(written by Dave)
Today was our first day exploring the famous temples of Angkor. There are tens, if not hundreds of wats over 600+ acres. They say seeing all of them would take more than a month, if you take enough time to at least have a look at each one. There are a number of theories as to which order to see the wats. Some say that you should see them in order which they were built. I’d have to say that this is probably a good plan for the serious archaeologist – that’s not us. There are a couple tour options that are based on the old days when all the tours were done on elephant. We didn’t see any elephants at our hotel so we opted for the third choice. That is, see a few of the remote wats today and save the really big and impressive Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom for a subsequent day.
It is tempting to list all the wats we saw today but I’m going to hold off. First off, they all blur together and I’m not sure which ones we saw. Second, I can’t spell all that great and my proofreader has gone to bed already. And finally, I’m pretty sure that none of our readers will mind. If any of you have been here, then you’ll know what I mean when I use the term “wat fatigue”.
We had a private car today, sort of splashing out. You can’t really ride bikes or tuk-tuks to the remote wats where we were headed. The car, with a nice young English speaking driver, cold towels and water on return from the longer treks and A/C were great bonuses. Only one minor issue when our driver revealed that he was in the mini-van-o-death driver training program when in route to the most distant wat. I was sleeping in the front when the sound of brakes and gravel woke me in time to see us heading off road, out of the path of an oncoming big truck. Gretchen “the brave” was awake and said it wasn’t that close (she may be getting used it). And it seemed pretty bad to me, as I was jolted awake.
The wats themselves are very impressive. For being mostly 1000 years old, they are in pretty good nick. They were rediscovered in the late 1800s and after close to 500 years of jungle growth trying to retake the land. Since discovery there have been various attempts at restoration. Some wats are further along than others. We saw a mix today, and even one building left to the tree which was trying to devour it.
We spent about 8 hours wandering and driving to the various wats. We’ve only scratched the surface. Tourist numbers are supposedly down but a couple places we felt a little crowded. Mostly though it was easy to get photos without hoards. There are few people begging at the wats, but mostly there are lots of folks selling stuff, especially kids. The kids are quite charming and have only recently moved from begging to selling. We made a few small purchases most notable Gretchen buying 10 bangles for $1USD. Readers from the Peterson family may have a small clue as to what you’ll be receiving as Christmas gifts.
Hope you enjoy the photos, it was some work getting them culled from the giant stack I took. Tomorrow we are taking a day off from he wats and heading to a local village for learn about weaving and perhaps a bit of local life.