Angkor Wat – day 357

Every for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction force – Newtons Third Law of Physics. So, I believe I can go ahead and blame Mr. Newton for this… you eat too much the night before and you have to roll out of bed; if you go to bed late, then getting up early is painful. I have used physics law to complain about how everything about the early alarm clock at 04:00 was just wrong. But, we did manage to get on the road and with the lights on the phone showing where to walk, we entered the Angkor Wat temple complex in pitch darkness. Taking up position by the pool by the North library we had arrived with almost a full hour to watch the sunrise. The Asian tour groups arrived and a small group of ladies gradually walked in front of us, blocking our view of the temple and the reflection in the pool. It wasn’t the end of the world, they weren’t a noisy group and we were able to see above them and take some photos. We didn’t get the iconic photo, but I wouldn’t have blamed them. A number of tourists were creeping further and further around the pool, so I’m sure there are now thousands of photos with a gentleman in a bright green top, a woman in a skimpy white top, ruining the view for hundreds of photographers. The German girl ‘looking for her friends’ right in front of us, taking photos and not searching for anyone, needed a few sharp words (and we have them to her!!). The sunrise was nice, but I don’t think it was worth the hassle. We had some crackers on the steps of the library. The kids of the jungle had a better breakfast than us, begging from everyone with a hotel breakfast pack. A group of youths were sitting on the balustrade (right next to the signs that said not to sit on them). I wonder how many of them understood the sculptures at the end of the rails or what they represented. I feel a bit more organisation and security could be taken from other sites to be used in Angkor Wat during sunrise. We entered the temple early and with the season affording us quieter crowds we were able to explore the empty corridors and ascend to the top sanctums without any queueing. With more than 3,000 apsaras (heavenly nymphs) and 37 different hairstyles, the wall carvings are remarkable. Many of these exquisite carvings were damaged in the 80s by using harsh cleaning chemicals. A German team are now in charge of the restoration and their impact is kept to a minimum, as this building has been in constant use (almost) since it was built. 


We noticed ourselves that the bas reliefs along the lower levels were better viewed in an anti-clockwise fashion. But, as is our fashion when visiting a temple, we oft stroll around before reading about the site. The layout of Angkor Wat is orientated to the west. A long spiel which I won’t bore even myself with, the temple, the heart and soul of Cambodia, is most likely to have served as both as a temple and as a mausoleum for Suryavarman II. An unusual layout didn’t take away from the size, scale and symmetry of the place, believed to be the world’s largest religious building. The views from the Bakan afforded an appreciation of the 1.5×1.3km layout with the spatial representation of the universe. We could hear some people flabbergast by the temple and while we enjoyed it immensely, I think we both still preferred Bayon. But, it was definitely worth visiting and leaving loads of time to explore it. 


High on the hit list for every tourist, popular by Angelina Jolie as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft… we were off to none other than Ta Prohm. A well sign posted layout of the temple was probably the most pointless of all the notice boards we came across in the Angkor region, as there was a natural one-way flow to the tourists at the temple. Set in the jungle (no surprise there), the guide book has described it beautifully: ‘there is a poetic cycle to this venerable ruin, with humanity first conquering nature to rapidly create, and nature once again conquering humanity to slowly destroy’. The behemoth trees cling to the rocks like a toddler with a toy or a dog with a bone. Their muscular embrace is slowly squeezing life from their chiselled victims. Efforts from the India Archaeological Survey is repairing the site, but upsetting many people at this site by destroying the trees in the process. A compromise solution, from one not experienced in the field would be to preserve or conserve other areas first and only begin work on these small pockets later on. We enjoyed some incredible scenery, both natural and man made and even queued to take photos at one spot inside the temple. The place is a must see before the trees and atmosphere are gone. 


Heading in to town, I vetoed any further plans of temples for a bowl of Pho. There is no way that we can enjoy every single temple in equal appreciation and having been up for over 6 hours already and just eating a few crackers, we needed something substantial before fatigue and heat cut us down to size. 
After a brief nap (ahem) we kinda run out of time to do anything else. Oops! So, we drove in to town, picked up a takeaway. Brought it home and enjoyed a lazy evening with loads and loads of to programs. It was fabulous. Wednesday 28th September 2016

Siem Reap – day 350

The sound of the air con unit was muffled by the sound of the rain outside. We had no choice but to get up at early o’clock. So with a bit of tea, bread and jam we waited patiently under the tree at the main gate with the miserable weather for the bus to arrive. 20mins later than planned we were relieved that it turned up at all… how long does one wait for a tour bus, when they weren’t sure of the address when making the booking? Needn’t have worried, eeek! 3km down the road we pulled in to an elaborate building to buy our Angkor tickets. A well organised system we queued up in the line for 7-day passes. They took photos, printed our passes and we jumped back in the mini-van. 
The outside of the ticket is rimmed with numbers 1 to 31. Much like an old-fashioned Irish parking ticket where you punch in the date and time, the officers at the check point punched a hole through number 21. We were allowed to enter the historical area. But, we skimmed through the jungle, past sandstone walls topped with decorative stonework and occasionally drove past a gateway with amazing work atop the archway. A quick stop at the bathroom and we were then at the Flight of the Gibbon. 
We all had the usual paperwork to fill out and we were given a bandana to wear. As well as being a souvenir, it’s for hygiene under the helmets. A clever idea, but they weren’t very comfortable or fashionable. Who cares, harnesses on, safety demo in the woods and we plodded up the stairs to our first platform. 
We traversed 21 stations, crossing bridges, zipping across 10 lines and rappelling down to the jungle floor. We went up into trees almost 500 years old, getting a birds eye view of the landscape from 40m up. The Kulen mountains in the distance is the where all the stone came from for the various structures hidden in the jungle below. It, apparently, arrived by elephants on zip lines. Hahaha! The whole experience ended so quickly and was both a rush of adrenaline and completely serene and beautiful. Although near Ta Nei temple, we never saw it. We saw some of the same structures on the way to Srah Srang pool for a bit of lunch. A really nice set lunch included in the price of our zip-lining, the price should have included at least one drink, as they were an extortionate price. We shared loads of stories among the group and parted ways when we were the first to be dropped off. 
Back at the hotel we had a nap. Quite a long nap. Not sure if the amount of exercise, heat and humidity warranted it, but meh, who cared. We finally woke up and walked in to town. With no time constraints or deadlines we wandered for a time in the night market stalls. Katherine found a nice new set of trousers for a bargain – although having to haggle again is a right pain in the ass. Back at the hotel we watched some Modern Family and chilled out for the remainder of the evening. 

Wednesday 21st September 2016