Temples Day 2 : Be Prepared !
Trip Start Dec 17, 2012
14Trip End Jan 20, 2012
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What I did
Arranging with our hotel, we got mr Phnou(c) to pick us up at 5am and we arranged with the hotel for a prepackaged breakfast hamper to accompany us !
After getting to bed quite late last night, it was a difficult alarm not to silence at 4:30am, but the prospect of being at the Bayon at sunrise was worth it ! Bayon ? What do you mean Bayon ?
It was great seeing all the tuk tuks driving to Angkor...literally hundreds of people were awake at this hour to photograph Angkor Wat, the most famous of them all
We had different plans. We decided to be at the Bayon early so we can be alone for a little while and soak it all up. It was amazing and serene. Peaceful, quiet and sounds of birds and other animals. Almost eerie.
We waited until the sun coloured the tips of the Bayon and its great to see the faces "come alive" when they absorb the rays of the sun. As soon as the rays reached most of the highest spots, the temple was flooded with tourists, and the peaceful atmosphere was quickly filled with a tour bus full of loud-mouths
Happy that we had the place to ourselves, we walked on to the elephant terrace, the Baphuon, the terrace of the Leper King. By being at Bayon early and skipping (for now) the main Angkor Wat temple we were about 2-3 hours ahead of the masses and had everything (more or less) to ourselves.
We walked through the many Prasats Suor Prat, little (7x7x20 m!) watchhouses / guardhouses to the impressive victory gate in the east. These walls and gates that allow access into Angkor Thom are really spectacular, and it really challenges the imagination to try and colour in the picture of life in this Metropolis in 1100 AD.
After the gate we went to two temples outside the Victory Gate (East) which are across the road from each other , Thommanom and its counterpart Chau Say Thevoda.
Finally ending off with Ta Keo which was to us a very underrated temple in the Angkor area. It was never finished due to many speculations, but could've been one of the greats. But the size and spectacular view from the top is worthwhile climbing all those little stairs for.
If we had more time we would've hiked to Ta Nei as well, which is about a 1km hike North from Ta Keo. Apparently very nice, with a tree/forest vibe and a lot less tourists as it is off the beaten track.
Believe it or not , but with our 4h30 start, we had now finished our morning agenda, and we were back in the pool ... sorry hotel by 10h00. We could cool off and relax before heading out to Angkor Wat for an afternoon visit and sunset experience later in the afternoon.
Having saved ourselves up for Angkor i must say it was worthwhile although it wouldn't be our number 1 Angkor experience. Firstly it is massive. The moat surrounding the temple is as wide as a large river, and the causeways are around 2km long. Just to get to the main complex. Then you've got sketches, inscriptions, Bas-Reliefs and the most awesome architecture in this HUGE building, with nooks and crannies and halls and passages. Really awe-inspiring. But the negative is that everyone in Cambodia knows this, so it looks like a stadium on cup-final day. Really jam packed, hawkers, tourists, camera-junkies, video-philes, old people, young people, kids, guides and more other people than you can swing a pirated Lonely Planet book at.
We had our best time in our 2-3 hours at Angkor sitting in a window sill at the silent(ish) far part of the temple peering off into the forest. A bit of solace is better than the 200m queue to access the top part of the complex ! But all-in-all worthwhile !
Back into town for some grub and $0.50 beer , and setting out one last time tomorrow early to see Ta Prohm (Ala Angelina Jolie) and the (apparently) similarly impressive Banteay Kdei.