Monday, August 10, 2015

Cambodia Part 1: Small Tour

I honestly didn't know much about Cambodia or Angkor Wat until we starting planning this trip, and it turned out to be one of our favorite places. I can't believe it's not talked about or visited more! The food was so delicious, the people were humble & kind, and the temples were incredible. I definitely have to go back in the future and encourage everyone to see this place sometime in their life :)

We spent two full days there walking around the temples. The first day we saw the temples on the "Small Tour" and the second day we saw most of the temples on the "Grand Tour" (this post includes everything on the small tour, you can see the Grand Tour here). Through our hotel, we arranged to have a private tuk tuk driver and english speaking guide take us around all day. It was worth it because we were able to learn lots and see things on our own time (not like a big tour group where you can't be flexible).

First up, our driver and guide took us to see Angkor Wat, which is the largest temple of them all. And boy, it is HUGE. We spent several hours there exploring around.

I love how the temple walls have faded over the years into so many different shades and colors. It's really pretty.

We walked around all day in what felt like 100 degree heat. We were just dripping sweat, that's the downside of traveling there in the summertime. However, there is one perk to traveling in the off season: less crowds! Sometimes, we had huge temples all to ourselves to explore :)

The carvings on the walls tell stories of their history and religion. We learned that the main religion in Cambodia (and most Asian countries for that matter) is Buddhism. Almost 95% of the country is Buddhist!

We saw lot's of monks walking around the temple. It's inspiring that they live a life so completely dedicated to their religion. We were fascinated by the monks, and so we asked our guide where we could go to chat with some of them. He said that their was a monastery nearby the main temple, and so we decided to take a little detour and go visit the monks.

When we got to the monastery, our guide asked us if Dallin wanted to be blessed by a monk. Of course he did! It was such a cool thing to watch.

Here's the video of it, we wish we knew what he was saying though! Our guide told us that he blessed Dallin with success in business, health, good luck, that he would meet good new people, and happiness. So cute! He gave him a little red bracelet at the end. 

We walked back to the temple and continued to admire the grandeur of it all.

Everywhere we turned, there was something amazing to see and climb (and these stairs below were much steeper than they appear).

We spotted these people dressed up in traditional Cambodian attire (only wish we could have seen their performance)!

In the middle of Angkor Wat, there is a higher temple look-out point. If you want to go to the top, then you need to dress modestly (out of respect to their religion since this is a temple after all;) girls have to wear a shirt that covers the elbows and shorts/skirts that go past the knees. Our hotel told us this the night before and so we were stressed because we didn't pack many long sleeved things since we knew it would be so hot. Luckily, I had one shirt that covered my elbows and one skirt that went below my knees. Dallin had to wear pants (did I mention we were sweating like crazy yet?). 

*I saw one girl who was smart: she brought a big shirt to wear to cover her just for this part, and when she got down she took it off so she could cool off. That's what I wish we did since you only need to wear long clothes for this part!

The line took about 35 minutes, and then we had to climb a whole slew of stairs to get to the top. It was worth it because we had views like these.

On the way back, we saw where the king's swimming pool was. How cool would that be to swim in there back in the day?

We spotted a monk in the temple blessing people with more bracelets.

We hopped back into our tuk tuk and headed up the street to see the rest of the temples in the small tour. We drove through the South Gate and ended up at one of my favorite temples...

...the Bayon! I loved this one because of all the faces that are in the temple walls. In total, there are something like 216 faces, so crazy.

I really loved this temple (so much so that we went back to it again the next morning:) 

On the way to the next temple, Dallin and I were cracking up because our tuk tuk driver stopped at this "gas station" to refuel. 

The next temple we explored was Baphuon. It's in the middle of the jungle, and feels straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.

The best part about the temples in Cambodia is that you literally can explore anywhere you want. In the US, there would be signs blocking things off, etc, but here everywhere is free game. I think that's what makes it so fun! You feel like you can forge your own path :)

For lunch, our guide took us to a Cambodian restaurant. We asked him order us everything that's considered authentic/popular food. It was our first time having Cambodian food, and it was so delicious! To us, it tasted like Thai food that's sweeter and not spicy at all.

I loved how my curry came in a coconut (our guide was the one who ordered the american food below, lol)!

After lunch, we walked around Ta Prohm, which is the temple that they filmed Tomb Raider (the movie that Angelina Jolie is in).

The thing that distinguished this temple is how many trees there are growing in and on the temple. I wonder how long it took for this tree & its' roots to grow. It's huge!

They told us that Angelina Jolie comes out of this spot in the movie, but I haven't seen it so who knows.

It's sad to see how much of the temple has fallen apart over the many years. There was rubble everywhere at this one.

I asked this little girl if I could take her picture, and then she smiled and posed. How cute is she?

Lastly, we stopped at Prasat Kravan. This one was a totally different color then any of the others we saw. 

Monkeys roam around Angkor Wat and the temples, but beware of them! Our guide told us that a girl earlier in the week got too close to them and the monkey scratched her. She had to go to the hospital to get antibiotics and everything. So, even though they look nice and cuddly, don't be fooled ;)

(That's a wrap for our first day in Cambodia. Part #2 here and part #3 here!)

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