I apologize for the title, my friend Tom would not stop saying it and so it is now lodged in my head.
While I am at it I also apologize for the massive delay in posting, I was on an island without power or internet for a week or so… I’ll tell you about it later, for now Angkor.
I also had no idea that Angkor Wat was just the biggest of a dozen or so similar structures in the area. Now a lot of people I went with or talked to at the hostel had done three days in the nearly 40 degree heat and felt like the third day was more of an ordeal than it was fun. The only disagreement was if day 2 was even fun, as it had also been rather hellish.
Do yourself a favor and grab a day pass, go absolutely nuts visiting the sites, and then wish you could go back. A fond memory of it being not quite enough time is much better than a bitter memory of being gross and sweaty and hating the whole thing.
The sites are currently being repaired and preserved by a bunch of different companies, none of which are local. Generally it is international heritage organizations doing the work as the local government simply does not have the resources. There are a multitude of places to donate if you feel up to it, but the don’t really push the point at you on site. They leave annoying visitors up to the locals. Essentially in front of every major site is a shanty town of shops and restaurants ringed with tuk tuk drivers who persistently and repeatedly ask if you want things, most of which don’t seem like a wise choice.
The sites themselves are absolutely astounding, from the nearly alien architecture (Stairs clearly built for giant spiders not people) to the absolute size and scale of something so old. Nearly every surface was carved with some sort of image or another. Occasional tiny statues are inset at a few areas as well. Theoretically I could do or have done some research into them before visiting or writing this, but taken alone in a vacuum they are more than impressive enough.
About 15K from Angkor itself is in my opinion a much more fascinating site. Known as the temple of women or Banteay Srei. It is the only temple in the area made of red sandstone, so not only is it gorgeous but far easier to carve things into. The result of this was not only that it is amazing but that it was assumed to be much newer than it actually is due to the level of detail. Many backpackers, well… girls in their early twenties at best anyhow, will tell you it is called the temple of women due to its construction or some other vaguely sexist reason. The reality being that its name translates to ‘the temple of beauty’ and the word often refers to a woman.
Also it was the only temple that appeared to be surrounded by nearly impassible swamp as per my expectations from the aforementioned video game. The fact that at least one of my expectations was correct made me quite happy, for a few seconds, until I remembered that it was forty goddamn degrees out and I was quite far from anywhere with aircon.