Angkor Day 2: tuk-tuk and away !
Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
134Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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Our first stop was Kbal Spean (about 25kms from the main temples – no way we could have cycled here!). We were dropped at the bottom of the hill and trekked our way 1500 metres up a steep hill, over boulders and tree roots – it was quite a climb but worth it, we even saw the tail end of a few monkeys. We were the only people at the top and we spent a good 30 minutes walking down the stream looking at the lingas and bas reliefs carved into the river bed and rocks on the banks. We learned about lingas in Vietnam when we visited some cham towers – they represent the god Shiva and are essentially penis-shaped, although these ones were quite flat ;) The water trickled beside carvings showing Vishnu and his son Brahma emerging from his belly button on a lotus flower. Enchanting and magical.
There is a hill near here called Phnom Kulen that is supposed to be similar to Kbal Spean – but the tycoon who built the road there charges $20 per person to go up there, and that's a bit steep for us !
Back on the tuk-tuk we traveled back towards Angkor, as the sun got hotter, and we stopped off at Banteay Srei – one of the more popular temples. A really beautiful temple from the 10th century, with ornate carvings in pink sandstone, it was glowing in the morning light and we spent a long time wandering around, hiding from the sun and trying to take photos without any other tourists in them – tricky ! The temple complex itself is small – the temples are short, Banteay Srei means 'citadel of the women' or 'citadel of beauty'. There are huge amounts of carved lintels and pediments (we are learning lots of new words this week!). It's amazing that they have survived this long and we got to see lots of the gods we have learned about – Vishnu, Shiva, Uma and Indra on his 3 headed elephant, and lots of apsaras (dancers), garudas (guards) and nagas (snakes). It's a bit like a 1000 year old cartoon carved in stone.
We were getting a bit hot as the sun was belting down, but we decided to hit one more temple, Banteay Samre – mostly as its a bit further out and we didn't fancy pedaling to it – and it was a nice surprise. There were hardly any tourists, which made it quiet inside the complex but also meant we couldn't avoid the little girl selling bracelets outside - “you buy from me ? 5 for 1 dollar” - “Why aren't you in school” I asked “I'm going this afternoon” she said – I'm not convinced and I refuse to buy anything from children on principle – they should be in school, giving them money is an incentive to stand outside the temples instead. I think our principles will have no effect over our week here, but I'm still going to ask them all why they aren't at school just in case...
Banteay Samre has been well restored (by Maurice Glaize) and we scrambled all over it, clambering up steep steps to view all the bas reliefs and out along the causeway where the king must have approached on his elephant (you never know). We've since seen badly restored temples and ones that have been left to nature which are charming – but in this case it was interesting to see a complete complex as it would have been.
Our tuk-tuk driver took us back to the hotel and the whole trip – 6am-1pm and over 100kms – cost us $25.
After a much needed shower, we hopped back on the bicycles and cycled into Siem Reap town and to the Blue Pumpkin restaurant – yummy milkshakes and pasta (I had amok curry ravioli and Paul had chicken ravioli). We then went to the supermarket to stock up on the supplies that will keep us going over the next few days – banana chips, Angkor peanuts, pot noodles, litres of water and milk for tea and muesli !
We headed back to the hotel, half intending to return to the temples later once the heat of the day had subsided, but a lovely big thunderstorm arrived and settled in – meaning no sunset and a well-earned break and pot noodles for tea. It's rainy season – I think sunsets might be unlikely all week.
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