After waking up in the wee hours on Tuesday (7/14) in order to make sunrise at Angkor, then suffering through a brutal experience where our girls had absolutely no desire to take in the sunset we spent the remainder of Tuesday swimming and relaxing at the resort.
We weren’t completely sure of what we wanted to do for our final day on the 3-day Angkor Wat pass, but we went ahead and booked our driver, Ret, to pick us up at 7:30am on Wednesday. After breakfast we headed out and decided that we would redo Ta Prohm since it’s such an exceptionally nice temple with all the jungle vegetation growing on top of the ruins. When we had visited on Monday it wasn’t a great experience because Carolyn nearly had heat stroke after pushing herself too hard, and neither Zoe nor I visited it.
This time around Carol stayed in the car to enjoy the air conditioning with Logan while Zoe and I went into the temple grounds with Ret. Normally drivers never go into the temples (usually only officially licensed guides go in) but Ret wanted some photos for his website so he led the way. On the long pathway into the temple itself we came across a small band made up of land mine victims. I purchased a CD from a similar band at the exact same location over 8 years ago. Some of the band members were blind, others were missing different limbs, but the traditional Khmer music sounded cool and Zoe enjoyed it for the couple of minutes we paused there to listen.
Because we got to Ta Prohm so early (around 8:15am) there were not very many other people around, which you can see in my photos below. At places like Angkor Wat you can’t take a photo without 20+ other tourists/travelers in the shot, but just about every photo I took on Wednesday morning was taken without a single person in the shot other than Zoe or occasionally Ret walking ahead of us. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when walking around this place. It feels ancient and undiscovered even though tens of thousands of people visit it each year. The trees and moss that are growing on everything gives off a vibe that you’re just walking through the jungle and happen upon this amazing ruin. It’s easy to see why Tomb Raider was filmed here – the location is amazing and every single inch of the place is covered in green — lots of green…
I really enjoyed walking around Ta Prohm, and again Zoe’s favorite part was hopping from stone to stone. The dangers of this game were different at Ta Prohm than they were at Bayon; instead of precipitous ledges where a misstep would lead to a long fall the problem was now that everything was slick and slippery from moss and moisture in general. Zoe didn’t stumble once though, and had a blast. Look closely at the photos below to see the scale of the trees that are growing all over the stones – Zoe can be found at the base of the trees in several shots and she’s tiny compared to these humongous trees.
Once we had been through most of Ta Prohm we went back to the car and headed off to Banteay Srei, which is about 45 minutes away by car. We visited Banteay Srei back in 2007, but we took a tuk-tuk out there and we got covered in dust. Carolyn and I noticed that our clothes and skin was much more clean during this visit compared to our previous visit because we opted for an air conditioned car instead of the tuk-tuk we used during our first visit. The tuk-tuk is certainly more fun, but it leaves you sweaty and covered if dirt and mud. Maybe when we return for a third time in the future we can split it up into half by car and half by tuk-tuk…
Banteay Srei is way out in the countryside, so you get to see Cambodia’s rural life as you head out there. Cambodia is a gorgeous country – green in every direction, and the people are beyond friendly – always smiling. We stopped a couple of times to take some photos of rural life, like water buffalo grazing near a creek and some young boys fishing in a pond with nets. Ret explained several things along the way, such as the reasoning behind the homes all being on stilts – lots of snakes would come out of the jungle and rice paddies if your home was ground level and also so you can bring your cattle underneath your home to avoid rustlers stealing them while you slept if they were just turned loose on your land.
When we got to Banteay Srei I stayed in the car with Ret, Zoe and Logan while Carolyn went to take a look. This time around she was gone for a good while (about 45 minutes) but when she got back to the car she was smiling instead of looking like she was about to collapse like she did after her Ta Prohm visit on Monday. She enjoyed it, but I’d had enough temples. I wanted to a see a little more of the rural landscape so I asked Ret to show us a little more of it on the way back to Siem Reap.
He stopped by a dragonfruit farm because I told him I’d never seen the plant that they grow on and that it supposedly looks like a dragon, hence the name. Ret just pulled over in front of a couple of little huts and we jumped out (Ret, Zoe and I) and he yelled something and someone answered, then he told us to follow him. The people have no regular electricity supply so they had an old generator running, and as we approached the dragonfruit farm (about 100 meters from the road) we had a loud hill myna bird yell at us from its cage and 4 little pups go crazy with excitement when Zoe walked past them.
