Wednesday, February 14, 2018

CAMBODIA 2017 - Angkor Wat and Sickness

There is a lot of hype around seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Knowing that this may be the only time we ever visit Cambodia, we knew we had to make the effort. We woke up at 4:00 am for this special day. However, we hit a major snag in our day. Jason was not feeling well. It could have been from the food or drink from the village, or the vegetables and shellfish at the Korean BBQ. It could have been a reaction to all of the heat or the delicious smoothies. It could have been a combination of all of those things. In true Jason character, he made us all continue with our plans and forced himself to join along. We got ready, picked up our free breakfast to-go from the hotel (hard boiled eggs, toast, and jelly), and left for Angkor Wat by 5:00 am. We had Bunna as our tuk tuk driver again this day. He was there on time and we were off for the ride to Angkor Wat in the dark morning.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It is a temple complex that stretches over 400 acres and means “City of Temples”. It was built in the 12th century. Angkor Wat is the major temple within this “City of Temples” because it is the largest and best preserved, but there are also over 20 more temples within this complex.

As we rode into the Angkor Temple area, we were raising the sunrise as we could see it would arrive at any moment. Somehow there was a small misunderstanding with Bunna. We thought we were going to see the sunrise at the actual Angkor Temple, but we took us in another direction to another temple. Angkor Wat is the famous place to be for the sunrise, and is often overcrowded according to the internet. We had discussed that the day before so maybe that is why Bunna took us somewhere else. He took us to the temple Pre Rup. When he stopped to let us out, we were like, “Um, this isn’t Angkor Wat!” At that point there was no way Bunna could get us over the Angkor Wat in time for the sunrise, so we made the most of where we were. It ended up being really cool! We had the entire temple ruins to ourselves for about 30 minutes while we enjoyed the beautiful pink, peach, and purple sunrise.

Pre Rup Temple:

The next temple on our list was Ta Prohm, best known for being in the movie Tomb Raider. Bunna dropped us off and said he would meet us on the other side where you exit the temple in an hour. This particular temple is surrounded by a massive wall and has a long path you walk on before you get to the entrance of the temple. Once we got to the front, we were informed that this temple didn’t open until 7:300 am, which was in another 45 minutes. We weren’t able to get a hold of Bunna to let him know. So we sit in the jungle area inside the walls and Jason is feeling worse and worse. He finally goes into the jungle to throw up. We all just felt horrible that he was feeling so ill. We finally got a hold of Bunna and found out that he was still at the front, not at the back yet like we thought. That was such a blessing because then I could go grab our packs and water for Jason.

Ta Prohm finally opens and we walk through. It was so incredible! This temple is known for having the massive trees growing through and over the temple. It is so unreal to see and feel how ancient these things are. There was a friendly guy there who was telling us where all of the great spots were for picture taking and started offering to take pictures of us. I should have seen it coming, but he finally asked for a tip. What a punk! We paid him a buck and then sent him on his way, no longer warming up to this guy. This temple was so cool and was definitely one of the favorites.

Ta Prohm Temple:

The photography of the "helpful" man:

At this point, Jason was feeling a little better, but he was really tired. I can’t imagine feeling so sick, throwing up, and being forced to walk for miles in the hottest heat I’ve ever been in while being surrounded by foreign foods and smells with no hope of relief for the rest of the day! Holy cow, Jason is one strong beast. He continued on with the rest of us, not wanting to miss anything or slow us down. I seriously don’t know how he did it, but that’s Jason for you. He is amazing.

The next temples we visited were Elephant and Baphoun Temples. Again, it was getting SO hot! We took a short rest on some grass outside of another famous temple, Bayon. We got some lunch that wasn’t bad, but Jason couldn’t really stomach most of it. He slept on the chair while we finished up eating. Then we went back to Bayon to actually go inside. I stayed in the tuk tuk with Jason outside of Bayon while Amy and Johnny went in. After that 30 minute nap, Jason and I went in. It really is an amazing temple with its famous feature being the many face carvings. So awesome!

Elephant and Baphoun Temples:

Bayon Temple:

Our next stop was the grand Angkor Wat itself! It is incredibly hard to describe something so surreal and breathtaking as this place. It is so big and stunningly beautiful. Every inch of this temple is filled with intricate artwork that has been carved into the walls. In some areas you can see that these walls and designs were once painted and colorful. It is unreal the work and creativity that went into it. It is amazing now, but it must have been something truly fantastic in its prime. I couldn’t help but feel heartache walking through the halls of the temple, just wishing I could see it and the surround area in its actual day. It was almost haunting. It was so fascinating.

