Posted by Lois on -
1 Sunrise and sunset can sometimes disappoint
I've played this scene many many times in my head when we planned our Southeast Asian jaunt. The Angkor Wat temples silhouetted against the backdrop of a mesmerizing play of light. The red mingled with the orange like wild fire from the heavens. Deep blue hues were hovering underneath. The pink dancing around shyly to paint a picture perfect sunrise.
|Photo Credit: MikeBehnken|
It was much more beautiful in my mind.
2 Angkor Wat complex is not
Disclaimer: Unless you've competed in Ironman, have superhero abilities or have been making a living as a rickshaw driver since you were 10.
Angkor Wat is about 1 square kilometer in size. Within the outer wall is an enclosure 820,000 square meters in size. This is equivalent to more than 200 acres of land. I was lost in those numbers myself, but I'm warning you, your friendly tuktuk driver is your best bet. If you do attempt to bike around the temple complex, take heed to these advice:
Check your bike- many times. Make sure the brakes works, you have enough air in the tires and the locks are in place. Or else, you'll be sorry!
Wear appropriate attire. (Hint: short skirts and dresses make for glam pictorials but may cause involuntary flashing).
Hydrate all the time. Make sure you carry your own water bottle. Buying water at the temples will cost you a dollar per pop. It suddenly feels like New York City, doesn't it? Unfortunately, your rfid credit cards won't work in this part of the world.
3 The Cambodian sun is merciless (even for sun-worshippers like us)
You've seen photos of those model-like creatures posing around the temples looking matte and fresh before haven't you? It's as real as any Photoshopped magazine editorial! The oily truth is that you will be sweating and getting darker faster than you can say Farmer's Tan! Unless you've had permanent skin whitening through Magic Potions of course. Even though Chichi and I love basking in sunlight, before midday we had to take shelter underneath the enormous trees of Bayon. Sole Sister's tip: Bring sunblock, sunglasses and bottles of water!
4 Angkor Wat is a glorified (yet tantalizing) tourist trap
Everywhere you go, you will be offered things that can cost you an entire week of your backpacker's budget. From maps to visors that read THAILAND to photo books that you will most probably end up leaving somewhere for lack of space in your backpack. (You reading this, Chichi?)
The same goes for your lunch. Make sure you've had your breakfast before going. Or pack some sandwiches and fruit with you. There are some well-hidden cheap spots to eat. (Hint: Follow the locals by lunchtime.) We found some roadside stalls after biking for half an hour. Just don't ask me where they were. I was too famished to keep track.
5 Your visit may not give you the epiphany you were hoping for
I don't want to sound like a hater, but I just didn't get any mouth-agape-speechless-spiritual-moment while going around Angkor Wat. I'm not sure if it was the fickle weather, bad lighting conditions or my all too high expectations, but I certainly wasn't Taj Mahal wowed. Okay, perhaps it's not fair to pit World Heritage Sites against each other. But my point is, don't pressure yourself to have that enlightened moment when you're just as happy taking 'catch the sun' shots like this guy.
Our 30 before 30 list reads:
4. Go biking around Angkor Wat then watch the sun set from the temple towers.
We all know the 2nd part never happened. Because we failed to accept the reality that Angkor Wat just wasn't biker friendly. To recap, Chichi got a flat tire and we never made it to Phnom Bakeng in time. But I did try to make it there. And all I got was this shot en route:
It may seem like it's from a different place entirely. But this was my magical moment. I stayed there for a few minutes just soaking in the golden aura. I was witness to this magnificence. And for me, that was enough.
What things did you discover for yourself in Angkor Wat?
Still waiting for that WOW moment,
Sole Sister Lois
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