Siem Reap: Legends of the Sweaty Temple

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Backpacking Southeast Asia is nothing like backpacking Europe. In Europe you always know where the bus or train station is, but here it seems that I pretty much turn up in any city and have no idea where I am. This was the case for Siem Reap, and after stepping off my bus, before I knew it I was not only in a new city but a tuk tuk driver at the “bus stop” got me to commit to his tour services for the following 36 hours. Being from the New York area it’s usually easy to turn down anything – we are incessantly bombarded with hard sells and it’s something we learn to ignore quickly. Needless to say I really surprised myself when I actually felt bad for the driver after he pulled out a map, started pointing at things and told me it would be $25. I don’t even remember how I finally agreed or what specifically made me unable to say no, but two hours after he originally dropped me off at my hostel he was ready and waiting again – off to Phnom Bakeng he drove me – the perfect hilltop place of all the area temples to watch the sun go down.
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The following day my driver (he was named Robbie) was waiting for me at 8am. The sun was already scorchingly hot, so although I would have preferred to go riding bikes around the temples instead of riding in a cart, it was easy to feel how actually miserable it would have been and I was happy that Robbie (or Rabi or Robi or who knows) had hard sold me the previous day at the “bus stop”. I spent the next 6 hours temple-traipsing throughout Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the surrounding ruins, marveling both at the incredible architecture and how much I was sweating compared to the locals (sweat? They don’t.)

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Some people claim they spend an entire week exploring the temples, but for me two days was enough. Some of the temples have stairs so steep it’s like climbing huge ladders – it’s really quite exhausting. Bruised and broken, I opted to spend the end of my day in Siem Reap in linen elephant-print pants sipping Cambodian drafts on the sandy hostel rooftop.

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