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Monday, February 1, 2010

Cambodia 1.13 - Part 1: Angkor Wat Sunrise, Angkor Thom & Bayon

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This morning, we had an early start to see the Angkor Wat sunrise.  We had hired a guide based on the recommendation from the tripadvisor Forum.  When we went down to the hotel lobby at 5:20 AM, another guide showed up and told us that the guide I requested was "sick".  Somehow, I didn't buy it.  I chose the guide because of his good reputation despite that his quote was higher than others I have inquired.  It would be nice if he called or e-mailed to explain the situation.
Anyway, I did not want this little surprise ruin my mood and decided to let it go.

Since we were visiting two most important temples in the Angkor park, I decided that it was worth having a guide to show us around.
It was a nice change not having to figure everything out on my own.  Our guide, Kimson, took us to the viewing spot for the sunrise.  The reflection of Angkor Wat towers in the Lotus basin under the soft glow as the sun rose was serene, mystical, and absolutely glorious.  We lingered around and took picture after picture.

We invited Bunlong and Kimson to join us for breakfast at a nearby eatery after the sunrise.   Hans enjoyed the Cambodian coffee with condensed milk.  Although Bunlong's chicken leg with Rice dish looked pretty good, I was not ready for a heavy meal first thing in the morning.  Over the breakfast, We talked about Bunlong and Kimson' family, their jobs, Cambodian food and culture.
Kimson told us that he was the oldest child of 12.  He wanted to be a school teacher when he was in college.  A scholarship opportunity to Japan came along.  A week after he went to Japan, his father had a very serious accident, and he had to come home.  Shortly after his return, his father passed away and he lost his scholarship.  He stayed to take care of his mother and young siblings, and eventually became a tour guide. 

 After breakfast, we began our morning tour with Angkor Thom's South Gate, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Royal Palace, Terrace of Elephants, and Terrace of Leper King.
Kimson gave us some introduction of Angkor Thom's history and background.  He also pointed out the meanings and symbolism behind many architectural details.

It was also a lot easier having Kimson to guide us to the best photo spots and being our photographer.

The famous giant Buddha faces at Bayon were definitely one of the highlights.  The temple was kept in a fairly good condition.  We were able to see the details in design, architecture, and decorations.
Kimson showed us all the interesting characters, stories, and Khmer lives on the bas-reliefs, which was really fun to see.

At Phimeanakas, we learned that the Khmer King had to come to the tower to sleep with a woman transformed from a nine head snake every night; otherwise the king would have died.
Hans and I joked about how men could come up with all kind of excuses to cheat.  "Well, I don't want to, but I HAVE to sleep with this woman to save my life!" I imagined that's how the Khmer King explained to his Queen.

When we walked out of the Victory Gate, I spotted a woman selling Cambodian milk fruits, which I had never seen before.  Hans and I bought a few, and tried one right there.  The fruit had a white milky juice.  It was sweet, soft, and super delicious.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped by another roadside vendor for some bamboo sticky rice with coconut milk and red beans. The flavor was pretty subtle, but quite filling.

We made one more stop to get some Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch before we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon sieasta.

Next: Cambodia 1.13 - Part 2: Angkor Wat, 60 meter market, Cambodian BBQ, Dr Feet & Photo Album

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