Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 13: A Return to Angkor

Breakfast at FCC Angkor

We were up early. Our game plan was to get to Ta Prohm before the crowds. I would have loved another Angkor Wat sunrise, but I couldn't prevail on HM to rise and shine at 4 a.m. for the third time.

and now for something completely different

At FCC Angkor, breakfast for early risers was delivered by room service. We put our breakfast order out the night before, and lo and behold, our Khmer porridge appeared at 6 a.m. sharp.

By 7 a.m., we were on the road with our latest driver, Mr 509. We never did find out his name.

with our new driver

Incidentally, our ride had been arranged by the hotel. This little arrangement was, in my opinion, a blotch on our otherwise happy experience with FCC Angkor. We had thought it best to ask the hotel to provide us with a tuk tuk driver, since we had no idea whether the ones on the roadside could be trusted to wait for us; we had no intention of being stuck at some remote temple complex without transport. Ok, that was a little melodramatic but, suffice it to say, we thought it best to go with the hotel. At least if there was a problem later on, we would have some form of recourse. Anyway, we expected a hotel employee in a FCC Angkor tuk tuk (there was one; we saw it in the carpark). Instead, when we showed up in the morning, all raring to go, the receptionist merely hopped out to the road fronting the hotel driveway and gave the job to one of the many regular tuk tuk drivers waiting to pounce on emerging hotel guests. That was it, for US$15, five dollars more than the usual going rate? Still, I was prepared to give the hotel the benefit of doubt. Perhaps, FCC Angkor, like other hotels such as Shinta Mani, was trying to help the locals by paying the drivers at a higher rate than what they would otherwise have been able to negotiate for themselves from street pickups, instead of competing with them. However, as I found out from Mr 509 later on, the hotel only pays them US$10. In other words, the hotel pockets the extra US$5 and the poor drivers make no more than they would have. Tsk tsk, shame on FCC Angkor. We decided after that to go direct to the drivers, safety concerns be damned.

Ta Prohm

It was good to be out on the roads of Siem Reap. Compared to Phnom Penh, the air was fresher, traffic was lighter, things moved at a more relaxed pace. Now that we had "done" all the temples in the immediate Angkor area and were merely revisiting a couple of favourites, we could afford to take it easy and so we did.

hehe, these were funny

Ta Prohm was our first temple of choice, our first visit having been spoilt by the marauding hordes. This time round, our early morning start paid off; we managed to get some clear shots of the ruins before the place was inundated by tourists.

I even managed to get a shot of Ta Prohm's resident redbreasted parakeets.

Eventually, the crowds started to arrive...

... so we bade Ta Prohm goodbye.

Angkor Wat

heading to lunch?

Our stomachs rumbling after such an early breakfast, we initially wanted to return to town for an early lunch. Heading out of the park, we had to pass Angkor Wat.


The carpark looked remarkably empty, so hunger pangs be damned, we decided to stop for a quick look.

armed with a leftover pastry from breakfast

Our hunch paid off. We practically had the place to ourselves. Obviously, everyone had returned to town for lunch.

my god, empty corridors

give or take one solitary uncle

We could finally take a close look at the bas reliefs and more.

seating for the spectacular that the temple was hosting at that time

the Angkor balloon!

When we could ignore the rumblings of our tummies no longer, we finally left.

Khmer Kitchen

not the cheapest beer in town but a damn sight cheaper than in Singapore

Sitting at Khmer Kitchen was a respite from the mid day heat. It was good weather for a icy cold beer. Pity I don't drink.

blue plate special

a different kind of noodle

Back to Angkor Wat

After a light lunch, we headed back for what would be our last visit to Angkor Wat.

that beautiful moat

the reason why it was important to watch one's steps

much-loved apsaras, with their much-loved bits

As the afternoon wore on, the crowds got the better of us. When the jostling and shoving got too much (I kiddeth you not - beware the East Asian tide...), we said our last goodbyes and left, but not without this final picture.

picture perfect

Dinner at the FCC Angkor

Tired out from the afternoon's travails, we decided to eat in. We opted to share set dinner plus a main.

the lounge

FCC's Semillion (left) and orange and ginger frappe (right)

HM's nhom bayn chok – refreshing white noodle with snake bean, banana blossom and shallot served in chilled lemongrass petal broth

HM's pan-fried river fish with sauce vierge, warm snow pea and cashew nut salad, cauliflower puree

my prawn ravioli in a ginger and coriander bisque with chilli oil

kaffir lime and coconut crème brulee with cashew nut biscotti

The food wasn't earth-shatteringly good but we enjoyed ourselves. The nhom bayn chok - reminiscent of a Vietnamese vermicelli salad - stood out, as did the prawn ravioli.

Sated, we retired for the night but not before a dip in that luscious pool.

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