Drunk the beer, it's now time to visit Angkor

Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, June 29, 2009

For months we have been waiting to visit the wonder that is 'Angkor' and the time has finally come. There was just the small matter of surviving the 6 hour coach journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. We opted for the Paramount Angkor Express, our 3rd coach company in Cambodia. Well variety is the spice of the life, as they say. Our verdict, it was a comfortable journey!

The coach is almost like a double decker bus. Passengers sit on the upper tier, while the luggage and driver is on the first. A bonus is that this coach has a toilet! We only stopped once along the way in Kompong Thom and we were greeted by a barrage of “You buy mango from me” from children. We were definitely not going to buy anything, they even tried flattery by addressing me as Mr. Handsome. A frightening site was seeing these girls with tarantulas on their clothing like jewelery, one of the girls even dangled one out of her mouth by its legs. Yuk!

We arrived in Siem Reap, greeted by a waiting tuk-tuk driver and were taken to the Golden Mango Inn. A truly warm welcome greeted us! We were definitely onto a winner here  with this hotel. Plus their security system outback is top notch.. “Warning these Crocodiles Bite”. We spent the first day planning our temple route. The hotel offers free bicycle hire, so we felt a little adventurous and planned to cycle to the Roluos Group, some of the oldest Angkor temples and roughly 18km out of town. All we needed to do first was wake up at 4:30am and cycle to the Angkor Wat entrance and buy our passes, oh yeah, that would be another 12km. Wow, sleep is going to be precious tonight!

The morning came, and it was definitely an early one. Neither of us felt tired, and we were definitely excited about the day ahead. It was still dark outside, and as we headed downstairs to the lobby, we seemed to wake the hotel manager who was sleeping in a camp bed. We hopped onto two bikes and set off to the ticket booth at Angkor Wat, with a steely determination we made it there before 6am.

Two 7 day passes cost us $120 and granted access to all major Angkorian temples. No refunds or replacements come with that price either, so you better guard that pass with your life. Oh and don't leave home without it either, as if you are caught inside a temple without one, the fine is between $100 - $300. Food for thought!

It was time to start our journey to the Roluos temples. The sun was already rising fast, and it wouldn't be long before the temperature catches up with it. It took us around 40 minutes to cycle the 18km; special thanks goes out to Cambodia's flat countryside. Our plan was to view the 3 main temples from the Roluos group, Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei; all in that order.

Preah Ko (880 AD) was built by king Indravarman I (3rd king of Angkor) and consists of 6 towers on a raised platform, surrounded by a grassy moat. Its foundations were constructed from brick and decorated with a lime mortar, which was smeared like plaster and carved with fine lintels and khmer Sanskrit. Preah Ko is one of the finest examples of brick architecture in Angkor and slightly resembles that of Cham masonry we saw in Vietnam. The 6 central towers can be reached by 3 sets of steps, each guarded by a pair of lions at the top and a sacred bull at its base.

Bakong (881 AD) was built by the same king and was the first example of a temple mountain in Angkor, i.e. a five tier temple in the shape of a mountain, which was dedicated to the god Shiva. The complex was surrounded by a large moat (roughly 15 hectares in size) and was nearly a kilometre wide. A truly epic feat in that period. The actual complex was in a really good state with not too much damage. The central pyramid was constructed from sandstone. Elephant carvings could be found on the corners of every tier, with pairs of small shrines on their flanks. The main complex was surrounded by 6 brick towers, much in the same vein as Preah Ko. Why change a good thing? It took about an hour to explore this complex, as the lush vegetation and moat makes for a pleasant stroll.

Lolei (893 AD) was the third and final temple in the Roluos group. It is located roughly a kilometre or so away from the others and was constructed by Yasovarman I (4th Angkor king). The actual temple complex is very small in size, as it used to be an island. Although the surrounding area is completely dry and the actual temple is in a state of disrepair. Four towers remain, each dedicated to one of the four gods, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Indra.

Right it was time to cycle back into town. Both of us were getting hungry and that definitely spurred us on. Once back at the hotel we had time to shower and change before heading back out into town on the bicycles. Lunch would be at a fine Indian eatery called Kamasutra. A korma and a tikka masala went down a treat! Our plans for the remainder of the day was to cycle back to the hotel and relax for a few hours until the evening. We hoped to experience our first sunset over Angkor Wat today.

At around 5pm we cycled to Angkor Wat, a good 8 kilometres away (the count was at 52 kilometres already). Close to Angkor Wat was a temple called Phnom Bakeng, which was a replica of Preah Ko. A 1 kilometre ascent was required to reach the top, or you could pay $20 and be carried there by an elephant. Once at the top, a climb up near vertical steps was required to reach the top. You could almost use rock climbing equipment it was that steep. A lot of people before us seemed to have trouble.

We sat around at the summit waiting for a sunset that inevitably never came. A thunderstorm in the distance had blackened the sky and stolen the sun from us all. Oh well, maybe next time. It would have been a exceptional way to end an already exceptional day.
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rfbevis on

I still can't believe you are staying at the Golden Mango Inn...when we booked our 4 nights back a while ago we just hoped we had chosen well. Looking at the photo it appears we did!

We must get into training for the stairs or maybe just take the elephant taxi.

Hairdressing is a doddle....Rick and I have been doing eachothers hair for years!!! That's why we look so odd:)

Looking forward to more shots of Angkor

Love Ma

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