We explored the most amazing temples and were left speechless by their beauty, sheer size and most amazing and astonishingly complicated history. We got to interact with some of the friendliest people on earth and enjoyed some wonderful meals prepared at restaurants training homeless and underprivileged villagers in the hospitality sector so that they can graduate into paying careers, forget poverty and create their own destiny.
This is a country still smarting from centuries of conflict and is going through radical change, let's hope they can stay on this right track.
Our first day, ready and energised to go and explore the temples we met our tuk tuk driver for the week, M.r Nak, what a legend he turned out to be! All aboard and comfortable we head off from our hotel to the ticket booths at the parks entry, inside of 10 minutes we have tickets in hand, kids under 12 are free, Bonus! Onwards M.r Nak, to the South gate of the Kingdom of Angkor Thom and our first monument fine fellow!
We arrive at the entrance to the south gate 5 minutes later and are greeted with an amazing sight, a centuries old structure straddling the road, the entrance to one of the many temples we seek to explore. A monkey cheekily jumps up on the back go the tuk tuk looking for some food, the kids think it's cute and say hi to M.r Monkey and apologise for having no bananas. We unload from our carriage and Mr Nak advises us that he will drive through the gate about 100 yards and wait there to pick us up, that way we can walk through and check out the gate at our own pace, so off he scoots.
Then things get ugly, the monkey now decides to attack Samuel and out of nowhere is yanking at his flip flops, then jumps up his body and onto his head, yes, literally grabbing onto the kids head, we mange to part monkey and Samuel pretty quickly and Dan holds him up high to prevent further attack. Unperturbed the monkey instantly moves onto the next easy target, Lauren, same drill, straight for the flip flops and trying to climb up her body, but with Clair's swinging bag, Dan half lifting her off the ground with a spare arm and the timely intervention of a local fried banana vendor we manage to scare it away.
Not a great start!
All the kids are now petrified, needless to say the south gate entrance to one of the worlds most outstanding wonders did not get the full attention it so rightly deserved.
No matter, we battle on throughout the day and are repeatedly approached by many people who had witnessed the fracas and offered lots of advice, like, look out for monkeys. Cheers.
M.r Nak and our trusty tuk tuk.
South gate, post Simian attacks.
Angkor Wat Sunrise 6am
On arrival at one of the most ancient and wonderful monuments on the planet, as the sun was majestically rising behind the temple, Samuel drops the classic bomb and announced he needed a poo. Kinda right now!
Khazis in Asia are not the most pleasant of places, even in the amazing towering skyscraper offices that stand so proudly in Singapore, a lot is left to be desired, so our expectations on the facilities here were pretty low. A quick trek behind the hawker stalls and monks' monastery found us a trainspotting style toilet. Dad held Samuel and Samuel held his nose, business was attended too swiftly, and it was back to the main event!
Just to put this into perspective, that is the dimensions of just Angkor Wat, ONE of the temples, there are hundreds more and the whole national park covers close to 1'000 square kilometers. That is when you start to ask yourself, how on earth did they actually build these things and then carve the most intricate pictures into seemingly every stone?
Angkor Wat at Sunset.
Children monks, vow of silence?
Treated to An Angkor Rainbow on our sunset visit!
Banteay Srei, Clair's favourite temple.
It was also here that we got a feel for what life must be like for the Beckhams.
Chinese tourists (effing thousands of them) deemed it more appropriate to act like 3 year olds on christmas morning, running and screaming in sheer ecstasy to fight each other to be the first to photograph the 'strange blonde haired white skinned children', rather than the 1500 year old monuments they had flown to see.
Again and again and again.
Yup, it seems the whole "worlds next super power" thing really isn't reverberating through to the masses.
Lauren thought that she was exploring Princess's castles. Kaitlyn and Sophia liked to learn about the different temples and we have now set their Minecraft time allowance to building Angkor Wat!
One moment from this trip will also stand out.
As we exited one of the lesser known or busy temples we began to walk back down a dusty road to meet M.r Nak when a young Russian couple stopped us. They explained that they had seen us the day before but were too shy to talk to us, having the chance to talk to us again they just had to stop and tell us something.
They explained that they were recently engaged to be married and that we were a real inspiration to them, watching us exploring the temples with all the kids had amazed them and they had now decided that once married they were going to have four kids and take them travelling with them too!
They then politely asked if they could take a photograph with us as a whole family, so as to keep the picture as a constant reminder!
That doesn't happen every day! This made us feel really proud of our family and reconfirmed our choice to take them to these wonderful places.
We are now back in Koh Samui for 2 weeks before landing in the UK on the 11th June. More posts to follow, so stay tuned, the next one will likely be from Paris and Euro Disney!