Welcome to the Jungle

Trip Start Dec 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 03, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Program today with Pov was a 70 km moto ride out to Beng Mealea temple ruins via Dam Dek. After a quick stop to purchase my US$40 three days Angkor pass, we stopped by Pov's place to get an extra helmet on my request which he gladly obliged. It was a pleasant thirty minutes bum massage on the pillion, then everything regarding sitting on the moto went downhill. Describing it a sore bum was not remotely adequate. A more fitting description would be bum tenderisation. We had to stop at Dam Dek for a bum rest where we had beef noodle soup from a muslim stall for brunch. Suffered another hour on the road and Beng Mealea was in sight.
I was not sure if Beng Mealea should be the first stop of Angkor temple routes but I was truly amazed at the scale of this beautiful ruin. Exploring the interior of Beng Mealea, climbing over and on fallen stones, capturing the well shaded temple under forest cover on camera, this was decisively the highlight of today's attractions and it was only 11am. Within the ruins, one can explore on timber boardwalks, bringing you closer into the many caved in corridors adorned with ancient cravings. I felt my adventurous spirit churned and awakened. Beng Mealea truly set my appetite for temple ruins and I wanted to see more. I spent almost three hours at Beng Mealea, an hour longer than at Preah Vihear temple. Although I left feeling really hungry, I was also awe-struck. 
Not really looking forward to sitting on moto afterwards but lunch with Pov at a Dam Dek's market stall made it more bearable. It was another hour of pain before we arrived at Lolei, first stop of the Roluos temples. At first sight, Lolei which is severely damaged and in the brink of collapse, is relatively small in scale and quite insignificant. It was not until I discovered later on a guide book that this quadraple group of ruins once sat in the middle of an 8 km by 1 km ancient baray (reservoir) - Lolei was an island temple. The baray had since dried up and heavy forests as well as civilisations took to ground. The baray walls can be seen on aerial map.
Bakong which was more interesting when explored, is only a short distance from Lolei, within the Roluos temples vicinity. Built like a pyramid, one would have to scale the ever steep stone steps to the central top temple and offers sweeping views to the surroundings. Just outside of Bakong, Ana a drinks vendor who was hassling me earlier, convinced me that I needed a US$1 chilled coconut which I had to agree, was refreshing. Young Ana turned out to be 19 years old and still in school. Besides being curious about my occupation, she was obviously thrilled that I had bought from her the coconut.
The nearby Preah Ko was less impressive although the temples were in terrific conditions. Three bull statues stood in front of the ancient blocks which were extremely popular with the chinese tour groups. They made their presence felt with their banter that they became my attraction as they tsunamied their way out to their mega-buses. One surprising attraction was the stone craving workshop opposite of Preah Ko, making replicas of Buddha statues. On display are also miniature stone models of all major Angkor temple sites including Angkor Wat and even Prasat Preah Vihear. That was definitely a good prelude prior to my Angkor Wat visit tomorrow!
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