Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Great Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

Sometimes in life, you pinch yourself and go right on dreaming.  This happened to Kristin and I today.  As cliche as it has become to write or say that something cannot be expressed properly in words, this cliche is tailor made for a place as special as Angkor Wat.  It rises out of the Cambodian jungle like a lost world that must remain lost, too recklessly beautiful for modern function and too relentlessly epic to be categorized as anything but what it is.

We arrived at 4:45am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  After staking our claim to a patch of grass at the edge of a pond front and center, we were approached by a Cambodian woman from a nearby village.  She offered us coffee and chairs which we accepted, and eventually, when all was said and done, she even made me banana nut pancakes.  They were delicious.  As I sat in a plastic chair eating pancakes and watching the sunrise over possibly the most strikingly gorgeous piece of architecture in the world, it dawned on me.  This is probably about as amazing as it gets.  I would have to go unicorn hunting with Santa Claus to top this moment.  In our human history, the confluence of circumstances are rare where an empire had the time, resources, and power to build something as magnificent as this.  And here we are enjoying breakfast, watching the sunrise over the piece de resistance of the old Khmer Empire, it was truly one of life's great moments.

After taking in the sunrise, we wandered off the beaten path to find a restroom.  We stumbled upon a little monastic village.  The chanting drew us in for a closer look, and that is when we noticed this thin black dog.  We followed him out of this village and onto the perimeter road around Angkor Wat.  Eventually, the small black dog came across a female dog friend.  They greeted each other for a moment, until an alpha male came running out of the jungle to break up the tryst.  It was a bona fide temple love triangle, a compelling doggy soap opera.

After touring the temple for about 2 hours, we headed back to the hotel so that I could write yesterday's blog and take a brief nap before our ATV adventure through rural Cambodia at 11.  The tour company sent a tuk tuk to pick us up, and after a scenic drive through Siem Reap, we arrived at the ATV jump off house.  It was a pretty rough initial 15 minutes for Kristin and I.  First, we had planned on sharing an ATV, but the guide said that we were too fat.  We think hope that it was a lost in translation moment.  After this, we went to the restroom in a nearby house, accidentally tracked mud inside (after realizing that we forgot to take our shoes off), cleaned the dirty looking mud with toilet paper, and then clogged the toilet with the t.p. that we used for the cleaning.  Embarrassing stuff.  After the aggregate of our actions were laid bare across that poor restroom, it looked like someone had a pretty severe accident, and did quite a poor job dealing with it.  We set off with our guide, Sobey, leaving our disgrace behind.  I mentioned to him that we made a mess in the bathroom, and he laughed and said, "No problem, it is not my house." Not too reassuring, Sobes.  Our ATVs were a blast to drive, and in the first 5 minutes, this Indian guy that was with us had crashed twice.  It was pretty funny.  Our drive took us through villages, rice paddies, and jungles.  In Cambodia, people just drive, there is not really a right or left hand side to drive on.  They simply drive where there is space.  The countryside is filled with naked kids and skinny cows.  Every house that we passed, kids came running out to wave and yell at us.  We eventually stopped at Chres Village School and Orphanage.  It was a very rewarding experience, and Kristin and I had the chance to spend time with some young Cambodian orphans.  The girls really liked Kristin.  She had a full entourage about 6 deep that followed her everywhere. I hung with my main man Clee, a 13 year old orphan who spoke very good English, and his little buddy, Hun.  They gave us a tour of their school, showing us where they sleep and telling us where the big kids get to learn computers on Saturday.  We were treated to a tour of the pigs on their farm, and when we asked the pigs' names, the girls laughed and said, "Pig."  It was seriously heart warming stuff to see all of these adorable orphaned children learning numerous languages (they have to learn Khmer, English, and Chinese or Japanese) and having such high spirits.  They essentially learn all day and sleep in their classrooms.  We did not want to leave, and decided that we would contact the school and try to do something small for them in the future.  Kristin gave hugs to all the girls and I gave out a few high fives, and we were off.

Cambodia holds on and then holds on a little tighter.  It is romantic, mysterious, uplifting, and heartbreaking, sometimes all at once.  It has definitely grown on Kristin and I.  We are both glad that we have one more day and one more night in this great country.

Angkor Wat 5am

Angkor Wat - There are quite a few of these

Almost sunrise

Thanks for the great pic stranger

Monastic Village school

Monk Cemetery

Our tour guide

It was so empty at the temple, so thankful


Broken Up by Alpha


A retreat to the temple

Rear of Angkor Wat


Along the temple wall

Inside Angkor Wat

Bas relief

Kristin in the temple, not in bad shape for being almost 1k year old

Kristin provides a frame of reference for the
size of Angkor Wat

Temple Sweeper

Front door

Front of Angkor Wat, all to ourselves

Just one more

Some lilies in the moat

Kristin on an ATV

Rural Cambodia

Cambodian Cows

We both wore a traditional Khmer scarf to keep the dust out

Clee and I

Kristin and her entourage

You could tell they do not take many pictures, and they thank you
for taking their picture

Where the big boys learn computers on Saturdays

Class in session

Showing us their picture board, we are going to send them these
pictures for their board

Where the boys sleep and learn English.  There was a sign on the
wall, "No Khmer in this room, only English." They rely on teachers
from the west to volunteer teach English 

Visiting the pigs

Clee and Hun

Back on the road

We had a chance to take a picture because
the Indian wrecked again

Riding my atv

Country scene

House that was dropping the beats

This is a good pick to click through for detail



Dinner at a traditional Khmer BBQ place


  1. Sorry I missed your call last night. I am really enjoying following you 2 in this incredible adventure! I am actually receiving a history lesson. Love ya and Be Safe!

    Dad (Souge)

  2. What an awesome and amazing trip you have provided for us! I can hardly wait to get our next adventure. Keep close to one another and enjoy each day! Love you Grandma O

  3. Daniel(Kristin's bro)July 8, 2009 at 6:30 PM

    Me me me on an ATV!!!

  4. Pls forward to Fodor at:

    Sensational coverage outclasses the pros. What a lifetime of memories bank. Travel Safe and thanks for the being a profesional raconteur---Grandpa D

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