairs the crowd thickens and that feeling dissipates. Traditional dancers offer photographs on the stone steps for $1.
At The Bayon, we got separated from D&F, we searched inside and out for nearly an hour. We accidentally walked through mud that sunk up to our ankles (while wearing flip flops), I ended up in an argument with an overly persistent TukTuk driver, we nearly had another close call with a monkey (which saw us running away flailing like idiots) until eventually we gave up.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, dehydrated, and muddy, we sat down and gave up. Then they pulled up in the TukTuk, the driver handed us a bottle of cold water each and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more relieved than I did at that very moment.
We left The Bayon and the driver stopped off at two smaller temples opposite each other. We had a wander around, with only three other people in sight other than the little market stall sellers placed in the space between the two structures.
We headed to Ta Prohm, but stopped at another temple en route. This particular temple was known for having a ridiculous amount of steep stone steps. H was feeling poorly again and I was still dizzy with dehydration. We sat that one out while D&F went to explore for a little.
We arrived at Ta Prohm, also known as “The Tomb Raider” temple owing to the fact that scenes from the movie were filmed there. We strolled around this place where nature had taken over, marvelling at ancient trees and carved stone.
We stopped at one last temple after Ta Prohm. As we approached the entrance, a little girl no older than four or five wandered out with a meat cleaver in hand. Another girl of about three persistently followed us for ten minutes, begging us to buy a pack of post cards.
We wandered around this temple, where H made a blessing at the shrine with a monk. We clambered over rocks and ducked through half collapsed doorways to explore the inner nooks and crannies.
H getting her blessing
We made our way to the other side where we grabbed some sliced mango and pineapple from a stall before finding the TukTuk driver and heading back to the hostel. As we drove away, a child clung to the side of the TukTuk, running along and begging us to buy postcards.
In a sleepy haze we watched huts and makeshift restaurants fly by, ladies on bicycles carrying wares, families on mopeds whizzed passed. The TukTuk driver stopped at the side of the road, exclaiming “Oh look! Monkeys!” To my horror, I realised they were about a foot away and were showing a sudden interest in us. I banged on the side of the TukTuk in a slight frenzy shouting for him to drive.
I can’t be the only person who has ongoing issues with and a dislike/distrust for monkeys?
Back at the hostel, we had a drink and went for a nap! Having only had a few hours sleep, it had been one heck of a long day!