Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, Loco and Gato
24.10.2010 - 28.11.2010 26 °C
24th until 28th of october
On the 24th of october it was time to explore magnificant Angkor. Angkor, the most famous heritage site of South East Asia. Build by the Khmer when their reign stretched along current Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
I decided to buy a three days pass. My travel companions decided for one day. First we visited Angkor Wat. The most famous and biggest one. It is like you are walking into an ancient dream when you enter this site. To my surprise there were not so many tourist, despite the fact that it was around noon. We visited Angkor and spend almost 2 hours. There were parts of Angkor were we were literally alone and could hear our feet on the grass or stone. Wonderfull to experience Angkor like this. After, we had lunch. And as quiet and peacefull Angkor Wat is, so suddenly you are pushed into another world once you head towards the restaurants. There is a 'hidden' line until were the salespeople can follow you. Behind, you are at peace. I think a very good solution. And although, people are following you and trying to sell postcards, t-shirts (cheap cheap, 1 dollar), books (one dollar), water (1 dollar) etc etc. Everything here is one US dollar...they sell it with respect. When you say 'no' they might try just a little more. But when it is obvious you are not interested, they let you at peace. Also, when you talk to one of them, the rest keeps a respectfull distance and let the talk or negotiating go on. Only after you are finished, the rest will start. Wow, they both respect each other, as the tourist. And I really believe that that is the best way to do business. It is true that when you arrive, you are a bit overwhelmed. But yes, they are trying to sell and it's a touristic area. But all is done with a lot of respect. Wow, they gain my respect for this.
After a great dinner, we continued to Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom actually consists of more temples close to each other, surrounded by a big wall with 4 entrances. Another beautifull place. The last for todays' visit was Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is one of the most famous temples. This one is overgrown by the rainforest. One film of Indiana Jones was shot here. Tomb Raider is another one. And I can think of another one that is not so famous: two brothers. A movie from the 90s about two baby tigers that grow up in Angkor. A beautifull movie that never gained the value that (in
my opinion) it should have. A french-english movie.
Angkor Thom indeed lends itself for great pictures and I definitely agree that it is a great site for movies. The downside though is that due to its fame, so many tourist go there, that it is difficult to enjoy this temple for its true beauty. The famous place were is the entrance overgrown by a giant tree, is surrounded by wires and wood to make it a good picture place and prevent you from ruining the site (understandable). But therefore, you can never make an authentic shot of Angkor. In the evening we had dinner in an Indian restaurant with great food. The next day the Swedish left to go to Battangbang.
The next morning I was getting ready to go to Angkor again, two girls from Canada were also readying to go. So we decided to go together. We shared the TukTuk and since they were also on there second day, they also, like me, wanted to do the 'red' tour. Which means, the big tour around the lesser known temples. We started with Sras Srang. Although I never seen Indiana Jones, I have seen some trailers. And I have the feeling that Indiana Jones was (also) shot here. The temple was virtually empy. I guess in total, including us, there were 15 people in a mid size temple. That was really good! We started making some pictures and the girls did some funny pictures. Then I made some pictures for them where Sara would sneak up from behind to Sue as if to attack her. It started with some simple, funny pictures, but they ended up more and more elaborated. One with Sara with my Egyptian scarf and Sue with her umbrella trying to protect from the high kick,. Then some pictures of Gato. Gato that I got from my sweet girlfriend. Gato next to the line of tigers on the temple. We praying to Gato, as if Gato is a god. All with Angkor Sras Sramg. And later Pre Rup on the background. Sara and me being statues in front of the door; Sue praying to us, the statues. The pictures started to be more rediculous. We running screaming out of a temple, as if a monster (or round boulder as from the movie) was behind us. Doing flying kicks.. and the most rediculous, but on the line of being respectfull (it is a temple after all), shows three windows (all still Angkor as décor) with us being like hoes and a male hoe (me). But in between those pictures we also made the more 'normal' pictures. After all, Angkor is a beautifull place.
In the evening the tuktuk brought us to a place were, according to the driver, the sunset was very good. Honestly, I was a bit dissapointed. Indeed, it is a lookout point. But if you see hundreds of people climbing the same rocks as you, it is not so much fun anymore.
In the evening we went for dinner and I had a cashew nut shake. It's very good. Not refreshing, but interesting to try once.
Just before I left Thailand, I took out 12.000 baht (300 euro). A lot. Why? Because I heard that in Cambodia it is best to pay with US dollars or Bath. Since I don't have dollars, I thought it would be wise to take enough Bath. Another reason is that in Laos, they like your dollars or baht. And getting money in Laos is almost impossible. And if you can take it, you can only take small amounts. Thus, the bank in Europe gains a lot of commission every time you go to an ATM.
very quick I found out the next:
Real exchange rates (end of october 2010)
1 euro = 6600 Cambodian real
1 euro = 40 Thai Baht
1 euro = 1,39 US Dollar.
