Here’s another weekly update… some travel plus some book tips and new stuff on Find A Spark.
I’ve been exploring…
Siem Reap (inc. Angkor Wat)
After visiting Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and both the Kong Rongs, it was time for mine and Shira’s final stop in Cambodia before her flight home — Siem Reap.
Getting from Koh Rong Samloem to Siem Reap was a bit of an adventure. The first step was a speedboat from Koh Rong Samloem to Sihanoukville, which turned up an hour or so late. After slinging the luggage from the pier onto the boat, the crew hopped on and the captain decided it was necessary to sail like a maniac in order to make up some time. Although getting airborne from some big waves was fun at first, it got old after a little while (although the backpacker next to me who cackled with laughter after every wave seemed to disagree). At least it got us there pretty quickly…
After grabbing some food it was time to hop on a night bus to Siem Reap via Phnom Penh. Although we’d heard some pretty mixed stories about the night buses (sharing double beds with strangers, tiny beds, changing buses in the middle of the night), the journey was pretty good. Other than a couple of stops to pee and get some food, we both slept all the way.
Our main reason for heading to Siem Reap was (like most people) to head to Angkor Wat, the ancient temple complex that’s often called the 8th wonder of the world. After getting off the bus at 5am we decided to walk to the hostel and on the way a tuk tuk driver asked if we wanted to head to Angkor Wat that day. After chatting for a while and getting more information, I added him on Facebook so we could arrange a pick up later in the day.
After reading some tips online we decided to head over at 5pm to grab a ticket for the next day and catch the sunset. We’d read that Phnom Bakheng is the typical sunset spot but that these days it gets super busy. Unperturbed, we asked the tuk tuk driver to take us there — we could deal with the crowds. He put up some resistance but we decided that when he said there would be a ‘line’ we were just misunderstanding — there couldn’t possibly be a queue at a huge temple complex, right?
Well, we were wrong. We walked up the hill and the temple itself had a pretty huge queue to walk up to the top — only a certain number of people were allowed up at a time. Although this was kinda annoying (the views from the top are meant to be pretty great), we still caught the sunset from a spot on the hill:
The following morning we got picked up at 4:30am, giving us time to catch the sunrise at the main Angkor Wat complex. In the lobby we picked up Billy, who was staying at our hostel but had been left hanging by a tuk tuk driver who hadn’t turned up. Luckily our driver was waiting outside, ready to roll.
I won’t go into too much detail about sunrise at the lake at Angkor Wat except to say that although you might get a great photo, you’re going to have to deal with hundreds of selfie sticks and constantly being badgered by people asking if you want coffee / breakfast / to buy something. As the spot has become unbelievably popular, it’s lost any atmosphere that it had before. If (like on our day), the weather means that you can’t get any particularly great photos you’ll have pretty much just spent 60-90 minutes of your life being barged by people desperate to take the perfect photo whilst the real sites (the temples) are pretty empty and perfect for some exploration. If you like photos, it might be worth gambling on getting a good sunrise there. If you like sunrises, there’s probably better (emptier) spots where you’ll get to enjoy it in peace. If you like temples, rise early and start exploring whilst everyone else is sword-fighting with their selfie sticks.
Despite the slightly disappointing start, the rest of the day was awesome. First we walked around the main Angkor Wat complex, which was beautiful. The detail that’s still visible on many of the walls was just incredible given the temples are around 900 years old:
Next we headed into Angkor Thom, the huge walled complex with a ton of different temples. We got dropped off at Bayon temple with its amazing stone faces:
After that we looped to Ta Keo temple (experiencing the infamous steep steps — it’s more like rock-climbing than climbing stairs) and finished at Ta Prohm, the temple famous (kinda weirdly) for being used in the Tomb Raider film.
The reason Ta Prohm was used in Tomb Raider, I guess, is that it has some incredible examples of how nature can quickly destroy man-made objects. Trees grow on top of, around and through parts of the temples — they really are awesome to see:
All in all, Angkor Wat was an incredible experience. Although it’s pretty expensive by southeast Asian standards ($37 for one day), we felt like we got our money’s worth.
Other than Angkor, we spent our time in Siem Reap exploring, visiting the night market and eating some good, cheap food. We spent a night at Soul Train Reggae Bar, which was awesome. Mostly we just chilled out — the heat in March is pretty crazy, particularly in the middle of the day (around 35 degrees). You get tired pretty fast when you constantly feel like you’re melting.
That’s it for this week’s travel update — next week is Vietnam.
I’ve been reading…
The Age of Consent
The title is kind of unfortunate — it’s a political manifesto, despite not sounding like it…
I’ve been watching…
Music and Life
I’ve been working on…
Find A Spark
A little while ago I mentioned some new stuff coming up at Find A Spark. Although I’m still working on it, it’s ready enough for you guys to see.
Rather than just having my own content hosted here, I’ve started adding links to external content that I think is cool. I’ve created homepages for various topics, with links to content related to that topic. The idea is that you’ll be able to hop onto the homepage for a topic and immediately have a ton of options for learning more about it. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a spark of inspiration and end up discovering something awesome.
I’m also adding some tips on where to get started if you’re new to a topic — I’ve done this for the meditation homepage already. I’d love to hear what you guys think of how it looks / works — you can add comments on the homepages!
That’s it for this week — much more to come next week!