Angkor Wat Road Trip
After dissecting the English language to the ‘nth’ degree for a week. Coping with the shock of being back ‘in school’ in order to make me fit to teach in SE Asia a weekend trip North was a welcome change.
Little had we thought about the 7 hour road trip. 165 miles but with an initial battle with the Phnom Penh gridlock and then a dubious road, this was to be expected. Add to this a torrential downpour from the current rainy season and that seven hours stretched tediously to ten.
Rain Cambodian style
The bonus of a ‘road trip’ as opposed to flying. Life is attached to the main highways and moves besides you like a continuous movie scene. So many times I just wanted to press pause or ask for the rewind.
Sticky Rice stall
Siem Reap is north of Phnom Penh, the route roughly following the Sap River. At times water covered the landscape as far as we could see. Moonsoon rain bursting allotted channels. Well adapted to fluctuations in river levels houses are raised on stilts to keep clear and dry.
Incongruous merchandising followed people and the highway. You might expect to see snack stands of sticky rice but mobile phones sold from wooden huts and drinks bottles of petrol, and a rather odd proliferation of dentists were a little more unexpected.
Children and dogs wandered in complete freedom often totally unadorned of their respective clothes and collars.
Spiders for lunch
Then there were the spiders. Arachnophobic? Stop off at Skuon and be prepared to overcome your fears. Or just stay in the bus. The village has become a specialist retailer in deep fried spiders. If you want to try spider here is your opportunity. But then there is the ‘try before you buy’ option and you can have one of these eight legged hair creatures walk all over you. The villages collect them from the hills and remove their fangs before releasing them on you so there is no chance you of being made a meal of. One of the more interesting culinary delights of Cambodia.
Siem Reap is Cambodia’s second city and houses a mass of hotels from backpackers hostels to those suitable for Angelina on location for Tomb Raider.
Which brings me to the temples. They are as wonderful and magnificent as any documentary, travel guide or photo blog has every described. Superlatives such as ‘awesome’ may justifiably be used to describe these amazing constructions from a time further back than it is possible to imagine.
The area is vast and with only a day and a half available to us we had hardly time to do the the site justice.
Angkor Wat is the most intact and staggering. It has never been left to nature, apparently in almost continuous use since it was built, untouched even by the distraction of the Kahmer. Surrounding by a moat the reflections alone are stunning. Then wander and wonder at the vastness of the construction combined
with intricacy and detail. Skills and knowledge which our 21st century technology would struggle to match.
At Angkor Thom the faces of Bayon stare down emphasising our diminutive human stature. Vastness and scale make may be the first impression but the intricacy of design show far greater skills than giant building blocks. Angkor Thom has had some renovation and as with Angkor Wat the forest loiters on the periphery.
The forest has won the Jenga game at Ta Promh. Trees have wrapped around at the stones pulling them into unceremonious piles. Small roots snuck into cracks poured down walls to draw up sustenance and grew. Their strength overcoming any of man’s obstacles. Green has crept restoratively over grey. Tomb Raider’s perfect location.
Ta Prom – Tomb Raider location
65k north Beng Maelea has long lost the battle to stay intact. Insidious growth won by stealth. Light filters through a green canopy and you are well advised to accept the services of one of the local guides to help you over roots and under lintels. With their help you can creep into a hole and find your self in a roofless room. Walk carefully along the edges of walls still dripping from the latest deluge.
The heat and humidity adding to an understanding of how the trees have regained their hold on temples built for the gods but abandoned by man.
For more images click and see more of: – Angkor Wat – Angkor Thom – Ta Prohm – Beng Melea