Friday, 11 February 2011

Back to Angkor Wat

Friday 11th February 2011

MP3 track of the day: Tomb Raider Two theme tune – Tomb Raider

Weather: Hotter than yesterday, very humid and the sun again was extremely strong. The temperature gauge at my hostel recorded thirty degrees … and that was at 5pm!








It was nice to have a little lie-in today. At 7am I got ready and met my tuk-tuk driver, at 8am, outside my hostel gate. As there wasn't a lot on my itinerary today – and I still had to pay the full day rate – my driver proposed that we added another temple to the list which was located a little distance east of the main 'Angkor Archaeological Park'. As it wasn't going to cost me anymore money I agreed and off we went.


I had already purchased my ticket for the park and so this allowed us to enter from another entrance. Once on the outskirts of Siam Reap my driver turned east and we went in that direction for some time. In Cambodia you drive on the right … well most people drive on the right. On this journey I saw scooters, tuk-tuks and even a bus that drove on the left for quite a distance. They were there either because, at some point, they were going to turn off or because there was a space. I also witnessed the most bizarre items, to be transported, on the back of a scooter to date. Firstly I saw one scooter with two Cambodian guys on it, nothing abnormal there. One guy was driving whilst the rear guy had a steel beam positioned over his shoulder with one end almost touching the road; the other end was pointing high into the sky. About five minutes after this I saw another scooter with a wooden round cage on the back full of live baby pigs. None of the locals seem to batter an eye-lid at the cargo carried and I wished that I had my camera out at the time.


We stopped at a junction where my driver got off the tuk-tuk and presented me with a map. The road to our left took us to our first temple, 'Banteay Samre', whereas the road in front of me carried on until we reached the 'Roluos Group' of temples. My driver said that for an additional $5 he would take me to the 'Roluos Group' of temples before completing my itinerary. I hate on the spot decisions. I like to think decisions over in my head, weight up the 'pros' and 'cons'. In my head I had my route firmly fixed with me finishing in the early afternoon, if I added this other group of five temples I would be out a complete day. Also I might not have the time to see the things that I actually wanted to see; also another $5 makes it $20 for the day. I declined the offer slightly annoyed that this option wasn't put on the table last night when I could have researched said temples. We took the road to our left towards 'Banteay Samre'.


Along the way we went through many villages reminding me that Cambodia is still quite a poor nation (Siam Reap is quite rich in comparison). Once at the temple I was, yet again, surrounded by women and children trying to sell me an object that you put between your teeth and pluck to make a 'twang' noise. What this has to do with the Angkor temples remains a mystery to me.


'Banteay Samre' was built at the same time as 'Angkor Wat' and some of the architecture is similar. Once through the outer-gate the stone had a very pink colour making the temple quite unique to most others I have seen. I would say that the temple was of medium size, giving me about an hours worth of exploring the many corridors and buildings before taking a few photos. Again the sun was strong and I could see a lot off my photos getting bright white skies. I tried my best to compensate but I cursed the sun and envied the man, sitting down to my right, who was drawing said temple. He didn't have to worry about the sky being white. I really enjoyed this temple; again it reminded me of the 'Tomb Raider' games and I walked very carefully along the edges of the structures. I eventually saw, and photographed, the entire complex however, before leaving, I sat down and ate a whole packed of biscuits and took my malaria tablet. Not bad surroundings for breakfast, I thought to myself.


I sat back on the tuk-tuk; to my left were two adorable young girls smiling at my asking for a dollar each. I declined giving them any money but I did take a cheeky photo. Just before riding off I showed them said photo and they just laughed.


A three kilometer ride brought me back within the main park area and at 'Ta Prhom'. Used in the first 'Tomb Raider' film (it's where Lara meets the mysterious girl within the temple) 'Ta Prhom' was built between the mid 12th and early 13th Century. The temple was huge and it had been left to battle against the jungle undergrowth. I love these nature vs man temples, it gives them a lot of character and loads of photo opportunities … if the sun wasn't so damn strong that is. I weaved my way through archways, over trees and ancient stone pathways to see the full glory of this magnificent ancient ruin. If it wasn't for the huge amount of tourists, and the Indian conservation team with their cranes, you could feel as though you were alone in an ancient world of nature and religion. This temple was one of Jayavarman VII's first major temples and as such was dedicated to his mother. I had entered through the eastern gate and, after finding numerous dead ends, I sensed that I was approaching the western gate. Just before reaching it I saw massive silk and fig trees breaking out of temple roofs and walls. Words cannot describe just how magical this temple really was … I just wish it was less touristy (probably worth getting here just after day break).


