My coffee had no lid and was scalding hot—just like any good cup of coffee—so I was burning my mouth for my precious pick-me-up. I ran back into the Lotus to grab my bag and right as I stepped foot outside, the taxi driver was strapping down the last bag. While everyone was loading into the back of the truck, I was lucky enough to grab a seat in the comfort of the air-conditioned cab. Before we knew it, we were at the pier where the next leg of our adventure would begin.
We finally got on our bus to Sihanoukville and settled in. I got to sit next to Annina, but Shukri was all by his lonesome. Annina and I were having a heart-to-heart when a Polish couple sitting in front of us asked how much we paid for our tickets. We only paid 234b each, but they got shafted and paid 900b each. The man started throwing a fit with a bus attendant and made us all look crazy. I let my alter ego come out and gave him a glare that got him to shut his mouth.
We made a stop for everyone to get a snack, use the toilet and carry on. We hopped back on our bus and finally got settled in again when the driver grabbed us and told us we had to transfer. This was confusing because we thought that we had booked a non-transfer bus.
They grabbed our luggage and took us over to the other bus. I had this gut feeling that there was bad news coming but couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so I went to go snack my stress away. Shukri and Annina had to wait for everyone else to load because it was quite a full bus. While I was lagging behind at the food court, the bus had already started to take off so I began sprinting to catch up. I finally caught up to the door and shouted at the driver to stop the bus. Fortunately enough for me, he did. I showed him my ticket, and he looked at me with a huge smirk on his face. He looked around and started to laugh as he handed me a stool and told me to go to the back of the bus. It finally hit me that there were no more seats on the bus—I was holding my seat. I was laughing so hard at this point because I almost got stranded and was feeling lucky enough to have a pseudo seat on the bus. I popped a squat on the stool and started cracking jokes with these Brits (Charlie and Charlotte) who were sitting next to me.
The next six hours on that stool was probably the best bus ride I’ve had in all of Thailand. Everyone around me was awesome and one joke led to another. We all got along so well that we decided to keep the good vibes going and see if they had enough room at the One Stop Hostel. The good graces were with us—there was just enough room for the five of us. Everyone was pretty tired, so we got a few beers and made plans to wake up the next day and go see the Angkor Temples on a Tuk Tuk.
The Angkor temples are the temples from the Khmer Empire that prospered between the 9th and 15th centuries. Our Tuk Tuk driver gave us the run down of the route that he’d be taking us on. He said we’d be starting at the Angkor Wat temple, which has been said to be one of the largest and most elaborate of all the temples. We spent more than two hours just wandering around the temple and having impromptu photoshoots.
After our time at Angkor Wat, we realized that we spent a little too long at one temple and should pick up the pace. So we scurried to where we would meet our driver, but he wasn’t there and we’d have to wait another 20 minutes or so before he got back. We debated whether or not to leave him because we didn’t know if he’d actually come back, but he was a man of his word and came riding up with a smile on his face. His wife had just gotten him a new ring for their flourishing marriage, so he was in high spirits.
Angkor Thom was our next stop. It’s one of the more famous temples because bits and pieces of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were filmed there. It was one of the busiest temples so we didn’t spend too much time there, but we got some good photobombs.
The most spectacular temple of them all was the Angkor Spirit Palace. It was a palace for the spirits and spirits alone. It was the most elaborate of them all and had the highest views of all the temples. The palace as a whole was my personal favorite but let me tell you what, climbing to the top was tricky because the stairs were so steep.
Our original plan was to watch the sunset at Phnom Bakheg but after Angkor Thom and the Angkor Spirit Palace, the conversations had dwindled down—everyone was clearly exhausted. I didn’t want to miss out, but we all agreed that every temple had started to look the same. So I piped up and suggested that we skip the last temple and go straight to Phnom Bakheg for the sunset. It was a 70m hike to the temple and since we were all exhausted, we got some water and fruit from some vendors near by, took a quick break and debated whether we wanted to hike up the hill or get an elephant ride. All of our morals went against taking an elephant ride because they seemed sedated, and we didn’t want to contribute to the questionable ethics. I told everyone that we were going to blaze the trail and get up there as fast as we could, but my idea was quickly scrapped. So when I got to the first viewpoint, I had to wait a bit for everyone to catch up.
Once we got to the top, we were all sweaty and had yet another flight of steep stairs to climb. We took the plunge and got to the top as a breeze started to roll through, and we all basked in the wind as it cooled our sweaty bodies. Sitting on top of the Phnom Bakheg was surreal—the views were an extraordinary way to end the day. We arrived a bit too early for the sunset, and it wasn’t looking too promising because it started getting cloudy. So we scrapped the idea of waiting another two hours to maybe have a chance of seeing the sunset to instead go back and take a dip in the pool.
If I were to explore the temples again, I would choose to do the two-day package because it was almost too much for one day. Between the heat, the walking and everything in between, it made it somewhat difficult to appreciate everything to the fullest.
I’ve got too many good photos to share but I’ll be trickling them out over at my tumblr and then I’ll post a full gallery on my website. I also want to give a shout out to my awesome friend and editor Madeline Kennedy. Without her ya’ll would be reading run on sentences so give her some love in the comments please!