Monday, 27 April 2009

Twelve Hours of Temples, 19 April, 2009

3.45am is an un-godly time to set an alarm for. Un-godly. But we wanted to see Angkor Wat at sun rise, so it had to be done.

We had already done the sun set at Angkor Wat the previous evening after buying our tickets*. It was a pretty amazing sun set and the backdrop was pretty special. We didn't explore Angkor Wat itself vastly, but we had a taster that really whet our appetite for the next day.

So there we were 4.30am waiting for our tuk-tuk driver. Just like at the Taj Mahal, I was getting antsy that we were going to miss the sunrise! He appeared at 4.50am and we zipped down the roads to Angkor Wat.

The sun rise was better than the sun set, as it rises from behind Cambodia's iconic temple. The sun rise was beautiful, one of the best we've seen yet! It was pretty dramatic with 1000 (almost) year old temple.

Angkor Wat is most definitely Cambodia's most iconic temple (it appears on the flag, the beer and the water), but for me it was not the most impressive temple. I mean, it was impressive, hugely impressive, but what followed went above and beyond to a whole other level.

Our second temple of the day was my favourite. Ta Prohm is a crumbling warren of stones, lichen and over growing trees. Every turn you take you feel like you are going somewhere that no one else has ever been before. Unlike at Angkow Wat there were only a few sign posts, so there was nothing to spoil the site. And, given that it was still only 6.30am it was free from the hoards of tourists that would have ascended later in the day.

It was also strangely spiritual. Angkor Wat hadn't really felt particularly spiritual, but this place was so different. It was calm, serene and you could definitely find inner peace or enlightenment there if you wished.

The piles of crumbling rocks, the sprawling trees, I could have spent all day there exploring.

But, there were more temples to see so we had to crack on.

Ta Keo is the lego brick temple. It is very blocky and very tall. We made the steep ascent up the stone steps all the way to the top. This was a real "I'm the king of the castle place." We were higher than the trees and up in the wind. It was incredible for such an old temple. As we wandered around we found a shady, breezy spot, and the four of us had a sleep. An hour later we woke up suitably refreshed and raring for the next temple. It was a really good spot for a snooze, but pretty surreal waking up on a 1000 year old temple, above the trees, with blue skies above and a cooling breeze. Bliss.

We then toured two more smaller temples that were in their own way just as impressive as the other big temples.

Then, we hit Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom is more of a complex of temples and terraces and we spent a good few hours here admiring it all and taking it all in. By this point it was hot, and getting hotter, so we were only too happy to take it slow. We tended to move from shady breezy spot to shady breezy spot as we took in the glory of the Elephant Terrace, Bayon and the Palace of the Leper King.

After the Angkor Thom complex we made our way to Ban Team Kdei. But we didn't get very far. We walked to the entrance, walked trhough the entrance found a nice shady spot with a breeze and gave in. We were 'templed' out. It was 2.30pm and we had been on the go since 4.30am.

A little boy came to try and sell us a flute. He entertained us for a while as he showed his ability to play the flute with his nose. Chris and the boy had a little jamming session with these random reed instruments that Chris had bought.

Once we mustered the strength to move on, we left him and found our tuk-tuk. He was keen to take us to the next temple but there was a resounding no from us all.

This is all sounding a bit negative. It's not supposed to. The temples at Angkor are massive, they're amazing and incredible. I had a wonderful day, but you really can have too much of a good thing!

By 4pm I was fast asleep in my bed dreaming of all the wonderful sites I had seen in the day.

*Tip for anyone who goes to Angkor Wat: Buy your ticket the day before you want to go from 4.30pm at the ticket office. Your ticket is not only valid for the next day, but also until 5.30pm on the day of purchase. Although the temples officially close at 5.30pm it is pretty easy to linger until after sun down. So you get a bonus hour in the temples!

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