1 US dollar = 4600 cambodian real
1 US dollar = 30 Thai Baht.
1 US dollar = 0,72 euro
Luckily, I am good with numbers and exchange rates, because you really get ripped off if you don't pay attention.
In the hostel:
40 bath (if I pay that to them) represents 1 US dollar.
→ Actually I am giving them 1,39 US dollar if I do this. 40% extra.
4000 dong = 1 us dollar. No, 4600 dong is one US dollar. They pay me back the change in Dong when I pay in US dollar. 15% extra.
In Angkor to pay for the entrance:
entrance fee = 20 US dollars per day, or 40 for 3 days.
If I pay in Baht, the exchange rate is 33 bath= 1 US dollar. A 10% increase.
Well, the examples keep on going. So I decided to take US dollars, which to my surprise you can just take from the ATM here. The first time in my life I actually own US dollars.
The Canadian girls were heading towards Thailand in 1 week. They had a lot of US dollars left, which they couln't use in Thailand. I had a lot of Thai Bath left, which would loose around 20%-30% if I would use them now. My idea was just to keep them until I would be back in Thailand (febr 2011).
But luckily we could help each other out. They gave me 300 US dollars. I gave them 9000 baht. Well, a little more, because the exchange rate was a little bit more than 30 baht for 1 US dollar.
Good, so instead of carrying a lot of bath, I am now carrying a lot of US dollars. But luckily, I have some Bath left and some Dong. So whatever they ask, I can most often pay in that currency and not have the hassle of getting an inflated or deflated exchange rate. Really, here they make most of the margins just by converting from Dong to Dollar, Dollar to Bath, etc. It could make them 30% profit. Wow, I would never be able to do that with the normal FOREX.
26th of october.
Today I took a day of rest. I slept until 11.30 and after two days in the blistering sun in the temples, I really needed to relax a bit. So today, most of the day, I slept, watched a movie, updated some friends and family on my travel plans and got a very sweet message from my girlfriend.
27th of october. Last day Angkor.
Today I rented a bike. 1 US dollar per day, paid in US dollar. I biked towards Angkor, which was 15 km away. Siem Reap does not have too much traffic and it is fun to go by bike. Though, I wouldn't like to bike here too often. The toxic gasses from the cars and busses is crazy. A lot of people wear air filters.
Today it was just Gato and me on theIn total the red circle is about 40 km. But we managed . We spend a little bit of time in Bayon. And quite a lot of time in Preah Khan. Preah Khan is definitely my favourite temple for several reasons. It is one of the few temples in which you can wander for a while and get to feel how it used to be, but where the nature has literally taken over. Also, very little tourists show themselves around. So gato and I had a lot of fun exploring this temple. We could slowly see all. Most other temples don't have the nature anymore. It has been cut away to preserve the buildings of Angkor. And famous Ta Prohm does have the nature, but is more touristy. Still not mass tourism ( I was surprised), but too many to just walk around daydreaming.
All temples do have their own style and are worth visiting. Once you have been in Angkor 3 days, you will start going back to the same temples again and see all in more detail. So did I. And Gato and I took a lot of time in Preah Khan. After, we went to Neak Pean, Ta Som and East Mebon. East Mebon is also one of the less known temples that I really like. Then we went to Sras Srang and Banteay Kdei, but it was already getting dark. So it was me who had to bike for 10 kilometres to get us to Angkor Wat just when sunset was almost over. Gato confortably waiting on the back of the bik for our arrival. We arrived a bit late at Angkor Wat. Sunset was getting over almost and a lot of people were already returning. Also, the battery of my camera was almost flat. Just 3 pictures (not the best, unfortunately), finished this beautifull Angkor day. Then, from Angkor about 15 km back to Siem Reap. In the dark. My first trick was to bike very quick and so quick that I could have the same speed as the tuktuks. Thus, not being an obstacle for the rest of the traffic. And..the bike didn't have lights. Later, the tuktuks turned right. Gato and I continued with the curve of the road and turned right later. Less traffic. Then for a while next to the cars. I actually at some moments took over a car. Well, only because there was some bikers or tuktuks keeping the traffic slow. In the end I was surprised, because I found the hostel immediately. I asked once just to be sure and the guy confirmed that it was close. 100 metres, indeed. Wow, my navigation skills are improving.
28th of October.
Change of travel plan.
Yes, although a minor change. I found out that my Vietnames visa would be valid for only one month. That means if I would first travel in Cambodia for two weeks, I would only have 2 more weeks for Vietnam. I decided to go straight to Vietnam. And since I had to be back in Cambodia, Siem Reap, for my flight the second of december to KL, and after, Mumbai, I just changed the order. So first, Vietnam and after, back to Cambodia and see the rest.