Our First Day
On the first day that our family was in Cambodia, we visited two temples that were just outside of Siem Reap, the town that we are staying in. The first was Angkor Wat. This temple is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world; it is known for its immense size and intricate carvings. After we visited this castle-sized temple (not for the last time), we travelled a short distance by van through the gates of the ancient city Angkor Thom. This brought us to the Bayon Temple. This temple that was built almost 1000 years ago was once Buddhist, but a later king that was Hindu destroyed the intricate carvings that were done by hand, but still today this amazing artwork is still visible, mostly in faces that look like the king. After that temple visit, we headed back to our hotel to relax after enjoying a delicious Cambodian lunch.
Our First Evening
We decided to go out to town that night for dinner, but we didn’t want to just take a taxi, so instead, we clapped twice.This was a signal to a Tuk Tuk driver, who pulled up to our hotel and took the five of us into town for just 4$ USD. This mode of transportation was a new experience for all of us, of course, like everything, some people enjoyed it more than others…*cough* (It’s basically two benches facing each other, with a canopy over top, pulled by a motorcycle…in traffic).
For dinner, we had heard of a restaurant called The Red Piano, which was very popular because the actress Angelina Jolie had eaten there in the past. Our meals were wonderful but our overall experience was made even better by the fact that my mom got a free drink because every tenth person to order the “Angelina Jolie” drink got it free! They even rang a bell for her.
We had heard that there was going to be a puppet parade in the town that night, but we thought that we were going to miss it because of where the restaurant was, but to our delight, the parade actually passed directly in front of the restaurant where we were enjoying dinner! The parade consisted of huge puppets controlled by up to 10 people each. There were also hundreds of people walking along with the puppets. The parade seemed to include numerous organizations working with needy children in Cambodia.
Our Second Day
The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to see the same ball of fire that we see every day…(!) We drove in our van to Angkor Wat for the second time in two days to see the sunrise. On two days in every year, if you look straight at the temple, the sun rises directly behind it, but we weren’t there on one of those days, so instead it rose slightly to the right, but it was still a beautiful sight to see the sun rise above the towers of the temple. We were glad we waited for the sun to come fully up behind the tower, as lots of people had already left by then and that’s when we got our best pictures.
The second day we went elephant riding through the gate we had gone to the day before and rode up to the Bayon Temple. The ride was bumpy and a bit uncomfortable — we were pretty high up!
We then visited two smaller temples. One was made of red sandstone and had even more intricate carvings. We enjoyed a six course meal at a local restaurant served in mini clay pots for each person. After lunch we visited the temple nicknamed “Tomb Raider” because that was the name of a movie that was filmed there starring Angelina Jolie (She is a big deal in Cambodia), who was actually in Cambodia the night before for the premiere of her new movie: First they Killed my Father. The roots of very big trees were literally growing in the temple buildings. After looking at this temple, we went back to the hotel and relaxed until dinner.