Before I relate yesterday’s adventures, I’d like to do a quick plug for another blog, The Adventures of Lames McFuzzy, written by another Australian couple who, sadly, have just finished their 3 month tour of SE Asia. I’ve really enjoyed reading their adventures and if you’re planning on visiting the same part of the world they include lots of good travel tips. Whenever I have time, which isn’t often, I like to search for good travel blogs and this one is a lovely read.
Speaking of having time on my hands, Luke’s gone out temple-touring today while I sit in our room in close proximity to the bathroom. Just in case. People tell me this is bound to happen on any trip to SE Asia, I’m kinda grateful it’s happening while we’re staying in a four star hotel with reasonable wifi, room service and all the other mod cons.
Anyhow, enough about my bowels, on to Angkor Wat, reputedly the largest religious site in the world.
The thing to do (and it certainly seemed that everyone was doing it) is to get up at 4:30 in the morning and drive out to the main temple to watch the sunrise. An picked us up at 5:15 and we went to the kiosk along the way to buy our tickets. $20pp for one day’s entry to all the temples and they take your photo and print your ticket with your picture on it – very high tech!
There’s a pool of water right in front of the main temple structure and so the reflections of the sunrise look great. We were in a crowd of at least 2 or 300 people so there’s wasn’t a whole lot of serenity to enjoy, unfortunately. At least the dozens of people selling guide books sort of leave you alone at that point.
Even at dawn the weather was hot. It was 32 degrees, which climbed to about 38 over the course of the morning. After grabbing a few shots we wandered around the temple. The restoration works are much in evidence but are clearly very well done. The whole thing reminded me of Tomb Raider (the game), which I spent one Summer in Canberra watching my housemate play. There are parts of Angkor that look as though they should be filled with water and there’s so many swimming scenes in the game that I was half hoping to spot some kind of secret lever or trap door 😉 .
I don’t know whether it was the onset of my stomach issues or just being a wuss, but the heat was making me feel woozy. I didn’t take many photos and eventually went to the line of drinks stall in the hope of getting some ice for my neck scarf. After I bought some water and tried to explain what I wanted, the lady sawed off a piece of ice (they come in enormous blocks here) the size of a housebrick. Smaller please! I ended up with something the size of maybe 4 Mars Bars bundled together which was a bit awkward but heavenly nevertheless and there’s nothing like icy water running down your spine to perk you up in baking heat.
Luke and I wandered off down one of the side roads and found a run down little part of the wall where there was a gate and a gorgeous view over the lake. With no one else around it was extremely peaceful and lovely. From there we wandered around the outside of the walls back to the main entrance.
From there An drove us to another temple where the wall carvings were in excellent repair, even thought there was no roof left to this building. While driving us around An told us that all these ruins had lain in the jungle, completely unknown to anyone for over 200 years before a French Archeologist discovered them last century. Due to a war with Thailand everyone had left the area a long time ago and so even the local people had forgotten them. I can’t imagine how that explorer must have felt, coming across these buildings for the first time. It would’ve been magical.
We walked through two more complexes. One was the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’, featured in the movie and currently undergoing huge restorations, the other was the ‘Smiling Face’ temple (probably not it’s real name but handily, I didn’t write down anything An told us), which I walked around the bottom of and Luke went through. I have a minor phobia of steep flights of stairs and this one had lots of steep, slippery, narrow stairs.
But this time it was about 12 and An took pity on us and drove us by a few other sights before dropping us back at our hotel. He had been a great driver all day – unending bottles of icy cold water, lots of local information and even told us about his family and what happened to them under the Khmer Rouge. I was very glad I’d spent a while reading about the history of Cambodia on our way here. I’d heard of Pol Pot but I’d had no idea just how atrocious the history of Cambodia was. Seems like they’ve been at war for a very long time, and when it wasn’t other countries trying to take over it was their own leaders commiting genocide.
A very instructive, interesting and active day. I was very happy to get back to the hotel for a shower, swim and a nap before our evening excursion.