What's Angkor?

The route from Bangkok to Cambodia is famous amongst Asian travelers, as it is thick with organised scam operations. We met countless tourists who told us about being constantly scammed from the start of the trip to the finish. This includes being charged double price for the Cambodian visa, being stranded at overpriced food outlets, going a needlessly long and uncomfortable route (with fake breakdowns) to ensure tourists arrive tired and late at night at a guesthouse which has paid the bus driver to create business. Some tourists were even threatened for exercising choice by walking to a different guesthouse!

Being aware of this, we avoided the "all-in-one" bus packages on offer in Bangkok and taclked the border crossing on our own, which turned out to be much more comfortable, quick and cheap. We were two of the very few people who managed to get a Cambodian visa for the official price of $20 U.S.! The corruption involved in the visa process is incredibly blatant.

Along the way we saw many locals taking the standard form of transport in Cambodia - thirty people with luggage in the back of a ute. This looked like an interesting way to get around, but not very comfortable, particularly with the incredible amount of dust in the air.

On arriving in Siem Reap we encountered another instance of organised corruption where the taxi driver wouldn't drive into town because of a deal made with commission sucking tuktuk drivers. After a heated debate we managed to get into town without paying any more than had been agreed but the whole situation felt very dodgy.

In Siem Reap we found ourselves a fantastic guesthouse and took a look around the town. Although very touristy, the town is quite pretty and relaxed, with a nice market area and bar street.

The next day we hired bicycles and rode to Angkor, the remains of the capital of a thousand-year-old empire. At the heart of the ruins is Angkor Wat, still the largest religious building in the world. Angkor Wat has a huge surrounding moat and wall, and large internal pathways and supporting buildings. The central temple area is massive, with various rooms built for different purposes and an extremely impressive series of carvings around the entire perimeter. The carvings were impressively detailed and well preserved and were a feature of most of the buildings in Angkor.

Another ruin we saw was interesting due to the large faces which overlooked the temple. Hundreds of faces looked in all directions and gave the temple an eerie feel.

There are literally hundreds of temples and walls around Angkor, of various shapes and sizes. We climbed tall pyramid buildings, explored ruins with trees growing out of them in bizarre ways, and scaled and descended ridiculously steep staircases. One temple was even used in filming Tomb Raider because of its impressive look and atmosphere.

We spent two days cycling around the ruins of Angkor, which was a very pleasant way to get between the temples. On the third day we took a bus to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian captial city.

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