The alarm goes off at 6:30AM, as our guide to Angkor Wat will pick us up at 8:00AM.
Neither one of us slept very well. The room got cool enough temperature wise, but the AC never really got rid of much of the humidity. In addition, everywhere in this part of the world they have a down duvet on the beds. The second time Carolyn woke up hot, she pulled the comforter out of the covering and slept much better under just the cover.
Breakfast is a nice full buffet, both English style, translate baked beans and tomatoes, with the eggs and Asian style. There is not too much English being spoken by the guests, but we hear lots of French. Like the airplane yesterday, the hotel is nowhere near full.
Our guide, Dara, is waiting when we get to the lobby. He tells us the plan for the day and it will be a full day! This morning we will split our time between, what we came to see, Angkor Wat and Banleay Srey, the beautiful more remote women’s temple. Then we will come back to the hotel for lunch and a rest until 2:30PM. At that point, we will make a fast stop back at Angkor Wat to get some pictures with the sun on the front of the temple and the reflecting pool, then head to the Angkor Thom complex and finish with Ta Prohm.
and we head on into the park. With few people, we can easily get good pictures and see the rooms, courtyards, walkways and all the beautiful carvings without falling over dozens of people. This is a huge complex surrounded by a wide moat with a wide causeway to an outer wall. This wall encloses large grounds with smaller buildings and a raised walkway to the main temple area. This main temple area has four tall corner towers and a taller central tower. This is all stair stepped with steep, narrow, stone steps to each new level. The stone steps are covered, in many places, with wooden steps that are somewhat wider and not quite as steep.
Within the main area are various courtyard areas, lovely long halls and smaller buildings that were used as libraries. Everything is very symmetrical and the carvings on the stones are incredible! The highest level is now closed to the public, but we get a very good view of the tower from the highestlevel open to the public. By the time we leave, the crowd is definitely building. As we leave through the"back door" this young boy wants to visit with us then he got all shy when we stopped to talk with him!We are hot and ready to sit down for a while. The hour-long ride out to the Banleay Srey is very welcome, but it was also an eye openning experience! We when through several small villages. We saw women pumping water from the gound well into a pan or bucket with a hand pump much like the one my grandmother had in her kitchen when I was a small child. One woman was bathing her small child in a big pan by the pump. These pumps were not where near the house or kitchen, in fact the kitchens seem to be outside also. This man is pulling the wagon of polls with his cattle. You can barely see his wooden house on stilts behind the trees. We get there about 11:30AM and, as Dara said there are tons of people but they are mostly leaving, which is good as this is a very small temple. It is famous for the reddish color of the stone and fine detail of the carvings. Before we go into the Temple, Dara takes us to a shady area where a group of men and one woman are playing beautiful, almost haunting, music. There are both wind and string instruments. One man is even playing tree leaves held just the right way to his lips. These people are part of the large number of people who have lost limbs and/or sight to land mines and now make their living playing traditional Cambodian instruments and music. It is very sad to see these young, healthy people with missing arms, legs and, in several cases, disfigured faces and blinded eyes. Banleay Srey, built during the 10th century, is very interesting and worth the drive. It has a different look to it and the stone carving is, if possible even more delicate and beautiful.Our biggest problem all day is the tourist markets that are set up at the entrances to the sites. These messy, thrown together shacks detract from the beauty of the sites and by the end of the day we both find the gauntlet of hawkers of postcards, books and scarves more than annoying. Carolyn is all for checking out the markets, but you could not do it for all the hawkers in your face! It was worse than China.
Now we are ready to head back to the hotel for a rest and some food and drink. We have both finished off about three bottles of water and our clothes are wringing wet! Dara drops us off at the hotel about 12:30PM. Dick heads to the pool, but the very idea of being in the sun turns Carolyn off, so she orders a room service pizza and settles into the comfortable lounge chair in the room to eat, read and watch Dick in the pool.
Dick is feeling better after a swim and finishes off Carolyn’s pizza as we talk about taking the first flight back to Bangkok tomorrow. Dara plans to take us to the big lake, Tonle Sap, to see the floating villages, but we got so hot this morning and the mosquitoes are so bad we decided to skip that trip. In addition, Carolyn’s asthma is flaring up for only the second time during the trip; probably from the humidity and insect repellent used around the hotel. The idea of the mad rush to get back and try to clean up and get to airport by 11:30 for a 1:30 flight is not appealing. At this point, we have seen what we really wanted to see and Dick is already complaining about temple fatigue!
Dick goes to the concierge and they are able to change our flight. The flights are not full as we changed the flight in at the last minute also. He then sends an email to the Peninsula to change our arrival time so that our airport transfer will meet us.
Dara is on time again at 2:30 and we head back over to Angkor Wat for some pictures of the front of Angkor Wat in the sun and also take time to walk to inside to see the reflection. While we are doing that we are treated with a group of monks walking on the raised walkway to the gate.Then it is on to The Angkor Thom complex, built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Here we enter through the South Gate and head to Bayon, the king’s pyramid temple, in the center of the royal capital. This temple has huge faces carved on all the spires. We start walking around the outside and Carolyn’s knees tell her she needs to get off them. Dara directs her to go wait at the entrance, around the corner facing the terraces, while he and Dick climb up into the temple. They spend about 20 minutes inside.There are very few people at this temple. From here we walk over to the Terrace of the Elephants with the 350 meter walk connecting it to the Terrace of the Leper King. Carolyn asks that we just drive by the Terraces as the walking is getting to be too much.
It is near 4:30 by the time we leave this area and head to Ta Prohm, a large monastic complex built during the 12th and 13th centuries. This place is known as the jungle temple. There is work being done to stabilize the temple only; not clean and restore it. Much of it has collapsed under the weight of huge trees and their roots. It was the most interesting of all the sites. Once we got inside the gate area there were almost no people and it was very quiet. The sun was just before setting so the shadows were long and it feels a bit otherworldly. I guess that is why it has been used for movies such as “Tomb Raider.” The sun is setting as we leave the gate and head back to town. Dara drives us around the old part of downtown and then drops us back at the hotel. He seems disappointed that we are not staying over, but we are very glad we changed our flight. Carolyn’s asthma is getting worse and the humidity and mosquitoes are as bad as late summer at home…where and when we are smart enough to stay inside!
We have a light supper at the hotel, as again we are too tired to really care much about food, pack and go to bed. Carolyn pulled the down comforters out of their covers again so we slept reasonably well.