Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Angkor Wat, Preah Khan

As soon as the sun came up over Angkor Wat the hordes of people suddenly disappeared, back on their buses to return to the cities hotels and guesthouses for breakfast,. As it was just the two of us on our tour we elected to get breakfast from some of the street food stalls along the sides of the road outside and go and see Angkor Wat before the crowds. It was a wise choice, there wasn't more than 15 people in the whole complex. we had the place pretty much to ourselves. After about an hour and a half of marveling at the enormity of the structure of Angkor Wat we headed out back to join our driver on the other side of the great moat that surrounds the complex. As we crossed the courtyard there was an army of sixty or more groundskeepers cutting the grass with sickles. The idea of all those Cambodians sweating away for hours trying to cut the acres and acres of grass with in such a way seemed ridiculous when a guy with a lawnmower could do it in a twentieth of the time!
We rejoined our guide and headed for another temple called Preah Khan. An impossibly big grid of tumbled corridors and towers held together by the roots of the trees that has destroyed those around them. Again the place was deserted apart from one or two other people milling about. With the jungle so close to the temple you could really get a sense of how the first French explorers must have felt upon stumbling on this ancient wonder in the dense jungle. The whole place was like being inside a Tomb Raider film.
The freedom to explore is completely unrivalled by any western archaeological wonder. A few small signs written in bad English, warning you that poking around at the stones may result in a braining by a huge lump of the temple, along with some makeshift supports, are the only indication that anyone else in the world knows about this place.
After a good while taking it all in we again headed back to meet our guide and continue to a few of the smaller, but equally impressive temples at Angkor.
Absolutely exhausted by the climbing and the 38C sun burning down on us we returned to our guesthouse at about 4 in the afternoon. We slumped down on the sofas and ordered a few bottles of Angkor beer. Whilst there we met some other travellers and arranged to go out with them that night for a snake dinner on Pub street in the middle of town. We retired for a well earned power nap to prepare ourselves for a night out in Siem Reap

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