• Tara B. Vasi

Day 3: Angkor Wat @ Sunrise 🌄 , Elephants! 🐘Quad Biking @ Sunset 🌅

One of the most beautiful sites to see on the planet is the temple of Angkor Wat during sunrise. I thought for a while that the temple was on the list of seven wonders of the world, but I was wrong. we can call it the eighth.

We set our alarm for 3:45am to be out the door and on the bus by 4:30am so that we could travel to the temple in time for the sunrise. Our tour guide, Mone, named our group, the Sticky Rice Family and reminded us that we should stick together. I felt like I was on a school grind trip in elementary school. Anytime he spoke to one of us, he referred to us as “brother” or “sister” and when he was done with a comment or an explanation, he said “ok, love you family, let’s go!” He was really sweet and knows so much about the temples in Cambodia.

We got take away breakfast again, but instead of a lettuce club sandwich I got a hard boiled egg, two mini bananas, and three pieces of white bread with a packet of jam. I wasn’t hungry that early so stored my bamboo reusable take away container under neath my seat for later.

The bus had “air con” or AC, but as soon as we exited and felt the outside temperature we knew we were in for a hit sweaty day. The temperature was 95 degrees and their was zero breeze. Apparently, it usually not that hot this time of the year but because global warming DOES exist, monsoon season seemed to be pushed back.

We covered our shoulders and our knees to show respect. No one was used to being fully covered in this kind of weather. A few of the boys had gone out to the strip of pubs the night before and were not feeling so well during the day. I remember the many times in my 20’s when that was me, sightseeing in the heat while on a hangover. I 100% did not miss That feeling.

“Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and is the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.” Google. It took 30 years to build.

We walked over a floating bridge to Angkor Wat. (Sochea pronounces it Angkor Whhhhaaaaaat)

There are two ponds in front of the massive temple and people crowded by the waterline so they could get the perfect picture of the reflection of the temple with the sunrise. There were three geese on the waterline and we squacked at them and they posed for our photos.

( 3:45am wake up. No coffee 😣 😃)

Though, there were people walking around selling Coffeeeeeeeee, (one guy extended the E with a high pitch and we laughed every time he said it), magnets, bracelets, clothes, you name it, they were selling it.

We walked around and snapped pictures.

I was blessed by a monk. I knelt, closed down my eye lids, and placed my hands at heart center.

He performed a mini ceremony on me, gave me a bracelet (women wear the bracelet on the left hand and men on the right), and smashed water on me which startled me each time. At the end he looked me right in the eye, and said in a sweet and high pitched voice, “Thank you!” I have him a donation and he bowed in return.

I was fascinated by how the trees grew around the ruins and Sochea told me to wait until I saw the next temple, which is known for massive trees wrapping around the stones.

After a few hours at Angkor Wat, we returned to the air con temple and headed to Ta-Prohm or the tree temple. No words to describe, just check out the pictures.

Last we went to the Temple of the happy faces. At the entrance I saw four elephants and immediately broke off from the group and went towards them (the group didn’t notice and kept moving towards the temple).

As I walked towards one of the elephants, it began turning towards me and gave me this look like, “Oh hey its Tara, we have heard about you” and walked towards me so that I could pet him on his cheek underwear his massive eye. There was not one ounce of me that was scared of the animal.

There was a guy riding on one of the elephants back, smoking a cigarette and playing on his phone. I thought it was pretty funny. Old school transportation, new world technology.

A nice Chinese man took a few photos for me with my new elephant friend and as soon as I turned to head towards the temples all of the elephants turned away too to leave the area and head down a path, maybe to the place where they are kept.

This temple featured statues and temples with smiling faces everywhere. It was a beautiful sight to see.

By this point in the day the weather and sightseeing had worn me down and as much as I wanted to go on, I was sheerly “temple’d” out. I have no idea how those boys could have done that on a hang over, I could barely handle it sober.

We went to the “lunch temple” as Mone called it and were presented with many plates of fried ants mixed with beef bits and grilled frog.

I tried the frog. It tasted like fatty chicken. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the ants though, because fuck ants.

I had a delicious dish of Chicken Coco curry. Other peoples lunches came in a coconut bowl, which was pretty cool.

We reached our temple quota for the day. Before leaving I decided I should replenish my sugars by purchasing a coconut water. I was expecting one in a bottle to take with me, but the lady reached for a huge fresh coconut and her machete and whacked off the top of the coconut, dropped a plastic straw in it and handed it to me. $1. It was heavy. I promised myself to remember that moment forever.

