(All photos for this entry can be found here)
May 2nd, 2006
We got up early to brave the crowds at the Angkor Wat sunrise. It was pretty amazing, even if it was a bit hard to move. After the sun came up it was off to Angkor Thom to wander around. Our first stop was Baphuon. It is quite large, and looked interesting, but was closed for construction work. No matter, we wandered north through the roaming chickens to the next set of ruins. It was nice to walk around this early in the morning. The temperature was lovely, and it was interesting to see people starting their day. No need to put your vendor armor on yet.
We reached Phimeanakas just as the sun was coming over the tops of the trees. It was only Anna, myself, and a skinny rooster that enjoyed the sight. I couldn’t resist the steep climb up the back of the temple, and was rewarded with a slightly hazy view of the ground below. Shop keepers were starting to sweep the dirt in front of their stalls, and breakfast fires were going.
We walked passed the royal pools on our way north to the Terrace of the Elephants. There was around twenty locals relaxing around the water. A popular morning spot I suppose. The elephants (and other things) are carved into a long stretch of wall. Parts of the wall are showing their age, but other spots are still very impressive. Definitely need to visit this area in the morning.
We headed east across the road to explore around Prasats Suor Prat and the Kleangs. Wandering around the buildings, we were followed by two boys who told us various things about the buildings. Sort of uninvited tour guides. They were friendly enough, so we didn’t mind them hanging around. When we were done with that area five minutes later though, things changed. Considering we were only there for five minutes, and we hadn’t asked them to follow us, I gave them a dollar. They raised a big stink and demanded five dollars each. I laughed pretty hard. Our tuk-tuk driver only makes $10 a day, and he has to pay for his motorcycle, trailer, fuel, and put in long hours. These guys wanted $120/hour for inviting themselves to follow us around and deliver suspect information. I was surprised to see such boldness from kids, but I guess it was a tactic that had worked in the past.
Next it was off to Preah Khan, a huge complex that used to be part city, part Buddhist monastery. I really enjoyed this site. It was huge, and a lot of fun to explore. There were plenty of little hallways and hidden rooms, but also a lot of large buildings and open spaces. They have cleared and restored much of the complex, but a significant portion of the site was left in its natural state, complete with huge trees growing out of the ruins.
The famous Ta Prohm was our next temple to visit, and it felt similar to Preah Khan. Everyone seems to know the temple for its appearance in Tomb Raider, and it is obvious why it was chosen as a set. Much of the temple has been left in a bit of disrepair, and many large silk cotton and fig trees have been allowed to continue their strangle-hold on the stone. It was another fun temple to explore, but you had to navigate the crowds a bit more here.
To finish up the day we drove over to Pre Rup to enjoy the late afternoon sun and a bit of a sunset. Pre Rup doesn’t seem to be touristed much compared to other sunset spots. It isn’t as tall as Phnom Bakheng, but it is considered a “temple mountain”, and offers a great view over the jungle. The temple is in various states of decomposition. The brick towers are crumbling, but the stone carved false doorways are still amazing.
As we sat enjoying the view we were asked if we wanted to buy cold beer, by a policeman, and then his badge. I’m pretty sure the badge part was a joke, but it was still pretty uncomfortable. A bit wary, we asked him if it was OK to be consuming alcohol on a temple site. His reply was, “Everyone likes to sit and have cold beer. Is good”. I couldn’t argue much with that. We shared a rapidly warming beer and watched the sunset.