Once out of the temple I met the Aussie couple again; we had a little chat however we both had a lot to see. I gave them my email address and phone number so maybe we'll meet up for a meal or something. I got back in my tuk-tuk and headed to 'Ta Keo' the final major temple that I hadn't seen yet. Built in the late 10th to early 11th Century 'Ta Keo' is a temple-mountain dedicated to the god Shiva. Plainly decorated in stone artwork the temple, at the time, was known as 'the mountain with golden peaks' (due to sandstone being used as the construction material). The stairs were as dodgy as 'Phnom Bakheng' however light wasn't an issue. I put everything I had, in my hands, within my bag and started to climb. I investigated each level before proceeding up to the next eventually arriving at the top. Once standing at the top of the temple I could see five small towers in front of me; I investigated most, being careful not to step too much in the bat droppings, trying to keep within the shade. Once again I overlooked the park to see many trees, but not many temples. It was so hot up here that I didn't spend long and I gingerly climbed back down the stairs holding onto the hot rocks as I climbed.


It was midday and I had now pretty much seen the whole of the park. We arrived back at 'Angkor Thom' where my driver dropped me off to investigate the eastern side of the area before picking me up at the southern gate. There wasn't a lot to see on the eastern side of 'Angkor Thom' however what there was had become very ruined and also lacked tourists. I spent a little while exploring the ruined buildings along the east side, trying not to get too close to the monkeys. The north and southern 'Kleang' were interesting ruins with vegetation overgrowing the structures. I made it back to the 'Bayon' – still my favorite temple – but instead of going in it I circled the temple looking for the best angle to take a photo. Even with the strong sun the photos came out surprisingly well.


My tuk-tuk driver had seen me circling the 'Bayon' and so had come out to meet me. It was only 1pm and so I asked my driver if he could take me to one last place; I wanted to finish my tour of the Angkor site where I started. I wanted to go back to 'Angkor Wat'.


Being 1pm 'Angkor Wat' was well lit, and empty of tourists. Yet again I walked along the ancient stone pathway, through the outer-gate and into the main courtyard. Even with the conservation work underway 'Angkor Wat' is very impressive with it's five lotus flowered towers. I didn't go inside the temple but instead circled it looking for a good place to take a photo. Half way through I did enter the temple for a sit down within the shade, a drink of water and some biscuits. I continued my hunt for a good photo spot with little success. I had been there an hour, I was very tired, sweaty and thirsty. I took one last look at 'Angkor Wat' before turning around and walking away. Even though I still had my third day I had pretty much decided that I wouldn't return; I had seen all I wanted to see and the tuk-tuk was pretty expensive.


A little sad, and relieved at the same time, I boarded the tuk-tuk and headed back into town. My driver asked me if I wanted to be dropped off within town or at my guesthouse. I asked for town – as I had some shopping to do – however the message must have been lost over the noise of the traffic. I ended up back at my hostel, I paid and thanked the driver before going into my hostel to drop my stuff off. I wasn't in there long and soon I was on the streets of Siam Reap haggling over two memory cards (I had taken over 800 photos of the Angkor park) which, in the end, I got for $25.00 (£8.00 each). I then went to a souvenir shop and purchased a book all about the Angkor site plus a rather heavy monument of a 'Bayon' tower. Finally I went to KFC for a delicious, big, juicy piece of chicken … yum, I'll be back tomorrow. I then headed back to my hostel to chill, blog and take it easy. I met Carolyn who wasn't feeling too well; she had just started taking her malaria tablets and she thought that they were making her feel ill. Today she had just been around town. We chatted, had tea together, and surfed the internet. I was completely shatter and so I headed to sleep at 10pm looking forward to a late start tomorrow.


Today hopefully ended my spending spree. Since I've been in Cambodia I have spent $30 on my visa, $40 on the 'Angkor Wat' entry ticket, $24 on the tuk-tuk for both days, $25 on two camera memory cards, $13 on suvinors and god knows how much on food, drink and accommodation. $132 in four days … I need some cheap days. I have two days left within Siam Reap; I love it here and the hostel has been one of my favorites to date. Tomorrow I shall chill in the morning before organizing accommodation, and a bus ticket, to Phnom Penh. Later in the afternoon I might have a look around the city, who knows!


Toodle Pip!

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