After some of the sobering experiences in Phnom Penh and processing the reality of Cambodia's history, my bus ride north and my arrival in Siem Reap was a welcome change of pace...and I found I really loved Siem Reap. It's a much smaller place, way more laid back, and though a bit more touristy, it also affords the opportunity to meet people from all over the world as well as intermixing with locals. For a small place it was still lively and vibrant, and was the gateway to the temples of the Angkorian period, and I was left speechless...it is awe-inspiring and truly jaw-dropping to think about what once existed in this place.
I got up at 4 am and took a tuk tuk to be able to watch sunrise at Angkor Wat, apparently so do lots of people, so needless to say I was less than amused by the overwhelming number of tourists, but I suppose that's what you get when you visit sites such as these. I spent the day exploring other temples, climbing steep stone steps, dodging the sun (and tourists) and did my best to explore as much as I could. And I'm glad I did, but I was hot and tired after almost 8 hours of temple hopping. Though I have included a few,the pictures don't do justice to the grandeur and magnificence of these feats. Also, just a side note, don't worry, I saw the temple where Angelina Jolie filmed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and I decided I could totally have taken her.
Most of what I found I loved about Siem Reap was just strolling up and down the streets, through the markets. If there is such thing as sensory overloads the markets possess the ability to accomplish that. They are a myriad of narrow stalls full of every kind of good you could ever imagine. Everything from purses to dried fish exists in the markets. I found myself wishing the pictures could capture the din, the oppressive, stuffy air, the smells of different foods, the voices of the vendors...all of the things that make being there such a rich experience. In addition to the markets, the streets were alive with people, places to eat, tuk tuk drivers offering rides, lively conversations, and my favorite fresh fruit smoothies. I think I will probably go through mango smoothie withdraw quite seriously. However, with my next stop being Hanoi, Vietnam, I think I can find other delicious food to make me happy!