Even when I close my eyes, I still see temples...

Trip Start Feb 27, 2006
Trip End Apr 29, 2006

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, April 2, 2006

Those ancient Khmer people sure were busy. There are so many temples here, and so much detail on each one. Some of them are huge too. Am on my third day of temple-spotting. Day 1 was eventful as I decided a push-bike was the best way to go. Which it probably is if you know where you're going. The temples are around 6-8 km away from the town, and I got so lost it took me over two hours to get there! Was well worth it though - first one I visited was Ta Prohm, which has been taken over by the jungle in the thousand or so years since it was built. Its an amazing, atmospheric place of crumbling corridors and huge tree roots growing out of walls and towers. The area the temples cover is huge - I must have cycled at least 30 miles including my detour. Still, getting lost is part of the fun. Some of the Cambodian kids I passed seemed so excited that I don't think they'd seen a westerner before. Certainly not one struggling along a bumpy dirt track a few kilometres the wrong side of town from the temples! And the guy at the ticket check had definitely never seen anyone approach from that direction before, a mile or two from the place where you're meant to buy tickets! Luckily he took pity on me and radioed his mate who came over on a motorbike with a ticket just for me! After exploring a few more temples I returned to town exhausted and bathed in sweat. Luckily I had discovered something that made the last couple of days here much easier - you can rent electric bikes. Its more like a kind of battery powered motor-scooter that does about 20 miles an hour. Much nicer way to get around, quiet, peaceful and relaxing, like a magic bike that pedals itself. So over the last two days I've seen an awful lot of temples. They're all different though so there's something interesting about each one - some were built as islands in an artificial lake, some have amazingly detailed carvings all over them, some have them inside. Some have trees growing out of them. My favourite so far, The Bayon, is covered in hundreds of 4 foot high faces carved into the stone of its many towers, that stare out impassively towards the others. Its inside the walled city of Angkor Thom, which also contains huge terraces from where the God-King would survey his domain - Angkor was a city of one million when London had only 50,000.

I've been forced back to town for lunch as I've taken so many photos that my camera is full and I need to back them up before going and taking more (yes, you're all invited to come round for the slide-show). I think today is probably my last day here - I've saved Angkor Wat for last - its the biggest religious building in the world so I think any other temple might look a bit underwhelming afterwards. I'm also going to go take a ride in the Angkor Ballon - one of those tethered ones that goes up hundreds of feet above the ground - should be a great view of the ancient city as a whole. Then after that I think I'll deserve a beer - there are loads of the usual faces in town, including the hilarious Fred from Rio. Is nice to be somewhere with a little nightlife after the enforced early nights of Laos. Still, off to the bit city next, Phnom Penh, where I'm sure there's lots of fun to be had...
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