I finally got around to seeing Angkor Wat. Whilst back in Bangkok recently, unsure of where to go, and honestly a little tired of being in SE Asia, I decided that it would be a shame if I didn’t see Angkor Wat before leaving. In Bangkok I found a barbershop that also sold bus tickets to Siem Reap, the town that is the base for exploring the Angkor Wat ruins.
1) Don’t pay more than 250 baht ($8 US). That includes a minivan to the Cambodian border, and a large bus to Siem Reap after you get through passport control.
2) Don’t let anyone else handle your passport. The minivan driver or his associates will try to separate each person in the minivan to take care of the visa process for you. DON”T LET THEM. Take that f#$*in’ passport and do it yourself. It costs about $35 US.
3) Do bring a passport size photo. I didn’t and they were going to fine me 100 baht, but an official ended up patting me on the shoulder and saying “don’t worry, you can go” and I went through without paying extra.
4) Don’t listen to the minivan drivers on the other side. They will tell you ” your bus will be here in 4 hours but…you can take my minivan right now (at 200 baht, which if you want you can bargain down to 80), and get there early.” This is bullshit. Your bus will be along much sooner than 4 hours.
5) Once you arrive at the small bus station, ignore the persistent tuk tuk drivers and walk towards the canal in the city center. After walking 100 meters you can grab a tuk tuk for $1 (much cheaper than at the station) to your hostel/guesthouse/hotel or walk it, it’s not that far.
Once there I met an American guy, and a couple from Argentina. Together we decied to avoid the in-your-face tuk tuk drivers and walk the 2 km to our respective hostels. I ended up staying at Siem Reap hostel, a giant monstrosity with an indoor pool and decent bar. At this bar, I met two other Texans. I’d been in SE Asia over 4 months without meeting another Texan, and then voilà there’s two of them. One of them was from Austin, my longtime home.
About the ruins. They’re very impressive. I got the three-day pass for $40 US and set about exploring the ruins with my American friend Corey. While walking around the different temples and buildings, I enjoyed contemplating the hidden nature of the place. To me, all the impressive ruins of the world have a sense of mystery to them. To me no matter how much we dig around the site, events took place there that we may never know about. In my opinion our ancestors were much more advanced in many ways than we give them credit for. I liked analyzing the Khmer culture through the ruins. The mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism is evident in the wall reliefs and statues scattered around the complexes. I thought about how anytime a new religion comes along and gains popularity with the locals, it assimilates and absorbs the previous religion of the people. For example, Celtic beliefs and celebrations got absorbed by Christianity and became expressed through the holidays Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Contemplating history and trying to read between the lines of the official version of history we are told is one of my favorite pastimes. I also believe that all the large, ancient historic sites such as Angkor Wat were built in the location they were not only because of access to a water source and good land, but also because that site has/had a highly concentrated spiritual energy which the priests. holy men or monks and others could use to their advantage.
Anyways, nerd rant over. I really enjoyed walking around the temples and taking it all in. The age of the buildings is evident by the enormous trees growing over the temple stone. They must’ve taken centuries to reach their current size. I did the small loop with my friend with a really nice tuk tuk driver we hired for the day. The next day we rented fully electric scooters and did the large loop.
After three days there, I went back to Bangkok, again… I applied for my visa to India, which I am patiently waiting for. Until next time!