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Entries about entertainment

Exploring Ancient Angkor

sunny 83 °F

Like many visitors to Cambodia, exploring Angkor was at the top of our list of things to do upon arrival. At 5am on our very first morning in Siem Reap we got to it. Our guesthouse provided a couple of baguettes and bananas for a quick breakfast and then we hopped in the tuk-tuk that would to cart us around for the day. The city of Angkor is inside a park of sorts that you need to pay to enter. They offer one-day, two-day or week-long passes. We had heard there was too much to see in only one day and opted for the two day pass. It turns out we had heard correctly, there is way to much to explore in a single day especially considering the number of steps you inevitably have to climb. We lasted a solid 6-7 hours that first day and we were beat.

Tickets in hand we proceeded to Angkor Wat, the first stop for all of the MANY early temple tourists on a given day. The best itinerary for exploring some of the lesser temples in the area is debatable, but it seems like everybody agrees it's best to head to Angkor Wat for sunrise.

As evidenced by the crowds:
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It was still fairly dark as we crossed the moat and entered into the massive courtyard that sprawls from the feet of the temple. Obviously I'd only seen pictures of Angkor Wat up to this point and the sheer size of the entire structure surprised me. It was impressive even in just the earliest hint of light. We found a decent spot to stand and watch as the silhouette of the temple came more and more into focus until the first red-orange rays of sunlight crowned the uppermost towers. It's a sight well worth the early wake-up call, to say the least.

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As the sun went about it's business of rising the crowds began to thin and spread in every direction across the grounds. We headed for the temple itself where we made the walk through the lower portion of the temple, the inner walls of which are covered from floor to ceiling with bas-reliefs depicting the epic Hindu poetry of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Those walls drew a majority of my attention as we made our walk but if you looked close enough at anything in Angkor Wat there would be something to see. Every inch of the place is covered with incredibly ornate decoration.

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When we'd had our fill of Angkor Wat we headed to some of the less talked about structures in the city of Angkor Thom. Neither Sam or I knew much about Angkor Thom. It was beautiful to look at but at that point we were pretty jealous of the groups of people enjoying the breadth of knowledge their tour guides had to offer. If I could do things over I would make a point to find a good guide, at least for the first day there. But since we couldn't go back in time we just listened in whenever we came upon a group with an english-speaking guide! It worked well enough and after seeing the Bayon, the Baphuon, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, we called it a day.

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We took one day off to recharge a bit and on our third day in Siem Reap we headed out on what is referred to as the "small tour" which includes Preah Khan, Ta Som, Tha Prohm, Neak Poan. Each of the structures we visited were incredibly detailed, each beautiful in it's own way. Even without much knowledge of Hinduism or Buddhism, the temples are a lot of fun to just explore and marvel at while trying to picture how amazing they must have been in their time. Two days of temples, ruins, bas-reliefs, statues, moats and countless steps was two days well spent, and should remain a must-see for any visitor to Cambodia.

Posted by Sam.and.Avery 22:01 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple cambodia angkor_wat sunrise angkor_thom angkor bayon sightseeing entertainment exploring must_see baphoun Comments (1)

Better Days in Ban Tai

Motorbikes, Muay Thai, Half Moon and Mold.

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Things keep moving along so fast! We changed out route so we're actually in Cambodia now rather than North Thailand -- SURPRISE! It's been a challenge to stay current with the blog but I'll pickup where Sam left off try to bring this up to speed.

First off, renting a motorbike is DEFINITELY the way to see a place. Or at least it is when you're on an island like Koh Pangan. We had a pretty bad impression of what the island had to offer the first night we were there because of our own ignorance of the best way to get around. In a town like Ban Tai where everything is sort of spread out, walking isn't much of an option and taxis will gouge you on fares because they know that. Anyway, we rented the bike through our resort for the equivalent of $6 for 24hrs, and had a much better second and third day there.

We took a cruise around town -- slowly, since it was the first time I'd driven a scooter like that -- and it went smoothly except for one little incident where I forgot which side of an alleyway I was supposed to be driving on. No accidents though, just a dirty look from a local. After that test run we hit one of the main roads and headed for a park on the interior of the island. There we found a nice hike past a waterfall up to a lookout point where we could see the jungle spread out beneath us and some neighboring islands in the distance. It was our first look at the denser forests the area had to offer and I'm pretty excited to do more trekking in the mountainous areas of North Thailand as well as Cambodia.

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That evening we headed to the night market where we joined the crowd shuffling around between the rows of food carts. Food markets are an awesome way to have a meal here. There's a huge variety of vendors in one place, it's about as authentic as you can get and it's all super cheap. We sampled from a few different carts and almost everything was up to par except for a deep fried snack labeled "Vegetable Ball" that I took a bite into before deciding it was probably made of chicken. Oh, well. I knew it would be a bit of a challenge to find legit vegetarian food on this trip and I'm sure it won't be the last time I'll have a mystery meat surprises. The night market experience came to an abrupt end when the power went out. The vendors were ready for it with their LED lights and candles but most of the crowd started to clear out pretty quickly.

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During the day we'd seen a few billboard trucks driving around blaring announcements about some Muay Thai happening that night and we decided to check it out. Muay Thai is a big sport in Thailand. It's a form of kickboxing and the whole experience was very entertaining. We navigated the muddy walkways around the ring and found a couple of spots to sit on the tiered metal bars they use as bleachers, it's really more like scaffolding. We sat through eight fights -- shrouded in cigarette smoke, surrounded by beer-clenching hooligans and gamblers cheering at every big hit and going wild for a knockout. I would do it again!

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The next day we took advantage of our scooter again, cruising up to the North part of the island for some snorkeling in the early afternoon. Sam was starting to feel a little rough and thought she might be getting a cold so we headed back to the hotel for a little recharge nap before heading to the Half Moon Party that night. I couldn't sleep so I headed to the beach for awhile and ended up meeting a friendly group of people from England who were heading to the party as well. Sam joined us when she woke up and shortly after we all headed into the jungle for the Half Moon. I don't know if I'm getting to old for this that type of thing or what, but I have to say I was a little disappointed. Granted I'm not the biggest fan of House music, but I can usually enjoy it when it's live. This was borderline boring, though. There are waaaay better shows going on back in Minneapolis. I did get a CD of some of the music along with my entry so anyone feeling curious can check it out for themselves when I get back.

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The next morning we had a little scare when we were standing at the desk checking out and we couldn't find our motorbike key. I headed back to our bungalow to search. I didn't find the key there (turns out Sam stashed it in her bag and promptly forgot about it) but I did find some confirmation that the bungalow was what was making Sam sick. The cleaning lady had removed the sheets from the beds when I went back on my search and the mattresses were filthy. It was a new level of dirtiness. The mattresses looked like slabs of dirt-covered mold. No exaggeration. There were huge patches of black mold all over them in addition to general dirt and sand and even a little bit of what looked like blood stains. We will not be writing positive reviews for the Phangan Beach Resort of Ban Tai!

Aside from Sam getting a moldy lung and in spite of a dud of a Half Moon party, we managed to have a decent time in Ban Tai overall. But with so many beaches to choose from I'd hardly say it's the best option on Koh Phangan. Especially after a visit to Bottle Beach...but that's for another post.

Posted by Sam.and.Avery 02:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand nightlife muay_thai entertainment half_moon_party koh_phangan motor_bike night_market koh_phangan_beach_resort half_moon getting_around how_to_get_around Comments (0)

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