Wednesday, October 03, 2012

12 August: Siem Reap to Johannesburg

I did not sleep well so, our last day was not off to a good start. Lingering annoyed moods ruined, at least, the start of my day. But, our tuk-tuk arrived at 5am and off to Angkor Wat we headed. We bought ourselves a Single Day Pass (you can get 3 or 7 day passes as well) and our tuk-tuk dropped us off right in front of Angkor Wat before the sunrise. We started snapping away from across the moat.

We waited and watched, continuously taking photos as the sun moved. The sunrise was pretty gorgeous, but I always find it far less eventful than sunset. Once the sun had risen above the Angkor Wat towers, we headed into the temple. It's pretty big and takes quite a while to wander. Let me tell you that we were already hot and bothered and sweaty by the time we finished here and I'm sure it was before 9am!

Then our day, which already hadn't started well, but was now on the mend mood-wise, took a turn for the annoying: we couldn't find our tuk-tuk driver. You rent them for the day and pay extra for a sunrise start. We wandered around the parking area for about 20 mins, staring at drivers and peering into the hammocks of sleeping drivers. No recognition from them or us.

I was mildly freaking out (unnecessarily as it turned out) about what we might miss with this delay. We'd booked a late check-out at the hotel, but we still had to be out of our room before 16h30. It's hardly an ideal system: a billion-million tuk-tuks that are all mostly the same but are all slightly different (the chairs, the cloth, the paint desgins, but who pays attention?) ... now try searching for the one you last saw bleary-eyed in the dark. A large part of tuk-tuk drivership must surely be to recognise your passengers for the day. Ours failed to emerge

So, we rented a new one and our driver was Mr. Tom. He turned out to be an absolutely fantastic and attentive upgrade on our previous driver. And we weren't being overtaken by *everyone* else like before either! I was very happy with the switch.

After Angkor Wat, we followed the Small tour Circuit backwards around Angkor (to avoid the masses, according to Tom). We went to Banteay Kdei and then on to Ta Prohm. I had higher expectations of Ta Prohm (where part of Tomb Raider was filmed), but there is a lot of reconstruction going on all over Angkor. I did really find the trees growing over the walls quite spectacular tho.

Then it was on to Angkor Thom to visit Bayon (photo below), which I think was honestly my favourite temple of the day. I loved the hidden faces. It was gorgeous. We walked (melted) around Angkor Thom for a bit after that and then took a much needed drinks break. I think we each went thru about 3 litres of liquid at Angkor.

When we were feeling a little cooler and rested, we decided that since it was only 10am, we'd spend the extra dollars and do the Grand Tour Circuit now instead. I don't know how long people normally take exploring Angkor but, I think we might've been quite fast owing to a) our discomfort in the heat b) it being crowded but apparently nothing close to High Season c) not having anything more than a beautiful setting interest in the place (ie. no religious significance or Hindu/Buddhist understanding of the meanings behind things) and d) having started out at 5:30am.

So, off we headed to Preah Khan and then to Ta Som (which has an awesome big buddah head with a tree growing over the walls around it). Then we finished up with a climb to the top of Pre Rup (photo to right). It was all pretty cool and I'm certainly glad we spent the extra time and money to see the additional temples.

On our way out, we passed thru Angkor Thom again so that I could walk past the Terrace of the Elephants again (when you walk thru Angkor Thom, the route takes you on top of the Terrace so you can't really enjoy the Elephants as easily as walking along the road). And then we left thru Angkor Thom's South Gate (photo below), which was stunning!

Travel Planning tip: For more information on planning a visit to Angkor Archaeological Park visit Canby Publications' website which had all the information I wanted before arriving. I actually printed and took their maps along with me :)

By the time we got back to our hotel, we were pretty exhausted. It was just after 1pm and we'd been on the go for about 8 hours already! We took a much needed shower and made the most of our late check-out in our air-conditioned room and it's room-service for lunch.

