Angkor Wat and Return to Saigon

chandra-descends-angkor-stairs.jpgWe woke up today at around 8:30am, which was sleeping pretty late considering we had been getting up at of before 7am most days.  I showered in the glass shower (think carnival money machine) and got ready.  It’s worthwhile to note that I did attempt to do something with my hair each morning, and this morning was no exception, but the second I went outside into the humidity, it was just a disaster.  Sali was going to meet us outside at 9:30, so we got dressed and went down to the lobby to check out 🙁  I really wish we could have stayed here longer, but it’s pretty expensive and I actually enjoyed the smaller hotels because they gave a better picture of the ‘real’ Vietnam and Cambodia.  We got some pastries for breakfast, which were actually pretty good and for some reason were 50% off between 9 and 11am — how strange.  We were a little late for Sali, but were pretty confident that we’d have enough time for everything.  First stop was Bayon temple.  Sali dropped us off and instructed us to meet him at one of the food stands, which were numbered, when we were done.  Bayon was incredibly cool with giant faces carved into the rock on 4 sides of a large pillar (sort of..) and steps that weren’t very difficult to climb.  There were all of these cambodians dressed in traditional attire and I guess you were supposed to have your picture taken with them – it was the epcot of the Angkor Wat complex.  So we get in all these poses doing very Buddhist things with our hands and presto! You have some of the oddest pics you can imagine.  We look SO white.  After exploring there for a bit, we went back to find Sali and he pointed us in the direction of another temple, Baphuon.  After climbing up some steps, there was an elevated walk-way to the temple….which was under construction.  We walked along the ‘runway’ though, which had water on both sides as we got closer to the temple.  We walked back along the grass and made record time back to Sali – it was SO hot.  I got some water and then we were off in the tuk tuk again, heading towards Ta Prohm!

THIS was very exciting.  A while back, Dave had emailed me some photo contest with all these pics of trees and this one had really caught my eye.  Upon further inspection, Dave pointed out that it was in Cambodia!  Of course, why wouldn’t it be?  This was shortly after I committed to the trip, so I was ALL about this tree.  Sali dropped us off at the entrance and you sort of walk down a path through the woods before coming up to the temple.  There was music playing on the side of the path and it was just a great atmosphere as it also had stopped raining.  We came to the entrance and decided to take the path around the temple first.  Huge, impressive trees were just everywhere and I had to resist the urge to take a photo of every single one of them.  Now THESE were trees, not like that crap at Muir woods.  Wtf is that about?  These roots were enormous and some were even as tall as I was.  The trees twisted and turned up into the sky, providing shade to the entire area and a serene ambiance around all of the ruins – even with all of the people.  We entered the temple from the back and there was this huge tree whose roots wrapped around a wall horizontally.  The root was easily a foot or two in diameter and we took a lot of pictures.  On the other side of the wall was the other side of the tree!  Equally impressive with folks taking pictures in front of it and everything.  We kept taking pictures and decided that it was our mission to find ‘the’ tree.  Luckily, the post cards that I bought from the little boy last night contained one of the tree, so I found a guide and asked him where it was.  We walked back out of the temple and it was maybe 100 meters away.  Wow!  This thing was SO cool.  It was straddling, like, an entire part of the temple and the roots extended to at least 3 times my height.  People were everywhere around this thing, so we waited…and waited…until finally no one was around and then we ran up as quickly as we could and took pictures standing under the thing – you can really appreciate how large it was when you see how small we are in comparison.  After just being blown away by this tree, we set out to leave….via the wrong gate.  Hm, too much paying attention to a world wonder and not enough time remembering where we were.  It was all good though and we made it back around the temple, past the Chann tree, through the jungle, and back to the ‘parking lot.’  Ice cream truck!!  Yes!  We got orange ice push pops which had to be eaten extremely quickly and were about to jump back in the tuk tuk when I spotted the green skirt that I had been looking for since the foot massages in Phnom Penh.  For $5, I got the skirt and a 1L bottle of water (free with purchase I guess – I don’t know how these negotiations went down, I was all happy from the trees and the orange push pop).  Little girls were coming up and offering to sell me bracelets and other stuff and rattling off facts about the US.  I bet 99% of 8 year olds in America wouldn’t even recognize Cambodia as being a country.  These kids knew our capital, # of states, and the president, and the former president, etc.  Very impressive.  So I walk back to the tuk tuk and Dave is absolutely surrounded by little girls trying to sell him things.  It was kind of a riot.  But off we went to…Angkor Wat!

