We had a lazy morning because we've been traveling for over two months now and sometimes you need lazy mornings. It can't all just be go go go.
We got out around noon and rented bikes: $1/day. Not bad.
We rode down to the old market to check out the deals and what have you. We noticed recently that my shorts are growing a hole in the nether region, so I was on the hunt for a new pair. We found a nice pair of Abercrombies that we agreed on $8. They fit great and I'm one happy camper. We later found a tag on them that said $58. Not a bad deal.
We decided to ride up to Angkor Wat and check that out for a bit. We rode straight up from the old market, and it took us about 20 minutes to make the 6 kilometer trip up there. When we arrived at the checkpoint, we found out that we had missed the ticket booth since we came up a side road (not on the main road, Charles de Gaulle). They wouldn't let us in and we couldn't buy our tickets there. We had to go back three or four kilometers and cut across to Charles de Gaulle and buy our tickets first.
So we did.
We bought our tickets (seven day pass for $60 each) and continued up to Angkor. We arrived at Angkor Wat and locked the bikes by all the tuk tuks.
From the entry, everything looked the same as it did 11 years ago, just with a lot more people (last time I was here was in the middle of the SARS epidemic and the place was deserted). The grandeur of the place and the bas reliefs are still amazing.
There were a few things I didn't think were there before, like wooden walkways or wooden stairs over the actual stone stairs, but it wasn't until we got to the upper level that I saw something drastic had changed.
There are fences blocking the steep staircases to the top level! My heart broke, and it was only mended a little when we went to the back and found a new wooden staircase to the top. How unnatural and safe! I remember climbing the steep stone stairs and feeling a sense of accomplishment for summiting the temple. Not everyone could climb those stairs, and so getting to the top felt like it meant something special.
Now anybody can do it.
Which I suppose is good since more people can experience it, but it sure takes some of the fun out of it. There were hoards of people everywhere, but we have time to be patient so we hung out when we saw a picture we wanted until we could get it with no tourists.
There was a stage being set up on the mid level, red carpets leading out from the north side, and lights set to illuminate the temple at night.
Band performers and dancers started arriving, so I asked one of them what was happening and if we could get in. She said it was a special performance and it was invite only. We found out later it was put on by UNESCO for the king and other royal dignitaries. Needless to say, we were not on the guest list.
We hung out for sunset, which wasn't near as spectacular as last night, but pretty nonetheless, as most sunsets tend to be.