At 4pm we checked out and headed across the road for a 90 minute Mekong Massage. Yes, please! My feet were absolutely killing me after our morning. What better way to make the most of our last remaining holiday hours.

The massage was lovely and as we finished, a massive downpour hit Siem Reap. Awesome. Luckily it was gone before our flight left! We got our taxi to the airport which caused some trouble. See, when we'd arrived yesterday, we caught a taxi from the taxi desk at the airport and the driver was lovely, friendly and well-spoken. He. naturally, tried selling us more services. So we'd ended up booking our return airport transfer with him too. We'd also booked our tuk-tuk to Angkor with him.

There was much fuss when a third driver (not the original taxi driver or the tuk-tuk guy) collected us for the airport. His English wasn't as good (nor was tuk-tuk man's) and he (and his company) were very annoyed with us (since they missed out on payment and they said their guy had been waiting at Angkor for us all day). It involved The Trucker chatting on the phone with someone (they all call each other "my brother") and us paying in a portion of the fee.

It was really a not nice way to end our time there and I'd highly advise against using these taxi's for more than the trip from the airport to the hotel! Also, they all drive unbelievably slowly (and that is saying something in Vietnam or Cambodia!).

Our flight to Bangkok left a little late, although we were in no hurry. Thankfully we managed to check our luggage straight thru to Joburg and get our Boarding Passes for our 2nd flight, even tho they were not the same airline (Bangkok Airways to Bangkok and Thai Airways to Johannesburg). When we arrived in Bangkok, we discovered that our flight to Joburg had already been delayed by an hour. #Sigh

After being awake for 20 hours, I finally got a little sleep on a couch before we boarded. It was actually all part of the plan to enforce homeward-bourd-aeroplane-sleeping and it worked!

Well, I woke up around 4am Joburg time and decided to get in some movie-watching (otherwise it does feel a little like the international flight has been wasted!). I watched The Five-Year Engagement. Perfect aeroplane fodder. Very light entertainment. And as much as I like Marshall from HIMYM, I found the girl-lead's accent terribly annoying.

I then tried to watch The Hunger Games, you know, since I just loved the book and all ... The Trucker had watched the movie on the flight out. I didn't get to finish it, and I'm not at all fussed or bothered by that. The book was so much better. So much better. Ooh, and I did not like the girl actress in this at all. Seriously folks, skip the movie, read the book :) (Like you've never heard that before!)

But the fun and games didn't end there. We were queuing for Passport Control after we landed and it was a damn long queue for 07h30 (okay so now we're onto the 13 August, which is when we actually arrived home). And yes, they still have those funny fever scanners and we were joking about them because, honestly I've never seen one go off. And I then continued to joke with The Trucker that we'd get to see just how sick I actually was now (because he'd started off with a little bit of a cold during the trip and used all the medlemons and sinutab I'd packed and then I promptly got it from him and there were no meds left but with only a few days till home, I wasn't too bothered ... except, of course, about teasing him for giving it to me in the first place - haha).

Oh yes, and I'm sure you can see where this is going, I got stopped. It red-lighted me!? I was whisked away to the Port Authority Health Control booth where I had to fill in a form. We're light heartedly joking about swine flu (which weirdly enough my cousin had while I was in Vietnam ?!) and the lady says no, it's used more for Ebola these days! OMGWTF. Anyway, she wasn't too worried when we said we'd come from Vietnam & Cambodia and after a simple more-accurate ear-temperature measuring, I was free to go. Damn, I thought I'd at least get off work. Haha. Anyway, at least the drama meant Murphy wouldn't catch us going thru customs ;)

In other holiday-related news (sort of) I picked up a can of Fanta Fruit Twist at the Spar up the road from me (when we did a quick shop before going home). I liked it, but it is definitely not a South African regular. Shew. And that was our holiday. It was amazing :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best holiday series yet. I loved every post.

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