The bus was loaded with the group and they stared at me and wait for me to finish. I guess giant coconut drinks are not allowed on the bus. My bad, dogs.

We drove back in my favorite temple, the Air Con Temple to the Aspara Dream Hotel. On the way we stopped to see some monkeys that were monkeying around and eating pepitas. Two of them immediately started having sex with each other and I was proud of them for following their hearts. At one point the male bailed live session and the female stood up and glared at us until we drove away. Sorry for ruining the moment, lady.

We got back to the hotel and had a few hours to rest before quad biking, I took a shower and gave into a nap, as the 4:00am wake up call and day in the sun had definitely caught up to me.

We were picked up for the quad biking adventure at 4:30pm so that we could ride during the sunset. The place must have definitely got sued or something recently because we had to sign a bunch of waiver and a lady filmed us while the leader was going over rules, regulations, and how to operate the quad. I took a picture of the waivers just in case I needed to show my lawyer. You never can be too careful these days.

I was in the back during the presentation so heard absolutely nothing, except DO NOT RACE. I have been on quads before and figured, what could possibly go wrong? I know the gas and I know the break. I asked some of the boys if they wanted to race and they said no, and I called them a bunch of wuss’s.

They gave me a face mask and a helmet. (Tara wears a Helmet- D) I got this.

They had us ride around a test loop two times and I realized the same lady was filming our test loops. It made me really want to know what happened to warrant this extra special documentation and safety protocol.

We each got our own quads except for Martha and Lasse, a young married couple from Norway, who wanted to share. She is vegan and he is like 6’5” so anytime he walked through a door way at any of the temples, he had to duck down in order to fit through. Cambodians are a short brand of people.

We traveled in a line for a few miles passed floating aluminum stilt houses, tied up cows grazing, kids fishing with a stick and a string and even a few naked babies that were playing in big bins of water and so excited to wave to us. I was wearing a face mask, but smiling big while waving back and even though my face was covered, I am certain they read my joy.

We passed rice patty after rice patty. Rice is their number one export and clothes is their number two. There are 400 clothing factories in Cambodia. There are no more child laborers and instead they are very strict with labor laws, allowing an 8 hour work day only and no more.

Tourism, though is what really drives their economy.

We dodged stray dogs, chickens, and cows that were walking in the road like we were on some test drive obstacle course like you see in the car commercials.

We found a spot where we got out to take pictures with the rice Pattys and sunset as our back drop.

I was waiting to have some free time to tool around and do donuts, but they kept us pretty tight knit. I lagged behind a little bit, just so I could hit the gas to catch up. We were told to not take selfies or videos and always have both hands on the wheel. I snapped a few anyway and managed to not crash.

We trailed back to the headquarters and were given small brown damp towels to wipe our faces and hands. We were given a bottle of water. We went back to the hotel. The group got ready for dinner and to go out on the town, but Stayed behind at the hotel to write and rest. I hungout by the pool at the coffee shop until they closed at 9:30pm and then went out to grab a chicken AMOK which has been my favorite dish in Cambodia so far. Its a chicken curry dish with special Cambodian spices and served with sticky rice.

I spoke to my Dad for a little while before I went to bed and he told me that Plymouth, MA, USA (my hometown) was on lockdown because there was a shoot out and there was an active shooter prowling the area. He said people were told not to leave their houses and their were helicopters flying overhead looking for the bad guy.

I went to bed and could hear the sticky rice family coming back from their night out. Briney came in the room and told me about dinner and the karaoke club. The the boys were building beer can towers and taking shots, and singing ridiculous karaoke. I was happy for them for having a good time and I was so happy for myself for staying in to Be alone.

I remembered my first few nights in Rennes, France at the start of my study abroad semester. I was only 20 years old at the time but because the drinking age was 18, I could legally be served. My friends at the time drank a surplus of rose and I remember it tasting like juice And going down easy. We would sit at tables outside of the bar in the town square and smoke cigarettes and people watch.

I know going out and drinking is a part of the experience of growing up and traveling, though, I feel like the big sister and I want to sit down with the boys, look them in the eyes, and say, “Don’t let alcohol run your life.”

But they are smart, they will figure it out on their own. It’s all Part of the process.


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