I booked the tour through a company called Siem Reapers Tours. I mean, who wouldn’t book with Reapers, especially on October 31! The day started early with a 0445 pick-up in the hotel lobby with a tuk-tuk ride out to the Wat. $37 entry fee got me a 1-day pass (they sell multi-day passes too, much like Disneyland), and I and my two tour companions (oddly enough, from Spokane, after living in Denver!) joined a couple of hundred others waiting for the dawn over Angkor Wat. Sadly, the dawn disappointed. It was a bit cloudy and there wasn’t much of one. Besides, I thought it was odd they would have the dawn-seekers congregate on the west of the temple. I’d enjoy a sunrise illuminating the edifice more than silhouetting it. But that’s me.
The condition of the original stonework is rather eroded, but what to expect from carved sandstone sitting out for 1000 years in a climate of significant rain? I wouldn’t have been surprised if the entire place was nothing but piles of sand at this point. Since they are both UNESCO World Heritage sites though, there has been, and continues to be a lot of restoration work. In the past, I would have sneered at restored monuments – restored isn’t nearly as cool as original. I now have revised my opinion. I want to see these places as they might have appeared in their prime and glory. A mound of stones isn’t nearly as interesting as a temple as it existed in 1100.
On the downside, I learned that the money I pay (and all visitors to the temple and city) goes not to restoration, or even the people of Cambodia. The sites are under a long term (99 year) lease to a Vietnamese company. Seems Pol Pot sold everything at the same time he was killing everyone. The country is owned by Vietnamese and Chinese interests. I’m happy to report my tour company was not outsourced to some international conglomerate. Locally owned and operated. And great folks.
I haven’t done a lot of mountain biking lately, and my trail balance was not what it used to be. Thankfully, the trails we traveled were generally fairly wide, and the terrain not technical. The few places where it was narrow and/or rocky/rooty I amazingly navigated without incident. I am inordinately proud of that. While riding along the wall, I thought that the route would make for a fun and fast trail race. It’s all dirt, reasonably flat and smooth – and 12 K! I don’t think it’ll ever happen, but how cool would it be if it did?
We wrapped up the riding and the touring about 1:30 with a lunch at a totally tourist place. Pricey and hawkers mobbing everyone who left. The price of the (pretty good) food was included in the tour, but drinks were not. I opted out of a beer since it was 5x the price of what I would be able to get in an hour when I got back into the city. Besides, the caffeine and sugar of a Coke sounded pretty good at the time.
Shower, and I was off to rehydrate and renutrate (that totally should be a word, right?). A couple of $0.50 beers and a bowl of $3.50 curry, and I was done, done, done for the day. I’m not sure I even got through a single Big Bang Theory episode before succumbing to the sweet, sweet embrace of the Sandwoman.