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Trip Report Angkor with Dad: The glory and the gory...

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Well, back in one piece, barring my tummy that went amok after consuming generous portions of 'amok', glad that we went and pleased with the trip overall...The blinding bright sun, the searing heat and the amazing incredible temples...heady, humbling and simply awesome...and then the sorry contrast with today's Cambodia of squalor and an almost-commercial expectation of charity from tourists (by some locals) was both moving and off-putting at the same time...

A few tips in no particular order: 1) of course, don't pig on 'amok', the national fish-paste steamed fish! 2) Do Angkor while young and able, and you don't HAVE to do Bakheng Hill at sunset!(overrated, IMO). 3) You can buy a guide book at the various sites - they sell cheap (bargain hard), surprisingly. We ended up buying a few just average down our first purchase price (LOL - great christmas gifts)! 4) Do the "more-covered" sites at mid-day or when the sun is its hottest, brightest (e.g. Ta Prohm and the interiors of Angkor). 5) Carry fruit to share - I was carrying fruit and instead of being accosted by little girls to buy trinkets 'to help put them through school', I ended up giving oranges to all and off they went, both parties (them and I) kinda happy. Dad didn't agree as I didn't have enough for everyone...6) Of course, agree with Kate completely on the hot, hot, hot so plenty of water and sun-block.

Highlights: Bayon is my favourite, especially at sunset; Angkor of course at sunrise and the awesome bas reliefs; Preah Rup for reflection and quiet; Banteay Srei for the fine work and change in colour; and of course Ta Prohm for the ultimate humbling experience (also a fave). We did go to Tonle Sap but the abject poverty and filth got to me that day...it was an experience but not really a pleasurable one. Dad's enthusiasm and indefatigable spirit really helped and I just had to keep pace!

As suggested, hired a local with an air-conditioned vehicle. Very useful and affordable.
Visited Angkor Thom the first afternoon - was completely taken in by the sheer scale and grandeur of everything. Particularly, spent a lot of time at Bayon with 216 faces looking down. Ozymandias Personified. Dad did well with the steps and all, despite the heat. I went back the next day at sunset and found it a lot more quiet, poignant and soaked it in better. As my father said, a 1000 years after it was built, people still coming to see what the king built is immortality achieved in a way...

Ta Prohm: 'from dust we are made and dust we shall be'...truly humbling, marvelous place. Thankfully, digital cameras are at hand enabling us to take shot after shot.

Evening saw us and a thousand others make our way to Bakheng Hill. Imagined it a 1000 years ago - aah, the whims of a king! Clambered up the top, jostled with a few, saw the sunset but didn't really enjoy it as much. It was essentially just another nice sunset overlooking a baray from a hilltop/ancient temple. Hats off to my dad for making it all the way - I could tell he was tired but raring to go!

5am at Angkor the next morning found us paying a dollar for an unpalatable cup of coffee and a sinking-into-the-ground plastic chair to watch the sunrise. Was worth the wait, the flies/dragonflies and the crowds to behold that sight. The temples too with their bas reliefs - sometimes you just had to stop and think, really, man made all this a 1000 years ago, places where cranes are needed to piece it back together! Spent a good four hours at Angkor before heading back for a hearty breakfast and the comforts of an air-conditioned room and bed!

Headed out to Banteay Srei, Preah Rup and East Mabon later in the day. Passing through the small villages with their wooden houses on stilts, open kitchens, hens wandering and kids running around naked...takes so little to keep one content! Really enjoyed these places that pre-dated the other grander temples. Probably also because they were less crowded. Watched the sunset there,and the surrounding rice fields were a nice visual change.

Visited Tonle Sap on our last day. As said before, again a humbling experience. All possessions on one boat...how do they do it? Saw floating schools, churches, crocodile farms and little floating gardens even! Squeezed in an apsara dance and a visit to D'Artisans Angkor in between all this, a trip to Psar Cha (the old market) where Dad befriended a sales lady who he was bargaining with!

All in all, a great trip to visit heritage sights and who better to do it with than a well-read, enthusiastic father who visited every gate/entrance to a temple,climbed those wretchedly steep steps without hesitating, got 'conned' (soft as he is) by all those sales people at each historical site, and also carried strong medicine for a nasty stomach bug so that our sight-seeing was not interrupted!

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