Friday, 28 October 2011

the famous temples.

We are eating breakfast now, in a calm little hippie cafe in Siem Reap. If all goes to plan (which may be less likely than it seems, with the enormous floods Bangkok is dealing with right now) this is our last day in Cambodia. Tomorrow we catch a bus to Bangkok -hopefully- and from there we fly to Hanoi in northern Vietnam.

For the last few days we have been fulfilling our duty as tourists and visiting temple upon temple, because really, that is what everyone is here for. We hired bicycles and pedalled our way 8 kilometres out of town to the Angkor Archaeological Park, where we could ride around in peace as for the first time in a long time, we were not hassled by tuk-tuk drivers. And when people did begin to hassle us, we could just ride away from them, laughing our little heads off.
On our first day we explored a few of the smaller temples, the highlight being Ta Prohm, a temple that is slowly being engulfed by the huge trees that surround it.

These enormous trees are growing on top of walls of the temples! It's incredible. They are relying on the stone and also holding it together...if the stone collapses, do the trees as well?

Day two at the temples involved us rising at 4.30am in order to cycle over and see the sunrise at Angkor Wat -the famous, famous temple of Cambodia. Despite the difficulty of waking up at this ridiculous hour and the nervousness with which I rode along the dark, early morning streets on a bike with no lights, it was definitely worth it. We were by no means the only people waiting eagerly for the sun to come up but it was ok...we watched the sky morph from pink to gold to blue and then we could explore without hundreds of other tourists all vying for space.

When it looked like this was beginning to happen, we cycled over to Angkor Thom, a walled city that used to be the capital of Cambodia (a long, long, long time ago).

Here we saw a temple with towers that were decorated on all of their four sides with giant, smiling faces and in which almost none of the surfaces were left undecorated by carvings.

It is incredible the amount of work that must have gone into these buildings...especially Angkor Wat. The sandstone used to build this temple was quarried 50 miles away from the site and transported on rafts along the river...all this before they even began the building.

Back to Angkor Thom...we also saw a temple built to represent a mythical Cambodian mountain and a temple that was taken apart by archaeologists before the civil war with, I presume, the intention of being rebuilt in the future. Only during Pol Pot's years of insanity, the archaeologist's records were all destroyed, so they were basically faced with an enormous, hideously frustrating jigsaw puzzle. They did it though. It was reopened in 2008, although some parts still have not been finished.
Our bodies were exhausted after this...probably a consequence of waking at 4, two days of bike riding (after a period of almost no exercise) and hiking around temples in the hot we headed for home and rested.
Yesterday we hired a tuk-tuk to drive us 60 kilometres out of the city so we could explore an Indiana Jones temple of epic proportions. This temple, Beng Melea, was like an extreme version of Ta Prohm- it has been completely abandoned to nature, which is swallowing it up, one vine and tree root at a time.

Will had a blast and it turned out to be worth the slow bumpy $20 ride out there. Even if our tuk-tuk driver did try and coerce us into booking another long trip with him for today.

So that was Siem Reap. And that is the end of Cambodia, at least for now (unless our bus is cancelled, or we end up being abandoned because it can't traverse the floodwaters, or any other of the numerous, frustrating scenarios that travel in Asia holds promise of).

Onward to Vietnam!

No comments:

Post a Comment