Angkor Wat Temple:

We had to take several breaks while touring Angkor Wat, it was so big and so hot. Jason was starting to feel very sick again and Johnny was starting to feel nauseous too. My heart was breaking for Jason. I wanted to take care of him and force him to just rest, but I also knew he wanted to try his best to see the once in a lifetime place.

The next item on the agenda was elephant rides. Jason knew how much I wanted to do it, but I didn’t want to make him do it while feeling sick. The rides were not until 4:00 pm so we had a little more time to rest and see how he was feeling at that time. We all took a nap, or tried to nap, on the grass in the shade along the water moat surrounding Angkor Wat. Amy and I rested in some hammocks you can rent there, but Jason just couldn’t get comfortable. He was feeling so sick and hot! There were more funky smells and loud music booming from a wedding party somewhere nearby. Jason finally puked in the gutter and felt a little better. Bunna found a restaurant that had some AC, which was a miracle, so Jason and I could cool off while Johnny and Amy went with Bunna for a cool place for some pictures. At the restaurant/shop, Jason was able to eat some banana bread. At least it was something.

By 4:00 pm, Jason is barely well enough to do the elephants. Looking back at the pictures he probably wasn’t feeling “barely well enough”, but he was playing it off for my sake. We rode the elephants in couples up a large hill to Phnom Bakheng Temple. It was definitely a fun ride to be on such a huge and beautiful animal. It was a 30 minute climb up the hill and at one point we could see the tip of Angkor Wat in the distance. It was pretty cool, but I will say a little....underwhelming. I would have liked a little more time being with the elephant, not just riding it. Once we were at the top, our only option was walking back down the hill. Poor Jason.

We saw a ton at Angkor Wat, and could have seen tons more, but decided it would be best to head back. Bunna took us to an American cafe where Jason got muesli and I got some chicken nuggets and fries. Jason barely ate anything. Johnny gave Jason a blessing in the small bathroom they had there.

We only had our hotel room for the one night because the plan was to take the night bus that night back to Phnom Penh and then continue in a van taxi to Sihanoukville. We had already checked out of our rooms when we left early that morning (they were nice enough to store our luggage in their back storage rooms). We went back to the hotel and they allowed us to rent another room for three hours for $7. Jason and I took the room and Johnny and Amy went back into the city to get another massage and walk through the night market. This room was way smaller and not nearly as impressive as our last “suite”. It was a tiny room with mosquitos flying around. But we were desperate. Jason showered then fell right asleep. I showered and then slept for a bit as well. After about two hours, Johnny and Amy came back to the room and showered before heading to the night bus stop at 10:30 pm.

Once we were at the station, I started feeling a little weird. Jason started feeling worse and threw up in the bathroom there. There couldn’t be a worse condition to ride the night bus in! I was torn wanting to stay together, but needing to take care of Jason and myself. I didn’t want to keep Johnny and Amy from continuing on with the trip, but who knew how long we would be sick for? At the last minute I tell Johnny and Amy that we just can’t go tonight. We need to stay and get some good rest in hopes that we would feel better the next day and would possibly catch a plane to meet up with them. We had decided to take the night bus in the first place because it was only $15 and would add to the whole experience. I started balling as I watched Johnny and Amy get on the bus and drive away. We called a tuk tuk (since Bunna had long since left the station after dropping us off). We looked online and found a hotel nearby that was $21 a night. Once we were dropped off, we went right to bed.

Johnny and Amy told us afterwards that the six hour night bus ride would have been miserable for us. Our seats/beds were at the back of the bus right next to the bathroom that was constantly opening and slamming shut as people came and went through the entire ride.

Saying goodbye to Bunna

The night bus

We definitely had mixed feelings as we were settling in, but knew this is what we needed in hopes of getting better. Unfortunately, the bed was rock solid! It was the worst bed yet! We were grateful for the AC, however. Our room was next to the outdoor massage area so we could hear talking through the walls until midnight. At 1:30 am the power went out for 45 minutes. That meant the AC stopped running. I had not been able to fall asleep and when the AC went off I started panicking. I started dry heaving and got all shaky. Jason woke up and gave me a blessing that helped me calm down and I was finally able to fall asleep.

By 6:30 am, Jason and I were up. Jason slept great and was feeling better with an appetite. I was a little weak, but not nauseous, so we seized the day. Amy had sent me a link the previous night for plane tickets from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville for $45 each. The flight would depart at 9:35 am, so we quickly packed up and called a tuk tuk for the airport.

To be continued...

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