After a quick stop at the South Gate to take some pictures, we sped along to Angkor Wat.  But first, would we like to see some monkeys?  Hell yes we would!  So we stopped right there on the side of the road, and there were the monkeys!  Just as I was getting out of the tuk tuk, a monkey jumped in!  Dave was ready with the camera and it’s a really good picture.  We bought a bunch of bananas from a kid and took turns feeding the monkeys and taking pictures.  We got some amazing shots as these monkeys were way more chill than the ones at Wat Phnom, although one did jump on Dave’s leg in an attempt to grab a banana.  Still, we even had more bananas than monkeys so soon when we looked around, everyone was already content and eating.  Dave decided to throw a banana and have a monkey catch it, so I took a video and he hit the monkey…well, he hit him straight in the balls.  Good times.  Back into the tuk tuk.  We pulled up across the street from Angkor Wat and it was just beautiful and sunny, so we left the umbrella in the tuk tuk and began walking up to the temple.  Children were badgering us and telling us to buy something from us when we returned.  They were still yelling even as we crossed the street, ‘hey, remember me, Spider Girl, you buy from me when you get back!’  lol.  Course, it starts to rain.  Not a tremendous amount, but enough to get pretty wet.  Even still, it was a sun shower and we took pics of each other in front of the famous facade.  Once inside the lower level, there were shrines to Buddha all over.  On to the towers!  We arrive at the stairs and of course, as if on cue, it stops raining so that we can safely climb.  Um, so these stairs are pretty steep.  And no railing.  And about 4 inches wide.  So Dave heads up first and gets half way, then we take some pics and then I climb past him and we take more pictures.  I was pretty scared, but Dave’s like a mountain goat or something and it looked like he had no trouble at all.  At the top, we took tons of pictures of the view and walked around the entire upper level.  The landscape was breathtaking and I was glad that we were there at this time of year because everything was so green and lush.  We were going to climb down a different set of stairs, but the ones that we had climbed up looked to be the least scary.  So I head down first and wow, going down is a lot worse because you really can’t avoid looking down because you need to see where to put your foot.  Finally we make it down and see that, on the other side of the large ‘tower’, there are these stairs that are for, and I kid you not, pansy little girls.  There’s a railing, and they extended the original stairs with cement to make them not steep at all and plenty wide for a human foot.  Whatever, I liked how we did it WAY better.  We exited via the side gate and I heard something that sounded like rain in the distance.  We literally saw the rain approaching us which was incredibly cool until it actually started raining on US!  We hid under a tree for a bit and then decided to head for the outer wall to take better cover.  After maybe 10 minutes it wasn’t raining that badly and we started the walk back to the main entrance.  Oh, we also took pieces of Angkor Wat.  Shh.  Back at the tuk tuk, there were stands selling the usual stuff and Sali must have told all the children Dave’s name because Spider Girl and all her buddies were calling to him as we headed towards the stands.  I got a purple bag with gold elephants on it, but I’m not sure if I can actually pull it off back home.  We asked Sali to take us to a restaurant with AC but he was a little confused about that because he probably doesn’t eat in places like that.  Oh, btw, a lot of men around here have really long fingernails, especially on their pinkie.  It was speculated that this was for cocaine, but I saw other men with all of their nails long.  Anyways, that’s pretty gross.  We headed out of the complex and passed by the hotel….then decided that the hotel was probably the best and safest bet for a good meal.  Back in the loveliness of the Sofitel, we went to the same lunch place that we had gone to yesterday and were both SO hungry.  We had done a lot of walking and climbing and hadn’t eaten anything but a croissant and the orange ice pop.  So Dave orders a hamburger, and I…did the same.  I don’t know why but that just sounded SO good to me.  I don’t think I have ever seen Dave as shocked as he was at that moment (unless you count the ‘Oh shit’ face impersonation of the cow…).  So yes, 3rd hamburger ever (I refuse to count White Castle), and I’m happy to report that it was GREAT.  Like, really really good.  Unfortunately, the ‘engineer’ at the hotel couldn’t fix the AC adapter, so we’ll have to look once we get back to Saigon.  It was 3:30 by that point and time for Sali to take us to the airport 🙁

We pull up to the airport, which is the smallest airport I have ever been to, and I swear to God I see a Dairy Queen.  So I say, ‘you’re going to think I’m nuts, but I’m seeing Dairy Queens!’  We had a good laugh, but then wouldn’t you know it, there’s a Dairy Queen there!  I haven’t even seen a McDonalds!  There isn’t even a Dairy Queen back home!  Anyways, after paying Sali, I changed my clothes and washed up in the bathroom and we checked in at the Vietnam Airways desk.  Our flight was canceled.  Great.  To make things even more ridiculous, our plane would in fact be leaving Siem Reap and going to HCMC, but hahaha, there wasn’t going to be anyone on it.  Because THAT, my friends, makes SENSE!  So, well, we went to dairy queen.  After that we passed through security after paying an outlandish $25 departure tax and began our long wait.  I get bored pretty easily but there was a massage place right across from our gate, so that could use up some time.  A hour hour foot massage was $10 (the nerve), and I only had $7, so Dave suggested I negotiate with these people.  I’m just not used to negotiating with businesses I guess, as back home you’d just be out of luck.  They agreed to do 20 min but it ended up being the full 30 because the masseurs have a routine that they go through and it must just be habit.  After that, I got some coffee and checked out the duty free shop, which was largely disappointing.  Dave and I went to the bookstore then played person, place or thing, which I am shockingly bad at.  It bordered on celebrity jeopardy I was so bad.  I though by the end he was just going to say ‘just write a number and you win!’  Eventually we got on the plane (exit row! I rule!) and in 40 minutes we were back in Saigon.  We passed through customs and  immigration very quickly, got our bags, and took a taxi to the electronics store that we had gone to earlier in the week.  It was pretty cool actually because we were giving directions to the driver.  So I wait in the taxi while Dave goes inside…and it’s taking a long time so I’m thinking this is not good…  Turns out I was right and they wouldn’t sell him an adapter even though they had dozens of Sony laptops sitting around.  Wtf.  So anyways, on to the Red Sun.  We dropped everything off and then quickly left to go find something for dinner.  We decided on a place just around the corner that had all types of Asian food.  I got some udon noodles, which were actually really good.  A guy came in and offered us pot, and Dave asked him if he had a gun silencer because my roommate (also named Dave) wanted one.  I think we are getting a little cocky with these non-English speakers because the guy was out of there in a flash.  After that, we roamed the streets looking for Jager because the market that we had gone to the other day was closed.  No other store in all of Saigon had it, so we went to a Guns and Roses bar for 1 drink and then back to the corner bar for 2 more.  The power went out when we were sitting there, which was funny because no one really said anything and business continued as usually.  Ok then.  After that, we went back to the Red Sun and Dave showered first and then I did.  So nice after such a long day of being rained on and then taking a plane.  When I got out, Dave had fallen asleep so I went to bed too.  We can actually sleep late tomorrow!

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