The time hit 3:45am, our alarm began to beep loudly in the distance, the mumbling sounds of regret, as Thomas and I began to question the late night drinks. As I rolled out of bed, Thomas laid in the bed trying to pretend that it wasn’t 4am. The night sky over-casted Siem Reap in darkness. As we left for the day in search for a tuk-tuk, we found a driver that was willing to take us on our adventure for a day. After bargaining a set price ($20 US) we were on our way to purchase our tickets.
While driving to the ticket booth, the street lights lit the dark streets as locals began to set up their small vendors for the day. We arrived at the ticket booth to find it closed. It was 4:45am and the office opened at 5am. Thomas and I took advantage of arriving early to walk around and use the washroom. Since there was nothing else to do but wait, we joined another couple in line. As soon as we lined up we saw the heard of people pull up in tuk-tuks, taxi’s, rental cars, and tour buses as the Jumanji of people rushed up to the lines. Within 30 seconds the line that stood behind us was at least an hour wait!!! Once the ticket office opened and we got our photo documented ticket, we felt as though we were on an episode of Amazing Race as the tuk-tuk drivers sped to get their clients to Angkor Wat for sunrise.
When we arrived at the entrance to Angkor Wat, the moto of our tuk-tuk was beginning to sound a little more raspy than those usual gasoline infused noises…the driver began to get a little worried. As we got off the tuk-tuk, we figured that the driver would solve the problem and we went along our way to get our spot for the beautiful sunrise of Angkor Wat. However, in the back of our minds we thought about the possibility of being stranded if our driver didn’t come back from his maintenance. When the sun began to rise, you could hear the sounds of cameras snapping and people asking one another for that perfect picture. We were no different in joining in with the crowd… soaking in every minute of the beauty that stood in front of us. After all, millions of tourists have come to Angkor to enjoy the amazing architecture; the largest religious site in the world.
The day started off well. Thomas with much patience took picture after picture as I eagerly asked him to take “just one more!” I felt overwhelmed by the ancient civilization that was estimated to be over one million people strong. As we explored the temple of Angkor Wat, our tummies began to grumble in hunger but in my mind we had no time to eat! Digesting the beauty of the detailed stone architecture was fulfilling. Thomas on the other hand was feeling a little bit different in the food department. Hanger without any coffee took over his body.
The humidity added to the uncomfortableness of the non-stretch material of my elephant-printed blue coloured pants I bought for a mighty $2US just the day before. The material stuck to my body like glue. It wasn’t long until this was the least of my worries. The time had come to capture a photo of us doing our “gladiator pose”. Thomas and his brother have enjoyed doing a rendition of the ‘300’ film as they yell out “This is Sparta!” while kicking the messenger into to the ‘endless’ pit. As we politely asked another tourist to take the master shot, Thomas helped me lift my leg to place my foot on his chest to capture the image of me kicking him off the ledge, however, as soon as we he lifted my foot we heard a rip! Looking at each other we laughed in disbelief. Not only we were tired, hangry and sweaty…
I was left with a giant rip in my pants …on the inside of my leg…by my crotch...
Trying to cover the hole, I managed to finish viewing Angkor Wat as the hole got progressively worse. Just outside of the Angkor Wat grounds, clothing vendors saw me coming towards them in the distance. By this time, I became emotional on the fact that I had ripped pants and would have to buy something quickly in order to visit the rest of the temples of Khmer Empire. Thomas tried to be as supportive as possible and convinced me to purchase a dress…but to be honest it was more like a bright orange ‘moo-moo’. He continued to say that he liked it as I stood there not impressed. Angry! I bought the item and took time to calm down. Stopping for food probably helped the situation because at some point I decided to embrace the moo-moo.
Thankfully our tuk-tuk came back for us and stated that he was given bad gasoline (water-mixed gasoline) hence why his moto was stalling. The driver confidently helped us get into our tuk-tuk and we were on our way. After all, what else could go wrong? …Right?!?
Trekking down the main roads at full speed, Thomas and I recouped ourselves, excited to see what else the grounds of Angkor had to offer us. As soon as we became optimistic, was when we heard those unusual sounds from our tuk-tuk. Our tuk-tuk puttered to a stall, and the engine cut out. As we rolled to a stop, we watched as the other tuk-tuks fly by us at top speed. At this point all we could do was laugh and try to help the driver in this mishap. Fortunately, he managed to get us to the next stop as the motor cut out to a stall again. At each stop our driver would frantically try to fix the engine, get the engine restarted and putter along to the next stop where it would cut out walking distance to the next stop. By the seventh time our tuk-tuk broke down we just continued to encourage and support the driver as he continued to apologize to us. We bought chilled water bottles for all of us to stay hydrated in the mid-day heat before the moto of the tuk-tuk decided to participate again.
While exploring the grounds of Angkor, the structures continued to leave us breathless. The abandoned structures were taken back by nature as tree roots submerged itself around, through and on top of the human made structures. Unearthing the grounds that are continuing to be taken back by nature over time added to the beauty and peacefulness of Angkor. Each temple visited throughout the day provided insight of the rituals, culture and wealth that the Khmer Empire once had. Buddhist Monks draped in bright orange cloth and lush grounds of greenery provided the perfect backdrop to the Zen energy of Cambodia. When we bumped into an elderly woman sitting peacefully in prayer within one of the temples, she greeted us with a smile. Her eyes embodied the light of compassion, positivity and love. She offered blessings to individuals who care to be blessed in one of the sacred temples. She spoke no English but spoke the human language of the world; A smile. Speaking in her native tongue she blessed us with a pray and tied a bright yellow and orange string on our left wrists. Smiling, we offered a donation for the blessing and I pointed to my camera asking in English if I could capture her beauty. She smiled back. This was by far my favourite part of the day. I felt connected.
(Blessed by Age..her positive energy captured my heart. As I write this blog post, her bracelet is still on my wrist)
With an early start to the day, Thomas and I explored the temples of the Khmer Empire into the late afternoon. Angkor allowed us to experience the insightful and majestic beauty that Cambodian culture and history has to offer. The day ended with us grabbing two Cambodia brand beers at a local vendor. As we enjoyed the fresh beverage in the tuk-tuk, we watched the surrounding environment while on our way back to the heart of Siem Reap. After changing out of my moo-moo and getting a little rest from the heat, we managed to find a roof top patio where we indulged in our last Cambodian meal before heading to Thailand.
"When you realize how perfect everything is