Why did Part III take so long, you ask? I know you were waiting patiently, all two of my fans out there! In true Natasha fashion I misplaced my Asia diary for a little while. My angel of a mother made my day when she found it hanging in an old handbag behind her front door. Of course it was hiding in plain site this entire time!
Ah.. The next morning we were up before dawn and planned on getting to Angkor Wat in time to watch the sun rise. Things didn’t entirely go as planned. Little did we know at the time that this would become a running theme for the day…
We were awake and keen to get going by 5am. We planned on getting to Angkor Wat in time to watch the sun rise over the ancient lands. We had made all our plans, even ordering a take-away breakfast from the hostel the night before.
But, when we asked about our food…
“Breakfast? What did you order? When did you order?” was the reply. Oh no.
We considered either just leaving the breakfast (but a hungry traveller is not a happy one – so we ditched that plan quickly) or to leave the sunrise and make another plan. We had already visited twice, did we really have to go a third time? Um, yes…
We were awake and we were practically on our bicycles already, so why not. We would miss the sun waking up over Angkor Wat, yes, but we would still catch a glimpse of it on the cycle there. Just as special.
It was a slow and easy ride. Despite the morning’s misunderstandings, I was in a wonderful mood, singing and cycling. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not sing in front of people (except when beer makes me do it). But I was in my own little happy bubble inside of this other big world. I couldn’t not sing.
On arrival at Ankor Wat we made a beeline for a very specific queue. We waited in line for about 15 minutes to get the chance to climb the 70-degree staircase to the topmost of the three levels of the temple. This climb is said to be taking you to the summit of Mount Meru of Hindu mythology, reaching you into the center of the universe. We had skipped it on the previous days because the long winding queues didn’t seem worth it. But on this day it was early and the line wasn’t too bad – may as well.
Cue mishap number two: Jason wasn’t allowed to go up. He was wearing a vest that showed his shoulders. Let’s just put this out there quickly: 1) it was the only day he had opted to wear a vest, and 2) this was the one and only day that I was not carrying a sarong or shawl of any kind for him to cover up. You would think we would have learned by that point. Fail.
Of course I put forth that we simply move on, but he wasn’t having any of it. He almost pushed me up the stairs so I could quickly explore to come back and tell him all about it. Guys, the scenery was breath-taking! Nothing but jungle for as far as the eye can see, with scatterings of temples poking through the trees. The walls of the temple were covered in ancient Sanskrit. I wish he could have seen it.
I didn’t feel right taking my time while Jason was waiting patiently at the bottom so I did my rounds quickly and descended the stairway to heaven.
We didn’t stay at Angkor for too long after this. Back at the hotel we swam, had table tennis tournaments, and drank 65c beers from the shop next door. It was a solo Australian traveller’s birthday, so the hotel staff brought out cake and we all sang happy birthday, ate cake, drank, and swam for the rest of the afternoon. I had worked hard and waited a long time for such blissful days like this one and I was constantly just trying my best to drink it all in. But, we weren’t done ticking off countries from our bucket list just yet and we had to (under much protest from me) move on at some point!
Our last night in Cambodia was a special one. The December before this trip we had celebrated our 1 year anniversary – on two different sides of the globe! Me in Asia and Jason in Europe. So we decided that this would be our anniversary celebration. We headed to Pub Street to treat ourselves to a ridiculously expensive dinner and an Apsara dancing show. Anyone who has wandered down this special street – filled to the brim with bars and street stalls and people from all over the world – must know Temple, a three-tiered building consisting of a club on the ground floor, a restaurant and show area one floor up, and a rooftop bar at the top boasting bean bags and live music.
We took off our shoes and sat cross legged to a dinner of $5.75 Lok Lak. Honestly, the Lok Lak at the Red Angkor was hands down tastier and at a much cheaper price, but we were paying for the atmosphere and had already agreed to splurge.
The show was mesmerising. We watched a total of six different dances, each depicting a different area or tradition of Cambodia.
The Coconut dance. This beautiful and entertaining dance was created by people in the Svay Reang province of Cambodia. It depicts the courtship rituals and ethics between young couples. Where do the coconuts come in? When boys misbehave, the girls use coconut shells to keep them away! Girl power!
The Peacock dance. The community of Pailin earns most of it’s income through planting coffee and fruit, as well as mining precious stones. After harvest season, community members take some much needed down-time. One way they entertained themselves during this time was by watching peacocks and all their antics. They used this as inspiration for the peacock dance – which speaks somewhat to how men show off and ‘fluff their feathers’ to gain the attention of women.
The dancers looked like they were having the absolute best time throughout the show! How music and dancing and love and laughter are such universal concepts is such a comforting and beautiful thought. I found myself feeling a powerful connection to everyone and everything around me at this point.
After dinner and the show we went up to the rooftop bar, where we listened to a live band singing Western pop music, while standing directly in front of a projector screen playing a live soccer match. It was the weirdest combination. Can’t choose between live music and the footy game? They have you covered!
We bought ourselves some cocktails from a street van to round off the night and then headed back to our room to pack. We were due at the airport in the morning to make our way to Bali.
When we arrived at Siem Reap’s tiny airport the next morning there was only one counter open! I mean, have you ever? After check-in we had enough dollars on us for either two sundaes, one 6-piece nuggets, or one coffee to share. Naturally, we opted for the sundaes. Ice cream is absolutely a good breakfast choice.
And that was that. We were leaving Cambodia. And now I’m writing this a little over a year later and I can still feel it – that feeling of cycling to Angkor Wat while the sun slowly greeted us, and the exact opposite feeling of challenging death by cycling on the main roads. I can still see the smiles on the faces of all the incredible people we met – our hostel bartender, the staff at the Red Angkor, the man that served us pizza on the side of the most chaotic round-about I have seen. I can still taste that ice cold (for a second) beer and veggie fried rice that would go down so magicly after a day of exploring, relaxing, and playing in a country that I adore with a man that I adore.
Thank you so much for reading about my short time in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Many apologies for the long waits in between posts! This three-part series was a bit of an experiment. What have I learned? I am definitely not disciplined enough for posts of this nature. Noted.
To round it all off – here are a few of my favourites that haven’t made it onto any previous posts. Enjoy 🙂
Okay, that’s it, I’m off to buy a one-way ticket to Cambodia!!