Angkor Wet!

As I’ve been to Angkor Wat before, I won’t rattle on too much about the place. You’ll find a more complete write-up in an earlier post, so I’ll stick to telling you more about what happened on this particular visit.

The main thing is that we were here in a different season to my last time out. That was May, and it was ridiculously hot and dry. This was July, and it was ridiculously hot and rainy. Leah had picked up in umbrella during our shopping the day before and it was to be tested to its limits today. As we set off in the tuk-tuk (a little late as we were both mysteriously ill very shortly after breakfast), the weather was fine.

As we had our photos taken for our little inkjet-printed day passes ($20), the weather was fine.

As we walked around the first of the ruins, then went on to meet the monkeys, the weather was fine.

As we plodded around the second major set of ruins, the weather was fine.

As we dodged the wannabe tour guide and saw the work that has gone into restoring the huge reclining Buddha, the weather was fine.

And then it wasn’t. It turned cloudy as we walked to the lunch area to search for our driver. By the time we reached the tents, the heavens had opened. The were rent asunder as we took seats in a random food place as we couldn’t find the one we were after. The ground went from sand to mud to marsh to rolling, heaving sea in about fifteen minutes.

In the meantime, we had a drink each and fended off a very persistent young girl who wanted us to buy souvenirs from her because she knew the capital of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa, by the way). Thing is, she started cute then rapidly got arsey to the point where all we cared about was getting rid of her. Which is a shame because after she’d stormed off in a right sulk, I realised that actually I did want one of those crappy fridge magnets as I’d promised Andy I’d get one last time I was here. Whoops. Sorry, fella.

Well, the rain eased off…

Nah. It didn’t. It kept pumelling down. We basically gave in and found the restaurant we were supposed to find our chap at. Annoyingly it was an expensive one and the food wasn’t much cop, either. And our driver had gone AWOL. Eventually, we went searching and found him cowering in his tuk-tuk out the front. We had to wade through foot-deep muddy water to get to him. All good fun.

He drove us round to the jungle areas, which were hugely atmospheric in the rain. By this stage, Leah was “caught in a drizzle” while I was “monsoon victim”. All our kit was in my daybag with the waterproof attachment wrapped thoroughly around it. A good thing, too, as the rain continued to hammer down the entire time we were exploring this segment. I’m not complaining, as it was warm and the photos I got were far different from the ones from last year.

Leah took a tumble and twisted her ankle on some wet stone… and her camera took a whack at the same time. The picture on the back was frozen and it wouldn’t turn off. Oh dear. I popped the battery out, re-inserted it and *phew* it was working again. Her ankle was OK as well. After a day or two. But the camera was fine. No worries.

By the time we met our driver at the opposite side, the rain had actually eased off and he drove us round to Angkor Wat itself. Ignoring cries of “Lonely Planet two dollar!” we made our way to the connecting bridge. Actually, I almost stopped when I heard the two dollar price. That’s cheap. You can tell it’s not tourist season.

The guard on the gate took our passes. Then got out his radio and contacted the front gate. It seems the little drips of water that had gotten onto our passes were enough to make him wonder if we’d faked them. Thing is, if we’d wrapped them in plastic we’d have invalidated them. And it’s kind of hard to keep bits of ink-soaked paper dry in a tropical downpour. Still, we passed the “they aren’t criminals” test and walked through into Angkor Wat proper in the hope that the rain was done for the day.

A lot of work has gone into restoring one of the friezes since last time around, and there are now some proper stairs going up to the summit. This will make for much safer ascents than the original stone. However, all four sides were still roped off and I can only assume this was due to the weather, or to some of the works being done at the top. A shame, but at least I climbed it last time. I don’t think Leah minded too much as she’s not great with heights.

So all in all, a very different visit to last year. We got changed back at the guest house and went into town for dinner on Pub Street. Tonight we opted for World Bar which turned out to be an excellent choice. The food was superb. I had a bacon roll for a starter and a steak for main course. Leah had something with chicken in. We both had fruit spring rolls covered in chocolate for dessert. The whole lot was absolutely amazing and cost about a fiver for us both. Amazing.

Afterwards, we burned off the calories with a walk through the night market, then had a quick beer at the Dead Fish. They’ve gotten rid of the crocodiles, but still have free internet for customers. And after that, another couple of beers at X. A nice bar, really, and a good place to finish our stay in Siem Reap.

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