Saturday, July 7, 2012
For our last "full" day of vacation, we couldn't help but wake up early again, this time at 4:30 for a sunrise. We were out of the hotel shortly before 5, yet still there were a fair number of people at Angkor Wat for same purpose. Sitha indicated this was less than average, however. He thought some people might have been scared off by the rain the evening before. We stood near the internal reflecting pool, waiting for the sun to come up. There was a relatively small window where color came through; otherwise it was lots of gray. It was still better than rain. The scaffolding really was an eyesore - hopefully they can finish the construction in the near future. We thought it would make more sense to have the scaffolding the color of the temple itself (making it camouflaged), but Sitha indicated it was green because other colors get too hot.
As the sun came up, we moved around to various vantage points, trying to take advantage of colorful sky, hide the scaffolding, and get reflections where possible. After the sun came above the horizon, we went back to the street, and got some photos from afar, across the moat. Since we had seen all the stuff we really wanted to see, this was all gravy at this point. So we went back to Bayon, and tried to get some good shots in the morning light. The light didn't work out, however, as the sun went behind some clouds, but it was very nice to be there by ourselves.
Then we went to Phnom Bakeng, which is the large hill south of Angkor Thom, where people line up to view the sunset in the afternoon. In the morning, however, it is basically empty. It was a 15 minute walk to the top, good views at the top, including a clear view of Angkor Wat through the jungle. Sitha said that the Khmer considered it the "Center of the Universe" with its location near Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, the lake, the mountains, etc. We could see what they meant, as it was very quiet and peaceful up there too, and we had the place to ourselves for about 10 minutes. The walk down was also peaceful, with birds chirping and just the forest on both sides. At the bottom of the walk down, there was another temple, Baksei Chamkrong, which we walked around as well. Sitha asked if we wanted to walk up, but we were done with tall steps at this point. Also, the view from the bottom was great, with white fluffy clouds and (now) blue sky in the background, so we figured "why mess with that?"
We had no idea where we were, but we walked a little farther north and then realized exactly where we were, right near the outer moat and south entrance to Angkor Thom. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a small genocide memorial. At the memorial, Sitha told us, matter of factly, the story of his own father being killed when he was a newborn. It was incredible that it was roughly 1/4 of the population was killed during the Khmer Rouge. Perhaps because of the fact it was our last day, plus the dire circumstances, it reminded us a bit of seeing the genocide museum in Rwanda in 2007.
Back at the hotel, we got some breakfast. By this time, Crystal was convinced she wanted to try out some Soto Ayam (chicken soup) for breakfast when we got back to the States. Several of the places we went had both Soto Ayam and Congee for breakfast. Crystal said it would be easy enough to make a big pot of Soto Ayam on a Sunday and have it the rest of the week. We went back to the room and had a leisurely morning, slowly but surely taking care of charging and backing up electronics stuff, and also packing. We agreed we needed to wash certain clothes as soon as we got back, and also that we should probably wash the bags upon return.
Before we left the hotel, we were told that our flight to Bangkok was delayed, and we were a titch worried, as it was cutting our layover in half. So instead of 1:30, we left the hotel at 2:30. Because the flight was delayed, we got a free drink at the Siem Reap airport - they should really institute this in the US. On the flight to Bangkok, we took off to the west, so all we saw was the West Baray - none of the temples. Justin fell asleep, which was probably for the best, because we didn't land on time, instead circling over Bangkok for awhile, finally landing at 6:10, with our connection theoretically departing at 6:40. Fortunately, there were people there ready to lead us to our connection, who put us on a special bus that drove to separate entrance. For the other people, they indicated "go over here, they'll take care of your connection." For us, they said "Run!" and they started running themselves. As with our last trip to Bangkok, we still had to run a long distance to the transfer counter, get a boarding pass, go through security, and then run some more. Thankfully, we made it.
But then, ironically, we sat on the plane (sweaty) for close to 45 minutes, because we weren't cleared to take off. As it was, we could have walked and made it easily, although the plane doors may have been closed to help the airlines juke the "on-time" stats. Once we took off, the flight was fine, and we landed in Hong Kong a little after 11. While we landed, our luggage did not. We waited and waited, and then found out it didn't make the connection. Moreover, rather than send it to Hong Kong on a different flight, they decided to just send it straight to LAX. While we weren't going to be in Hong Kong for very long, the checked bags did have our liquids - and shoes. The shoes were pertinent only because one of the bars we wanted to go to had a strict dress code requiring shoes. We hoped our bags would be waiting for us when we get home.
It was a 30 minute drive to our hotel, and - go figure - there was no traffic at midnight. After checking in at the hotel (the Sheraton) - one more upgrade, although not to a city view unfortunately - we tested our luck by going next door to Felix for drinks. We had tried to get some assistance from the concierge at our hotel, but there was something (actually, pretty much everything) lost in translation, so we tried to sweet talk ourselves into the bar with the strict dress code. It worked, but perhaps it was because the place was 95% empty. They put us in the corner ("Nobody puts Crystal in the corner!"), but it was actually a great table, right by the window. There was not as much neon as we expected, but perhaps that was because it was past 1 in the morning. We got a couple drinks, enjoyed the view, commented on the stark contrast between Hong Kong and everywhere else we'd been, then went back to the hotel and crashed.