Enter the weekend. Not tied to the laptop, and school by the pool today, so we headed off to Angkor Wat. Monuments of historical significance, centuries old dilapidated beauty and Tomb Raider territory. Lara Croft eat your heart out!
The days adventures began with a somewhat bumpy journey over dirt tracks, which in some places would pass for a road. The breeze from the journey a welcome relief from the burning dry heat. The dust, not so much. Taking in the sights of day to day living by the roadside reminded us of what a privileged position we were in. I mean, it’s pretty ridiculous to leave a country on the spur of the moment (ok, admittedly it was amidst the panic of coronovirus) to be in a different country, and doing unplanned touristy things. A far cry from enjoying country walks in the Yorkshire countryside.
In between temple stop offs, our tuktuk driver gave us his life story, from leaving school unable to read or write, being in the war, and after the war schooling himself so that he was not only literate in his mother tongue, but had a pretty sound grasp of a English to boot. A skilled driver; we only clung to the sides of the rickety vehicle a dozen times, and only when he was overtaking, or the side of the road seemed to drop away, not a vastly steep drop, but enough to tip the tuktuk and its contents (us) over, should the slender wheel get caught at precisely the wrong angle.
First stop, to buy the tickets to these ancient monuments and for my daughter and I to invest in hipster trousers and sarongs. Female knees were an offensive sight in the temples. Husbands knees, semi covered in his long shorts, apparently not a problem.
Approaching the first temple (Presat Banteay Kdei), we walked the dirt track, with little shade to be face to face with a stone gateway that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an action adventure multi player game. Our journey took us past hawkers in abundance.
“You want picture? One dollar. Two dollar?
“Pine- appa, mangou, coconut juice.”
“Lady, lady clothes, we have big sizes.”
The first temple, “Banteay Kdei, meaning ‘A Citadel of Chambers’ also known as a ‘Citadel of Monks’ cells,’ is a Buddhist temple in Angkor, Cambodia. It is located south east of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom.” (Taken from the tourist Map of the Angkor Area.) And I was charting territory unknown. Uneven terrain and stone steps that were just a fraction too high. I found a flatter route as my husband was taken off by a local who knew the best spots for photos – 5 dollars well spent- he said. It’s all relative.
The second temple (Presat Ta Prohm) “Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple at Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon a style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara.” (Tourist Map.) Or the Tomb Raider Temple! Recognise the surroundings?
Then lunch before the afternoon sights. A roadside shack with rather dubious wiring. The highlight of lunch, other than the food, which was actually rather delicious, was watching a mobile phone shoot from an overloaded plug – leaving billowing smoke to traverse the wires, and listening to the ensuing argument about who or what was to blame. The dodgy wiring? Or the dodgy charger?
Temple number three (Presat Ta Keo) opposite the eatery. Lots of steps, so daughter and I sat this one out, as the man of the family was chief in charge of more photos. “Ta Keo is a temple mountain, in Angkor, possibly the first to be built entirely if sandstone by Khmers.” (Tourist map.)
Temple number 4 (Presat Bayon Angkor Thom.) “The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII.” (Tourist Map.) This one, I did take my chances with, there didn’t seem to be too many steps. (There were- but by the time I’d realised, I was right in the middle, pondering how to get down again!) Walking through history and you can’t but wonder what happened? Built in the late 12th or early 13th century, along with all of the other temples in this incredible area, it was lost for centuries and covered by a rich and dense jungle, to be discovered by the French in a state of disrepair. What happened?
Our final Temple, Temple number 5 (Angkor Wat.) “Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a mega city supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 2010-1220” ( Also lifted from the tourist map!) An impressive structure spanning the river and accessed by a wooden bridge. Getting ever closer, you are impressed by the sheer scale of the building, and the beauty in which it stands. Also, as we were approaching, we saw a couple of monkeys shagging!
Then back in the tuktuk for a breezy ride home. A highly recommended day out.