Saturday, 28 August 2010

More temples than you can shake a stick at

(edited to correct the timeline. The bamboo train was a couple of days later)
Our first full day in Cambodia. Breakfast was OK: buffet with eggs cooked to your request. We had arranged a tuk-tuk the night before and met our driver for three days whose name was Tee. He was to take us around the temples,

We headed off to our first temple. This was within the massive complex of Angkor Thom, which is utterly massive. The whole area is bigger than downtown Siem Reap. The first one was Bayon with its enigmatic smiling heads on each pinnacle. The temples of Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat and the others in the large area around Siem Reap date variously from the 9th century to the 11th, essentially when we in Britain were worrying which shade of wode was going to be in this season. The temple at Bayor was amospheric, despite there being a fair number of tourists around, and the amount of detail carved into the roack from which they were made is stunning, even now almost a millenium later. We saw more structures within Angkor Thom including the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King before moving onto another couple of temples. We managed to fit lunch into this at some tourist trap restaurant that our driver took us to, no doubt receiving some kickback, but this is normal for this part of the world, especially in areas so popular with tourists.

The temples through the day did kind of merge into one, and I can add further details when I upload pictures and cross refer with the guidebook. It's not that the temples didn't all have their own distintive haracteristics, but it's that there were so many. One temple that does stick in the memory is the one that featured in Tomb Raider, with its buildings and walls infiltrated by roots from big rainforest trees which look like rivulets of liquid rolling over the sandstone more than vegetation

Our final destination of the day was the wonderful Angkor Wat. This temple you cannot forget for many reasons. It's the building that's synonymous with Cambodia. Indeed, so proud are they of it that they actually have it on their national flag. It's also the largest religious structure in the world. It was heaving, as might be expected, but we had a good look around. The bas reliefs are stunning, with scenes from Hindu mythology (the Ramayana and Mahabarat) and local legend. This runs round the outside of the inner wall, further inside there are the famous towers to look at, and you can climb up and into the higher central one. Like a lot of these things, pictures speak louder than words and we do have some pictures to upload. However, our main camera ran out of power as we arrived here and we aren't able to upload pictures from the other camera as it's an Olympus which have a non-standard sized memory card so we have to wait until later to do those.

We got Mr Tee (pity the fool who didn't get to see Angkor Wat today) to drive us back. We were in desperate need of a shower and change of clothes. It had been a very hot day, and we had been climbing up and down pyramid-like temples (all that shape to represent Mt Meru again important from Hindu myhtology), drenched in sunblock (factor 50, of course), and DEET, caked in dust from the crumbling roads. A dip in the pool was fantastic.

That evening we headed out again to sample the delights of Pub St. We ate Khmer again, this time having the local delicacy of fish amok (not a haddock riot, but fish cooked in spicy coconut milk and served in banana leaves). We also watched some live football beamed over from the UK. Globalisation has a lot of downsides, but sometimes the global village is a good place to be living. Well it is if you are a privileged Western European at any rate


  1. I didn't get to see Angkor Wat today and I feel a complete fool. My only excuse is I am in Goodmayes
    Mick the Angkor Wat misser.

  2. Never mind, Michael. It did rain later on (*I think, though itmight not have done), and they don't sell London Pride