Siem Reap, Day 1!

warning: this is CRAZY LONG….read at your own risk! ;) also, the keyboard here at the hotel internet cafe is AWFUL, so please forgive any typos.
omg…what a day it’s been!
ok, first things first. We left Bright Future School (and Nick’s company) yesterday via bus. We took the “GST” Bus Line on Nick’s Recommendation, and not only was it reasonably on time (only 15 mins late), it was airconditioned, and they sat us right in the very front row, so we got plenty of fresh air, a great view of where we were going, and fewer germs from all the other passengers. We were also right in front of the TV and got to watch Khmer music videos, a horribly gory chinese-dubbed-in-Khmer action flick, and Khmer comedy routines. ; ) The bus ride took a little over 4 hours to take us to Siem Reap, with 2 pit stops and 4 pick-ups/drop-offs.
We checked into a really nice hotel (Hotel Cozyna) for $30/night. It’s like a resort–totally beautiful, clean, air conditioned, and cable TV (which Wunderhub is thrilled about).
We had a REALLY nice moto driver take us to the hotel from the bus station, and he agreed to pick us up at 4:30 PM to see the sunset at the Ankor temples. The nice thing is that if you buy a $20 day pass to the temples at sunset, you get the sunset view for free, and your pass works the entire next day for all the temples. They take a digital photo of you and it prints right on your ticket, so they can easily verify that you have a genuine ticket.
Anyway, the sunset WAS BEAUTIFUL. We hiked up a huge hill to Phnom Bakeng (a tomb/temple) and watched the sun sink down slowly over the horizon. The stone steps up to the top of the temple were crazy…like a smooth-stepped ladder….terrifying to walk down, but ok on the way up! We also saw lots of asian elephants taking people up and down the hill (the old, tradtional way of traveling to the wats). They carry people in large baskets on their backs, 4-6 people at a time, plus their trainer.
Everyone asks ‘”Where you from?”and  Wunderhub’s’s been answering (truthfully) “the Philippines”…they all say, in response: ‘”you look like [you’re from]  Europe”. Interesting. We’ve never gotten that before!
After the sunset, we headed back down the hill and ended up walking through the jungle (on a well worn path, of course) in complete darkness. fortunately, I had my little LED flashlight, so we didn’t trip or step in an elephant surprise. It was hilarious…the instant it got dark, all these birds and bugs started coo-ing and squeaking and making their respective noises: it sounded exactly like a jungle soundtrack from, say, the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. At the end of the path, a band made up entirely of landmine victims, all missing 1-2 limbs, usually legs, was playing beautiful Khmer music and selling CDs and VCDs. We left a small donation, and their poignant, haunting music played by candelight is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
We headed back to the hotel via moto, ate dinner, then went to bed early since we had to get up at 4:30 AM to catch the sunrise at Ankor Wat.

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