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Monday, July 10, 2006

Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, Cambodia

Last weekend Nima and I visited Siem Reap, Cambodia, the town where the Angkor Wat and other temple ruins stand. The history of Cambodia is incredibly rich, as the kingdom was at one time one of the most powerful and largest in the world. The Angkor temple site is influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism, and is the world's largest religious site. Wikitravel and Wikipedia give a good historical lesson for those of you interested.
There are several temple ruins at the Angkor Wat site, more than a 2 day weekend trip permits. We had a great tuk-tuk driver named Million who took us around without a hassle over the weekend. The three sites we visited in depth were:
  • Bayon - Temple of many faces
  • Angkor Wat - The big kahuna
  • Ta Phrom - Temple of trees

I'm not going to write too much about the trip because the photos tell the story. Make sure you take a look at my SmugMug site for all the pictures (almost 500 in total). Basically, we arrived in Cambodia early Friday morning and headed straight for the temples. We bought a 3 day pass for $40USD since the daily passes were $20 anyway. One thing really interesting about Cambodia is that their de facto currency is the US Dollar. They have the Riel, but that's really only used for small change as the exchange rate is 4200 to $1. So if you ever come to Cambodia, make sure you have plenty of US Dollars.

Besides visiting the temple sites, we spent a little time in the city of Siem Reap, checking out yet another Asian city. Siem Reap (literally "Siam Defeated") is a pretty small city that just opened a brand new international airport (we might have been the first flight ever to arrive), has an 'old market' where the bar and nightlife scene is sprouting up, and a few other notable places. One of those is the Foreign Correspondents Club, a restaurant and hotel that was once the only safe place for international reporters to stay during the Khmer Rouge regime and wars with Vietnam. The location in Siem Reap is a bit of a gimmick since it wasn't the real FCC, but we did go there to have a nice meal and play some pool. Other places we visited were the several pubs on Pub Street, offering $0.35 beers during happy hour, $0.50 regular price. We also got some seriously great massages at Body Tune ($20/each), good enough that Nima went back for a foot massage the next day.

So here are a few pics of our trip in Cambodia...

Nima and me at Bayon Temple

Me at the Bayon Temple

Nature leaving its mark at Ta Prohm

Monks at Angkor Wat


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