Zoe was really into the puppies and asked if she could have one, and while I can’t say that the dragonfruit vine (tree?) looks like a dragon I can say it looks different than what I expected. The dragonfruit were hanging off the ends of this long vine system that looked like a type of cactus to me. The farmer smiled at us and came up and sold us a kilo of fresh cut dragonfruit for $2; he was cutting them as we were walking up. We left with 1kg of dragonfruit but no puppies…
We eventually made it back to the resort and Carolyn set out to plan our evening. She booked 2 babysitters to watch the girls in our villa from 6pm-9pm after making reservations at the Khmer restaurant just outside of our resort for 6:30pm and an appointment for couples massages at 8pm. Once all the arrangements were made we all went swimming for a while, then we took a short nap before the babysitters showed up around 5:30pm.
The babysitters were young ladies who have worked for the resort for a couple of years in the housekeeping department, and one of them, Terry, spoke English fairly well. We introduced them to the girls and shortly afterwards we walked down to the Khmer House restaurant.
The sun was setting so it wasn’t so hot any more. The restaurant looks like it was possibly a traditional Khmer home at some point because it has an open area downstairs with stilts supporting the main dining area upstairs. We made our way to the second floor and Carolyn kicked off her shoes and yelled at the host to put them in the shoe locker before we made our way inside. Actually she was yelling at me “pick those up!”, but the host didn’t realize that and just smiled and quickly grabbed them before I realized what happened. Carol apologized and said she was talking to me, but I don’t think he understood what she was saying.
Inside all the tables were all setup in a traditional way, very low to the ground with little mats to sit on while you dine. We were the only ones there since the place had apparently just opened for dinner at 6pm, so there was another option for seating – a private room off to the side with the types of tables they sometimes have in Japan where the table itself sits down in a recessed hole and while you’re sitting on the ground you can dangle your legs down into the hole so you aren’t forced to sit Indian-style on the ground. We didn’t have to think about that one, we picked the Japanese style.
Once we both maneuvered ourselves into sitting positions we looked up and noticed a swarm of mosquitoes. They were large enough to easily see them in the low light, and I’d estimate that there were at least 30 of those bastards. We both had that wide-eyed open mouth look and directed it at the host who apologized profusely and ran off. He returned with two mosquito coils and placed them down in the hole, and he turned the air conditioning down lower and within about 5 minutes there were only 1 or 2 left. I was bitten only a couple of times and none bit Jean, so it ended up not being too bad (unless I have dengue or malaria and symptoms set in this next week!). After basically 5 days in Cambodia, outside in the pool and walking around through jungles to look a ruins our first mosquito bites were in a swanky restaurant’s private room…
I enjoyed the dinner; I always like trying foods from different cultures. The dried pork was my favorite but I pretty much liked everything. Carolyn hasn’t changed much since the first time I took her out for dinner at a Japanese place in Birmingham back in 2000 when she refused to eat everything (no egg, no shrimp, no sauces, etc). After 15 years together she at least pretends to try stuff now, but she didn’t care for dinner or the dessert plate.
After dinner we walked down to the resort’s spa and were led into our couples treatment room after a brief but awkward attempt by one of the spa staff to wash my feet and slip sandals on my feet. The sandals were like a size 8-9 and I wear a 13-14. She kept trying to cram them on until I said “too small”, then she apologized and gave up. I’m just glad she didn’t try that with one of their standard robes!
Carolyn had her legs and feet massaged since they’re always really sore this late into each pregnancy, and I got the foot reflexology. After an hour we headed back home feeling pretty good. As best as we could remember, this was the first time we’ve had dinner out together without our children since before Zoe was born.
Logan was asleep in the babysitter’s arms when we got back to the villa and Zoe was building a boat out of throw pillows with the other babysitter. We thanked them, paid them and then shortly after they left we hit the sack.
In case you’re wondering what some of these things cost, Cambodia is a very inexpensive country. Our driver has charged us $20-35 per day depending on the distance and time we need him, the babysitters were $5 per girl per hour, the spa treatments were around $35 per hour, and a full lunch at a decent place in Siem Reap for a family of four costs about $25. You can find cheaper for all of these, but this is middle of the range I believe.
Here are the photos from our final day of Angkor site-seeing and our dinner at Khmer House: